Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Travel Light by Naomi Mitchison

Each time I open a book from an author I've not read before, there is some tiny glimmer of hope that what I am about to read will be magical. Each of us, as readers, can look back upon their childhood and recall those few books whose effect upon us was nigh spiritualistic. For me, it was Madeleine L'Engle and C.S Lewis; Chris Claremonts' X-MEN and J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of The Rings.

A little bit of why I read speculative fiction, probably more than I'm willing to admit, is an attempt to recreate that sense of wonder; to live for just one more minute in the childhood homes of my heart, Narnia or Terabithia or Middle Earth.

Travel Light by Naomi Mitchison brought me home.

I'd not read Travel Light prior to this morning, but a part of me had lived my entire life there. A little-known classic, it was recently brought back into print by Small Beer Press as a part of their Peapod Classics line. Travel Light tells the story of Halla, a princess raised by bears and dragons, who wanders the world in search of herself. It's surpassingly moving, artfully economic in prose, and is most certainly one of the greatest childrens books I have ever read.

I'm embarassed to admit I'd never heard of it, dismayed that it was not a part of my childhood, and emphatically thankful to Gavin J. Grant and Small Beer Press for reprinting it and bringing it to my attention.

Whether you knew it when you woke up this morning or not, you want to read this book.

9.5/10

Collector's Notes:

Not an overly collectible book by virtue of being a reprint, Travel Light from Small Beer is a title that all fans of fantasy should have in their collection.

A couple of hardcover first editions from Faber and Faber UK, 1952 are available for a reasonable price on abebooks.com.