Yesterday I wrote about one of my sister's Christmas presents; today it's a book I got myself that made me all kinds of happy! A while ago, I re-read a childhood favorite, Tom Ass, by Ann Lawrence (my review), and it occurred to me (after 30 odd years) that maybe this author, whose book I love so much, might perhaps have written something else (duh)! And she had! And my list of books that would be welcomed grew accordingly, and The Good Little Devil graced my Christmas Pile.
The Good Little Devil (1978, illustrated most charmingly by Ionicus) is the story of what happens when a medieval monastery becomes home to a small dark supernatural creature. When kegs of beer and wine are mysteriously opened overnight, the cellarer, Brother John, becomes convinced the abbey is bewitched...and indeed, a suitable ritual captures the devil behind the mischief! It is a small, somewhat subdued imp, and the Abbot, always one to think things through, decides it would be good publicity for the monastery to have a devil as one of the brothers. So, robbed as a monastic brother, the imp joins the boys of the choir school....and does his best to fit in.
Young Wilfred, one of the two resident boys, becomes fond of the creature, as do Brother John and other thoughtful brothers. They become increasingly convinced that this depressed little devil is, perhaps, something more along the lines of a hob or a brownie...and at last Brother John frees it from its hated robes. But the creature, now in the form of a black cat, stays with his new friends, bringing them good luck, while working its mischievous side out on paying back the boys that had tormented it when it was forced to be a choirboy.
Goodness, this was a fun little story. It doesn't try to be Historical Fiction, in the sense of accurately capturing the essence of Medieval Monastic Life, and indeed, several of the characters sound like they'd be more at home in an early 20th century British comedy of manners. But that doesn't hurt the story one single bit--instead, it gives Lawrence the freedom just to enjoy her storytelling, and the reader enjoys it right along with her.
An excellent read out loud, an excellent one to give to a kid who enjoys lighter historical fiction mixed with fantasy, or simply a book for the grown-up reader to savor herself (and isn't it so awfully nice when you read a middle grade book and just plain like it, instead of thinking, oh I would have liked this so much if I'd read it when I was ten! It's possible that this was the case with this book because the adults were as likeable as the central boy character).
Especially recommended to those who enjoy books set in monasteries and books with clever black cats.
(I couldn't find a picture of the cover on line anywhere; I guess I'll take mine to work tomorrow and scan it there-Done!)