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justice_turtle ([personal profile] justice_turtle) wrote in [community profile] readallthenewberys2013-03-11 05:05 am

Newbery Honor: The Dream Coach (Anne & Dillwyn Parrish)

* This is an incredibly old and fragile book. I've seen and handled worse, but never gotten them through interlibrary loan; thus I've never seen a book with a label warning me in large letters that it could cost upwards of $600 to replace, before.

* This copy was printed in 1926. It says "reissued" after the original 1924 edition; does that mean it had already gone out of print / they only did one printing and then remaindered it? I know so little about publishing. :S

* According to the Very Long Subtitle on the title page, it's about travels in dreamland which four children take via the eponymous Dream Coach. "A princess, a little Chinese Emperor, a French boy, and a Norwegian boy".

* Ooh, Chapter 1 is poetry! It's a longish poem addressed to the Dream Coach, introducing and describing it via apostrophe. A pretty good poem, too - much better than any of the little quatrains that were scattered through Nicholas, A Manhattan Christmas Story.

* The black-and-white illustrations by Dillwyn Parrish (the author's brother) are lovely. They remind me a lot of the pictures in the Childcraft anthology volumes I had as a kid, but I can't find any reference to whether Dillwyn Parrish was actually involved in illustrating those or whether it was simply a popular style at this time.

* ...I can, however, apparently find a complete reproduction copy of the book on the UPenn website, complete with illustrations. :D YAY GOOGLE. And yay copyright laws that require renewals! And yay, University of Pennsylvania, for hosting an ongoing Celebration of Women Writers on their website. :D

The illustrations aren't reproduced in the best quality, but you can see the style: a very calligraphic sort of ink-line drawing with fine details.

* Back to the book itself. Where were we? Ah, yes: the Driver of the Dream Coach packs it full of dreams for all the children every night, but one young Princess has been forgotten on her fifth birthday because the Driver turned over two pages at once. There's no more room in the coach for another dream, so one of the Driver's young angel assistants volunteers to bring her dreams in a moonbeam basket. The chapter will be called "The Seven White Dreams of the King's Little Daughter".

* But first we have to hear about the Princess's day. She wakes up and is bathed and dressed by nine ladies-in-waiting, in a sort of... well, here is a quote.

"Long Life and Happiness to Your Serene Highness!" and then the first Grand Duchess popped her out of bed and into her bath, where she got a great deal of soap in the Princess's eyes while she conversed in a most respectful and edifying manner.

The second Grand Duchess, who was Lady-In-Waiting-In-Charge-Of-The-Imperial-Towel, was even more respectful, and nearly rubbed the Princess's tiny button of a nose entirely off her face.

The third Grand Duchess brushed and combed the little duck tails of yellow silk that covered the Royal head; and oh, how she did pull!

The style reminds me rather of The Little Lame Prince, The Prince and the Pauper, and other such reminders for American children that although royal life and royal ceremony may seem very grand, they tend to steamroller those embroiled in them.

* The princess has her breakfast (bread and milk in a silver porringer, the usual), then a giant procession takes her to see her Royal parents. Aaand we run into the first instance of the racial awkwardness that characterizes so many fairytales of the "detailed opulence" variety: the princess's nationality is not stated, but we must assume that she and most of the court are white, because "after each lady [in waiting] came a little black page to carry her handkerchief on a satin cushion", and again "last came four gigantic blacks [sic] wearing white loin cloths and enormous turbans of flamingo pink, and carrying a great canopy of cloth-of-silver fringed with pearls" over the Princess's head.

I think, even more than the term "blacks" or the fact that only the non-white people's skin color is notable, it's the loincloth-and-turban ensemble that gets to me. Each item on its own seems like a vague attempt at Traditional Garb of some sort, which... I'm going to give the author the benefit of the doubt and say it might be seen as intended cultural sensitivity and inclusiveness from some angle, maybe. (Feel free to call me out, anyone less pasty white than me.) But loincloths and turbans together are just NO NO NO WHERE DID YOU EVEN DO YOUR RESEARCH. :S Fantasy leeway only goes so far! Loincloths are for wearing as little as possible, turbans are (as far as I'm aware) usually part of a fully-clothed ensemble. Just don't. :P

* The Princess has bread and milk for lunch and supper as well, in different fancy porringers, and then is put to bed early while the courtiers go off to celebrate her birthday party.

