Bath bricks, senna, sassafras, and brown calico

Thu 4 Oct 2012 - Filed under: Not a Journal., | Leave a Comment | Posted by: Gavin

Joan Aiken’s daughter Lizza has a lovely essay on the British Council website, “Voices: The Magical Mysteries of Children’s Literature,” where she talked about her transatlantic roots (Joan Aiken was US poet Conrad Aiken’s daughter) and the culture shock that reverbrated through her when she crossed the Atlantic as a child. I love this part:

“On our next trip over the Atlantic we visited the wonderful island of Nantucket, and Joan got the idea to write her own version of Moby Dick, in another of the Wolves Chronicles called Nightbirds on Nantucket. Here her intrepid English cockney heroine Dido Twite wakes up on a whaling ship in hot pursuit of a pink whale and lands on this mysterious American island where not only the language but the customs are strange. Within minutes poor Dido is scrubbed with a bath brick, doused with senna and sassafras, and buttoned into brown calico! Interestingly, this book was possibly more successful back in England where these New England customs had long since died out.”

We’re talking to Lizza about published another Joan Aiken collection (yay!) and in the meantime if you are in Cheltenham on October 13th of New York City on October 26th I hope you can make it to the events celebrating the 50th Anniversary of The Wolves of Willoughby Chase.


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