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Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Wonderful Surprise and Surpassing Delight!

Do you recognize the little creature on the left? I’ve written before about The Silver Nutmeg, by Palmer Brown, one of my all-time favorite and most beloved books from childhood and one I still love very much. It was a sequel to Beyond the Paw Paw Trees, a charming story in itself, and the animal in the illustration is a hedgehog, one of Anna Lavinia’s pets in both Palmer Brown stories.

I subscribe to the New York Review of Books and deeply appreciate the in-depth essays there. Often a review will address several books on the same subject, going into very helpful detail on how they cover the subject and, perhaps, what each one leaves out. There are also essays that are not book reviews, such as those by Tony Judt, published over a long period and at last, thank heaven, collected into a book. But book reviews are the stock in trade of the periodical, so it’s natural to find books advertised throughout each issue, and skimming through the publishers’ ads is part of my pleasure, as much as it is attention to my business.

Well, imagine my amazement and delight to find that NYRB itself has republished Beyond the Paw Paw Trees! Hurrying to place an order, I was even more amazed and delighted to see that The Silver Nutmeg will be re-released in April of 2012! My cup runneth over! And my son’s cup runneth over, too, because how could a reader have a child and not inflict her favorite books on him at an early age? I made a lot of mistakes as a mother, but Palmer Brown was not one of them!

If you followed the first link in this post and read my old one through the comments section, you found my synopsis of the setup for the action of The Silver Nutmeg, but I know not everyone follows links (I don’t always do it myself), so I’m going to insert my long comment on the story here:
What is THE SILVER NUTMEG about? Oh, my!

Well, things are not at their rosiest for Anna Lavinia. Life is never quite right when her father is away, and this time drought has even her pets drooping. The well is dry, and Anna Lavinia must make repeated trips to the spring for water as her mother puts up spicy green paw paw preserves so as not to waste the paw paws that fell from the tree before they could ripen.

Uncle Jeffrey’s visit is a pleasant diversion. His relationship to the family is a little vague, “twice removed,” though he won’t say from where, but he brings spices and songs and gifts.

Before he left on his trip, Anna Lavinia’s father had begun making a hole in the stone wall surrounding their garden. The purpose of the opening was to broaden Anna Lavinia’s horizon and give her a point of view. Through the opening she could see a small wooded hill. On top of the hill was a dew pond. How many hills have a dew pond on top? Her point of view was something special.

When Anna Lavinia visits the dew pond, she learns the truth of the old saying, “Still waters run deep.” There is another world on the other side of the still water! A boy on the other side invites her to jump, assuring her that if the water is still she can get through without getting wet. She jumps, and thus begin her adventures in a world without gravity, where people and objects are attached to earth by the tingle as long as they are touching the ground or something that is touching the ground.

But the workmen were going to drain the pond to irrigate the parsnip field! How will Anna Lavinia get home again? And who was Aunt Cornelia’s lover, and will he ever return?

This is the beginning of what the story is “about,” and I feel it tells nothing at all. The charm is in the very specific language, the songs and rhymes, the drawings, the faces of Anna Lavinia and the other characters, the details of the animals, and so on and so forth. It is truly a magical book.

(You’ll have to look at the old post if you want to see a picture of the cover of my copy of The Silver Nutmeg because it is currently on loan to a friend. Needless to say, she is a very good friend, tried and true, for me to let this precious book out of my house and into her hands.)

Well, I couldn’t wait to send the glad tidings about next year’s reprint availability of The Silver Nutmeg to my son, who thoroughly understood and shared my joy. He wondered if that would mean Beyond the Paw Paw Trees would be reprinted, too, and when I told him it’s already available he wondered if he could put in a request for a late birthday present. (I’m thinking it might be an early Christmas present, since he will be visiting soon.) Then he sent me a link to a wonderful blog post from Pittsburgh, which you should definitely follow if you love books, even if you’ve never heard of Palmer Brown, because the serendipity of this blogger’s story will make you smile happily and put a rainbow into your day.

Until you discover or rediscover the stories of Anna Lavinia for yourself, here at left is a little illustration of her precious book, “Songs From Nowhere,” and here below are the front and back of the lovely, lovely newly reprinted Beyond the Paw Paw Trees. Oh, lucky me, to be a bookseller! I can hardly wait to introduce people to these magical tales!


Peter D. Sieruta said...

The only Palmer Brown book I know is HICKORY...but now you've got me intrigued. I'll definitely be checking our library catalog tomorrow for BEYOND THE PAW PAW TREES and THE SILVER NUTMEG. I'm almost sure I've seen the latter title around.... Thanks!

P. J. Grath said...

Hi, Peter. Thought I was offline for the night and then realized I had to correct an error in this post. Of course it is Anna Lavinia's hedgehog, not the thobby! You have me intrigued, too. HICKORY? I don't know that one. You will love THE SILVER NUTMEG, I am certain.