* She starts to cry, at which time the little angel from the chapter's introduction sees her, and offers to take her a good dream because she's had nothing else pleasant all day. Several other angels give him additional dreams, so he takes her seven in total. They are all described as "white dreams", presumably because this is the time-period when "white" is still equivalent to "good" in all contexts unless you are white-livered. o_O

* So first the Princess dreams she's a daisy dancing in a field, and some poor barefoot children come along and play at being princes and princesses with daisy crowns, and it is very sweet. In the morning she looks for daisies in the Royal gardens, but can't find any; all the flowers are stiff and regimented, and one of her ladies-in-waiting snaps at her to stand up straight, because this is turning into a book about how horrible it is to be really high-class. "But daisies danced in the Princess's heart." ...I wonder when the fairytales of Hans Christian Andersen became popular in the English-speaking world? *googles* It seems to have been in the mid-1800s. That would make sense, because the tone of this portrayal of royal life reminds me a lot of the book-version of The Little Mermaid - oysters on the tail-fins, et cetera. Formality and pain everywhere, with only the protagonist noticing that fun and happiness even exist.

(I sound critical. I'm not trying to be. I'm just thinky.)

* The next day she dreams she's a little white cloud floating in the sky - oh, are these all going to be "white" dreams in the sense that she dreams she's white things? That would be... interesting. *head-tilty of thinkyface* Anyway, and she sees herself again, and again thinks that the thing she is in the dream is something she'd much rather be than a Princess.

And when she goes out in the morning, she looks for clouds in the sky, and... "Her Highness is growing very proud," said the Ladies-In-Waiting. "She holds her nose up in the air as a King's daughter should." I hope something different happens soon, because if the other five days are just like that, this is going to be a boring chapter.

* In the third dream, she's a little white lamb - I think I'm right about the meaning of "white dreams" - running in a field among lilies-of-the-valley and eating new green grass. We don't hear anything about the sadness of the Princess's daytime life this time, only "Through the rest of her life the gentleness of the lamb lay in the heart of the Princess." which seems sort of totally irrelevant? But okay. Sorry, I'm being snarkier than I meant to. It's just really hard to SAY ANYTHING besides "...okaaaay" to a book that is about children having random-seeming dreams.

* Fourth dream, she's a white butterfly, happy and peaceful in a jungle where snakes and lions and tigers don't eat her. In the morning, a white butterfly flies into her room, and the Ladies-In-Waiting all freak out about moths and camphor and the ermine robes.

* Fifth dream, she's a little white hummingbird egg being brooded by its mother. Sixth dream, she's a snowflake that falls into the hand of the carved wooden Christ-Child at a roadside nativity scene on Christmas Day, as a birthday gift for Jesus.

* The seventh dream falls out of the angel's basket and is lost, so the angel himself walks into the Princess's dreams instead, and for the first time in her life she has a playmate. "But the seventh dream is still drifting about the world – I wonder where? Perhaps it will be upon my pillow to-night – perhaps upon yours. Who knows?"

* That's the end of the chapter. The next is "Goran's Dream".

* Goran is a "lonely little Norwegian boy". His daytime life is much happier than the Princess's; he lives with his grandmother in a little sod house above a fjord, with a goat and a hen and beehives and flowers.

* But one day Grandmother must go into town to do the winter shopping, and she won't be back till next day, and Goran has to stay home all alone for the first time in his life. (In previous years both his grandparents were alive, and one would stay home to care for the animals and wind the clock while the other went to the village. This year, Grandfather has recently "gone to Heaven... and Goran wondered if he could possibly be finding it as delightful as the village.") So Goran says he isn't scared, because he knows somebody has to stay home and mind things, but really he's scared.

* It starts snowing after Grandmother has left, and Goran worries that he'll be snowed in and Grandmother won't be able to get back to him. But he is six years old and very determined to be a responsible house-minder, so he sweeps the floor and waters the geraniums and pets the cat - whose name is "Mejau", which I'm assuming is pronounced like the English "meow" ^_^ - and then he feels better.

* But the snow keeps falling. After his midday dinner, Goran goes out and builds a snowman, so as to stop being scared again, and gives it two blue glass eyes made of blue marbles that Grandfather gave him for his birthday.

* Also in the box where he keeps the marbles is a playing card Grandfather once found in the road, the Queen of Clubs, so when Goran sits down to his supper of boiled potatoes he props the card up in the other chair next to him, to keep him company. I'm being so specific about all this because I'm pretty sure Goran is going to meet all these characters in his dream, once he finally falls asleep. ;-)

* Goran feels sleepy and wonders if there was anything else to do before he went to bed. The Clock speaks and tells him to wind it up, and one of the smallest geraniums says it's thirsty because it was hidden behind the bigger ones he watered. Then there is a knocking on the door, and the goat and the hen show up dressed in winter clothes... ah, Goran must have fallen asleep now and be dreaming. Ooh, and the hen has a little egg in a basket on her wing! I betcha it hatches in the dream.

