Friday, July 26, 2013

BUNCHY by Joyce Lankester Brisley

I just saw that a children's book illustrator has been told NOT to draw a fire-breathing dragon so as not to incur liability lawsuits. Political correctness has gone cuckoo! If it was up to the watchdogs, Lewis Carroll, the Brothers Grimm, L. Frank Baum -- all of 'em -- would be cold, destitute and on the breadlines!

You wanna see unpolitically correct? Well, here is BUNCHY, written and illustrated by Joyce Lankester Brisley.

The cloth cover of the book shows a scribbled character. This is not Bunchy. Bunchy is "a little girl whose name was Bunchy ... who lived with her grandmother in a cottage in the country."

"There was only one thing missing, which was that she had nobody to play with."

I don't know why her name is Bunchy. No publication date given (!), but I've seen it given as 1951. But the style that Ms. Lankester chooses seems older.

The book is comprised of 10 stories, all of which are about this nice little girl who makes up stories to amuse herself. She will make little dolls out of wooden clothes pegs, make up stories about the buttons in a button bag, and so on. In the above drawing, Bunchy has set up a little shop while grandmother looks on. The stories all get out of hand as soon as grandmother is out of view, with characters coming alive and Bunchy no longer in control. Bunchy's absent parents are never mentioned. Perhaps they just couldn't handle our protagonist and abandoned her to her aged relative.

Grandmother is frequently leaving the cottage, letting this underage child with the hyperactive imagination all alone. The girl has no toys, so she has to invent them.

For instance, in "Bunchy and the Scribble Family," her drawings come to life, and she gets swept up in their world. Mr. and Mrs. Scribble invite her to their house, and Bunchy has to run ahead to hurriedly draw their cottage. When they can't get in, she realizes she forgot to draw the doorknob. Their voices sound funny because she carelessly has drawn their mouths crooked.

Each story has a title drawing and an introduction to our format. In "Bunchy and the Pastry Dough," grandmother leaves for the market. She has left a bit of pastry dough for Bunchy to play with. That's it. No Nintendo, no cell, no Facebook; just a cold, stiff wedge of dough left over from pie-making.

Bunchy makes a dough girl, and

"the little pastry-girl pulled her legs from off the table and jumped down with a soft thud on to the kitchen floor!

"... The little pastry-girl began stretching her self as if she were doing exercises, but Bunchy soon saw that she was trying to get her arms and legs more to the same length, for Bunchy had really made them rather odd."

Bunchy realizes the pastry-girl has no eyes, so she places currants for eyes and, with a spoon, makes a line for the mouth.

Bunchy makes a pastry-cat and a pastry-house. And then they go in the pastry-house ... and the inside of the house has a kitchen, rooms, furniture, which surprises our title character since she didn't "make" any of the inside of the house.

They go to the kitchen, where

"the little pastry-girl picked up the pastry-cat and set it on top of the stove. Bunchy was afraid it would be too hot there, but it settled down quite contentedly ...."

And that nice little pastry-cat, who never did anyone, pastry or human, any harm, turns

"a golden brown colour. The next minute the pastry-girl had taken it from the stove, broken it in crisp pieces, and piled them on the plates on the table.

"Then she signed to Bunchy to draw up her chair and eat, and in some surprise Bunchy did so."


But wait, there's more.

"When the meal was finished, the pastry-girl led the way up some funny rubbery soft stairs to the little bedroom above.

"Here was a white pastry-bed, with a thick pastry-coverlet; and the little pastry-girl at once pulled her buttons off (which were the only things she could remove) and got into bed, making room for Bunchy to get in beside her.

"But Bunchy didn't want to get in -- the bed-clothes looked so cold and sticky. Still the little pastry-girl kept beckoning and patting the lump of pastry which served for a pillow."

Call the religious right! Call the CIA (both of 'em: the Central Intelligence Agency and the Culinary Institute of America)! This book is twisted and outta control!

Thanks to Rob McGrath for the news article which reminded me of this little known book on my shelf!

-- Originally blogged November 20, 2007.

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