The Magic Faraway Tree was the first ‘chapter book’ I ever read. I was in Grade 2, 1979. I remember a marathon reading session at the end, when I gave myself a headache ploughing through the last couple of adventures that took place in lands on the top of the Tree.
This is the edition I read - and I still own. It belonged to my grandmother, who was also a primary school teacher. In 2009, thirty years after my own first reading, I read this very edition aloud to my Grade 2 students. It’s beautifully illustrated by Dorothy M. Wheeler.
The older editions don’t have any of the recent sanctimonious retro-editing. They feature golliwogs, Dame Slap and kids called Dick and Fanny. My philosophy is to expose kids to the original editions, and then use the outmoded material as a valuable teaching point. You know what? Kids aren’t stupid.
See the guy on the left, offering a Pop Biscuit to a little elf? That’s Moon Face. Some editions draw him as a person with an actual MOON on his head, but they have clearly misread the passage that introduces Moon Face to us. His face was round, a little like a moon, but nowhere does it say his face is a moon. When I read and think about Moon Face, this is the guy I see.
These stories are endlessly delightful and ingenious. A new land arriving on top of the Tree every few days? Instant adventure, variety and uncertainty. You can read a nice little blurb on the book here.