- Meredith, Martin — The State of Africa: A History of Fifty Years of Independence (736 pages)
- Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o — Wizard of the Crow (766 pages)
- Coetzee, J.M. — Life & Times of Michael K (182 pages)
- Saint-Exupery, Antoine de — The Little Prince (101 pages)
- Brunner, John — Stand on Zanzibar (661 pages)
- Dahl, Roald — Fantastic Mr Fox (79 pages)
- Walker, Barbara — TEENY-TINY and the Witch-Woman (29 pages)
Page count: 2554.
On Saturday the Mad Fisher and I were browsing through the children's section of a bookstore in Bedford and reminiscing about books we read during childhood, as one does. She mentioned that she really hoped to be able to find the book she loved best as a kid, one that left an indelible impression on her. It's not an easy book to find, and the last time she looked on Amazon there was one copy for over £100, clearly more than she can afford to spend on a book.
Well, tomorrow is the Mad Fisher's birthday, and I had been struggling to find an appropriate gift for her. So when I got home I did some research. Yes, in new condition the book would have cost over £100, but I was able to find a "very good" used condition for a third that and it arrived promptly this afternoon.
Since it's no doubt been thumbed through by countless kids, I saw no harm in giving it a quick read myself before I wrap it up in gift paper. The story is a variation on the Hansel and Gretel tale. Three kids wander into the forest despite warnings about a witch who eats kids. The older, bigger kids are hard-headed and stubborn and think only about their pleasure, but Teeny-Tiny, the youngest, only goes along reluctantly and is always wary. It's thanks to his wariness and caution that the story ends happily.
This isn't one of the all-time great children's books (says the adult with esoteric tastes), but it is a pleasant story told suspensefully, and the illustrations by Michael Foreman are delightful. If you can get your hands on a copy, it's worth a quick read.