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July 29, 2011

New Books: The Rescuers

Well, it's time for me to rave about another New York Review Children's Collection release, as I do pretty much every time one comes out. To recap for the uninitiated: This imprint finds great out-of-print classics of children's literature, and then reissues them in beautifully designed (and suitably old-timey-feeling) hardcover editions. I find I cannot say enough good things about the NYRCC.

My latest song of praise concerns The Rescuers, written by Margery Sharp in the late 1950s (and, in the late 1970s, adapted into a Disney film). An adventure story about three unlikely mice companions who endeavor to free a (human) poet from a fearsome prison, it's written in a style that will be familiar to anyone who's read other children's writers of the same period (E. B. White, say). Well-paced and charming (despite an occasional rather arbitrary reflection of typical 1950s sexism), the book is well-suited to entertain a new generation of young readers.

This is especially true because the evocative illustrations are by one of the masters of the time, Garth Williams, who is responsible for an absurd number of the images associated with the period's classic characters, from Wilbur and Charlotte to Stuart Little to Chester Cricket and Tucker Mouse. He's in equally fine form with The Rescuers (couldn't Disney have gotten him to do the animation for the film?), managing to get a remarkable amount of humor and expression into the faces of his mice protagonists Miss Bianca, Nils, and Bernard.

As is so often the case with NYRCC reissues, it's sort of hard to believe this book went out of print in the first place, in fact. (I suppose that's a reflection of where the book industry stands these days.) But the silver lining is that we can now own these books in the imprint's handsome hardcovers. As always, I'm waiting eagerly to see what the next one will be.

[Cover image courtesy of New York Review Children's Collection]

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