Do you know Crictor, the brave boa constrictor? I used to love him, despite being frantically phobic about snakes. I suppose there’s always an exception to every rule.
Crictor is a picture book from 1958 by French artist Tomi Ungerer. It’s still around, and sadly it seems to have been picked for this year’s Swedish book sale. We need books like these around. Always. It does seem to be available in English still, though.
Young Crictor comes to live with a little old lady, Madame Bodot, in a small French town. She looks after him like a baby, Crictor joins in by going to school, etc, and eventually becomes a hero by rescuing Mme Bodot from some thuggish burglars.
My copy of the book, which appears to have been improved on by colouring in with oil pastels (Now, who could have done that?), came from the Retired Children’s Librarian, long before she retired. When I was in my early teens she asked for it back. Not because I wasn’t looking after it properly, but because Swedish television stole “her” copy. In those days she was head of the children’s library in the posh bit of Stockholm near television centre, and whenever they needed anything bookish they came to her. They made a programme about Crictor, but omitted to return him afterwards. And the Retired Children’s Librarian felt she needed to safeguard at least one copy of the book. So I gave it back.
Over the years I thought of him occasionally, and when Offspring turned up on the scene, I asked for Crictor back. So the brave snake made the journey across the North Sea, in a suitcase belonging to Mother-of-Witch. Never forgetting the oil pastels or the television people, I have always kept him with me since, and not in either of Offspring’s bookcases.
For World Book Day in the year 2000, or thereabouts, Daughter needed dressing up as a book character for school, so we turned her into Mme Bodot, complete with Ikea snake. And absolutely nobody knew who she was.