Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Vintage Wednesday

The first old children's book The Writer bought, many years ago, is called The Giant Scissors (1895). She thought the title was weird--the cover shows a red scissors medallion on top of imposing gates. The Giant Scissors was written by Annie Fellows Johnston (1863-1931), author of the popular "Little Colonel" series. There were 13 Little Colonel books in all, the first made into a movie starring Shirley Temple and Bill "Bojangles" Robinson.

The novel is about a young girl named Joyce who goes to France with her stylish Cousin Kate to improve her French. All of Johnston's books were in the Ye Olde Southern style, so it wasn't unusual for a girl to go to a little town where they speak "the purest French." There is a mysterious chateau nearby with a high wall and gates topped with the scissors medallion. Joyce wants to learn more about M. Ciseaux, the man who built the house long ago.

The best part of the story is the fairy tale about the Giant Scissors Joyce's Aunt Kate tells her. A prince goes on a quest armed with only a pair of rusty scissors, but he learns the scissors act when spoken to in rhyme: "Giant scissors, serve me well, And save me from the Witch's spell." The fairy tale is as good as anything by Anderson, in my opinion.

The rest of the book is about typical period melodrama: children forced to work, poor houses, the master of the mansion returning at a crucial moment, and Joyce engineering it all (you have to wonder if Frances Hodgson Burnett read this book--The Secret Garden was published in 1911). The Giant Scissors is online, if you'd like to read it.

And who would want to, in my opinion? It sounds a frightful bore.

"Giant scissors, rise in power! Grant me my heart's desire this hour!" Darn. Winchester is still here.

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