Recommended reading: Thin Places

Wild Strawberry Unicorn by by Tamsin Abbott

One of the very best books I've read this year is Thin Places by Kerri ní Dochartaigh, a volume born from the edgelands between nature writing and memoir, but also well rooted in folklore, myth, and history.

At the core of the text is Ní Dochartaigh's account of growing up in Northern Ireland during the violent years of the Troubles, of her subsequent flight from the land of her birth, and of her eventual return. Although the story is necessarily dark, the telling is made luminous by the author's exquisite prose, shot through with flashes of bright connection to the twinned worlds of myth and nature.

Otter House, Allotment of Plenty, and Sacred Spring by Tamsin Abbott

Here's a taste of Thin Places:

"What does it mean to come from a hollowed-out place? From a place that is neck-deep in the saga of loss? ... What effect does where you come from, and what that land has been through, have on the map of your self? How deeply can a person feel the fault lines of their home running through their own veins?

"In Celtic lands it is not unusual to use the landscape as a mnemonic map. Geographical features hold a particular importance for our history, beliefs and culture -- places make up the lines of our very being. There is an understanding that we are part of and not separate from the land we inhabit. Celtic legends place the natural world at the very heart of story, maybe even inside its bones. In such stories things in the natural world can possess a spirit and presence of their own; mountains, rocks, trees, rivers -- all things of the land and the sea -- sing their own lament. Locations can be associated with a particular warrior, hero or deity. Places are tied to stories by threads that uncoil themselves back beyond known history, passed on through oral tradition, only some of which have been written down.

Young Stag Ancient Oak by by Tamsin Abbott

"Amongst these geographical features, whether manmade -- such as ancient mounds and standing stones -- or naturally created features, it is not unusual for some to be associated with the worship of pre-Christian deities. The aos sí (or aes sídhe) is an Irish term for a race that is other than human, that exists in Irish, Scottish and Manx mythologies, inhabiting an invisible world that sits in a kind of mirroring with our own. They belong to the Otherworld, Aos Sí -- a world reached through mist, hills, lakes, ponds, springs, loughs, wetland areas, caves, ancient burial sites, cairns and mounds. The island from which I come had no choice, really, than to find a name for these dancing, beating, healing places where the veil between so very many things is thin, where it has been known to lift, right before our humble, grateful eyes. 

"The folklore of almost every culture holds room for these liminal spaces -- those in-between spaces -- those unnameable places, not to be found on any map. Are these thin places spaces where we can more easily hear the land, the earth, talking to us? Or are they places in which we are able to feel more freely our own inner selves? Do such places as these therefore hold power?

Old Brock by Tamsin Abbott

"We have built up a narrative over many years -- decades, centuries? -- of 'nature' as 'other'. There is so much separation in the language we use with each other; we seek to divide humanity from its own self again and again, and this has naturally bled into how we view the land and water that we share with one another -- and with other species. What do we mean when we talk about 'nature'? About 'place'? I want to know what it all means. I need to try to understand. When we are in a place where the manmade constructs of the world seem as though they have crumbled, where time feels like it no longer exists, that feeling of separation fades away. We are reminded, in the deepest, rawest parts of our being, that we are nature. It is in us and of us. We are not superior or inferior, separate or removed; our breathing, breaking, ageing, bleeding, making and dying are the things of this earth. We are made up of the materials we see in the places around us, and we cannot undo the blood and bone that forms us.

"In thin places people often say they experience being taken 'out of themselves', or 'nearer to god'. The places I return to over and over -- both physically, and in my memory -- certainly do hold the power to make me feel light and hopeful, as though I am not quite of this world. Of much more power, though, is the way in which these places leave me feeling rooted -- as utterly and completely in the landscape as I ever feel, as much a part of it as the bones and excrement that lie beneath my feet, as the salt and silt that course through the water. For me, it is in this that the absolute and unrivalled beauty of thin places lie."

White deer by Tamsin Abbott

Thin Places is one of those books that I long to buy multiple copies of and gift to everyone I know. It's a beautiful book, and a timely one. I urge you to seek it out.

For another slant on "thin places," have a listen to Philip Marsden on Scotland Outdoors (BBC Sounds) discussing The Summer Isles, his book about the wild western coasts of Ireland and Scotland. Go here for the interview, and start at the 29:50 mark.

