Friday, March 28, 2008

Edward Ormondroyd

David and the Phoenix
by Edward Ormondroyd
Recommended Age: 10+

Thanks to a reader named Pam, I found out about this book that first came out in 1957, and that was out of print until the Purple House Press issued a new edition in 2005. Let me quote what Pam wrote to me about this book...
I read it a hundred years ago when I was in the third grade (actually 1958) and loved it. It was out of print for years and was reissued a couple of years ago. It was the first time I had heard of a phoenix. The Phoenix in this book is quite different from our friend Fawkes. He is stuffy and pompous and funny and kind. The book makes you laugh and cry and is only 10 chapters. I read it to my third grade class every year.
Pam’s note was the first I had heard of David and the Phoenix, but her description intrigued me. I picked it up on Amazon and read it as soon as it was delivered. And once again, thanks to one of you readers, I have found a little-known masterpiece to praise and promote.

As the story opens, a boy named David has just moved into a new house at the foot of a mountain. From the first, all David wants to do is climb the mountain. His hiking adventure is interrupted by an altogether different sort of adventure, when he meets a giant, multi-colored bird who can read and talk. Phoenix (as the phoenix likes to be called) takes David on several magical adventures, partly for the boy’s education, and partly to plan the undoing of a predatory scientist who is stalking Phoenix with a high-powered rifle.

As Pam said, yes, the phoenix is stuffy and pompous and funny and kind. He and the boy develop a warm friendship. Phoenix’s clumsiness, his habit of talking himself into a corner, and his affection for cookies will keep you chuckling through the whole book. Boy and bird cross paths with a number of other colorful characters, including a kindly sea monster, a banshee who is taking up witchcraft, a playful faun, and other creatures of magic and myth. And in a campaign full of hilarious mistakes, the boy helps protect the secret of the bird’s existence from the wily scientist, as well as the concerned neighbors.

Whether you have a third-grade class to read this to, a child or grandchild with a first-class imagination, or a hankering for a cheerful and warmhearted tale of friendship and adventure, I urge you to get hold of this book. I wish I had known about it when I was a third-grader. I wish more people knew about it. And I hope it does not go out of print again.

EDIT: Ormondroyd also wrote a book titled Time at the Top.

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