Julia W(oolfolk) Cunningham Barbara Wersba - Essay

Barbara Wersba

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

["Viollet"] is a Gothic tale, in the true sense of the word, set amid the ruins of a French castle, and as ominous as a thundery sky. Presiding over the castle and its famous vineyards is the Count de la Tour, an aging and unworldly nobleman. As harvest time approaches, three animals learn of a foreman's plans to murder the Count and usurp his dynasty…. The empathy that unites these creatures is superb—the author having been wise enough to keep their world separate from the human. Because of this, the animals' rescue of their beloved Count is credible; and when the four finally spend an evening together, graced by Viollet's first public (and sober) performance, the reader is genuinely touched.

If the best children's books speak to the adult in the child, and the child in the adult, then Julia Cunningham's work is of this genre. Her prose is sensitive yet uncompromising…. (p. 40)

Barbara Wersba, in The New York Times Book Review, Part II (© 1966 by The New York Times Company; reprinted by permission), November 6, 1966.

Short, tense, piercing, remarkable, [Dorp Dead] is a book that stands alone. It uses no magic-machinery, but possibly something of symbolism; yet this may after all be no more than the grotesqueries of the child's eye-view….

[After] peaks of nightmare (good stuff of climb and hunt at ordinary schoolboy reader's level), brightness ends the scene, and starts a new beginning for [Gilly]…. The writing of all this … gives the book an intense completeness—something, too, of the sustained compulsion of a dream. (p. 1141)

The Times Literary Supplement (© Times Newspapers Ltd. (London) 1967; reproduced from The Times Literary Supplement by permission), November 30, 1967.