Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

The Little Grey Men

The Little Grey Men

Illustrator:  Denys Watkins-Pitchford 
For ages 9 to 12
HarperCollins, 2004   ISBN: 978-0060554484

Baldmoney, Sneezewort, Dodder, and Cloudberry are the last of the English gnomes. Somehow they have managed to stay hidden in their little corner of the English countryside for hundreds of years. Just a few months ago Cloudberry, who is an adventurous sort of fellow, left their comfortable home in the oak tree to try to find the source of the Folly, the little brook which runs by their home. No one has heard a word from him since he left and the little gnomes feel his absence keenly.

One early summers evening Baldmoney puts forward the idea that they should build a boat and go upstream to see if they can find Cloudberry. After all they have the whole summer before them and it might be fun to take a trip. Sneezewort likes the idea but Dodder thinks the whole plan is mad and refuses to even consider it. Despite Dodder’s obvious disapproval Baldmoney and Sneezewort build themselves a beautiful boat, fill it with supplies, and set off upstream.

The two little gnomes don’t get that far before they lose their boat in the turbulent waters of a mill-stream. Not being the kind of fellows who give easily, they press on. When they get to the much feared Crow Wood they see the terrifying Giant Grum, a being they have heard about many times before. They pity the poor wild animals of the wood who live in fear of this horrible human with his gun and his hunting dog. When Dodder joins them (he was too lonely to stay at home alone), the three little men decide that something has to be done to free the animals from having to live in the shadow of the gamekeeper and his gibbet.

Readers who have enjoyed sharing the adventures of the animals in “The Wind in the Willows” will love this charming story. Beautiful descriptions of the English countryside compliment the warm narrative. You get a sense that there is magic in the air as the three little gnomes look for their lost friend and share all kinds of adventures together. Julie Andrews Edwards has truly given readers of all ages a gift by bringing this very special book back into print.