Sunday, March 30, 2008

The Adventures of Mabel

The Adventures of Mabel By Harry Thurston Peck: "No Text"

I've been on the street, canvasing in South Philly for Obama and find I've just too little time for a Sunday Salon post this weekend.

What I will do is leave you a link to Harry Thurston Peck's The Adventures of Mabel. First published in 1896, I have a somewhat later version that belonged to my grandmother. This was a favorite when I was four --before I learned to read.

The original illustrations truly catch the spirit of this little gem of a children's book. The last time I did a search for it, there was no sign of it on the web. Now there's a Wikipedia article--and this on-line reproduction.
I loved this book as a child. I still have the 1916 edition with the Harry Roundtree illustrations that my aunt read it to me over and over. The Kirkus reviewer seems to have forgotten what is like to be a child when magical thinking comes to the aid of the fledgling ego in a dangerous world where one is utterly dependent on adults who (like the Kirkus reviewer) seem to have forgotten their childhood. Mabel, with her animal friends, turns the tables on adults (and boys), coming to their rescue--not by assuming adult powers, but as a little girl with the mind and sensibility of a child. The style is that of a bedside story teller. All those 'weak' words the reviewer finds so tiresome, belong to the voice of the well intentioned but condescending adult--the voice of those little Mabel shows up story after story. As a child listening to these tales I didn't identify with that voice, but with Mabel--and remember the delicious sense of irony that came precisely from the power of being 'little' ...and knowing they didn't get it.

Sixty-five years later, I still sometimes wish I had some of that wonderful Brownie jelly to spread on my morning toast...

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