When I started working in Toronto’s little corner of paradise known as The Flying Dragon Bookshop, I went through an initial period of glorious rediscovery, as I came across books that I had adored as a child, but had somehow managed to slip out of my memory. It was like meeting the best, best old friends completely by surprise and realizing once again why you loved them so much in the first place. Rediscovering Brambly Hedge during one of my days working at the store had just such an effect- I think I may have actually cried out in surprise and total delight. Now I suppose I can admit that Brambly Hedge books may not be for everyone. Some might find them too cute, too quaint. To those sad, sad individuals, I simply say, “Pshaw!” What is not to adore about families of tiny mice, wearing little waistcoats and dresses with aprons and capes, who make toast over the fire and drink coffee out of acorns? (The correct answer here is “Absolutely nothing.”)
I think the illustrations were what charmed me completely as a child. The detail, the cozy messiness of the cottages where the mice lived, the very fact that they slept in 4-poster beds and kept a storeroom filled with the most succulent treats just seemed like the right way to live. These books remain enchanting to me, even now. I don’t have many of my original childhood books, but I do still have my 4 Brambly Hedge books, one for each season, and from time to time I pull them out and I’m 8 again.
Last year, I bought my niece her own set of the season books. They came in a small suitcase-like package, complete with handle for easy toting about. I could hardly resist a set for me.
The Four Seasons of Brambly Hedge by Jill Barklem can be found as a single collection, or as individual editions (better by far for little hands, I think). Give them to a child you know and give ol’ Beatrix a run for her money.