Sunday, November 18, 2007

Sam, Bangs & Moonshine

Sam, Bangs & Moonshine
written and illustrated by Evaline Ness/ published 1966 by Henry Holt and Company

OK, come on, before this woman wrote this book, she was married to THE Eliot Ness. How awesome is that? That said, this is a powerful story, touching on the overwhelming nature of the imagination. The story of a fisherman's daughter, it is the often sad tale of giving up childish things for the real world. It's a little bit of a bubble-popper for those who want to live in the world of fantasy forever, but in this case, growing up means letting go of some not so happy things.

Sam said her mother was a mermaid,
when everyone knew she was dead.
Sam said she had a fierce lion at home, and a baby kangaroo.
(Actually what she really had was a old wise cat called Bangs.)

Beautifully written with muted illustrations, it is so infused with melancholy and mystery that it almost makes you feel five again. That feeling of exhilarating escape that the imagination can bring even in the face of great sadness. We've all been there before, pretending so we do not have to see. If you can't relate to this tale, then you must be dead.

Also by:
Some of the Days of Everett Anderson
Fierce the Lion


Todd said...

I love your blog - thank you for the time you spend on it- especially the carefully chosen and cropped samples from the illustrations.
Do you find your son is just as happy to read books with a girl as the main character as those with a boy as the main character? My godson is only twenty months old right now and I'm wondering what the future will hold.

Burgin Streetman said...

At three, the only thing my son is concerned with is whether or not an animal appears anywhere in the book! The only books he shuns as girl books are ones that have a Disney princess on them, and that's only because I tell him they are lame. :)

Karen van Hoek said...

This book used to make me cry -- literally sob with grief -- every time I got to the part where she thought Bangs was dead. I loved the story in some ways but found that part almost too painful to take. A few years ago, I picked this book up in a bookstore to flip through it and see how many pages went by in which the cat was thought to be dead. I remembered that part going on and on forever; I thought it must be a good ten pages of emotional torture before the cat re-appears. Lo and behold, the cat comes back alive *on the very next page*. But as a four- or five-year-old, I used to cry my eyes out and feel as if the pain of losing the cat went on forever. It says a lot to me about the difference between how children and adults experience traumatic parts of story books. I don't have children of my own, but if I did, I would keep this in mind when reading things to them, perhaps to see if I could help them deal with the overwhelming parts.

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