The World Is Round
Gertrude Stein & Clement Hurd
Harper, 2013 (2013)
Reviewed by Bob Walch
his 75th anniversary edition of Gertrude Stein's somewhat controversial book features the typography, design, and signature blue ink on pink paper specified by the author. Although it purports to be a groundbreaking children's book, I would beg to differ. The book certainly has much to recommend it, but don't make the mistake of thinking this narrative will work with a young reader. I'm afraid in most cases that just isn't going to happen.
he basic story is about a nine year old girl named Rose who questions her place in the world. Rose may be the key character, but her friend and cousin Willie (he's really not her cousin but we find that out later) plays an important part in this story.
lement Hurd's art provides the visual element and is certainly a help in making sense of the narrative. Stein's unpunctuated prose mixed with poetry and constant repetition makes this a challenging read for an adult, let alone a young person. While some people suggested the story made more sense if you raced through it and read it aloud at a rapid rate, others counseled taking it slowly in small does. Either way it is a challenge!
tein was about 65 when she wrote this book and she never had any children which, I admit, isn't a prerequisite for writing children's books. But I think most people today would agree
The World Is Round
to readers in the 12-14 range. On the other hand, as a whimisical, experimental piece of literature, this book will appeal to some adults.
ince the actual story is quite short, the editors include a foreward written by Hurd's son, Thacher, and a lengthy afterword by the illustrator's wife, Edith Thacher Hurd. You'll find some of the correspondence related to the manuscript that passed back and forth between Stein and Hurd.
nd, in case you are wondering, Stein's famous line, '
a rose is a rose is a rose is a rose
' (first used in the poem
) does appear in this story. In fact, it shows up several times!
ould I purchase this book for a child? I'm afraid not! But I would be inclined to present it to a friend who is interested in avant-garde literature or unusual graphic and book design.
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