Cleaning my bookshelves today. Some volumes will go off to the second hand store. A lot of the YA is moving upstairs to the bedroom that the kids use when they visit. Many of the out grown books will come down to be sorted into ‘keep’ or ”give away.’
Some of the books are no-brainers as to where they go. My father’s illustrated by Louis Rhead editions of Treasure Island and Kidnapped. Old fairy tale books illustrated by Edmund Dulac. The old Oz books. Family treasures. I always stop to look at them and read a few pages. And there it is, among my other treasures: the first fantasy novel that I ever found on my family shelves and read to myself. The Joyous Story of Astrid. Sadly, the book I had when I was a kid disappeared a long time ago, but I replaced it with one discarded by the Orangeville Public Library. It’s a first edition, I now realize, from 1931.
It’s about a child who is born half in the old year and half in the new. She has green eyes and laughs aloud instead of crying. She is left on the doorstep of The Man Who Wrote Stories. Here is a bit about that: “The Man carried her in and they looked and looked at her and could not think where she had come from. And her laughter amazed them becasue babies usually cry. They put her to bed and gave her milk and wished she had been left anywhere else. They did not like babies and they expected every baby to do exactly the same things as every other baby has done from the beginning of the world, and that was foolish becasue if babies all did the same old thing we should never gat any farther. So everything she did they thought was wrong.”
Here’s a paragraph from chapter two, called Early Snow and Inu.
“ Next night, when Astrid woke up and ate her supper there were little oranges, very sweet, which had come up the sound in a ship from Japan. She took one in each hand when she went out in the snw where the Lady in the green dress was waiting for her, and Astrid gave one to her one to Starlight, the youngest Wolf. It was a great treat to him, for Wolves hardly ever see oranges. You should think of that when you eat them.”
This book has a section on how to make mind flowers. And how to dream true. It tells about the Rabbit in the Moon, and the Tea Kettle Princess. And The Cats that Told Time.
And I was once convinced that it was written exactly for me. After all, Astrid is part of my name, and my eyes are green. And I always wanted to stay awake all night and sleep by day.
The Asian influences in the story are quite clear. I suspect the author is Lily Adams Beck, a Canadian writer of that era, but I don’t see this book listed in the bibliographies of her works that I’ve looked up. Still, the Asian influences in her other writing are very clear. So I think that this is hers, and somehow it has been overlooked. She is referred to as ‘first prolific female fantasy writer in Canada.’
I think maybe it’s time to read this book aloud at my house.