“A children’s story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children’s story in the slightest.” – C.S Lewis
While deciding what book was going to be the big opener for my blog, I considered a few classic 80’s blockbusters that would be sure to pull on the heart strings of any North American between ages 30 and 45 who had ever read a book or had a book read to them. HOWEVER, La Corona and the Tin Frog, the book I’ve chosen instead, is so impactful and beautifully strung together that I felt it important to talk about first.
A collection of four stories revolving around toys and other objects in a room, culminating with one final story where they all choose to escape through an open window, this book is whimsical, romantic and best of all, sinister.
Since I so believe that everyone should read La Corona once in their lives, I won’t be going through each story one by one. Instead, I’ll leave that joy to you.
La Corona herself, is in fact a drawing, made up of tiny dots and living on the inside cover of an old cigar box. While her lover, the tin frog, lives inside this box and gazes upon her beauty all day. But, low and behold, there is an evil at play in the shadows that the frog and his love aren’t aware of yet, and that evil watches them as it watches all the objects in the room. And it waits.
Already these characters have so much uniqueness and depth. If I go on any further, I’m afraid I’ll spoil the magic for you, so I’ll leave the introductions at that.
Russell Hoban, the award winning author of La Corona also wrote The Mouse and his Child, which Is yet another dark book for children full of mature themes and a deep philosophical story line.
Why are such dark and serious stories enjoyed by so many children, I wonder? I personally don’t really remember fully understanding the themes in these old stories, in fact, I remember very vividly being confused by some of the language but even then knowing that the subtle heaviness I felt in my guts was more important than grasping the meaning of every word. Because that’s what La Corona does, it brews a feeling of importance deep in the pits of its readers. Kind of like the feeling Bastian must have felt while reading the Neverending Story, snuggled tightly in the attic of his school, knowing he HAD to finish that book, like it was pivotal he got to the end, but not really knowing why.
When I read La Corona, I feel like if I don’t finish the whole book every time I read it, the little trinkets, that are each filled with so much life and depth, in that imaginary room won’t be able to escape out the window to freedom and adventure. So I HAVE to finish, because they HAVE to get out that window. La Corona and her lover, the tin frog, HAVE to run away together… I know I know, it’s kind of fucking mental, right?! I mean, it’s just a kids book.
The art work is done by award winning illustrator, Nicola Bayley, who is best known for her cat paintings, but who has also done the artwork for dozens of children’s books and nursery rhyme collections. Her work on La Corona is so beautifully detailed and soft it almost reminds of the works of Thomas Kinkade. Nicola doesn’t draw the characters with bold lines and bright colours like most mainstream kid’s books, and I really appreciate that. It’s just one more detail that gives this book its mature and serious tone. These aren’t a bunch of Teletubbies, teaching the zombie youth about some basic mundane crap. These are characters of great importance with valuable lessons to share about overcoming dangerous obstacles for true love, escaping the clutches of deeply misunderstood evil forces, and breaking free of the restraints of time itself. Sound heavy? Trust me, it is, and that gravity is portrayed beautifully through Bayley’s illustrations.
From start to finish, top to bottom, inside and out, not many books compare to La Corona and the Tin Frog.
So, the next time you feel the need to get lost in a magical world of make-believe, with danger around every corner and where true love knows no bounds, I urge you, fellow day dreamer, to go to your local library and check this one out. The fate of La Corona’s entire universe may very well depend on it.
Yours truly and ghouly,