Hare by Tamsin Abbott

The glorious stained glass art today is by Tamsin Abbott, based in rural east Herefordshire. Tamsin received a first class degree in English literature from Stirling University (where she specialised in the medieval period); she then returned to school to study art at Gloucester College of Art and Technology, and trained in stained glass at Hereford College of Art and Design. Her work has been featured in Country Living, on Country File, and is sold in galleries and shops across the UK.

The Guardians by Tamsin Abbott"I have always been influenced (and almost obsessed) by nature," she says, "but most specifically animals, continuously drawing and painting them; for a long time I dreamed of speaking with them, and of being absorbed into their world in a way that seemed more natural to me than this human community.  I don’t think I am alone in this as I find that this animal ‘spirit’ speaks directly to others too.  However, I am also inherently inspired by the idea of myth and legend as well as fairytale and medieval romances, and the sense that our ancestors, who inhabited this land, have left an imprint on it throughout the ages.  I also love the idea of the timelessness of the cosmos that overarches everything now as it would have done since time before humanity. It is the intermeshing of all these things that contribute towards my internal universe which I hope manifests in my work.

"Behind all this inspiration the underlying sense of what I am trying to portray is how much life goes on around us constantly but outside our awareness. Be it a shrew foraging for its young in the hedgerow as we walk by, or a giant spirit dragon that soars above us in the night sky.  Conversely, I also wish to capture a sense of the magic of the everyday in my work; the sacred washing line, the reverential bonfire, the glory of a scrap of garden."

To learn more about her work, please visit Tamsin's website, or read an interview with the artist here.

Golden Fox by Tamsin Abbott

Raycomb House by Tamsin Abbott

Thin Places

The passage quoted above is from Thin Places by Kerri ní Dochartaigh (Canongate, 2021); all rights reserved by the author. The stained glass art is by Tamsin Abbott; all rights reserved by the artist.

There and back again

Beech Whisperer by David Wyatt

I've recently returned from a week of woodland wandering, and I'm still feeling betwixt and between: moving from the mythic realms back into ordinary life (with its own ordinary magic). I've been camping in the hills just south of here as part of Songdreaming for Albion, led by Sam Lee and Chris Salisbury: a deep dive into the folk songs and tales of Dartmoor, listening for the songlines of the moor, and "recalibrating how we engage with the land and converse with our brother/sister nations of plants, trees and beings."

Tales were told. Songs were sung. Food was cooked on open fires and music shared till the midnight hours. Dartmoor blessed us with dry, clear days and star-filled nights (never a given here). Then Howard and Tilly fetched me and brought me over the hills and home.

0ld Goat's Home by David Wyatt

In myth, the safe return from the woods (or the mountainside, or the spirit world) often marks a time of new beginnings: fresh starts, new paths, or lives newly illuminated by gifts brought back from the Otherland. Thomas the Rhymer, in the old Scottish ballad, returns to the mortal realm after seven years with the Faerie Queen bearing the gift of prophesy. Merlin returns from his time of exile and madness in the forests of Wales with new magical abilities and the gift of speaking with animals. Odin hangs in a death-like trance for ten days from the world-tree Yggdrasil, and comes back with the secret of runes from the dark land of Niflheim. I haven't come back with anything so grand as runes or prophesy -- but songs and dreams and spiderwebs of wild connection are just as precious, and as necessary.

I took no camera, no computer, no phone -- nothing between me and the moss green world -- so I have no photographs from the week to share with you. Instead, the pictures in this post are by my old friend David Wyatt -- who was, until just recently, a neighbour of ours here on the moor. There are many ways into the Dreaming, and art-making is one of them.

Song, as I learned again last week, is another...and perhaps the most direct of all.

Pencil sketch by David Wyatt 2

The art above: Beech Whisperer, Old Goat's Home, and a rough sketch (in preparation for a painting) by David Wyatt. All rights reserved by the artist. 

Words and worlds

Illustration by Edward Gorey

As a coda to this week's posts on Alison Lurie (focused on her two collections of essays on children's fiction), I'd like to also recommend her final collection, Words and Worlds: From Autobiographies to Zippers (2019). The works gathered in this volume range from personal reflections to explorations of theatre, literature, and clothes (including, yes, zippers) -- plus some pieces on fairy tales and children's books that didn't appear in the previous collections.

