The Little Grey Men
BB was the pen name of Denys Watkins-Pitchford (1905-1990), who wrote and illustrated this book, as well as many books for adults and children celebrating the natural world of England. Currently available in an attractive HarperCollins edition as part of the Julie Andrews Collection, and with a warm note of endorsement from Julie Andrews Edwards herself, this book relates the adventures of the last gnomes in Britain.
Pint-sized brothers Dodder, Baldmoney, and Sneezewort have lived on the banks of the Oak Pool longer than anything. They are fairly content with their slow-paced life, fishing from the stream and foraging for nuts, honey, mushrooms, and berries. The only burr under their saddle is the fate of their brother Cloudberry, last seen setting out on a quest to find the source of the stream.
The younger two gnomes decide to go in search of Cloudberry, in spite of Dodder's resistance to the idea. They build a clever boat and lay in stores for a trip upstream. Nothing goes as planned, however. The three brothers find themselves hunted by stoat, fox, pike, and man. They battle starvation on a desert island. They risk being seen in broad daylight. They make friends with rabbits, birds, an otter, and a squirrel. They bear witness to death. They fight for life. They experience changes of seasons and a wide range of natural wonders. And in spite of a long habit of being quiet homebodies, their adventurous spirit comes out to shine.
Taking its cue from a theory that the real little people are the wild birds and beasts of the countryside, this is not just a book about little men; it is also a vivid account of the rich variety of plant and animal life along one English stream. It also has a bit of business concerning Pan, the god of small creatures (occult-sensitive readers take note). If you fancied The Wind in the Willows but wished there was more of it, or if your only complaint about The Wonderful Adventures of Nils stemmed from your unfamiliarity with Swedish geography, you'll find just what you like in this book. Plus, it has a sequel: Down the Bright Stream.
This book won the 1942 Carnegie Medal for Literature. It includes a loving portrait of a seven-year-old boy named Robin, probably inspired by Watkins-Pitchford's son Robin who passed away at that age. And it inspired a group of the author's fans to form the BB Society. So it is a very special book in many ways. You can earn more about this author and his works here or here.
St. Louis, USA
Recommended Age: 10+
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