I’ve at last tracked down a copy of Thurber’s The 13 Clocks and The Wonderful O, as illustrated by Ronald Searle, and my delight in having found it is only surpassed by the fact that it turned out to be well worth finding.
Thurber’s prose, especially in his kid books, rattles and giggles and riots and shams, and generally poses with its head stuck round the corner and its tongue out. For example, “Light a light or strike a lantern! Something I have hold of has no head.” (This is a sentence I first saw quoted in a Pamela Dean novel fifteen years ago and have been wondering about ever since. Like a giant game of Memory, I pick up quotations here and there and hang onto them in my brainspace until I find their origins, sometimes decades later. It’s fun to make matches. When I’ve got all my what’s-to-who’s sorted out, I can probably die contented.)
This would be a wonderful book to read to a kid, because a lot of it rhymes, but it’s not obvious until you hear it read. Plus, the dialog is so well-written that it’s a delight to do the voices. I know because I’ve been reading it out loud to myself when Gene isn’t home.
“Hagga weeps no more,” he said. “Hagga has no tears. She did not even weep when she was told about the children locked up in my tower.”
“I hated that,” said Hark.
“I liked it,” said the Duke. “No child can sleep in my camellias.”
Yes, and also:
A purple ball with gold stars on it came slowly bouncing down the iron stairs and winked and twinkled, like a naked child saluting priests.