Saturday, January 26, 2013

Children's Literature: Elizabeth Goudge

Elizabeth Goudge is one of my more recent finds, and I would really like to see her books back in circulation.  She wrote many books, both for adults and children.  Here of course we will only talk about the children's books.

Elizabeth de Beauchamp Goudge (1900 - 1984) was born in Wells and her father was the vice-principal of the Theological College there (which explains why she wrote so often about cathedral cities).  Her mother was from Guernsey and Elizabeth visited it often as a child.  Goudge studied at Reading and then went on to teach design and handicrafts.  Her first successful book, Island Magic (about Guernsey), was published in 1934 and she had a long and successful career as a writer.

Goudge's most famous book--and her own favorite--is The Little White Horse, and it's currently pretty easy to get in paperback, though sadly without the original illustrations.*  It's a lovely fairy tale of a story, and won the Carnegie Medal in 1946.  Here's the publisher's description:  The beautiful valley of Moonacre is shadowed by the memory of the Moon Princess and the mysterious little white horse. When orphaned Maria Merryweather comes to stay there, she finds herself involved with an ancient feud and is determined to restore peace and happiness to the whole of Moonacre Valley—and she usually gets her way.  And I'm pleased to see that there is a new reproduction edition coming out next month, complete with the original illustrations and even color plates!

The Little White Horse was J. K. Rowling's favorite book as a child, and she has said that it helped to inspire her writing.  So all you Harry Potter fans out there know what you need to do.

Another favorite of mine is Linnets and Valerians.  I just love this one.  It's reminiscent of E. Nesbit stories, with a group of siblings who encounter magic and danger in an English village.  It's worth reading many times.

I also like I Saw Three Ships, which would make a great Christmas read-aloud story, even for younger children.  It's quite short and tells the story of a little girl who lives with two aunts (this is during the Regency era).  On Christmas Eve she leaves the window open--she is sure that something will happen.  And so it does.

These are the only ones I've been able to read myself, but there are several others.  I would love to get hold of The Blue Hills, which I have heard is good.  The Well of the Star and The Valley of Song both sound intriguing, don't you think?

*The illustrations for The Little White Horse were done by C. Walter Hodges, one of the big names of the mid-20th century, and the book was actually dedicated to him.  So I think it is particularly annoying that the pictures were left out of the current edition.


Anonymous said...

i've been delighting in all your reviews of children's authors. I'd forgotten about so many of them until you reminded me: Edward Eager, E. Nesbit, Joan Aiken!

And now Linnets and Valerians. I loved that book! I haven't thought of it in years. I may need to find my childhood copy and track down the Little White Horse too.

amanda @ simplerpastimes said...

The cover illustration alone you have above makes me want to read The Little White Horse! I'm also very intrigued by the Regency-era story.