In which Annie (high school teacher, mother of two young girls and a younger boy) and her aunt Deborah (children's bookseller, mother of two young women in their 20s) discuss children's books and come up with annotated lists.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Wisdom and an owl

Dear Annie,

Athena -- a far cry from princess-in-pink.

You and Eleanor might like to check out Mary Pope Osborne's
Tales from the Odyssey
. It was originally written as six little books (one of them called The Gray-Eyed Goddess), but the publisher has sensibly pulled them into two volumes -- still pretty short.  Yes, she's the author of the Magic Tree House books, which are not my favorites, but this is better.  I confess I've only browsed through these tales, but they consistently get surprised and pleased reviews from customers.  I'm curious what you'd think of them.

One of the joys of domestic life in our household is the high quality literary references.  Bob and I were discussing your latest post at dinner, and he reached a book off the shelf and read me a few pages.  It was The Sword in the Stone by T. H. White, and the scene is one in which the young Arthur -- known as the Wart -- first meets Merlyn, and his owl Archimedes.  At first the owl tries hard to ignore him, then perches skeptically on his shoulder as the humans converse.
   . . . he felt a curious sensation at his ear.  "Don't jump," said Merlyn, just as he was going to do so, and the Wart sat still.  Archimedes, who had been standing forgotten on his shoulder all this time, was gently touching himself against him.  His beak was right against the lobe of the ear, which its bristles made to tickle, and suddenly a soft hoarse little voice whispered, "How d'you do," so that it sounded right inside his head.
   "Oh, owl!" cried the Wart, forgetting about Merlyn's troubles instantly.  "Look, he has decided to talk to me!"
   The Wart gently leaned his head against the soft feathers, and the brown owl, taking the rim of his ear in its beak, quickly nibbled right round it with the smallest nibbles.
   "I shall call him Archie!" exclaimed the Wart.
   "I trust you will do nothing of the sort," cried Merlyn instantly, in a stern and angry voice, and the owl withdrew to the farthest corner of his shoulder.
   "Is it wrong?"
   "You might as  well call me Wol, or Olly," said the owl sourly, "and have done with it."
   "Or Bubbles," added the owl in a bitter voice.
   Merlyn took the Wart's hand and said kindly, "You are only young, and do not understand these things.  But you will learn that owls are the politest and most courteous, single-hearted and faithful creatures living.  You must never be familiar, rude or vulgar with them, or make them to look ridiculous.  There mother is Athene, the goddess of wisdom, and though they are often ready to play the buffoon for your amusement, such conduct is the prerogative of the truly wise.  No owl can possibly be called Archie."
   "I am sorry, owl," said the Wart.
   "And I am sorry, boy," said the owl.  "I can see that you spoke in ignorance, and I bitterly regret that I should have been so petty as to take offense where none was intended."
I hope Eleanor's Athena is both truly wise and equipped with an exceptional owl.



No comments:

Post a Comment