(Ann) Philippa Pearce Eleanor Cameron - Essay

Eleanor Cameron

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

[In Minnow on the Say] one finds the same devouring awareness of the natural world, the same complexity and maturity of thought …, the same artistry of phrasing, and the same unwillingness to compromise in any of these areas [as in the books of Lucy Boston] because she is writing for children that we find in Lucy Boston's and William Mayne's work. Therefore in her time fantasy [Tom's Midnight Garden] one is not in the least surprised to discover, woven into the firmly plotted movement of the story, certain philosophic overtones in her handling of Time as it relates to Tom's gradual understanding of what he has been experiencing in the garden. In this work, too, as in Lucy Boston's, is found what I can only describe as an atmosphere of poetic dimension, tenderness without sentimentality, though expressed quite differently: not so much in paragraphs one can read aloud as examples as in the effect of the book as a whole, in Tom's relationship to the child Hatty and in his almost visceral love for and need of the garden. Here … is passionate attachment to place and person. (pp. 118-19)

In a book such as this …, one sees the fertile and perceiving mind of the writer joyously at work, unafraid of convolutions (so unexpectedly playing Hatty's time against Tom's Relative Time), ready to explore to the end every possibility opened up by each new pattern of circumstance. Such writers never cease searching for all that any particular pattern will yield. Yet, whatever fresh and original perceptions are arrived at, the results as far as story is concerned will be clear and firm and satisfying to both the analytical and the aesthetically sensitive adult, as well as to the less consciously critical child. The reader, whoever he may be, will sense a fine proportion, a plausible economy of effect. (pp. 121-22)

Eleanor Cameron, "The Green and Burning Tree: A Study of Time Fantasy" (a revision of a talk presented at University of California, Irvine, October 26, 1967), in her The Green and Burning Tree: On the Writing and Enjoyment of Children's Books (copyright © 1969 by Eleanor Cameron; reprinted by permission of Little, Brown and Company in association with The Atlantic Monthly Press), Atlantic-Little, Brown, 1969, pp. 71-134.∗