Thanks to this unintentional guilt-trip of a post, Grandma seems to be on a one-woman crusade to fill Maja’s bookshelf recently (a noble endeavour from 20,000 kilometres away). We’ve recently received Margaret Mahy’s beautiful, springy-sprongy celebration of life, The Moon and Farmer McPhee, and now we have our sticky little fingers on two New Zealand favourites, The Little Yellow Digger and another Mahy, the classic Jam. THANK YOU GRANDMA!!
This is how the Mahy-ness manifests itself in Jam:
- Its words: which give the impression of having been happily collected one by one, like plums from an old tree out the back that are slowly, lovingly cooked into glorious sticky jam: … atomic, sunspots, anxious, well-informed, thud, tumbling, delighted, capacities, wonderful, challenge, Picasso, roly polies, haunted, shadowy, terrible, spaghetti, enthusiastically … Do you want your children to develop rich, flexible, creative vocabularies? I have one word of advice for you: MAHY.
- Its cast: the harmonious Castle family – in which the little ones are ‘more like Cottages, really’: Clement, Clarissa and Carlo.
- The matter-of-fact way in which it makes something beautifully natural out of the not-so-normal – that should be normal. Mrs Castle works, so Mr Castle:
… washed dishes and then pegged them out to dry. Not only did he sweep the floors, he swept the ceiling too. He vacuumed the carpets, put the dough to rise in a warm place … wiped down the bench, had a quick cup of tea … planted a row of cabbages, folded the washing, baked the bread and a cake … put Carlo down for his afternoon sleep … had another cup of tea … cleaned the bath … prepared dinner … read the paper (so as to be well-informed) … kissed the children when they came home from school – and Mrs Castle when she came home from work – and asked them all what sort of day they had had.
I have to say those two pages almost made me cry. In sheer empathetic joy for the luckiness of the fictional Castle family – to have such an ‘excellent house-father’ as their backbone! I need hardly tell you now who it was who made the pots and pots of jam that gives this book its title. What a man!
- The heart of it: story. A simple, familiar, satisfying story. The essence of MM. No one could do it quite like she could.
And I’m off to have a cup of tea sweetened with jam.