A LITTLE FEAT by Patricia Wrightson


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Wrightson (The Nargun and the Stars, etc.) has grown so comfortable with her Australian spirit-presences that she's domesticated them: the Njimbin, or gnome, whose fowlhouse-"camp" is threatened by the arrival of old Mrs. Tucker, a doughty refugee from a home for the elderly, could almost be one of those mischief-makers, protecting his territory, common to Scottish and Irish lore. The crucial difference, which queers this almost-childless book for child-readers (in particular), is that the Njimbin turns into a mere instrument--for getting Mrs. Tucker from regimented Sunset House to a little-house-of-her-own in town, now with her foolish, lovable dog Hector and near her worried family. But because "she hated to go meekly back to town and leave the land's old thing victorious in her fowlhouse," she gets the building ready for a conflagration. Thus, she acknowledges she couldn't beat the Njimbin--with his rat-minions, his frog-invasion, his midge-storm. She knows, after young Ivan has fired his gun, that it would be open warfare with the Njimbin. But, in conceding defeat (and selling the rural property to purchase her house-in-town), she can't bear to leave the Njimbin, it seems, in even temporary possession. Since the story is involving only to the extent that the Njimbin and Mrs. Tucker are evenly matched (and tacit counterparts), the ending falsifies what has gone before. A good deal of Wrightson's typically fine descriptive detail (the behavior of rattled hens, the sound of a strong rower, the whirl of a column of midges) is expended on a rigged situation.
Pub Date: Oct. 20th, 1983
Publisher: Atheneum
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1st, 1983


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