Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The Nip and Tuck War

The Nip and Tuck War, by Mary Mian, read in the 1972-1973 school season, which was 4th Grade to me, came in the mail this Monday. The 4th Grade was a sort of mini-Renaissance to me, as I really tucked into reading, partly, I must confess, to impress my teacher, Mrs. Bratton, on whom I had a crush.

Nip was a boy raised by animals who could understand their language. Tuck was the head goat of the herd that Nip cared for. When the villainous Baron Gnarl and his son Cramp try to overthrow King Boldo the Ninth (which I at first tried to pronounce so as to rhyme with plinth) and his beautiful daughter the Princess Cristella, Nip leads an animal resistance to free the imprisoned royalty and restore peacful times to the kingdom.

I remember I set out to prove at the time that the story of Nip and the story of Mowgli bore more than a passing resemblance to one another. It's the first instance of literary criticism I ever essayed. One line I always remembered from it over the years: "Witless wight! A wart thou wert!" I always thought it was spoken by an evil Duchess, but it turns out it was the ersatz dragon at the beginning of the tale. Alliteration and archaicism have always been favorites of mine.

While I was re-reading it, the style of the illustrations nagged at me. I had seen the imprecise coloring and uneven line somewhere else before. I looked up the artists, Beth and Joe Krush, and saw that they had done all the Borrowers books by Mary Norton. I think it is a good style that complements the text, and it screams the 1960's.

So another old book hunted down. Right now I think I might have tracked down the old sea serpent book. We shall see.

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