Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Forgotten Bookshelf Review: Hobberdy Dick
by Katherine M. Briggs

Oh, I can just hear you all now: "What? 'Forgotten Bookshelf'? How trite is that?!?" Well, I was going to call it "Golden Book Reviews," until I realized how misleading that would be. Not to mention some sort of invitation to a copyright lawsuit.

Anyhow: as much as I would enjoy reviewing a glittering-off-the-press new book every day, I do not necessarily have the means. I'm not connected to a review source, and I don't have the cash to fly to the American Library Association meetings each year to pick up advance reader copies. So, while some of my reviews will cover new books that I obtain through the library, many of them will be like these: sweet little gems of books that feature high-quality writing, but due to one thing or another are not quite in the spotlight anymore. You might not find them at the bookstore, but they are probably carried by your public library, and cheap used copies are frequently to be found at Amazon.com

So . . . drumroll please . . .

Ghosts in the attic causing trouble? Piskies bothering the hens? Learn to treat your resident hobgoblin right, and all will be well.

Hobberdy Dick is a hob of the finest sort, and he has resided at the old Widford mansion for "time out of mind." Set in post-Civil War England, this charming book is told from the perspective of its title character, who scampers about unseen by the new tenants of Widford -- a city merchant's family who are not only unsuited for country life, but are -- horrors! -- Puritans, and therefore know nothing of their new home's magical inhabitants or the old folk ways. However, Hob finds a friend in Joel Widdison, the merchant's eldest son, and schemes to help him find true love in Anne Sekar, the disposessed gentlewoman who comes to work at Widford. Later, he makes an attempt to help them recover a long-lost treasure, which may in turn help him win his freedom.

Add to this a chiling encounter with Willy Wisps, a Shining Boy of Widley Copse, and a ghost who counts gold coins in the master bedroom, and you have a mighty fine read-aloud for upper-elementary and middle grades.

Katherine M. Briggs is an accomplished folklorist, (she is better known for her Encyclopedia of Faries) and she infuses this book with a thorough understanding of English hobgoblin lore. The English countryside has never been so fascinating with this sweet blend of magic and romance. You can tell that Briggs feels right at home at Widford, and you will too.

Wanna buy your own copy? Click away . . .

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