August 28, 2008

Wise Australia Keeps Fantasies Of Bush & Naked Children To Themselves


After her bush baby characters appeared on the cover of another author's book, and in a series of popular booklets, Australian illustrator May Gibbs published The Tales of Snugglepot and Cuddlepie in 1918, during the country's Armistice celebrations. For the first time, Australia had fairy tales of their own, not European imports, with characters rooted in the local flora and fauna. The book was a huge bestseller, is still in print [as are the sequels], helped forge a national cultural identity, and became a touchstone for generations of Australian children.


So why have I never heard a peep about it in my life, ever? Is it because the country was worried others might get the wrong idea about babies stuffed into pots and naked children's cricket? Yeah, well...

Check out Peacay's selection of amazing illustrations from Gibbs' Gumnut Babies series at Bibliodyssey [bibliodyssey]
All Gibbs' proceeds go to a charity for disabled children, so buy 'The Complete Adventures of Snugglepot and Cuddlepie Including Little Ragged Blossom and Little Obelia' now. [amazon]


We had these books as kids (my parents were missionaries to Papua New Guinea, so we had lots of Australian books). The illustrations are cool, but like "the Brownies" I don't remember anything about the stories which makes me think they weren't too memorable. Might have been why they weren't imported.

Now, the Magic Puddin' on the other hand is a fantastic Australian book that all kids should read.

Did you ever see Jane Goodall's pictorial book about bringing up Hugo Van Lawick-Goodall, Grub, the Bush Baby? 'My mother's template for my upbringing.

That first picture looks like the babies got into Mom's mascara, but the second one is charming.

I think it's very sad that unreasonable fear of pedophiles has made all of us think naked children = deviants. Lord knows I had the darndest time keeping clothes on my kids once they were mobile! in NJ we have our May Gibbs gumnut babies hanging up in the twins room ... and Snugglepot & Cuddlepie is indeed much treasured book. It is not the little nekid gumnut fairies you should be wary of- no- it is the Big Bad Banksia Men! These stories are not for the fainthearted.
I would think Australians keep these special stories to themselves because we don't want to see them given the treatment by Disney. However over the years I have bought several S&C books to give to the children of my special American friends.

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