William Mayne Ruth Hill Viguers - Essay

Ruth Hill Viguers

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Mr. Mayne's settings are most often Yorkshire villages, his characters ordinary middle-class people—except that they are never really ordinary. To browse through a number of his books at the same time is to realize how many people he has brought to life in print and how complete an individual each one is. The children disagree, sometimes quarrel and weep, but the atmosphere that one remembers in his many stories is good humor. The relationships are affectionate and amusing, the dialogue full of quips and jokes and amiable insults. Sand … is an especially good example of the individuality of characters, The Battlefield … of the quick wit and the lively give and take in the conversations. The Yorkshire dialect sprinkled through the stories is less confusing to American children, I believe, than Mr. Mayne's tendency to make three words do the work of twenty. He has been called a "verbal magician" and his genius in finding the right word and his ability to tell a story almost entirely through dialogue are continually astonishing. The abundance of details packed into a few lines demands the most careful attention or the thread of meaning is lost. There is no racing through Mr. Mayne's books, and herein may lie the reason for the reluctance of some children to read them. (pp. 571-72)

Ruth Hill Viguers, in A Critical History of Children's Literature, by Cornelia Meigs, Anne Thaxter Eaton, Elizabeth Nesbitt, and Ruth Hill Viguers, edited by Cornelia Meigs (copyright © 1953, 1969 by Macmillan Publishing Co., Inc.), revised edition, Macmillan, 1969.