The 1p Book Review: J & A Ahlberg: Each Peach Pear Plum

Do you know, I am increasingly of the opinion that a very large percentage – perhaps the majority – of the best works of literature are children’s books. Each Peach Pear Plum is a work of terrible craft and ingenuity, to be examined with deep concentration and seriousness by tots.

The story ends, as far too few sto-…oh hang on, I need one of these: SPOILER ALERT! The story ends, as far too few stories do, with the communal consumption of a very big Plum Pie.

But before that the reader is taken on a dizzying spin through a world of suspicious characters. Here is Tom Thumb: spying from the cupboard on the apparently humdrum doings of Mother Hubbard and her domestic slave Cinderella (obviously on loan to Hubbard from the Ugly Sisters). Thumb’s voyeurism is, of course, a deliberate echo of the reader’s own ‘spying’.  There is Baby Bunting, floating Moses-like down a river to be rescued by the Three Bears who are ‘out hunting’ (for what? Human babies?) and will presumably raise the infant as one of their own kind, a la Tarzan (apes) or Terry Nutkins (squirrels), or else eat him as a pre-Pie appetiser.

Events take a ghastly twist as the Wicked Witch grasps for the hapless Jack and Jill through vicious tangled thorns. Robin Hood fires arrow after arrow into her black hide to no avail, for she is enchanted and invincible. In the moments before the cathartic consumption of the Plum Pie every one of these characters creeps, half-concealed and accusing, towards the voyeur/reader, who is powerless to look away. Buy this book for a penny now; it will sear itself into your consciousness for the rest of your mortal life.

Share This Post

About Author Profile: Brit

11 thoughts on “The 1p Book Review: J & A Ahlberg: Each Peach Pear Plum

    ian russell
    September 30, 2010 at 09:00

    the best works of literature are children’s books

    Well, my girls, when small, couldn’t speak too highly of The Very Hungry Caterpillar, but I found the plot full of holes.

  2. Gaw
    September 30, 2010 at 09:19

    The price has gone up to 10p. These reviews are beginning to move markets.

    Sounds a great book. Isn’t it true that a good meal can put to bed a lot of tension? And when a pie is also involved, well it really does feel like happy ever after.

  3. Brit
    September 30, 2010 at 09:31

    Wa-hey, nice one Ian. The Hungry Caterpillar has a special place in Brit family folklore as my little sister once starred in a stage version. Amidst the whispering children she bellowed “Four strawberries!” with an amusingly incongruous Brian Blessed-style gusto and volume.

    The Tiger Who Came to Tea is a good one – I still can’t get my head around the tiger drinking ‘all the water in the tap’.

    September 30, 2010 at 10:00

    This one passed us by, alas. But when it comes to the Alhberg oeuvre, ‘Peepo’ is also worth having – a nostalgic picture-memoir, distinctly bitter-sweet in places, attempting to pass itself off as a lightweight bit of nonsense printed on the sort of pages safely gummed by the more mature sort of baby.

    In contrast, ‘The Tiger Who Came To Tea’ scares the living daylights out of me (here are a few thousand words on that particular subject, if anyone’s interested — the best of them probably in the comments.)

  5. Brit
    September 30, 2010 at 10:03

    Ah yes, Peepo is a good one, but it’s a bit long for tiny tots. Each Peach is short and sweet with a punching rhythm.

    September 30, 2010 at 10:17

    By God you are so right Brit! It is an absolute flippin masterpiece – and when she’s a bit older you can move on to that other sublime work of Ahlberg genius, Burglar Bill.

  7. Brit
    September 30, 2010 at 10:48

    We have inherited a mountain of children’s book, and I’ve still got most of my old ones in another mountain, yet I don’t think Burglar Bill is in either. This must be corrected.

    Barendina – just read your description of the nightlyTiger Who Came to Tea duty..

    The experience was, looking back on it dispassionately, akin to that of some seventh-century anchorite walled up in his desert fastness, having bid farewell to the world outside forever, resigned to mouthing that hieratic, unearthly liturgy through dry lips — reading while the light held, reciting when it failed — in those early months perhaps seeking to understand the words he enunciates, later meekly accepting them, finally seeking only to appease his sometimes angry, often capricious but eternally untiring Listener.

    Ha! Superb evocation of the business of repetitive reading. It’s a lot worse when they don’t rhyme, too.

    jonathan law
    September 30, 2010 at 11:28

    Cops and Robbers is also great — a lot more fun than The Wire, I’m sure — and so is the one with all the skeletons, called I think Lazy Bones. But The Jolly Christmas Postmanno, no, no : that’s where the Ahlbergs went all postmodern and intertextual and took a flying trip to Prestatyn.

  9. Brit
    September 30, 2010 at 11:32

    Funny Bones in fact, Jonathan, yes that’s a great one. In a dark, dark town there was a dark, dark street and in the dark, dark street there was a dark, dark house….etc

    Sophie King
    September 30, 2010 at 11:46

    If it’s pie you are looking for, then Harold and the Purple Crayon has nine different kinds of pie – and a deserving porcupine.

    October 2, 2010 at 09:00

    I can read Each Peach – Each peach, pear, plum, I spy Tom Thumb; Tom Thumb in the cupboard, I spy Mother Hubbard; Mother Hubbard on the stairs, I spy the three bears, I could go on – out loud with my eyes closed. Mrs Wobble the Waitress is another good Ahlberg – along with those mentioned above. And when the child is a lot older, there is ‘The Bear Nobody Wanted’ and ‘Woof!’ and ‘I Heard it in the Playground’

Comments are closed.