Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Coll and His White Pig

Coll and His White Pig
Lloyd Alexander ~ Evaline Ness ~ Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1965

Though we haven't delved into them yet, I've often asked readers where to go next in middle grade once Harry, the Pevensie children and Percy are through, and I usually get the same answer. The Chronicles of Prydain: The Book of Three (1964), The Black Cauldron (1965), The Castle of Llyr (1966), Taran Wanderer (1967) and The High King (1968). However, I never realized that the author did a few picture books with the wonderful Ms. Ness based on some of the stories within the chronicles (like the The Truthful Harp), and that Ness also illustrated the covers of the original novels, like here and here).

This particular tale was taken from The Book of Three. Since I'm not hugely familiar with the stories (other than having since The Black Cauldron a million and one years ago), I can't tell you how these characters fit into the overarching plot... only that Coll is a warrior turned farmer who owns a uniquely magical pig named Hen Wen. It's not until the pig is abducted...

He glimpsed a band of horsemen galloping off into the forest. One rider had flung Hen Wen, shrieking and struggling, over his saddlebow. Shouting, Coll raced after them. For a time, he ran as fast as he could in the darkness, following the crashing of the steeds through the underbrush. But the riders outdistanced him and, at last, in the dawn mist, Coll dropped to the ground, out of breath, deeply distressed, having not the first notion of who had made off with his pig nor where they had taken her.

... and Coll mistakenly receives the short-term ability to "talk to the animals" that Hen Wen's amazing secrets are revealed and all is set right with the world.

While I'm no expert on the history of children's literature, the Children's Lit. Research Collection of the Free Library of Philadelphia has a wonderful collection of papers from the author and created a Facebook page containing a hand-typed essay written by Lloyd talking about his collaboration here with Ness. In it he writes, "The key to a picture book is the artist's ability to add a new dimension to the words; a dimension the writer himself might not even have suspected."

Wonderfully put.

Also by:
Sam, Bangs & Moonshine
Some of the Days of Everett Anderson
Fierce the Lion
Pavo and the Princess


Allen Knutson said...

One of our house favorites is The Cat Who Swallowed Thunder, also fantastical though not set in Prydain.

Antmusic said...

Nice to see Hen Wen! That artist did most of the covers for the series (we have them), but I've never even seen this book before. Thank you for sharing!

stephanie said...

What? I don't have to wait to introduce my kids to the world of Prydain? OH - I need to find this!

Kimberly said...

Ah, this book looks so interesting! Your mention of the Prydain books and additional books for middle readers made me recall that I wanted to tell you about a treasure trove of book recommendations I found, many of which are vintage. Nicholas Kristof wrote a column in the New York Times about great children's books, which included his own list of favorites. The column generated tremendous reader response, as did his follow-up column entitled "In Which I Apologize to Roald Dahl." Between the two columns, there are thousands of reader comments, many of which include lists of reader favorites. Some of the titles mentioned include the Swallows and Amazons series; Five Children and It; Half Magic; A Girl of the Limberlost; the Gone-Away Lake series; and the Faraway Tree series. Of course there are many duplicate recommendations, and it will take me months, if not years, to compile a list of the books that sound interesting, but it's a fun source of ideas. Here's the link to the comments from the first column:

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