We are currently in the midst of Arabel’s Raven as our evening read aloud story. Joan Aiken is an author that I’ve only recently discovered, much to my chagrin. Honestly, this book might be one of the best new old books I’ve read in years. I liked it so much that I went back and read the parts the husband read to the kids when he did bedtime, which is something I almost never do (mostly because it’s often a book I’ve already read).
The story is about a girl who acquires a pet raven. The raven, whose name is Mortimer, knows only one word, which is apparently the only word ravens ever know: Nevermore. Mortimer causes no end of trouble around the house. For one thing, he eats unexpected objects, like stairs, and likes to put spaghetti in strange places, like your pockets. He also makes what sounds like an enormous mess everywhere all the time. However, Arabel and Mortimer have a special relationship with the sort of love and deep understanding that can exist between ravens and girls in children’s books. So Arabel’s parents put up with Mortimer with amazing good humor. The story has a very Roald Dahl feeling in places because of the absurd and silly situations portrayed. However, the parents are so loving and most of the adults are so well-meaning that you know it can’t be a Roald Dahl book, though those Quentin Blake illustrations certainly invite the comparison, don’t they?
Suffice it to say that this made a perfect read aloud for us. Humor is such an essential element in books and this one is one of the funniest we’ve read in awhile.