From The Doubtful Guest by Edward Gorey

The book opens with "Nobody Asked You to Write a Novel," an account of Lurie's long, dispiriting journey to a professional writing career -- a piece so good that I wish she'd left us with a book-length memoir as well. (The title comes from her husband's curt response to her despair when publisher after publisher rejected her early work.) Later, Lurie writes about friends in her literary circle with candor, affection, and a deliciously understated humor. Here, for example, is a brief, bright portrait of Shirley Jackson from an essay on "Witches Old and New":

Words and Worlds by Alison Lurie"Over the years I have met many people who considered themselves to be witches and/or worshippers of a female deity, whom they usually referred to as The Goddess. They were of every age and social class, and of both sexes -- though, as in the witch trials of the 16th and 17th centuries, women predominated. With one exception, all claimed that they were good, or white, witches, and worked only for positive ends. They celebrated the seasons of the year and the power and glory of nature. They cast spells to find lost objects; to bring health, wealth, love, happiness, and peace of mind to themselves and their friends; and occasionally to block the evil or misguided actions of institutions such as the Internal Revenue Service, the Pentagon, and Cornell University.

"The one witch I've known who admitted to a less benign use of her magic arts was the writer Shirley Jackson, best remembered now for her brilliant and frightening short story 'The Lottery.' She did not always claim to be a witch, but she also did not deny it, sometimes giving examples. At one time, she told me, she and her husband, the critic Stanley Edgar Hyman, were extremely annoyed by his publisher, Alfred Knopf. 'Unfortunately, my powers do not extend to New York State,' she informed his secretary and several other acquaintances. 'But let him be warned. If he enters my territory, Vermont, evil will befall him.'

"The warning was passed on; but several weeks later, rashly disregarding it, Knopf took a train to Vermont to go skiing. The first day he was out on the slopes, Jackson said, he fell and broke his leg. After emergency medical treatment, he was helped onto another train and returned to his territory, Manhattan."

Illustration by Edward Gorey

Another example comes from her marvellous essay on writer and artist Edward Gorey (1925-2000), a close friend throughout their adult lives. (All of the art in this post is "Ted" Gorey's.) Lurie writes:

"The Doubtful Guest, which was dedicated to me under my married name at the time, Alison Bishop, appeared in 1957. It recalls a remark I made to Ted when John [Lurie's son] was less than two years old. I said that having a young child around all the time was like having a houseguest who never said anything and never left. This, of course, is what happens in the story. The Doubtful Guest appears out of nowhere. It is smaller than anyone else; it has a 'peculiar appearance' at first and does not understand language. As time passes, it becomes greedy and destructive: it tears pages out of books, has temper tantrums, and walks in its sleep. Yet nobody even tries to get rid of the creature. It is just always there. It sits around, or moves from room to room, and it always wears sneakers. The attitude of the other characters towards it remains one of resigned acceptance. 

From The Doubtful Guest by Edward Gorey

"Who is this Doubtful Guest? The last page of the story makes everything clear:

     It came seventeen years ago -- and to this day
     It has shown no intention of going away.

"Of course, after about seventeen years most children leave home. The Doubtful Guest is a child, and since the book was published many mothers have recognized this. My own Doubtful Guest left home at eighteen, and now is over sixty. He still comes to visit, but he always has plenty to say, and often I think he leaves too soon, so there is hope for anyone who has this kind of guest in their own home right now."

From The Doubtful Guest by Edward Gorey

Lurie, as most readers know, was a Pulitzer-Prize-winning novelist as well as a fine nonfiction writer and scholar. She died in December, 2020, at the age of 94 -- a true loss to the fields of adult and children's literature alike.

From The Doubtful Guest by Edward Gorey

From The Doubtful Guest by Edward Gorey

Illustration by Edward Gorey

The passages above are quoted from "Witches Old and New" and "Edward Gorey" by Alison Lurie, published in Words and Worlds (Delphinium Books, 2019); all rights reserved by the Lurie estate. The art above is by Edward Gorey; all rights reserved by the Gorey estate.

Alison Lurie on the modern magic of E. Nesbit

E. Nesbit's The Book of Beasts, illustrated by Inga Moore

I'd like to end the week with one more passage from Alison Lurie's writings on children's books, this time from her essay on E. Nesbit (1858-1924), published in Don't Tell the Grown-ups: The Subversive Power of Children's Literature:

E. Nesbit's Five Children and It illustrated by HR Millar"Victorian literary fairy tales tend to have a conservative moral and political bias. Under their charm and invention is usually an improving lesson: adults know best; good, obedient, patient, and self-effacing little boys and girls are rewarded by the fairies, and naughty assertive ones are punished. In the most widely read British authors of the period -- Frances Browne, Mrs. Craik, Mrs. Ewing, Mrs. Molesworth, and even the greatest of them all, George MacDonald -- the usual manner is that of a kind lady or gentleman delivering a delightfully disguised sermon. Only Lewis Carroll's Alice books completely avoid this didactic tone....

