The Crows of Pearblossom

( 2 )

Overview

Written in 1944 by Aldous Huxley as a Christmas gift for his niece, The Crows of Pearblossom tells the story of Mr. and Mrs. Crow, who live in a cottonwood tree. The hungry Rattlesnake that lives at the bottom of the tree has a nasty habit of stealing Mrs. Crow's eggs before they can hatch, so Mr. Crow and his wise friend, Old Man Owl, devise a sneaky plan to trick him. 

This funny story of cleverness triumphing over greed, similar in tone and wit to the work of A. A. ...

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Overview

Written in 1944 by Aldous Huxley as a Christmas gift for his niece, The Crows of Pearblossom tells the story of Mr. and Mrs. Crow, who live in a cottonwood tree. The hungry Rattlesnake that lives at the bottom of the tree has a nasty habit of stealing Mrs. Crow's eggs before they can hatch, so Mr. Crow and his wise friend, Old Man Owl, devise a sneaky plan to trick him. 

This funny story of cleverness triumphing over greed, similar in tone and wit to the work of A. A. Milne, shows a new side of a great writer. Paired with stunning illustrations by Sophie Blackall, this timeless tale is sure to grab the attention of many readers—adults and children alike.

Praise for The Crows of Pearblossom
“With Huxley’s mordant wit in ample supply, this tale will entertain literary novelty seekers.” 
Publishers Weekly 

“Huxley’s story starts good and grim—just the thing to hold a young audience.” –Kirkus Reviews 

“A rather charming children’s book. The story is clever, wittily told and bristles with spiky humor — and it could quite possibly become a new favorite among schoolchildren. In the reissued edition, Brooklyn-based illustrator Sophie Blackwell transforms the chapter book into a picture book. Huxley’s standing as one of the grandfathers of dystopian Y.A. is already established. Perhaps the next generation will think of him as that guy who wrote about crows’ eggs.” –New York Times ARTSBEAT blog

“A vivid picture-book edition with robust and suitably disquieting illustrations by Sophie Blackall.” 
Wall Street Journal

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
For Christmas 1944, the author of Brave New World wrote this story of a crow couple's battle with an egg-eating snake, giving it to his six-year-old niece, who provides an afterword (the tale was first published in 1967). Unsurprisingly, this is no cheery animal fable. "very afternoon punctually at half past three," while Mr. Crow is working and Mrs. Crow is shopping, Rattlesnake slithers into their nest. "If there was an egg in the nest—which there generally was—he would swallow it in one mouthful, shell and all." Mrs. Crow discovers the snake and tells her husband to save their "darling eggs." Tricked into eating a heavy clay egg, the snake ends up as a clothesline, and Mrs. Crow happily breeds "four families of seventeen children each." Blackall (Pecan Pie Baby) pictures a lovely gnarled tree as the prolific family's residence, yet her unnerving watercolors of the glassy-eyed crows reinforce the story's sinister elements. With Huxley's mordant wit in ample supply, this tale will entertain literary novelty seekers; it's best suited for children who don't mind some darkness in their stories. Ages 4–8. (Mar.)
Children's Literature - Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
"Once upon a time" two crows have in a nest in a tree at Pearblossom. A rattlesnake lives at the bottom of the tree. While Mrs. Crow is out shopping, he comes up and swallows any egg in the nest, to her great distress. One day she catches him at it. When she tearfully explains to Mr. Crow what is happening, he goes to ask Old Man Owl for advice. The owl bakes and paints two clay eggs to put in the nest. The next day, when the snake arrives, he greedily swallows them. Getting a terrible stomachache, he thrashes around so much that he ties his neck in a knot around a branch. When Mrs. Crow returns, she gives the snake a stern lecture. After that, she manages to hatch "four families of seventeen children each," using the snake as a clothesline for the diapers! We meet the anthropomorphic crow couple on the front of the jacket, she in a red polka-dot dress and pearls cradling an egg; he in shirt and tie. The snake is in bed on the back of the jacket. On the cover he and the egg appear quite different, as they do on the patterned end pages. Watercolors and Chinese inks offer fine details of the characters and the twisted tree that is their home. A note offers information about this clever, amusing tale written by the famous author for his young niece. Reviewer: Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
School Library Journal
K-Gr 3—Each day Mrs. Crow lays an egg, and each day a rattlesnake slithers up the tree and swallows it while the bird is out shopping. Mr. Crow offers no sympathy when his wife explains the situation and asks him to kill the intruder. He soundly rejects the proposal, telling her, "Your ideas are seldom good." He and his friend Old Man Owl bake and paint two clay eggs and place them in the nest. The unsuspecting snake swallows the decoys whole and wraps himself in knots around the branches trying to ease his stomachache. The story ends with Mrs. Crow happily using him as a clothesline for diapers from the numerous children she has successfully hatched. Blackall ably illustrates the tale, adding humorous touches such as a briefcase for Mr. Crow, hair rollers for Mrs. Crow, and fang dentures for the "very old" rattlesnake. Yet, her well-crafted paintings seem wasted on this rather dated and unpleasant story. Mr. Crow repeatedly belittles his wife, who screams at him and his friend. Written by Huxley in 1944 for his niece and including reference to family members and friends, this is the only story he produced for children. As such it might hold some interest for scholars of literature, but it seems an odd choice for collections serving children.—Kathy Piehl, Minnesota State University, Mankato
Kirkus Reviews
Huxley's story, his only children's book and not meant for widespread publication, starts good and grim—just the thing to hold a young audience. Mrs. Crow's eggs are mysteriously disappearing: 297 eggs a year, "a fresh egg every single day—except Sundays, of course, and public holidays." The culprit is a rattlesnake that lives in a hole under her tree. "I'm having breakfast," he explains with sinister meaning when she finally catches him in the act. Mrs. Crow suggests to Mr. Crow that he go down the hole and kill the snake. Mr. Crow demurs: "Your ideas are seldom good" (yes, touches of rudeness are sprinkled throughout). He consults the wise owl, who concocts a shrewd plan—without Mr. Crow's input; "keep your beak shut and do exactly what I do," spoken in a high tone—to fashion clay decoy eggs. The snake eats them, dies (after a lecture from Mrs. Crow) and is subsequently used as a clothesline for diapers. Though the book is handsomely designed, Blackall's artwork, accomplished as it is, isn't a snug fit. She captures the menace of the snake, but the crows are a different matter, with their dead, sharklike eyes, silly clothes and strange wings resembling spruce bows. Hair curlers hardly embody the shrew in Mrs. Crow, and Mr. Crow's martini is just trivial. The story, however, is a powerful hymn to smarts, with unrepentant scorn for the greedy and the witless.(Picture book. 4-8)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780810997301
  • Publisher: Abrams, Harry N., Inc.
  • Publication date: 3/1/2011
  • Pages: 40
  • Sales rank: 689,557
  • Age range: Up to 8 years
  • Product dimensions: 10.40 (w) x 10.20 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Aldous Huxley (1894-1963), the author of Brave New World, lived the latter part of his life near the Mojave Desert, where this story is set. Sophie Blackall is the illustrator of many children's books, including the Ivy and Bean series. She lives in Brooklyn. Visit her at www.sophieblackall.com.

