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Worth the Candle
Suppose you know a small someone who received a stuffed animal recently. (A rabbit or lamb delivered in a basket with paper grass, perhaps?) Here’s what you should wish for that someone: a relationship of child and lovey as fulfilling as the one depicted in The Jamie and Angus Stories.
Angus, a Highland bull (a sort of Scottish buffalo), is the boon companion of the tenacious Jamie, a preschooler who first encounters the silky white animal in a toy store. Even though his birthday has just passed and Christmas is months off, Jamie sets his heart on Angus. The bull is purchased but put away high in the cupboard. Jamie crafts a farm for him and await Dec. 25—the day after which the two will be inseparable. As Anne Fine, the celebrated British author best known in this country as the originator of Mrs. Doubtfire, puts it, they become “Angus and Jamie. Jamie and Angus.”
There are a half-dozen stories in this book (and more in two sequels) and each tale manages to be a little masterpiece that balances Jamie’s young perspective with the knowingness of the book’s readers (who, being either a couple years more wizened than Jamie or adults grateful to encounter a read-aloud that doesn’t bore them to tears) can appreciate Fine’s wry tone and gift for gentle, but genuine suspense. The crises here include Angus’s misadventure with the washing machine, the wedding of Jamie’s beloved babysitter, and a visit to the hospital in which Jamie suffers more from guilt than from troubled tummy.
It’s the Candlepicker’s belief that genres adult readers enjoy almost always have counterparts in the world of children’s literature. So if you like literary novels set in the contemporary world with its moral complexities and starring characters as real as weather—say you’re a reader of Jonathan Franzen or Jennifer Egan—you’re going to appreciate work as wise and skillful as The Jamie and Angus Stories.