* Anyway, the goat (Nanna) and the hen (Gustava) have a message for Goran, but they can't remember it. The Queen of Clubs has grown big as a human lady, but is still made out of cardboard, with her painted dress on her front and the card's back-pattern on her back.

* I'm not going to summarize everything that happens, because it's very much in the vein of a Hans Christian Andersen kitchen story - funny, concise, and would take as long to retell as the book takes to tell it. You can read it yourself if you want! :D

* ...wait, the goat and hen came in to tell Goran his snowman was going to freeze to death? O_O So everyone hastens to bring him in out of the cold? I mean, WHAT. *snickering*

* So they bring the snowman in and build up the fire, and he starts to melt visibly, so they discuss making him a hot drink, which reminds the littlest geranium that it wants a drink, so they put the snowman in Goran's bed instead because nobody NOT EVEN GORAN (or the snowman) knows that the snowman will melt. Does this seem... just a little bit like it's gearing up to become A Rather Traumatic Story, to anybody else? :S

* Okay, and now Goran figures out the snowman should go outside again, but everyone else in the dream is absolutely sure he just needs some more warming up, and he keeps melting till his mouth (a bent twig) falls off. And they stick it on again, but wrong-way-up, so that suddenly instead of a Happy Snowman he's a Very Angry Snowman and he starts shouting.

* Once he shouts, they carry him back outside and put him together with more snow, and eventually Goran accidentally knocks his mouth off while fixing his face and puts it on again happy, and then the snowman apologizes and thanks them and says they should go back inside. But now the clock has run down - it kept trying to ask people to wind it, but everyone was so busy with the snowman that nobody listened.

* And now Goran wakes up; the clock has stopped, the fire has burnt down, but the snowstorm is over and the night is over and Grandmother is nearly home, in the neighbor's rowboat down on the fjord.

* And that ends this chapter. The next is "A Bird Cage with Tassels of Purple and Pearls", the chapter about our "Little Chinese Emperor".

* ...okay, I am reluctant to go on. There's such a high likelihood of FAIL. *holds nose and dives in*

* The Emperor has something in a cage - a bird? A friend of one of the Dream Coach angels, apparently. So he needs a dream to help him understand that keeping caged pets is Not Nice (according to '20s-kiddie-book morality). This is all in the prologue - each chapter has a little one.

* The Emperor's lugubrious aunt (and caretaker?) is named Princess Autumn Cloud Pouring Down Rain Upon The Sad Gray Sea. She was formerly Princess Bright Yellow Butterfly Floating In The Sunshine, but when she was five it was changed because she had cried so much, about so many things. So she never stopped. (Can you tell I'm judging her parents? I am judging them hard.)

* Right now she is crying because the Emperor is bored and she fears he will soon become naughty. I can't comment on the realism of anything that is happening in this pseudo-Chinese imperial court, but the courtiers try various ways to amuse the Emperor, all the while thinking that really he's horribly spoiled and they should send him to bed without supper. For being bored. I am judging everyone in this chapter.

* The Emperor goes out into the garden and looks around, because it has a chance of making him less bored than he was. It doesn't work, but I'm really judging the author and everyone else here very hard for treating boredom as something you can just actively snap out of. Anyway, the garden is described in detail and I assume he's going to dream about things in it.

* No, I see. There's a little brown songbird that starts to sing, and finally the Emperor is un-bored! So he orders his courtiers to catch the bird, which somehow they do, and put it in a cage for him. But the bird won't sing anymore, and the Emperor gets bored of it and leaves it in a dark storeroom.

* Now we are going to hear what-all the Emperor ate that made him have the dream... that... the Dream Coach driver is going to send him to make him let the bird go as a favor to the angel? Author, you are trying to make one dream serve the moral for "don't cage wild birds" and "don't eat too much at supper"; it won't do.

* Now we have a detailed description of the Emperor's bed, and finally he's falling asleep and having this dream.

* He dreams he's in a cage surrounded by GIANT BIRDS who talk about him as if he was a caged bird and they were rather insensitive humans. The next day he is Thoughtful - there is a small digression against having a feather cloak - and by bedtime decides to let the bird go in the morning. But that night he dreams he's again caged up, and the birds let him go, but it is wintertime. He gets all cold and frozen and then meets A GIANT CAT that knocks him about and gets ready to eat him.

