Friday, May 6, 2011

Three Legends by Paul Gallico

Well, the time has finally come where I must face the book blogger's ultimate quandary--do I give a book a negative review or stick with every mother's edict "if you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all"?

I want this blog to be an honest reflection of my thoughts on books. I tend to do some research before picking up a book and so don't end up with too many clunkers.  But occasionally, one will slip through. Fortunately, this book was short, only 126 pages, but still. . .

Paul Gallico has been on my radar for a few years.  Finally, I decided to check out a copy of his famous short story "The Snow Goose" (1940).  Since the picture book version was checked out, I opted for the collection which also included  "The Small Miracle" (1950) and "Ludmila" (1959).

Ugh. They were so treacly and sentimental I could hardly get through them.  I can see where the idea of the snow goose as a guardian angel over Dunkirk could appeal.  But really? An ugly hunchback?  A girl who finally saw his inner beauty?  Moreover in "The Small Miracle" we have an orphan and his donkey (who actually smiles) and, of course, is dying.  Can Pepino get him to St. Francis' shrine in time?  Then, as if the anthromorphism hadn't already reached its peak, we have Ludmila the weakling cow who prayed that her milk might come in so that she could lead the parade down the mountain.  I can't believe these were written for an adult audience (which they obviously were since they were published in magazines and the vocabulary would be too much for children).

And yet. . .

Gallico writes this earnest introduction to the compilation.  In it, you can tell he is just trying to reflect that innocence is still alive--something that people probably had trouble believing as World War II brought their lives crashing down around them.  It's obvious he just wants to show humanity in its best light, whether it be bravely setting out to evacuate the soldiers at Dunkirk or believing wholeheartedly in the kindness of others as does Pepino as he appeals to the entire Catholic hierarchy to help him save his donkey.

So, perhaps there is some enduring value in these stories, although, to me, they were so sweet I felt close to a diabetic coma.

In interest of full disclosure, I read some of them out loud to my three year old in the car.  While admittedly a lot of it went over her head, what she did understand she absolutely loved.  She's been asking to hear about "the weakling" again for days now and every seagull we see must be the "snow goose." Maybe it would be worth adapting them for children if that hasn't already been done.

<I checked this out of my library.>

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