Thursday, July 1, 2010

Vintage Novels {The Secret World of Og}

Happy Canada Day! Since this is Canada Day I thought that I had better write about a Canadian book, so why not share my favourite Canadian children's book. I assume that the only Canadian kids book that most of the rest of the world has read is Anne of Green Gables and as much as I like Anne with an "e" (I think it's odd to see anyone named just plain Ann) it was never one of my favourite books. I don't know why, but I just always liked Alice better. Then I was going to do a couple Robert Munsch books, but then I came across this on my shelf. The Secret World of Og was written in 1960 by Pierre Berton, who wrote more than 50 books and popularized Canadian history by making it a fun read. This was his only children's novel and his favourite book.
Og tells the story of four children: Penny, Pamela, Peter and Patsy (based on the author's own children) and of how one afternoon they set off through a trap door in their playhouse, down a tunnel and come upon an underground world filled with mushrooms, populated by mysterious green people who only know the word "og". The people of Og have kidnapped the children's cat Earless Osdick and their baby brother Paul, who is called The Pollywog and both the cat and the baby think that they are dogs. The Ogs have also been stealing the children's toys over the past several months and have placed The Pollywog in their jail. And so the kids must mount a daring rescue plan involving a tube of green paint and some candy and must return to the surface before supper or else they will be caught put in the Og jail too!
I loved this book when I was growing up. I loved it's suspense, it's humour, the adventure and the secret world that lay just a few feet underground and the mysterious creatures who were neither faeries, ogres or gremlins and had I a playhouse, I might have started digging through the floor to see if Og only existed in Ontario or if it was a country wide secret world. I also loved the illustrations by the grown up Patsy Berton, since she was there. Reading it again, I found that part of what made it so appealing was the different personalities of the children and how each one was an equal member of the team and each had their own set of skills which I could identify with. The Secret World of Og is the book that every kid wishes their parent would make up at bedtime because it sets them as the heroes and not a knight or a fairy tale princess.

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