* Then he wakes up, of course, with somebody shaking him. It's Princess Autumn Cloud (that's her short name), and while the Emperor is deciding to take better care of the bird during the winter (it has just snowed) and then let it go in the spring, I am mainly struck by how everyone in this story (being Chinese) is described as "yellow as a lemon" or new cream or some such. Gggh.

* Now it is summer, and the Emperor lets the bird go and it flies away, and it's really quite a pretty story and very prettily told... but oh, so many fat yellow people! :P

* The last story is "'King' Philippe's Dream", and apparently it's about a little French boy. It's also... 38% of the book, that is 55 pages - wow.

* Philippe is being bathed, because he is about to be taken to meet his Uncle Pablot, a grand and dandified person who claims to have visited every country in the world. Philippe's parents seem to be French peasants - at least, his father is cutting potato sprouts and his mother says things like "...and the world, Pierre, I understand to be of a tremendous bigness; indeed, if what I am told is the truth, it must be three or four times as big as our own country!"

* Once he is bathed, Philippe walks alone to his grandparents' house. He's eight years old, it seems. (Was the Emperor seven? I don't remember noticing.) The day started out sunny, but now it begins to rain. Grandmother greets him happily and tells him Uncle Pablot will arrive when he's a mind to; Grandfather, who had dialogue in a flashback, now sits quietly in the corner, and Philippe doesn't even notice him till Grandmother tells him to say hello. There is also Anjou, the cat, and Avril, the grandniece, a toddler whom Philippe bosses around (quite realistically *dry grin*) and pretends to be the King she must serve, while they wait for Uncle Pablot to arrive.

* Philippe's mum taught him a fancy little speech to say to Uncle Pablot, which he forgets, and then remembers, and stammers his way through part of, till Uncle Pablot distracts him by giving him a tin-whistle. Avril gets a little toy spade.

* Then they eat dinner and Uncle Pablot tells stories, of being in India and China and Arabia and Holland, and England, and and and...

...and eventually Philippe falls asleep.

* He dreams that Grandmother speaks of the flooding river as her son, and Grandfather runs away across the fields with little Avril because he does not want to journey on the river, but the rest of the household - excluding Uncle Pablot who has disappeared somewhere - load themselves into tubs and cradles, anything that will float, and they ride down the long river all together. Grandmother is no longer Grandmother Marianne but Grandmother Rain, and she tells Philippe about the rivers and oceans that are her children, and about the other adventures she has as part of the water cycle (my words, not hers). It's very cute.

* Then Uncle Pablot shows up, and now he is Uncle Wind (there was some rather clever foreshadowing / setup wordplay on this earlier, based on Philippe's dad thinking Pablot was a blowhard), and he takes Philippe out of the river while Grandmother goes on towards the sea.

* Haha, this really is an excellently-written little tale, this particular one. It would have done better to be the only one in the book, and to have been a fully illustrated long picture book. Anyway, Uncle Wind tells Philippe more stories while they walk all dream-day, and at evening they come to the ocean. It's very beautiful, but when the sun sets Uncle Wind disappears, and Philippe is frightened. He wishes he were home again with his family.

* Philippe starts to walk home, and eventually he finds his grandfather by the side of the road - but this is not Philippe's Grandfather Joseph, this is Grandfather Snow. They start to walk home; eventually Uncle Wind shows up again, brisk and roaring this time, and drives both Philippe and Grandfather Snow before him. Poor Philippe has to run very hard to keep up. But finally they arrive at the top of a green valley, at daybreak, where they all stop; Uncle Wind disappears again, Grandfather Snow stays where he is to put some finishing touches on the snow-laden trees, but Philippe walks down the valley to a big garden whose signpost says PHILIPPE'S GARDEN.

* In the garden he finds many many flowers, and also little Avril - or April, also known as Flora or Spring. :D

* Aw, and after a really beautiful longish description of the garden, the Spring tells him he is a King for real, the king of the wide world, and the Wind and Rain and Snow and Spring are all his servants. If I was feeling snarky I could say "there are several pages of moralizing", but really it's the best-done piece of ecological writing for children I've ever seen, and I know if I'd read it when I was the right age it would have stuck with me forever. The other stories vary from "what's the point" to "oh dear no", but this one? This one deserves to be back in print with the finest full-color paintings anyone can do.

* Anyway, we return to the real world as Uncle Pablot carries Philippe home from his grandparents' house, and leaves him with his parents and his new tin-whistle.

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