Several years ago my daughter and I read Elizabeth Goudge’s The Little White Horse (1946), said to be a childhood favorite of Harry Potter author JK Rowling. Goudge’s mix of whimsy, fantasy, and light-handed moralism intrigued me, as did her blend of Catholic and pagan imagery (not unlike C.S. Lewis’s employment of Greek mythology in The Chronicles of Narnia). Seeking more, I discovered Goudge (1900-1984) had written almost twenty adult novels, in addition to short stories and children’s books.
I decided on The Rosemary Tree (1954), a novel set in post-WWII England. As with Marilynne Robinson’s Gilead, the protagonist is a mild-mannered minister–a kindhearted soul who doesn’t quite have a handle on family life. When a native son, back from the war, wanders onto the scene, John befriends him. Before long we learn this lost soul was once engaged to John’s wife.
Children seem to have a natural affinity for animals. Nothing excites my daughter more than a bouncy puppy–or a burly lab, for that matter. So far, in her 18 months of life, she has not evinced any fear of dogs, aside from a developing aversion to being licked in the face. (Lately she has shown a greater interest in the hindquarters than in the anterior portions of canines.) Her first word was “Woof!” Followed closely by “Grr!” “Quack!” “Baa!” “Neigh!” “Eee-ee-oo-oo!” (monkey) and “Tch-tch-tch!” (squirrel). She had an impressive repertoire of animal sounds long before she said “Mama” or “Daddy” with any consistency … we’re still waiting for our turn, in fact. We taught and rehearsed these performances in the beginning, but she now generates her own animal sounds based on real-life observations (along with the sound of a drill, sirens, the dryer, and sausage squealing in the microwave…I guess this could be construed as an animal sound in a morbid sort of way). (Keep reading, for an invitation to send in a story and get a free book.) Continue reading
Why are there so many children’s stories and songs about ducks? Ducklings are cute, but they’re not exactly cuddly. Supposedly you can get them to imprint and follow you around (like in “Fly Away Home”), but we recently discovered in our household that this is easier said than done. My sister persuaded me to co-invest in ducklings; I wanted eggs and she wanted pets. They didn’t imprint, though, and now we have five overgrown grain-fed teenagers of unknown gender that eat a lot of food, produce a lot of poop, and so far don’t give anything back (not to discount their contribution to the compost pile).
I must have bought this book for my sister sometime in the late ’80s, but the fact had been wiped from my memory until recently, when I ran across it in my parents’ home while looking for something to read to my daughter at bedtime. I find it remarkable that these whimsical poems reminiscent of Shel Silverstein could come from the author of such venerable and contemplative works as two series of poetic allegories (The Singer Trilogy and The Divine Symphony–which I have read) and The Table of Inwardness and Into the Depths of God (which I have not). Continue reading
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