Friday, January 23, 2015

Book Review: I Know a Secret

Title: I Know a Secret
Author: Christopher Morley (1890-1957)

Author's fans' memorial quote-collection site:
Date: 1927
Publisher: Doubleday Page & Co.
ISBN: none (but click here to see it on Amazon)
Length: 235 pages
Illustrations: black-and-white drawings and 4 color plates by Jeanette Warmuth
Quote: “It is sad to have to tell it, but the angry squirrels made short work of that Tree.”
Christopher Morley was a popular writer in his time; he wrote novels, essays, verse, and a volume of one-act plays. Cuteness and whimsy were in style, so this is a cute, whimsical book of bedtime stories for young children. Perhaps some readers will get an idea of how young the children need to be when reminded that one of these stories (the fable about the modest puppy) was reprinted in Told Under the Christmas Tree.
Morley co-authored one book with Don Marquis; in I Know a Secret, as in Archy and Mehitabel, the animals act just like humans. So do some inanimate objects, like a Pilot Light who suffers from envy of the Main Burner on the new gas stove. My perception is that Mehitabel is a reasonably credible cat—she says things humans might say about things cats actually do—but Fourchette, the mother cat in this book, is not. On the other hand her kittens are believable.
I don’t find Gissing, the modest puppy whose belated request for just one toy prompts Santa Claus to leave him a dozen toys, plausible either. Nor am I particularly stirred by the character of Escargot, the snail who functions as the other animals’ literary agent.
The squirrels, however, I could believe were real. Morley gives them a motive for revenge on an “Unamiable Child” who always offers them empty shells instead of peanuts...but I can picture real squirrels sneaking into a house and eating all the nuts, apples, and popcorn strings hung on an oldfashioned Christmas tree.
Believable or not they're all amusing. It’s possible that some grandparents remember this book and would like to share it with their grandchildren.
Adults really need to be in the mood for this kind of book, but I chortled while reading through the reasonably well preserved first edition I found. The pictures are also very typical of their period, in exquisitely mellow pastel colors.

I Know a Secret sold so fantastically well, and was so often lovingly preserved, that it's not yet become rare, and so I can offer it for sale online for $5 for the book plus $5 for shipping. You might find a better bargain at another site...and then again you might not.