Until very recently when a British friend mentioned it I had never heard of The Little Grey Men by B.B. The author was actually named D.J. Watkins-Pitchford, and he was also the illustrator. Since I'm very fond of reading vintage children's literature I ordered The Little Grey Men right away. When it arrived I leafed through the pages and immediately felt the same thrill of excitement I experienced as a child when a new and exceptionally enchanting book fell into my hands.
The Little Grey Men of the title are gnomes, the last four in Britain. Their home is under an oak tree near a stream in the beautiful countryside of rural England. One of the gnomes named Cloudberry has gone off on a journey of exploration, and the book begins with the other three, Dodder, Sneezewort, and Baldmoney, (these are all English wildflower names, by the way) debating whether and how to go and search for him. This leads into a charming tale of adventure, exploration, and a good bit of danger. I enjoyed the plotline, but the true treasure to be found in the pages of The Little Grey Men consists of the descriptions of the English countryside, complemented by the beautiful illustrations.
The Little Grey Men reminds me of other beloved beast-fables, including most closely The Wind in the Willows and Watership Down. It also brought to mind Mary Norton's Borrower stories and some aspects of C.S. Lewis' Narnia tales. Intelligent children with good vocabularies and an appreciation for enchantment and wonder will love The Little Grey Men, as will adults who have not forgotten the stories they loved in their youths.
Little Grey Men Paperback – Illustrated, 5 November 2019
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- Publisher : Nyrb Kids; Illustrated edition (5 November 2019)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 256 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1681373750
- ISBN-13 : 978-1681373751
- Reading age : 8 - 12 years
- Dimensions : 13.23 x 1.3 x 19.33 cm
- Best Sellers Rank: 286,984 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
"My dad bought the beautifully illustrated book The Little Grey Men, by B.B. (ages 8 to 12), for me when I was 8 or 9. It's about three gnomes searching for their long-lost brother. Aside from being a rattling good adventure story, it's a wonderful sort of nature study, following gnomes through the seasons." --Julie Andrews, Parents Magazine "The plot, involving three gnomes who set off upstream in search of a fourth who went a-questing two years earlier, is thoroughly wrapped in rhapsodic descriptions of bird song and nodding wildflowers, bubbling waters, breezes and storms, grassy pastures, the pleasures of angling, and nature observed from ground level. . . . [F]ans of Wind in the Willows will feel right at home. . . . The story winds down to a happy twist at the end. Given patient listeners, this Carnegie Medal-winner makes a leisurely but finally engaging read-aloud." --Kirkus "Though it's a little galling to discover that I am not the only person who thinks that 1941's [Carnegie Medal] winner, The Little Grey Men by BB, is a terrifically moving elegy for an England now almost extinct, it is gladdening in the extreme to know that other people have also been beguiled by the beauty of a meticulously observed countryside inhabited by gnomes with a passion for pipe-smoking." --Olivia Laing, "In Praise of the Carnegie Medal," The Guardian "The Little Grey Men established (Denys Watkins-Pitchford, A.K.A. 'B.B.') at the forefront of children's literature." --CILIP Carnegie & Kate Greenaway Children's Book Awards
About the Author
BB (1905-1990) is the pseudonym for the British naturalist, illustrator, and children's author Denys James Watkins-Pitchford. In 1942, he won the Carnegie Medal for British children's books. Watkins-Pitchford was born in Lamport, Northamptonshire, where he developed a love of the great outdoors, hunting, fishing, and drawing, all of which influenced his writing. He attended the Northampton School of Art, and while there won a traveling scholarship to Paris, where he attended drawing classes and worked in a studio in Montparnasse. In 1924, he started studying at the Royal College of Art in London, and in 1930 he began working as an assistant art master at Rugby School and contributing to the Shooting Times as an illustrator and a writer. It was during this time that he adopted his nom de plume, BB, which was based on the size of the shot he used when hunting geese. In 1986, he was awarded an honorary MA by Leicester University and in 1990 was made a Member of the Order of the British Empire. BB followed The Little Grey Men with a sequel, Down the Bright Stream.
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John D. Cofield
A Little Known But Charming TreasureReviewed in the United States on 29 March 2020
12 people found this helpful
Little People in a Wild, Green WorldReviewed in the United States on 26 February 2020
If you think you don't believe in the little folk, read this. You'll never again lose or drop something without wondering who or what can make use of it, and what purpose it might serve in another creature's possession.
2 people found this helpful
Linda J. Hixon
CuteReviewed in the United States on 23 February 2020
Very much like The Wind in the Willows. Gnomes and little animals and Adventure. Pan makes an appearance as do morality skits about nasty old human giants.
Awesome!Reviewed in the United States on 8 January 2021
Much like Watership Down. Animals given human tendencies. If reading to kids much animal vs animal violence. A great read though!