‘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 🙂 ) 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.’
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 😉
I will have to make sure my children read the book!