Wednesday, August 5, 2009

marcel ayme

At any given library, there is usually a cart of free books. These are books that are worn down to the bone. Covers missing, pages torn, spine flimsy.... but the words inside are still good. It was on one such cart that I found - now one of my best children's books resources - The World Treasury of Children's Literature, Volume II (I can only hope that Vol. I will find its way to the cart one day too). In this book I keep discovering more and more writers and illustrators that I've never heard of before. One writer in particular, Marcel Ayme (1902-1967), a French author, born in a town called, Joigny, in Burgundy, France, won me over with his story, The Elephant, which comes from a book of stories called, The Wonderful Farm (originally published in 1951) and illustrated by the amazing, Maurice Sendak (who I've mentioned in an earlier post).
The Elephant, is about two little sisters, Marinette and Delphine (don't you love French names), who are left at home one rainy day while their parents go visit their Uncle Alfred. With the ceaseless rain, the little girls pretend that they are preparing for a great flood, so they gather the animals on their farm - an ox, cow, horse, sheep, a grumbling pig (my favorite), and a hen, who they ask to play the part of an elephant - in their tiny kitchen which they pretend is an Ark. The pig fears that they will run out of food, and the hen grows to the size of an elephant while inside their parent's room. You can imagine what happens next....
I hope to read more stories by Marcel Ayme, and one I'd really like to get my hands on is the English version of, Le Passe Muraille (loosely translated, A Man Who Can Pass Walls).

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