Friday, March 02, 2007

The Children of Green Knowe

There is something so satisfying about opening a beloved childhood story and reading it for my children. It's akin to the way the smell of fresh peas transports me back in time to the kitchen table, as though there's a part of me that's still sitting there snapping peas to the sound of my mother's voice. Or the way I can almost feel the sun on my shoulders and dirt under my fingernails when I taste a freshly picked warm strawberry, just like in the strawberry fields I worked in the summer I was twelve. The Children of Green Knowe, written by Lucy M. Boston, takes me back in time. I still feel that delicious little thrill of excitement, as though I've been greeted by old and beloved friend.

The Children of Green Knowe is the first in a series of books about the adventures of children on the mysterious magical estate of Green Knowe in Penny Soaky. The hero of this book is Toseland, who goes off to stay with his great-grandmother on a school holiday. He arrives during a flood and is promptly nicknamed "Tolly" by his great-grandmother, who introduces him to the delights of her wonderful old home. This book is absolutely delightful. Delightful. I still remember and love the characters Boston has created , especially those in this first book: Linnet and Toby and Alexander, Boggis, old Mrs. Oldknow, and of course Tolly himself.

I read and re-read and re-read all of the Green Knowe books when I was younger. The Children of Green Knowe was and is my very most favorite. The Green Knowe series is just wonderful genuine writing, with unique magical adventures. The books create marked contrast with the event-driven plots in many of the popular children's books being written today. They are magical in the sense that they are playful, inventive, and creative. No wizards or magic wands or abracadabras here. The magic is subtle and charming and absolutely believable. This series is one of the most overlooked underappreciated children's series around. To see pictures of The Manor, the real-life home that inspired both the setting of Boston's Green Knowe books and the illustrations drawn by her son click here, and for a short history here.

I was pregnant with the middle of the fine young gents when I discovered that the Green Knowe books had been reprinted. Loving husband and I were tired of talking about baby names. we simply couldn't agree on a name in the event that our little Ruby should turn out to be a little gent instead. "Oooh. Look, my favorite books from when I was a kid! Hey, what do you think of the name Tolly?" I asked loving husband.

My Tolly (not a "Toseland," by the way) is delighted that his name is in a real book, and scans the pages to find his name. "There it is again! T-o-l-l-y! That's my name!" and the other kids are thoroughly enjoying the story, as am I.


Bookwink said...

Thanks for reminding me of one of my childhood favorites! I can't wait to reread this now.

Laura said...

I loved those books, too, and have them on the shlves for my children now.