Finding Beauty All Over Again

About two months ago, the word “seriously” made its appearance in Iris’s daily speech. It has grown in its presence and now squats annoyingly in every corner of her speech, most often accompanied by a snort. “Seriously, do I have to eat toast?” “Seriously? What are you doing Loli (our new cat)?” You get the idea. However, we now find ourselves in a bit of a quandary. Most times, when Iris uses the word, it’s quite funny and cute. A few times, though, it has bordered on rude. I have called her out on it but when asked to explain why it’s rude, I can’t seem to put it plainly. It’s the attitude. The preview of Iris the teenager. Horrors. So I shall thoroughly enjoy what moments of childhood still remain. Reading to her at bedtime is definitely one of those.

In the world of movies, sequels of classics usually suck. This is because expectations are already high and no matter how much CGI you throw at it, they never live up to them – wrong cast, wrong music, stupid changes to the story-line, the whinging goes on. With children’s books, however, a re-imagining or retelling can be quite refreshing and give a completely different perspective. This is absolutely true with Lou Kuenzler’s Finding Black Beauty (see my post on the original classic here). Although she stays true to the language and description of the original, it does have a much more modern tone, which makes it much easier to read.

In this retelling, Kuezler turns one of the original characters, the stable boy Joe Green, into a girl in disguise, Josephine Green. Josephine loses her father and gets forced out of her family home so she jumps at the chance of starting a career with the one thing she still loves above all – horses. She meets Black Beauty at Birtwick Park where Beauty first went after leaving his mum. She develops as close a bond with a horse that a human can.

I don’t do spoilers and if I did it with this book, I’d be doing it with the original as well. Suffice to say, it was very interesting to see how Kuenzler developed the story with enough of the original to maintain the story’s integrity. It is an excellent read for a 7 to 12-year-old girl. I felt it covered some very hard topics, such as losing a parent, feeling you have only yourself to depend on, being a homeless child on the streets and finding independence with great sensitivity. Kuenzler didn’t let Josephine wallow in grief or dwell too much on the difficult emotions or times, showing her resilience and persistence to her cause.

4 ⭐

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Drastic Measures

Every single mother has had and will continue to have those moments. Those times when banging your head on the wall is highly preferable to parenting your child at that particular moment. If you even try to deny it, you’re an alien. So it was with a slightly unhealthy glee that I read a short story by Enid Blyton in her Bedtime Stories.

Right from childhood, I’ve never been a fan of Ms Blyton. I always found her prose unimaginative and her plots boring, preferring the naughty wickedness of Dahl. However, I do recognise that Blyton’s stories are easier to digest for younger children. Or at least those that didn’t watch Rambo at the age of seven (I made full use of my dad’s penchant for falling asleep in front of the tv). So I have a few of her books, mostly from op-shops for Iris’s benefit.
I love that Iris is old enough now for proper books and we’ve been going through different ones for the past year. 

“The Other Little Boy” is about Ronnie, who is particularly naughty to his mother. So at the height of one of those head-banging moments, she threatens that she might just get “another little boy” because he’s so rotten to her. Ronnie takes this as an empty threat, which you would think it was.

However, lo and behold, another little boy appears. It is vaguely implied that this boy, Dan, is an orphan. However, Blyton glosses over the logistics of how he came to be there. Anyway, Dan turns out to be the perfect child, of course.
Ronnie first tries to bully Dan into leaving. However, Dan stands up to Ronnie’s rubbish. Then he tries to bully his mother into getting rid of Dan. This is what she says: “Certainly not, Dan has no mother at all. He has never had all the things you have had – the joy of helping his mother, having her kiss him good night, telling her his troubles, looking after her when she is tired, sharing everything with her. You don’t want those things, Ronnie, and you said you wouldn’t mind if I got another little boy.”

So his usual bratty behaviour failing to get his desired results, he tries guilt. He goes to his father and asks, “Don’t you like me, Daddy? Don’t you love me?” To which his father replies, “I love you, because you are my son, but I can’t say I like you very much, Ronnie. Why should I? You are rude and selfish and unkind. I shall always love you and back you up, but whether I like you or not depends on yourself and your own behaviour.”

Ouch.

So Ronnie sees the error of his ways and promises Dan he’ll be good to his mother. Dan agrees to leave only if Ronnie does what he says, which he does of course and everybody lives happily ever after.