Monday, January 28, 2008

The Crows of Pearblossom

The Crows of Pearblossom
Aldous Huxley ~ illustrations by Barbara Cooney
Random House, 1967

In the freakiest kids' books of all time category is this little ditty by the 20th Century master of modern thought himself, Aldous Huxley. I couldn't resist buying it when I found it tucked on the bookshelf at a library sale, and I have to say, it is a pretty whacked-out book. Illustrated by famed children's book illustrator Cooney, the story is dark and realistic about a sinister snake who gorges himself daily on the eggs of a naive mother crow.

By and by Mrs. Crow came back from the store, and at first, when she saw the snake, she was frightened. But as soon as she noticed how tightly he had tied himself up she felt very brave and proceeded to give the snake a very long lecture about the wickedness of eating other people's eggs.

The crows plot a plan against the snake involving clay eggs and ending in the snake becoming a clothesline on which mother crow hangs out her new hatchling's diapers. It's pretty freaky, and the crows and snake both possess eerie human qualities that make you shudder being on the receiving end of any personal revenge Huxley might ever have exacted.

As this was the only children's book ever written by the author, there's a little historical background in the back about how the story came to be. Apparently, Huxley wrote the tale for his niece, Olivia de Haulleville, who lived in Pearblossom. He would make up wonderful stories for her, and he wrote this one during the Christmas holiday of 1944. There were only two copies of the story in existence, one given to Olivia and one given to her neighbors who are featured in the tale. Olivia's copy was destroyed in a fire at Huxley's home, so it was the neighbor's copy that made it possible for the story to be published several years after his death. What a fabulous legacy.

Also by:
Christmas in the Barn
Chanticleer and the Fox
Wynken, Blynken and Nod
Ox-Cart Man
The Man Who Didn't Wash His Dishes

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