Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Chilly day, heart-warming book

Today was another gray, chilly one. Yes, it stopped raining mid-day as the wetness moved east of us, but everything remained soggy. Apparently, parts of North Texas had bad flooding, which tells you how much rain we had. For me, it was another day to hunker down and stay at home.

I made a good start on a talk I will give next month to a woman’s club, and I dealt with some odds and ends. One of the luxuries of my retirement life is that when the weather is uninviting, I can simply elect to stay in. I did that tonight. My Wednesday night dinner pal, Betty, didn’t check in until four o’clock, by which time I had talked myself out of going to dinner. She sounded equally reluctant, mentioning more than once how cold it is outside. So we decided to wait until next week and then try a specific restaurant noted for reasonable and good appetizers. That’s all we need for dinner.

But today I lingered over a small, slim book that I’d been hearing about. Notices on various places, like an online newsletter for booksellers, had intrigued me about a book called,
The Boy, the mole, the fox and the Horse.
Then a writer friend raved about it, and I was hooked. Not that it swayed me, but Amazon shows over 2300 reviews, 93% of them five stars. What I wouldn’t give for ratings like that!

I have so little bookshelf space, and friend Mary and I had only recently cleaned, sorted, straightened—and, yes, sigh, eliminated some books. So I tell myself I read online to save trees and to save space in the cottage. But there are some books you just need to have on the shelf so that you can revisit them from time to time. I sensed this would be one of them and ordered it from Amazon.

Created by Charles Mackery and dedicated to his mum and his dog, the book has text all in script, written with a thick point so that sometimes it’s hard to decipher. But the script is an accompaniment to wonderful line drawings that are open, free, and expressive. In many ways, including its folk wisdom, this book took me back to Winnie the Pooh.

The Boy is lonely, the mole thinks mostly about cake, the fox doesn’t speak, and the Horse is wise and kind.

When the boy first finds the mole, the mole says, “I am so small,” and the boy assures him, “But you make a huge difference.” When the boy asks him if he has a favorite saying, the mole says, “Yes. If at first you don’t succeed, have some cake.”

They meet fox, whose foot is caught in a trap. He immediately tells mole that if he weren’t caught, he would eat him. But mole chews through the trap to free him. They become a threesome. Lots of wisdom comes from the mole: “Being kind to yourself is one of the greatest kindnesses.”

“Sometimes I feel lost,” said the boy. “Me too,” said the mole, “but we love you and love brings you home.”... “I think everyone is just trying to get home,” said the mole.

They meet the horse, who says, “Everyone is a bit scared. But we are less scared together.”

I could go on and on quoting passages from this book, but I want you to discover it for yourself. Aside from the charm of the text, it is a beautifully put together book—years in publishing have taught me to appreciate a finely crafted book, and this is one. Good quality paper, careful reproduction, a solid binding, and endsheets of a musical score with the boy, the mole, the fox, and the horse racing through the lines. A note says it is to be “lively and in strict time.”.

If I ever could meet Charles Mackery, I’d shake his hand and tell him I agree about the importance of kindness. It’s a timely message for our country these days. But until that fictional meeting, I’m going to sleep soundly tonight and hear the wise words of the mole in my dreams.

“What do you want to be when you grow up?” “Kind,” the boy answers.

“What do you think success is?” asked the boy. “To love,” the mole replied.

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