The Magic Pudding: The Adventures of Bunyip Bluegum‘ is a classic Australian children’s book that was written and illustrated by famous artist Norman Lindsay in 1918. It has never been out of print.

I refused to read this book as a child because one of the main characters is Albert, a talking puddin’ who is regularly eaten by his friends. He is a magic pudding and every time a slice of him is eaten it reappears – ‘the more you eat the more you gets’. I wouldn’t dream of eating anything that can talk. I also found him to be rude, abrasive and unattractive with his long spindly arms and legs.

The book is listed in Jane Gleeson-White’s book of Australian classics, and my son Michael has a copy (thanks Carolyn πŸ™‚ ) so I thought I better read it. I had a suspicion that reading a classic children’s book as an adult would be less captivating than reading through the eyes of a child.

There is something very special about re-reading your favourite children’s book as an adult and being transported back to that imaginary place. The illustrations can often be the most mesmerising aspect of the book. As a child I would study every detail of the drawings in books such as ‘Winnie-the-Pooh’ and ‘The Magic Faraway Tree’. They were imprinted in my mind.

I had no idea that ‘The Magic Pudding’ was written so long ago (doh!). It is very much a tale and language of that period of time. I am sure many children of this modern era would find it a very difficult book to read with its fancy and dated speech. Here is an example (which I think is very wise and wonderful):

‘You’re a bun-headed old optimist,’ said the Puddin’ rudely. ‘Puddin’-thieves never suffer from remorse. They only suffer from blighted hopes and suppressed activity.’

Priceless stuff!

The story is very entertaining and filled with lively characters and the most fantastic songs and poetry. As an adult who treasures wordplay and poetry, I love ‘The Magic Pudding’. I am pretty sure I would have loved it as a child if I could have got over my Puddin’ prejudice.

The story is about the adventures of a young koala Bunyip Bluegum, sailor Bill Barnacle and penguin Sam Sawnoff. These three characters own the magic puddin’ Albert. Everyone wants a piece of Albert and puddin’-thieves are never far away. Albert is regularly stolen by Possum and Wombat and then reunited with his owners after much kerfuffling. He is always grumpy and tasty.

Norman Lindsay of course is one of Australia’s most famous and influential artists. His illustrations in ‘The Magic Pudding’ are vividly drawn and expressive.

He described his book as a ‘little bundle of piffle’ and was originally embarrassed by its success in the early years and thought it was overpriced for a children’s book (sold for 1 guinea as a limited edition art book – an exceptionally high retail price at that time).

We have the 2008 edition of ‘The Magic Pudding’ which used the original artwork (scanned to reveal the fine detail of the original drawings). This edition also includes a biography of Norman Lindsay; copies of correspondence between Norman Lindsay and publisher (I found these letters fascinating); and reviews of the first edition.

I am glad I read ‘The Magic Pudding’.

I wish I had read it as a child and then the magic would have been even greater on re-reading πŸ˜‰

I will have to make sure my children read the book!

Bronze scultpture - Royal Botanic Gardens in Melbourne

22 thoughts on “The Magic Pudding

  1. The story goes that Lindsay had a bet with another author (long since forgotten, but probably could be found using Google). Lindsay said that children liked stories about (a) food and (b) violence. The other guy said they liked fairy stories. So one wrote one, and the other wrote the other …. and the result, as they say, is history (note original comment about who is forgotten – also his story).

    So when you read it again, GB, think of it in that light, and I think you will gain a lot more fun and enjoyment from it.


    1. According to Lindsay’s daughter (who writes additional material in the back of our edition) the debate was with Bertram Stevens, editor of the magazine Art and Australia. Thanks d πŸ™‚ I always think the best children’s books have a lot of yummy food in them (just think of all the picnic lunches and midnight feasts).

      1. Thanks. I’m hopeless with historical names and dates and things, unless I have a firm context to hook them onto, but that name does ring a bell. If you are interested, you can probably google it and find the book he wrote (I once did, but have forgotten, in my usual form).


  2. I once had a colleague who named this as her all-time favourite children’s book. I’ve never read it, but that may soon be remedied. Thanks for posting this, Gabrielle.

  3. When you see words such as “optimist”,”remorse”, “blighted” and “suppressed” in one small quote you realize just how dumbed down modern Children’s books have become. Stretching the language at an early age must be a good thing?
    An cuz u wanna lern proper txting annat innit blood u getme?.

    1. Hahahahaha πŸ™‚ I totally agree Rog; and Norman Lindsay said the same thing – that it is sort of condescending to assume a child won’t understand or hasn’t the means to find out what the words mean. It’s a bit like Shakespeare – most people wouldn’t understand the words on the first reading, but with a bit of time and patience (and maybe a study guide – haha) a whole new world emerges.

  4. a talking pudding, eaten and regenerating itself! make me think of sponge bob, but with more interesting text. I love the sculpture. And I agree with you, children books are some times so poor in vocabulary…

    1. Sponge Bob this book is not – hahaha. You would love the illustrations Benedicte and they follow the old fashioned placement of pictures we were discussing in relation to our story. The Magic Pudding is quite a long book too – much longer and more detailed then the children’s books of today.

  5. I did not read this as a child as the drawings frightened me ( much like the banksia men in Snugglepot & Cuddlepie ). I did love the Magic Faraway Tree & the other two books in the series – a different adventure every week, & always being able to return to a safe & secure home….life did not get any better than that at the time.

    1. He is a bit Cartmanish – hahahaha – if you stretch the imagination πŸ˜‰ Good to see you loved The Magic Faraway Tree bluebee – I must blog about children’s books in general – it’s a great subject.

  6. I have a great deal of affection for this book. It was one of the first books I read upon moving to Australia as a kid. Just imagine it – I’d grown up in the UK reading Enid Blyton, CS Lewis, ES Nesbitt who are quite English in their sensibility talking about the woods and the badgers and then I encounter the pudding. To me it is a quintessentially Australian tale. I loved it then. I love it now. A true blue classic!

    1. Wow that would have been some experience Selma – a bit of culture shock – I grew up reading all the English books and loved all that stuff (the police constables, the late night feasts and picnics, the small countryside that is somehow safe for all the children that never seem to have adults in their adventurous-some lives, the way of speaking …).

  7. Hello Gabrielle, It’s lovely to come across your blog while I was browsing about the Magic Pudding. I run a blog “Thisness of a That” about climate change, with a heavy use of metaphors. So, of course it wasn’t long before I found a way to weave the magic pudding into my story. I think you might like it…

    1. Thanks for stopping by Gillian. Your metaphor of the world’s renewable resources as a magic pudding is fantastic πŸ™‚ and easy to understand (even politician’s might be able to get their puddin’s heads around that concept – haha).

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