In the final years of Victoria's reign, however, an author appeared who was to challenge this pattern so energetically and with such success that it is possible now to speak of juvenile literature as before and after E. Nesbit. Although there are foreshadowings of her characteristic manner in Charles Dicken's "Holiday Romance" and Kenneth Grahaeme's The Golden Age, Nesbit was the first to write at length for children as intellectual equals and in their own language. Her books were startlingly innovative in other ways: they took place in contemporary England and recommended socialist solutions to its problems; they presented a modern view of childhood; and they used magic both as a comic device and as a serious metaphor for the power of the imagination. Every writer of children's fantasy of since Nesbit's time in indebted to her -- and so are some authors of adult fiction."

E. Nesbit's The Railway Children illustrated by Inga Moore

A little later in the text, Lurie returns to the subject of magic in Nesbit's work:

E. Nesbit's Five Children and It, illustrated by HR Millar"Though we tend to take it for granted, the importance of magic in juvenile literature needs some explanation. Why, in a world that is so wonderful and various and new to them, should children want to read about additional, unreal wonders? The usual explanation is a psychological one: magic provides an escape from reality or expresses fears and wishes. In the classic folktale, according to this theory, fear of starvation becomes a witch or wolf, cannibalism an ogre. Desire shapes itself as a pot that is always full of porridge, a stick that will beat one's enemies on command, a mother who comes back to life as a benevolent animal or bird. Magic in children's literature, too, can make psychological needs and fears concrete; children confront and defeat threatening adults in the shape of giants, or they become supernaturally large and strong; and though they cannot yet drive a car, they travel to other planets.

"Magic can do all this, but it can do more. In the literary folktale, it becomes a metaphor for the imagination. This is particularly true of Nesbit's stories. The Book of Beasts, for instance, can be read as a fable about the power of imaginative art. The magic volume of its title contains colored pictures of exotic creatures, which become real when the book is left open. The little boy who finds it releases first a butterfly, then a bird of paradise, and finally a dragon that threatens to destroy the country. If any book is vivid enough, this story says, what is in it will become real to us and invade our world for good or evil.

E. Nesbit's Five Children and It, illustrated by HR Millar"It is imagination, disguised as magic, that gives Nesbit's characters (and by extension her readers) the power to journey through space and time: to see India or the South Seas, to visit Shakespeare's London, ancient Egypt, or a future Utopia. It will even take them to Atlantis or to a mermaid's castle under the sea. All these places, of course, are the traditional destinations of fantasy voyages, even today. But an imagination that can operate only in conventional fantasy scenery is in constant danger of becoming sentimental and escapist. At worst, it produces the sort of mental condition that manifests itself in plastic unicorns and a Disney World version of foreign countries. True imaginative power like Nesbit's, on the other hand, is strong enough to transform the most prosaic contemporary scene, and comedy is its best ally. Nesbit's magic is as much at home in a basement in Camden Town as on a South Sea island, and it is never merely romantic. Though it grants the desires of her characters, it may also expose those desires as comically misconceived. Five Children and It, for instance, is not only an amusing adventure story but also a tale of the vanity of human -- or at least juvenile -- wishes. The children first want to be 'as beautiful as the day'; later they ask for a sand pit full of gold sovereigns, giant size and strength, and instant adulthood. Each wish leads them into an appropriate comic disaster....

E. Nesbit's Five Children and It, illustrated by HR Millar
"It is also possible to see the magic in Nesbit's tales as the metaphor for her own art. In many of her fantasies the children begin by using supernatural power in a casual, materialistic way: to get money and to play tricks on people. Gradually they find better uses for magic: in The Story of the Amulet, to unite the souls of an ancient and modern scholar, and at the end of The Enchanted Castle, to reveal the unity of all created things. Nesbit, similarly, first used her talents to produce hack work and pay the bills; only much later did she come to respect her gift and write the books for which she is still remembered.

