3 Nov 2010

When the sun went down

Without doubt she was the worst of the seven, probably because she was the cleverest. Her brilliant inventive powers plunged them all into ceaseless scrapes, and though she often bore the brunt of the blame with equanimity, they used to turn round, not infrequently, and upbraid her for suggesting the mischief. She had been christened "Helen," which in no way account's for "Judy," but then nicknames are rather unaccountable things sometimes, are they not? Bunty said it was because she was always popping and jerking herself about like the celebrated wife of Punch, and there really is something in that. Her other name, "Fizz," is easier to understand; Pip used to say he never yet had seen the ginger ale that effervesced and bubbled and made the noise that Judy did.
Spare a thought for me today as I attempt to struggle my way through Chapter 21 of Seven Little Australians. Yes, that chapter - the one where imaginative, enthusiastic, rebellious, lively, daring, delightful Judy dies.

The death of Mr Percival in Storm Boy earlier in the year was hard enough to read aloud without blubbering, let me tell you, but I've been dreading this scene all year. How am I going to read this?

Which has me thinking about sad bits in children's literature. Which, do you think are the saddest scenes? Which parts have you reaching for the tissues? The Little Match Girl springs to mind, of course, as does Anne Frank's The Diary of a Young Girl. The scene where Captain Crewe dies in A Little Princess is pretty heart rending as well.

I am sure there are more.

What are the saddest scenes in your opinion? What books have you found hardest to read aloud? Do tell.

While you're at it, do you reckon sad bits in children's stories are appropriate? At what age? What about current children's books?

I'd love to know your thoughts on this one.

PS If you decide to torture yourself by reading Seven Little Australians to your family, do keep a look out for the deliciously gorgeous version illustrated by John Lennox. It's out of print, but well worth searching out for the sublime illustrations. That's his picture above.


  1. It doesn't compare to your suggestions, but this year I struggled to read Charlotte's Web aloud to my 7 & 5 yr old. I got to the part where Charlotte dies, alone, at the fair and I had to hand the book over to my husband to read the next chapter. I quietly cried in the kitchen while he read the rest.

    Strangely, the kids seemed totally unaffected by her passing. I remember crying through it when I was 7 or so, just as I did at age 34. Because what can be sadder than a kind, giving person leaving this world, alone and away from home? But my kids? Well, they were more interested in the baby spiders and that whole scene.

    I think I've given up trying to anticipate their reactions to stories.

  2. Oh yes, I wept through Charlotte's death too. Jemimah didn't...

  3. Do you remember? The ABC made a series. Judy's death aired on my 16th birthday. I wept copiously through the celebrations. lol I hate reading to Ditz! When we get to the affecting part she stares at me intently & asks, "Are you alright?" I always say yes; it is never true & Ditz knows it. *sigh* I am not reading Gwilliam's death by coal aloud to that child!

  4. Strange you should post this today as I am preparing a post for Remembrance Day and because the book I am reading is sad, I had made mention of some of the ones I found hard to get through!
    but you must understand I blubber easily! And not always just in sad bits, it might be heroism or any old thing! I have cried in Little House, Anne of Green Gables, many christian biographies, Black Dog ( A children's book by Pamela Allen, do you know it? I could never put my finger on why but I found it....a little dark.)
    But for sure, Judy's death is one of the hardest reads I remember. As soon as I saw "Without a doubt she was the worst of the seven" in my reader, I knew it would be a post about that!
    Might I add that I regularly cry through scripture readings, prayers, psalms, movies whether they are meant to be tear jurkers or not and at other most inappropriate times. Yes, I am a cry baby. :-(

  5. P.S. My girls used to cry along with me, my boys usually just sit looking uncomfortable or ask if I want to stop for a while. I cried several times during the recent chapters of "I can Jump Puddles"

  6. This book sounds so good! I am going to see if I can round up a copy to read. Sometimes I even cry just reading and explaining the history lesson. My kids don't understand, either. *sigh*

  7. I bawled uncontrollably through "Dog of Flanders". My girls looked at me like I had lost the plot.

    On the other hand, I didn't cry when Norah's horse Bobs, died in the second Billabong book, but all the little girls did.

  8. The picture book, Old Pig, by Margaret Wild. I cry every time.

  9. Aha...BB, the animal deaths are always teary. Jack being swept away, (and Ma driving the wagon) in LH always did me in! I see that children's priorities are different from ours.

  10. Little women, I didn't red that book again after ten tragic death of Beth.

    I started to read Three Little Maids by Ethel Turner and I just loved the language that Turner used such as "the moonbeams lay quiet on the smooth white counterpane of the canopied bed".

  11. Oh yes, we read this earlier in the year and we cried...well the girls and I did at least! And we cried again during Little Women...and Charlotte's Web...love those books though. Love any book that can make me laugh out loud or sob silently! Aren't books wonderful!

  12. Throwing my tissues into the ring here as another who is moved to tears frequently. Definitely in Little Women, the Anne books, Gene Stratton Porter's books, Pollyana. Oh, and Love You Forever was often demanded for me to read it aloud to a class. Why I asked my students? They liked to see me cry, they admitted!

  13. I'm jumping on the bandwagon with Charlotte's Web and Little Women. Also, Tiny Girl sobbed uncontrollably over Little House in the Green Grove when Freddie dies AND when Ragweed dies in Avi's Poppy series. She's very tenderhearted.

  14. Thanks for this post.
    I have been looking for the book...is it this one? Seven Little Australians Harback June 2005:
    Ethel Turner, Illustrated by John Lennox, ISBN 13: 9780642276308?
    I was wondering where to buy it?

  15. I cried for a week at the end of 7 Little Australians, but obviously;) I love the story. Are you aware there are sequels?


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