June 15, 2007

Daddy Surfs 3: Wha?? Children's Books By Graham Greene??


In addition to his own titles, Edward Ardizzone illustrated children's books for other writers, folks like James Kenward; Ardizzone's cousin Christianna Brand, whose Nurse Mathilda series told the stories their grandfather had told them; and Graham Greene. Huh?

If I were compiling a list of authors least likely to have written children's books, Graham Greene would be near the top. The oft-depressed, hard-drinking, and serially unfaithful writer of dark, ambivalent works like The Third Man, The End of An Affair, and The Quiet American is actually on record saying, "How I dislike children."


Which turns out not to be a reason to not write a picture book for children. Or four. Over the years, Greene wrote The Little Horse Bus, The Little Train, The Little Fire Engine, and The Little Steamroller. In the early 1970's editions illustrated by Ardizzone were released of all four.

Whatever the ostensible incongruity, the plot summaries of Greene's Little titles somehow sound like Greene:

  • The little horse bus saves his shopkeeper owner from both thieves and cutthroat competition.
  • The little, old horse-drawn fire engine saves the day, depsite being rendered obsolete by a new mechanical engine and London-trained firemen.
  • The little steamroller thwarts a plot by an African smuggler from the dreaded Black Hand Gang.

    Looking for that Steamroller for less than $217, though, guess what I found? Turns out Ardizzone wasn't the only illustrator for Greene's books, just the only one he didn't have an affair with.

    Graham Greene children's books illustrated by Edward Ardizzone range from $9-218 on Amazon [amazon]
    Meanwhile, on Abebooks, it's even crazier: from $4-3424 [abebooks]
    There seems to be a small, steady supply of Graham Greene/Ardizzone books on eBay, too, for more reasonable prices [ebay]


    I was shocked until i figured out that you weren't talking about this Graham Greene:

    is it woth noting that the Nurse Matilda books (which are without exception excellent) have been adapted into an Emma Thompson film called Nanny McPhee?

    [sure, I forgot that tidbit. -ed.]

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