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The Little Gentleman


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About the Author

Philippa Pearce is considered one of the outstanding children's writers of the twentieth century. She has created a string of classic titles, including Tom's Midnight Garden, Minnow on the Say and The Battle of Bubble and Squeak. Critics praise her genius in seeing the world through a child's eye and tapping into the fear, isolation and strong emotions of childhood.

THE BASICS Born- Great Shelford, Cambridgeshire Jobs- Civil servant, radio scriptwriter & producer, book editor, reviewer, lecturer, author Lives- Great Shelford, Cambridgeshire First Book for young people- Minnow on the Say, 1955 THE BOOKS Philippa Pearce was the youngest of four children of a flour-miller. The family lived in the Mill House on the upper reaches of the River Cam. 'Although there wasn't much cash we had lots of space,' remembers Philippa, 'We had a canoe, we swam, we fished with net and with rod, we skated on flooded water meadows... On Saturday afternoons, we used to creep into the the mill by a secret way and play among the bulging sacks, and hide.' Philippa has vivid memories of her childhood. During a long spell in hospital with TB, she drew on those memories to create her first book Minnow on the Say. 'It was a hot summer and the hospital was boring and stuffy. I thought of my home and the coolness of the river and how lovely it would be to


Pearce (Tom's Midnight Garden) offers readers a glimpse into the mysterious friendship between Bet, a quiet girl living with her grandparents in rural England, and a mole she encounters on the riverbank near the grounds of their neighbor, Mr. Franklin. Bet's grandmother keeps house for Mr. Franklin, who has just broken his leg as the story opens. He asks Bet to perform a curious favor: to sit on a log on the riverbank and read aloud from a book about earthworms. At the sound of her voice, a mole leans out of his hole and strikes up a conversation with the girl. Gradually, Bet earns his trust, and the mole shares the tale of his past-which stretches back more than 300 years. He earned the name "little gentleman" for the role he played in unwittingly aiding the Jacobites in deposing King William III-they, in turn, played a part in endowing the mole with his gift of speech and certain magical powers. Bet also confides in the mole: she shares with him her anxieties about the impending meeting with her mother, who abandoned her at birth. Their friendship takes a Carroll-like turn when the mole shrinks Bet down, Alice in Wonderland-style, to show her his intricate tunnel system; and the fact that it takes their combined efforts to achieve this magic plays a role in the novel's climax. Some erudite themes (the historical threads, discussion of Darwin and Tennyson, etc.) make this best suited to more accomplished readers; but Pearce's exploration of what defines friendship and discovering one's true nature will resonate with a wide audience. Pohrt's pen-and-inks better convey animals and nature than Bet's character, but his chapter openings help contribute to the tale's feeling of a good old-fashioned storybook. Ages 8-up. (Sept.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

Gr 3-5-Bet isn't sure why old Mr. Franklin wants her to sit in the meadow and read aloud while he's stuck inside with a broken leg. In fulfilling his strange request, however, she discovers an amazing secret-a talking mole who is over 300 years old! Their acquaintance gradually blossoms into true friendship as they share confidences and histories. Bet discovers a way her friend can use his magic to achieve his greatest dream, but the cost will be a true test of their friendship. Philippa Pearce's gentle, evocative story (Greenwillow, 2004) of friendship, trust, and becoming wholly yourself is read by Gerard Doyle. The text stands on its own without background music or sound effects. Doyle creates unique voices for the characters, but allows Pearce's well-written tale to capture listeners' attention, rather than relying on extraordinary theatrics. This is a sweet, introspective story that can easily captivate children's imaginations on its own merits.-Teresa Bateman, Brigadoon Elementary School, Federal Way, WA Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

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