Friday, 15 April 2016

A Pair of Wellingtons by Esther Gordon



published 2015


Pair of Wellingtons 1
Pair of Wellingtons

[Cassie and Celia are coming to stay with their uncle and aunt]

Both girls came in from another trip to the car carrying their backpacks and plastic bags which had obviously been packed in a hurry. Their long stripy scarves were hanging out of their mud splashed green wellingtons…
Pair of Wellingtons 3

They were almost 12 years old and identical, except for tiny differences that mostly only they recognized. Celia was usually the first to act in any situation, while Cassie was the more thoughtful one. They were tall for their age, with lively features and light brown wavy hair that was rarely tidy. They liked to dress in a similar way but often chose different colours.
Pair of Wellingtons 2

 
commentary: This is a charming children’s book dealing with an eventful time in the life of Cassie and Celia. Their father has to go abroad for his job, their mother goes with him, and the girls stay with a much-loved aunt, and have to start a new school. Then some worrying news comes from abroad, and the girls have to decide how they will cope with their difficulties.

The story is short and easy to read, and although it shows a comfortable, happy family, it is very contemporary, and does not shy away from the prospect that things can go wrong.

I have a particular dislike of children’s books that show too much jeopardy and misery – described as Dreadlit in this article I wrote for the online magazine Slate. But Esther Gordon’s book is a model of how to make a story exciting and even worrying without going too far and (spoiler alert) it has a happy ending. I liked the book because it has a strong moral framework, and because it showed the existence and importance of community in modern-day life.

Esther Gordon trained as a teacher specializing in remedial work and art, then later joined a Catholic lay community called The Grail, where her creativity could flourish. She has been involved in many aspects of the community’s extensive activities, including writing books, articles and dramas.

Read more about The Grail - a fascinating group with a most impressive 20th century history – at their website here.

Top picture is  The Twins by Thomas Bowman Garvie from The Athenaeum website , other twin pictures from the internet.








6 comments:

  1. Oh, you put your finger on a real issue with children's books, Moira. Sometimes, they really do present real peril. I think it's much more effective to acknowledge that, as you say, life's not perfect and things can go wrong, but at the same time provide a 'safe space' for children to enjoy the story, too.

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    1. I'm glad you agree with me Margot - there is room for a wide spread of styles in children's literature as everywhere, but since reading with my own children I have been struck by how much jeopardy and misery there is in books, and would prefer something more positive, at least some of the time.

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  2. The problem with some modern children's books seems to come from the same place as the problems that have afflicted the modern detective novel and the modern comic book. However nasty, unpleasant, miserable and downright depressing the story gets, the author or the publisher come back to any complaints with the pat reply that 'They have to reflect reality'. The truth is that in no way are they reflecting reality. They are lazy. Real childrens books are amongst the hardest things to write, in that they need to be perfectly pitched to deal with things that children want to read about, but without simply being adult novels with kids in. The blurring of the line between childhood and adulthood is very pronounced nowadays, and I do wonder whether the sort of books that I read as a kid are still published.

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    1. Yes indeed, I very much agree with you. Perhaps there was not enough range of settings and feelings in the past, but the answer is surely not to cut off entirely everything at the more positive end...

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    2. Lovely photos of twins.

      I used to keep up with children's books as my son was growing up, but as they get older it is hard to tell what will be entertaining or meaningful to a preteen or teenager. I would hate to be writing for that age group.

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    3. I know just what you mean - I loved reading them along with my children, and did have some knowledge of the writers and what was around and what was good. But that does disappear...

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