Monday, June 27, 2011

The Crows of Pearblossom

The Crows of Pearblossom
by Aldous Huxley, illustrated by Sophie Blackall
Abrams, 2011. Unpaged. Picture Book.

Somewhere in between writing Brave New World, Point Counterpoint, and Ape and Essence, Aldous Huxley managed to turn out a charming children's book for his niece, Olivia. In this story, Mrs. Crow lays an egg a day, but never gets any baby crows because the snake who lives among the roots of her tree comes up for lunch every day while Mrs. Crow is at the store. One day she arrives home early with her shopping basket full of eggplant, polenta, and, ironically enough, a dozen eggs, to find the snake swallowing her potential offspring. Incensed, she demands Mr. Crow go down immediately and kill the snake. He thinks this is not such a good idea so goes to consult with his wise friend Old Man Owl, who quickly puts a plan into motion which involves making some clay eggs for the snake to swallow which gives him such a stomach ache he wrapped himself in knots around the tree, becoming a living clothesline for Mrs. Crow's babies' clothes. The Crows of Pearblossom, is laugh-out-loud funny (quite unlike Brave New World), and the illustrations are a delight (the snake keeps his uppers--i.e., fangs, in a half-glass of water by his bed). Contemporary parents may be put off, for their children's sakes, by Mr. and Mrs. Crow's squabbling: he tells her she talks too much and should "keep her beak shut and get out of her nest." She calls him "coarse and unfeeling," and implies that he is a chicken (you'll excuse the expression) for not going to the bottom of the tree straightaway and sorting out Mr. Snake. So, if you are put off by the prospect of marital spatting in a picture book, give this one a miss. Otherwise, prepare to snort milk.

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