The launch of the Kindle got me thinking about all the things an e-reader can never be. You can't inscribe it to a loved one or press flowers between it's pages. It can never be an object, loved and cherished and passed from person to person, with any history. Your children cannot draw upon the pages and fill it with precious memories. Illustrations look terrible on it, especially art, which needs a grand scale. For these reasons and many more, help me celebrate the real thing: dusty old books!
Saturday, 17 April 2010
The Big Clean-Up
This is one of those child-hood books that sticks in the memory and subtly influences all sorts of every day things, and possibly how I view the world. This is not the very copy I had as a child. That went missing in a house move and I've lamented it ever since. At least until I found this replacement copy.
And everything is exactly as I remember, from the quirky line drawings, to the simple colour, to the understated (and therefore witty text) to the the brilliant concept.
Harvey Weiss has taken the age old theme of a child with a messy room and turned it into an brilliant fantasy of imagination, resourcefulness and (in a modern world) recycling.
When Peter (and his doleful hound Maurice) are told to clean up his bed room, he gets two boxes. One is for things to keep, the other for things to throw away. But like most children (and adults;mysdelf included), letting go proves difficult, especially when you have a good imagination.
Peter conjours all sorts of elaborate contrivences, mostly for the benefit of Maurice, and convinces himself of the usefulness of just about everything he pulls from the pile of "rubbish".
A cotton reel inspires a contraption for Maurice in the event of tha splinter in the paw; a small stick could bne the railing of a veranda on a luxury dog house with pool and heli-pad; while an old rusty key might be just the very key needed to rescue poor old Maurice from a rather gothic and evidently dangerous dungeon prison!
Funny, charming, clever and touching, it's an overlooked masterpiece. It's an American book and I suspect circulation in the UK has always been limited and how I had a copy as a child I have no idea. But I'm jolly glad I did, even though the end result is that I cannot, to this day, bear to throw anything away...