Longtime fan of Daniel Pinkwater here: I’ve read much of his work, including The Afterlife Diet, which as far as I know is his only novel for adults to date, and some of his radio bits. Never cruel or angry, this author delivers thousand-watt warmth wrapped in irony and silliness. Also unlikely heroism, respect for diversity, a sense of history, deep love for both urban worlds and wilderness lands, and sensawunda. I’ve already enjoyed the Neddiad, Yggdyssey, and Adventures of a Cat-Whiskered Girl, where Dwergish persons make a coy appearance. Now I find myself tickled to death to get my paws on an advance reader copy of Adventures of a Dwergish Girl. (Spoiler: you don’t have to read the other three to enjoy this Dwergish girl.)
Pinkwater is arguably Pratchett-for-kids, Wodehouse-for-new-millennium-juniors. Or, if you like, Rocky and Bullwinkle in written form, with equally zany illustrations. His stories charm, educate, and thrill, and if you happen to be the lucky adult called upon to read them aloud – just to be sure they’re okay for your kids – you find them packed with jokes for the adult reader. Only Pinkwater would send his Dwergish heroine to consult Professor Knows Everything, boy genius and radio station owner-announcer, and find herself taking a much-needed nap with the aid of Mahler’s Symphony Number Three. I roared with laughter throughout this book.
Back at the dawnatime, when dinosaurs roamed the earth and the Klingons were the enemy, I temped briefly at the American Library Association in the Office for Intellectual Freedom, where Banned Books Week was born. This admirable institution was founded by one of the most strong-minded bosses ever. It keeps records of all the books known to have been banned, ever, including books currently being ejected from public and school libraries by the sort of people who do such things. The OIF also helps authors find funding for legal assistance, when they get sued for writing dangerous books. I recall rummaging in the files, which is a thing temps are paid to do, and delighting in finding numerous works I had read and adored. Pinkwater’s Devil in the Drain (Dutton, 1984) was among them. I’m sure he is very proud to know this.
To the Dwergish girl, then: Molly loves her Dwergish village, where she is related to every single person, but at the same time she can’t stand to be there another day. With familial blessing she sets out for Kingston, NY, the nearest “English” (that is, not-Dwergish not-Native American) town. Here she meets with adventures. She makes friends. She visits Manhattan, which is a tough sell for a girl from a place where the biggest excitement comes twice or three times a week, when the whole community gathers around a fire and hums for a while. I am particularly fond of Molly’s woodcraft and her pardonable pride in it. She’s not afraid of anything. She makes friends everywhere. She loves her life. If I had a daughter, I’d want her to be just like Molly, and I would totally read this book to her.
But I don’t have a daughter. I’ll have to settle for reading it to my husband, another Pinkwater fan.
The Dwergish girl is a strong and gentle soul. This book is just so darned nice that it could cure your whole day. Let Molly and her Dwergish ways bring order to your chaotic world.
(Tachyon Publications, 2020)
PG Wodehouse writes in his novel Cocktail Time (Simon and Schuster, 1958): “Just as all American publishers hope that if they are good and lead upright lives, their books will be banned in Boston, so do all English publishers pray that theirs will be denounced from the pulpit by a bishop.” To my sorrow, none of my books has never been banned, burnt in effigy (since most of them are still only in ebook, this can easily be accomplished with a GIF, just sayin’), or otherwise publicly reviled. I had high hopes with my first novel, Trash Sex Magic, and then with the series beginning with The Brass Bed (now The Hinky Brass Bed), especially once the latter came out with sexy new covers. Alas, only the covers were banned. My latest big series looked like a winner: the deceptively sexy-and-demonic-sounding Coed Demon Sluts. Who could resist bringing righteous fire down upon such works? Apparently, everybody. Give a girl a break. Get your free copy of the first story and lend it to someone crabby.