I just heard, through Fuse #8, that one of my all time favorite children's books, The Little White Horse, by Elizabeth Goudge, is going to be made into a children's movie by the director of Bridge to Terebithia (here's the movie's site). I am bravely telling myself this is not a bad thing. More people will now read this beautiful book. But please, to all those who haven't read it, read it before you see the movie. Read an edition with Walter Hodge's illustrations. Let Goudge's words make pictures in your minds. Let her story reach you first (a story that does not have the Fantasy elements the movie sounds like it will have).
The Little White Horse tells of Maria Merryweather, sent to live with her cousin, the lord of Moonacre Manor. The welcome is warm, the house is lovely (Maria's tower room is my favorite fictional bedroom of all time! But the valley of Moonacre is troubled by an ancient feud between the rapscallion poachers known as the Black Men and Maria's family. It's up to Maria to use her powers of deduction and her forthrightness to set the old wrong to rights.
Lots and lots of beautiful description, a fantastical setting where the magical overlaps with the mundane, and warm and glowing characters who come to wonderful life make this one of my favorite books of all time. Based on the illustrations, and the descriptions of clothes and such, it's my impression that this is set in the 19th century--it's certainly a long ago story, which adds to its charm.
It is, I would say, definitely a Girl book. This is mainly because Goudge lavishes so much detail on female clothing (almost no boy appeal, unless you are a boy like the poignant child in Rumer Godden's The Greengage Summer). She also lavishes lots of detail on anything that has color, and anything that is beautiful--seagulls flying inland in the morning, pink geraniums, primroses wet with dew. With a book that is this visual, it seems to me redundant to recreate it in a visual medium.
And then, when you have read The Little White Horse, and want more Goudge, read Linnets and Valerians.
See if you can guess which of these covers is the most recent:
Hint: it has those strange, strange eyes. And why does that poor child have no mouth? (at least, that's what it looked like to me, although after studying it I guess that's a bit of mouth showing over the horse's back). Just for the record, the copy I had was the paperback at the top right.