To mark World Book Day 2014 yesterday, Richard Davies of AbeBooks.co.uk chose ten ‘must-read’ children’s classics that can be bought secondhand for less than £1 each. One was The Witch’s Brat by Rosemary Sutcliff.
Famous for her historical fiction and retelling or myths and legends, Sutcliff transports readers to 12th century England in The Witch’s Brat, the tale of Lovel the outcast.
Lovel, the crippled hero of Rosemary Sutcliff‘s The Witch’s Brat, is driven from his village in a shower of stones after his grandmother’s death. (The) novel (is) … crammed with careful period detail and research, the painstaking catalogues of herb-lore brought grippingly to life by the characters to whom they bring such danger.
Writing for The Guardian in 2011 Imogen Russell Williams explored the enchantments of witch fiction. Of The Witch’s Brat she wrote:
… Lovel, the crippled hero of Rosemary Sutcliff’s The Witch’s Brat, is driven from his village in a shower of stones after his grandmother’s death. Both novels are crammed with careful period detail and research, the painstaking catalogues of herb-lore brought grippingly to life by the characters to whom they bring such danger.
The other titles in the top ten were:
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Rosemary Sutcliff sent an address to the Children’s Literature Association in Arbor, Michigan, 19th May 1985 when she received the Phoenix Award for The Mark of the Horse Lord. This is an excerpt.
The Mark of the Horse-Lord is one of my best-beloved books, amongst my own, and has remained so warmly living in my mind, though I have never re-read it, that when I heard that it had won an award for a book published twenty years ago, my first thought was “How lovely!! But my second was, ‘But it can’t be anywhere near twenty years old; it’s one of my quite recent books; there must be some mistake!” And I made all speed to get it out of the bookcase and look at the publication date, to make sure. And having got it out, of course I started reading it again.
Re-reading a book of my own is for me (and I imagine for most authors) a faintly nerve-wracking process, (more…)
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Margaret Meek, an academic at The Institute of Education in London, wrote a monograph about Rosemary Sutcliff, and later, a tribute to her on her 70th birthday in Books for Keeps, in 1990.
There’s a revealing paragraph in the collection of stories which (Rosemary Sutcliff) edited with Monica Dickens, Is Anyone There?, where she says: `I had a lonely childhood and growing-up time. My parents loved me and I loved them, but I could never talk to them about the problems and fears and aching hopes inside me that I had most need to talk about to someone. And there was no one else.’
Writers cannot be convivial people in work time; their chosen craft is a solitary one. But to be cut off in childhood from the society of the school playground, where the gossipy tales are told, is a particular deprivation. Rosemary Sutcliff could never have been a chatty novelist. Yet her experience of being read to throughout her childhood by a sympathetic adult (her mother) bears out everything that has been researched or said about reading stories to children. If you want to understand where Rosemary Sutcliff, as a novelist, `comes from’, read The Jungle Books, Kim and The Just So Stories, preferably aloud.
… To read Rosemary Sutcliff is to discover what reading is good for. So this anniversary and this accomplishment make me ask what might be the contemporary appeal or, more simply, the enduring attraction of the historical novels for the young. After all, much has clearly changed in children’s books and reading since television became their more immediate storyteller, and novelists, now more matey and informal, adopted a more elliptical vernacular prose, in which the readers’ ease is more visible than the challenge to read … (Her) first page swings the characters into action in a situation as clear as a television image. The names of the people and places set the rules of belonging; the relations between the sexes are formally arrayed; the battles are long and fierce. Readers who are unaccustomed to the building up of suspense in poised sentences may need a helping hand … the best way into a Sutcliff narrative, a kind of initiation, is to hear it read aloud. Then you know what the author means when she says she tells her tales `from the inside’.
Source: Books For Keeps, Issue 64.
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Posted in Arthurian, Autobiography & Biography, Criticism, Research, and Reviews, Influence and Inspiration, Newspapers, tagged Arthurian, books, Carnegie Medal, children's literature, historical fiction, Romans, young adult fiction on January 23, 2014 |
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Let us not be solemn about the death of Rosemary Sutcliff CBE, who has died suddenly, aged 72, despite the progressively wasting Still’s disease that had been with her since the age of two. She was impish, almost irreverent sometimes, in her approach to life. Her favourite author was Kipling and she once told me she had a great affection for The Elephant’s Child – because his first action with his newly acquired trunk was to spank his insufferably interfering relations.
But it was Kipling’s deep communion with the Sussex countryside and its history that was her true inspiration. Settled as an adult in Arundel, Rosemary shared with him his love for his county as well as his vision of successive generations living in and leaving their mark upon the landscape.
Rosemary Sutcliff, at the peak of her form in her ‘Roman’ novels, was without doubt an historical writer of genius, and recognised internationally as such. (more…)
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Rosemary Sutcliff was a miniaturist before she became an author and The Chief’s Daughter is a miniature in prose, a very short story in which the lines are neat, bold and clear, the characters lightly brushed in but arresting. Set in ancient Wales it tells how a chieftain’s daughter frees an Irish slave boy destined for sacrifice and how he in his turn unwittingly in his turn saves her from dying in his place. The story was originally in a volume of tribute by many children’s authors to the memory of Eleanor Farjeon; now, as a fully illustrated book in a series designed
for seven year olds, The Chief’s Daughter will
deservedly reach a far larger number of young readers.
Source: The fantastic living force of landscape by Elaine Moss; The Times, December 2, 1967, p 23.
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