Tell me I’m not too late! It can’t be that no one needs to buy any more Christmas presents. Surely you’re not that well organised.
Whatever. You will need to buy Four Tales. You will even want to buy Four Tales. You’ve probably read the tales, or some of them, before. Doesn’t matter. This is a very Christmassy book, just right for children. And for the purposes of this book, we are all children.
To be fair. When I asked to se a copy of this re-issue of Philip Pullman’s four ‘fairy tales’ I expected just that. Four smaller books put together in a larger book. A blue book, as I could see from the press release. But it’s so much more. The cover alone is of the must-stroke variety. Dark blue with silver, and a little bit soft.
The stories are The Firework-Maker’s Daughter, I Was a Rat! or The Scarlet Slippers, Clockwork or All Wound Up, and The Scarecrow and His Servant. They are illustrated by Peter Bailey, although I think it’s just the first one that Peter hadn’t illustrated before. They are of that nice, old-fashioned kind that you remember from your childhood books.
Clearly Philip’s publisher needs to publish something, and while he dithers (or whatever it is he does) over the Book of Dust (come on; it was almost finished five years ago!) they are getting the store cupboard stuff out. But what a store cupboard!
The tales are truly wonderful. The Scarecrow is very very good, but I think for me nothing beats the former Rat. The fireworks story is uplifting, and Clockwork is pretty scary.
Excuse me while I go off to gaze at my copy again.