October 05, 2004

The Green Children

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Please ignore ISBN number.

For my PGCE course I am having to review a fewchildrens books. Here are some of my notes:

The Green Children – By Kevin Crossley-Holland and Alan Marks

The illustrations in this book are fantastic and capture mood and emotion very effectively. Their style as well as subject lends the book the magical and mythical quality of a place that exists on the very edge between two worlds.

It begins very factually “This is what happened.” And goes on to describe and elusive sensory experience of hearing bells, “bright bells”, going up and up through a cave following a lost lamb, the narrator is blinded by light and then she sees faces. It his here that although we already know from the title and illustrations that a group of children find two green children, we realise with a little surprise that the narrator is in fact one of these green children.

We follow the narrator and her brother a they experience nervousness in the face of such strangeness and then with them we experience wonder at the colour of the world, take simple delight in berries and birds. The use of language such as the birds loosing their songs, sensations such as the girl feeling the wind in her hair and trying to catch it between her hands and their simple disbelief that the other children were not green gives the reader a sense of the vast distance and gulf between the two worlds. They cannot even understand the other children. It is a book for children and so appropriate that children find them, as we find out later a child’s curiosity could have been a fear in adults.

They travel through a creaking (magical) wood picking up colourful trophies to take home with them. They are offered a meal and unable to eat anything but green beans, again establishing distance. Here, with the yelping of the adult bean carrier is the first indication that they may not always be received so graciously. “We touched our noses and lips to thank the mother” and the children go to look for their home but fear grips the children and the reader as they begin to realise they can’t find it and dropping their trophies search, as the illustration shows us, at night through dark, course woodland with forlorn and tearful faces.

The brother learnt enough words to say please can we go home before he fell ill and the book becomes irredeemably sad when he dies in the arms of his sister and we realise that now the green girl is alone.

She lives with the family, learns their language and takes on a name. Alice tells them of the green country and describes it beautifully using the moss green and willow green colours she has learned. The girl searches endlessly for her home and never finds it, she realises that she may have to make a home in the colour world and is drawn by the idea of visiting the fair. Here, as suggested earlier, she is branded a freak and though her friend Guy tries to protect her she is chased from the fair.

Guy catches up with her and as she tells him that they don’t want her he tells her that he loves her. He tells Alice that her home is where her green friends are and where her friends here are, that her home is her heart. Alice realised that this was true and she tells him, she speaks of when she finds her way back and he tells her that he shall go with her. It is then that she tells him her true, native name.

The story ends with Maypole dancing and happiness although the reader still feels sorrowful. There is a suggestion that the story is based on a folk tale, that it really happened and a song is included on the last page which I think children would love. It is about the spring and the start of new things.

I think this book is fantastic, both for its depth of emotion, beautiful presentation, wonder, fear, death, loneliness and a happy fortitude for the future. I would imagine that children of many ages love this story.

- 2 comments by 1 or more people Not publicly viewable

  1. If you put in the ISBN "0192723235", you can link it properly to that book.

    05 Oct 2004, 22:14

  2. Thanks Kieran but I don't know the ISBN, maybe i'll look it up sometime and link it. Cheers Rob

    06 Oct 2004, 17:41


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