"Nesbit's magic can also be read as a metaphor for imaginative literature in general. Those who possess supernatural abilities or literary gifts, like the Psammead of Five Children and It, are not necessarily attractive or good-tempered; they may be ugly, cross, or ridiculous. We do not know who will be moved by even the greatest works of art, nor how long their power will last; and the duration and effect of magic in Nesbit's stories in unpredictable in the same way. E. Nesbit's Five Children and It, illustrated by HR MillarCertain sorts of people remain untouched by it, and it is often suspected of being a dream, a delusion, or a lie. The episode of the Ugly-Wuglies also suggests that things carelessly given life by the imagination may become frightening and dangerous; the writer may be destroyed by his or her second-rate creations -- by the inferior work that survives to debase reputation, or by some casual production that catches the popular imagination and types its creator forever.

"Also, though they were written [over a century ago], Nesbit's books express a common anxiety of writers today: that the contemporary world, with its speed of travel and new methods of communication, will soon have no use for literature. As practical Jimmy puts it in The Enchanted Castle: 'I think magic went out when people began having steam engines...and newspapers, and telephones and wireless telegraphing.

E. Nesbit's Five Children and It, illustrated by HR Millar"New as Nesbit's stories are in comparison with most children's books of her period, in some ways they also look back to the oldest sort of juvenile literature, the traditional folktale. They recall the simplicity and directness of diction, and the physical humor, of the folktale rather than the poetic language, intellectual wit, and didactic intention of the typical Victorian fairy tale. Socially, too, Nesbit's stories have affinities with folklore. Her adventurous little girls and athletic princesses recall the many traditional tales in which the heroines have wit, courage, and strength....There is no way of knowing whether E. Nesbit went back to these traditional modes consciously, or whether it was her own attitude toward the world that made her break so conclusively with the past. Whatever the explanation, she managed not only to create some of the best children's books ever written, but to quietly popularize ideas about childhood that were, in her time, extremely subversive. Today, when the words of writers like Mrs. Ewing and Mrs. Molesworth and Mrs. Craik are gathering dust on the shelves of second hand bookshops, her stories are still being read and loved by children, and imitated by adults."

E. Nesbit's The Railway Children illustrated by Inga Moore 3

For more about Edith Nesbit herself, who lived a radical and fascinating life, I recommend The Lives and Loves of E. Nesbit by Eleanor Fitzsimons. It is, hands down, the best of the Nesbit biographies. Also, A.S. Byatt's splendid novel The Children's Book owes more than a little to Nesbit, her complicated marriage, and her social circle.

The art today: color illustrations for Nesbit's The Book of Beasts and The Railway Children by Inga Moore; and pen-and-ink drawings by H.R. Millar (1869-1942) from the first edition of Five Children and It (1902).

E. Nesbit's The Railway Children, illustrated by Inga Moore

The passage about is quoted from "Modern Magic" by Alison Lurie, published in Don't Tell the Grown-ups (Little, Brown & Co., 1990). All rights reserved by the Alison Lurie estate. All rights to the color art above reserved by Inga Moore. The H.R. Millar drawings are in Public Domain.

Alison Lurie on ''The Oddness of Oz''

The Wizard of Oz illustrated by Lisbeth Zwerger

Here's another passage from Alison Lurie, this time on the The Wizard of Oz and its sequels by L. Frank Baum (1856-1919). It's from her in-depth essay on Baum, "The Oddness of Oz," originally published in The New York Review of Books and reprinted in Boys and Girls Forever: Children's Classics from Cinderella to Harry Potter:

Dorothy and Toto by Lisbeth Zwerger"Though the Oz books have always been read by children of both sexes, they have been especially popular with girls, and it's not hard to see why. Oz is a world in which women and girls rule; in which they don't have to stay home and do housework, but can go exploring and have adventures. It is also, as Joel Chaston has pointed out, a world in which none of the major characters have a traditional family. Instead, most of them live alone or with friends of the same sex. The Scarecrow stays with the Tin Woodman in his castle for months at a time, while Ozma, Dorothy, Betsy, and Trot all have rooms in the palace of the Emerald City, and Glinda lives in a castle with 'a hundred of the most beautiful girls of the Fairyland of Oz.'

"The appeal of Oz seems even clearer if it is contrasted to that of contemporary books for girls. In the early years of the 20th century, the heroes of most adventure stories were boys; girls stayed home and learned to get on better with their families. If they were rejected children like Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm, or orphans like Anne of Green Gables and Judy in Daddy-Long-legs, they found or established new families. At the end of all these stories, or their sequels, the heroine grew up, fell in love, and got married.