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Posted March 2, 2011

    fascinating fable of the triumph of good over evil

    If you were a bird, and a snake that lives in the same tree where you do eats your eggs for a snack each day, what would you do? Mr. and Mrs. Crow have a nest in a cottonwood tree at Pearblossom. A rattlesnake lives in a hole at the bottom of the same tree. Most of the time he sleeps, but every afternoon at half past three, when Mrs. Crow is away doing her shopping, he climbs up the tree and eat her egg. She wonders what is happening, but one day, she returns home early and sees the snake. When Mr. Crow comes home that evening from Palmdale, where he works as an Assistant Manager in the drugstore, his wife tells him what has been going on.
    Mrs. Crow wants her husband to go down immediately into the snake's hole and kill him. However, Mr. Crow doesn't think that this is a good idea. He isn't scared, but he probably knows how dangerous it would be. So he flies over to the tall poplar in Mr. Yost's garden where Old Man Owl lives and explains the situation. What kind of plan will Old Man Owl and Mr. Crow devise to solve the Crows' problem? And will it work? Aldous Huxley, who lived from 1894 to 1963, is best remembered for his dystopian novel Brave New World (1932). The Crows of Pearblossom is his only children's story. He wrote in 1944 and gave it to his niece, Olivia, as a Christmas present. After the Huxley's had moved to the Antelope Valley of California's Mojave Desert in 1937, Olivia's family followed and lived in the nearby town of Pearblossom. The original manuscript, returned to Huxley to be illustrated, was destroyed in a fire.
    Fortunately, the Huxley's neighbors, Mr. and Mrs. Yost (who owned the tall poplar in which Old Man Owl lived), had kept a copy of the story. It was not published until 1967, when it came out in a small-format edition illustrated with black and white drawings by Barbara Cooney, but that version has long been out of print. Olivia desired to create a new, full-color edition to realize more fully the potential of her uncle's story. Stephanie Blackall's wonderfully detailed illustrations bring the witty animal characters to life. On one level the book is a charming story for children to read. Then on a deeper level, we see the negative example of Rattlesnake's greed, the positive example of Mr. Crow's discretion, and the general example of how good can triumph over evil. I am glad that it is once again available for young people today.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 6, 2011

    Clever Crows Show Unexpected Answers

    The story is told on several levels so that age doesn't really matter for enjoyment. Older children and toddlers, as well as parents, babysitters and grandparents find something of interest and value in this Huxley tale. The illustrations are masterful in the colors used and the nuances of "body-language" of the characters.

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