July 14, 2007

Sylvia Plath's Children's Books


Forget it, it's too hard to write anything offhand about Sylvia Plath. She did her most amazing writing at the same time she was having and raising two kids. [Frieda was almost three, and Nicholas was one when Plath killed herself.] One of her most carefully anguished poems is called "Daddy." I hope I never provide the occasion or inspiration for such a work.

Plath joins Graham Greene and Gertrude Stein on the DT list of Writers I'd Never Have Imagined Wrote Children's Books. [Any manuscripts you're holding back on us, Mr. Pynchon? Hmm?] But you know what, she was a prolific mother of two, so why not?

Considering the florid, overwrought discussion that's poured out over the rest of her oeuvre, I couldn't find any significant consideration or even background on Plath's children's stories, all of which were published posthumously.

The Bed Book has the best reception [i.e., a comment on a blog and a Plath messageboard.] and sounds like the best place to start:

…So a Pocket-size Bed
Is a fine bed to own.
When you’re eating out
With friend Jim or Aunt Joan

And they say: It’s too bad
You can’t stay overnight
But there isn’t an extra
Bed in sight

You can take out your Bed
Shrunk small as a pea
And water it till
It grows suitably.

The It-Doesn't-Matter Suit, a story about a kid who wants a suit for every occasion, looks pretty wordy-long, not the choice for nights when you're barely holding it together by bedtime. And Mrs. Cherry's Kitchen, well, I just don't know. A book about kitchens.

The It-Doesn't-Matter Suit, with illustrations by Rotraut Susanne Berner, was published in 1995-6. It's on Amazon from just $1.31. All three stories are in The Collected Children's Stories, published in 2001 with illustrations by David Roberts. That's like eight bucks. [amazon]
Frieda Hughes has also written a book for very young children, The Meal A Mile Long. No idea.
Hothouse discussion of "Daddy" [sylviaplathforum.com]

Previously: Children's books by Graham Greene & Getrude Stein


I still have my copy of The Bed Book, given to me when I was three. It is a wonderful book, and my daughter loves looking at the pictures and imagining crazy fun beds for herself. We read it a lot round here. Not to mention it is good to see Plath in this playful light.

I'm a huge Plath fan, but I obviously do not want to introduce my children to her work until they are much, MUCH older. I guess The Bed Book will have to do for now.

Husband Ted Hughes's The Iron Man is very entertaining as well, for both adults and kiddies. It's a fun read.

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