The Wizard of Oz illustrated by Lisbeth Zwerger 12*

"There was of course already another famous little girl protagonist who had adventures in a magical world: Lewis Carroll's Alice. But from the point of view of most child readers (including me) her experiences were less attractive. Unlike Dorothy and Ozma, who collect loving friends and companions on their journeys, Alice travels alone, and the strange creatures she meets are usually indifferent, self-absorbed, hostile, or hectoring. Rather than helping her, as Dorothy's companions do, they make unreasonable demands: she is to hold a screaming baby, do impossible math problems, and act as a ladies' maid. One or two of the characters seem to wish her well in a helpless way, like the White Knight, whom many readers have seen as a stand-in for Carroll himself. Moreover Wonderland, unlike Oz, turns out to be only a dream.

"Most children, though they may enjoy Alice's adventures, don't want to visit Wonderland, which is full of disappearing scenery and dangerous eccentrics, some of them clearly quite insane. They prefer Oz, where life is all play and no work, and all adventures end happily.

The Wizard of Oz illustrated by Lisbeth Zwerger

"To some extent Baum's endorsement of escapism was hidden -- disguised as a light-hearted fantasy, with a series of sweet, pretty-little-girl protagonists, the most famous of whom at first declares that all she really wants is to go home to flat, gray Kansas and see her dull, deeply depressed Uncle Henry and Aunt Em again. But, as anyone knows who has read even a few of Baum's later Oz books, Dorothy may return to Kansas after her adventures, but she doesn't stay there very long -- somehow, a natural disaster (shipwreck, earthquake, whirling highways) always appears to carry her
back to Oz and the magical countries that surround it. She spends more and more time there, and has more adventures.

The Wizard of Oz illustrated by Lisbeth Zwerger"Finally, in the fifth volume of the series, Dorothy not only moved to Oz permanently, but arranges for Uncle Henry and Aunt Em (whose failing farm is about to be repossessed by the bank) to join her there. Yes, you can escape from your dreary domestic life into fairyland, Baum's books say: you can have exciting but safe adventures, make new friends, live in a castle, never have to do housework or homework, and -- most important of all -- never grow up.

"This subversive message may be one of the reasons that the Oz books took so long to be accepted as classics. For more than half a century after L. frank Baum discovered it in 1900, the Land of Oz had a curious reputation. American children by the thousands went there happily, but authorities in the field of juvenile literature, like suspicious and conservative travel agents, refused to recommend it or even handle the tickets. Librarians would not buy the Oz books, schoolteachers would not let you write reports on them, and the best-known histories of children's books made no reference to their existence. In the 1930s and 1940s they were actually removed from many schools and libraries.

The Wizard of Oz illustrated by Lisbeth Zwerger"As a child I had to save my allowance to buy the Oz books, because the local library refused to carry them. This censorship was justified at the time by pointing out that the books were not beautifully written and that the characters were two-dimensional. This is arguable, but it has not prevented many other less stylistically perfect children's books of the period from being admired and recommended. It seems more likely that in the dark years between the first and second waves of American feminism, critics recognized the subversive power of Baum's creation. Not until recently did the Oz books enter the canon."

For me, this passage captures the flavor of Lurie's writings on children's literature perfectly: I constantly find myself arguing with her essays (for example, with her sweeping and America-centric statement that most children prefer the Land of Oz to Wonderland), and yet I constantly learn from her too. She is exasperating and brilliant in equal measure, and I treasure her books despite the number of times I have wanted to chuck them across the room.  Thus I highly recommend Boys and Girls Forever, and Lurie's earlier collection of children's literature essays, Don't Tell the Grown-ups. I may not always agree with Lurie's conclusions, but the range of her knowledge is impressive and her prose is delightful.

The Wizard of Oz illustrated by Lisbeth Zwerger

The Wizard of Oz illustrated by Lisbeth Zwerger

The charming imagery today is from The Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum, illustrated by Austrian book artist Lisbeth Zwerger (North-South Books, 1996).

The Wizard of Oz illustrated by Lisbeth Zwerger

The passage about is quoted from "The Oddness of Oz" by Alison Lurie, published in Boys and Girls Forever (Vintage, 2004). All rights to the art and text in this post are reserved by Lisbeth Zwerger and the Alison Lurie estate.