For many many years I have included the books of New Zealand author Margaret Mahy in my library program. This is for two reasons – one her terrific story telling and two the rich vocabulary she uses.
We started this term by reading Jam. Our copy is very small but using our scanner we have been able to project the lovely illustrations by Helen Craig so the children can appreciate the little humorous touches such has the father washing the dishes and then “he pegged them out to dry”. Or when the father refers to his three children, who are named Clement Castle, Clarissa Castle and Carlo Castle, as “the three little castles more like cottages really”. This also makes it possible to compare the Castle family before eating all the jam with the end of the story when a whole year of jam eating has passed.
Mahy is a master of the story twist. In jam it comes right at the end when the plums are ripe again and thus the cycle will continue with more disastrous results. In The Boy who was followed home there are two twists. As more and more hippos follow Robert home growing from one to four to nine to twenty seven and finally forty-three his father must find a solution. The answer is to find a witch. How do you find a witch? You use the telephone book of course. And when do witches arrive? At midnight of course, right on the broomstick hour and down the chimney. Mahy shows lovely restraint when she leaves the illustrations to show the final twist, simply stating Robert was pleased, very pleased indeed.
In The Boy who was Followed home there are words like reproachful, skulked and delighted
My favourite Mahy title where the vocabulary really shines is The Man whose mother was a pirate. Her description of the sea is magical. In The Pumpkin Man and the crafty Creeper there are words like sprawling, midsummer, humble, burrowed, dismayed, gratitude, obligingly and treacherous. There are so many fabulous books by this talented author look for them in your library you will not be disappointed.