The 13 Clocks - James Thurber

When somebody like Neil Gaiman makes a remark about a book being "probably the best book in the world," I tend to take notice. Now, obviously, there are always lots of blurbs about some movie or book or game being "the best in the world" but most of those blurbs do not come from Neil Gaiman. I'd like to think that he reserves that description for very special occasions (preferably, just the one).

I haven't read a whole lot of James Thurber, but I did read The Wonderful O several years ago which, incidentally, was also illustrated by Marc Simont, the artist for The 13 Clocks. Both books are filled with rhyme and rhythm, although they're not poetry through and through—a character will say something, and you'll notice that it rhymes, but then just as quickly switch back to prose. It makes for great reading out loud, and I enjoyed reading this one to Ridley.

The story of The 13 Clocks is sort of a fairy-tale-ish one, with a Prince in disguise, an evil Duke with his Princess niece, an extraordinary character called the Golux, and a terrifying "blob of glup" called a Todal. Oh, and there's a woman who weeps jewels, an invisible spy, and "something very much like nothing anyone had seen before." And, of course, like a fairy tale, the good guys win, the Prince rescues the Princess, and the evil Duke gets what he deserves, but the joy of the story is in the telling.

It's not a lengthy book—only eight chapters, just about the right length for reading at bedtime. Ridley absolutely loved it, even if (as I suspect) she didn't really understand some of what was going on. The language is flowery and whimsical, and Thurber is fond of throwing in words that aren't real but sound like they might be.

Do I think the book is "the best in the world"? Well, no, but I'm not the sort of person who makes such sweeping pronouncements. I do think it's an excellent tale well-told, unlike much of what you've seen, and I'll enjoy reading it out loud to my kids again.

Fed to jonathan's brain | April 24, 2010 | Comments (0)


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