I was bought this book as a child, at the age where I was reading by myself, can't remember what age that was but I'm guessing 7-8 ish. . . Anyway, the copy I got was a paperback re-issue from the 1960's. Those of you anywhere near my age will no doubt remember the dubious quality of children's paperbacks of that era. The cheaper ones anyway. The pages would begin to fall out owing to the glue used in the binding being rubbish. Armada books were a prime culprit, Enid Blyton and Biggles books etc. But I digress. The copy I had suffered the same deterioration as the aforementioned paperbacks, with the addition of the pages going prematurely yellow. But despite this, The Magic Pudding enchanted me.
Now, a bit of history and biography etc. -
"The Magic Pudding is said to have been written to settle an argument: a friend of Lindsay's said that children like to read about fairies, while Lindsay asserted that they would rather read about food and fighting."
A wise man ;-)
And a significant artist of his time. Which was around 1900 onwards. At this point I would be expected to show examples of his work and wax lyrical about his artistic abilities, but as his subject matter was unashamedly and unremittingly erotic in nature, this isn't the place to do that. Google him when the kids are in bed or something.
He was a superb draughtsman. His line work was kind of Beardsley meets Vargas, with Beardsley being the line and Vargas the subject matter. His painting style was looser for the most part and his subject matter exotic in a sort of Theda Bara, Hollywood vamp, faux persian, fantasy style if that makes sense.
He was Australian, and lived in an interesting and scandalous domestic situation somewhere in the outback with several artist's models. See the film 'Sirens' for further information ;-) (and if you like Elle McPherson. . .)
Though his work was almost exclusively About the female form etc, he did do several recruitment posters in World War One. I can share a couple of those.
The bottom one is a good link to his illustrations for The Magic Pudding, featuring, as it does, various indigenous Australian wildlife.
So what's it about? - Briefly, in case any of you are unfortunate enough not to have come across this book and want a quick précis. Though, like most books, what it's about is so much more than the plot and characters doing this and that. . .
The Magic Pudding in the title is just that. A cut-and-come-again pudding that can take several pudding flavours and has the ability to reconstitute itself completely no matter how many slices are consumed. It's name is Albert, it can talk, and has serious attitude. A neatly attired koala, name of Bunyip Bluegum meets Albert and his co-owners Bill Barnacle - a bewhiskered sailor, and Sam Sawnoff - a penguin, on his travels in the bush and joins up with them. There are two rascally puddin' thieves lurking around, continually scheming to purloin the pudding. There is much singing, puddin' thief conflict and general rumbustuousness along the way. . .
There is also, social satire, acute observation and great dialogue. And best of all, wonderful drawings, done in that totally assured style that only someone absolutely at ease with figure drawing can achieve.
I'm going to cheat and paste my review from the Goodeads website, as it sums up what I love about this book, and it would be silly to just rephrase it to pretend I'd only just written it. And I'm lazy.
"I love this book. It was my favourite when I was a kid and it is still my favourite kid's book. I didn't know it was Australian when I was six or whenever it was I first read it, although the animals were all Australian and it was set in Australia. I didn't locate it anywhere geographically. It was book. The rules are different ;-) Books happen in 'Bookspace'. But now, I have to mentally transpose the dialogue into an Aussie accent, which is fun, and gives such bits of dialogue as "I'll take and bounce a gibber off yer crust!" a reason for being so exotic sounding. I find Bunyip Bluegum's restraint and verbose pomposity ( in a nice way ) so English that he has to have an English accent. Sorry. The drawings are superb. The malevolent pudding, the self important windbag of a rooster, the devious Puddin' Thieves, the bandicoot, ( "Take me melon, but spare me life!" ), Great Uncle Wattleberry bounding and plunging, ah. . . a brilliant artist enjoying himself! He dismissed his book as "Just a bit of piffle" which is disingenuous to put it mildly. Sorry mate, but it was the best thing you ever did. You disagree? Well be careful, don't speak too loud or I might just take and bounce a gibber off yer crust."
It is regarded as a classic in Australia, and I assume the rest of the English speaking World at least, though reviewers on Amazon tut-tut at the violence. . . But then they would, wouldn't they?
More recently -
"An animated feature-length film adaption was released in 2000, with John Cleese voicing the title role, Hugo Weaving as Bill, Geoffrey Rush as Bunyip, and Sam Neill as Sam. It deviated heavily from Lindsay's book, was critically derided, and was not a financial success."
I refuse to post a picture of the film poster or of any still from same as it is loathsome and just wrong. Though of course I haven't seen it. . . ;-)
Thanks for indulging me in this hastily written and not entirely picture book related digression.
What's your favourite children's book?