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The Last Slice of Rainbow by Joan Aiken - Review

Saturday, February 24, 2024

As I mentioned when I read The Silence of Herondale recently, I used to have this Joan Aiken book when I was very little, and absolutely loved it. It's one of the first books I remember loving, alongside Enid Blyton and Roald Dahl and others like them. I can remember it living on the shelf of my cabin bed in our tiny bedroom in the first house I lived it. God knows how many times I read it. I probably still have my original copy but it will be in the black hole of my mother's loft, so I just bought it again on eBay for a few quid. I picked it up and read it straight through. It is a children's book so not very complex, but the stories really give excellent depictions of fantasy worlds and like all good short stories drag you in immediately. I loved my reread!

The only story I remembered clearly was the titular one, about a little boy who wishes for a rainbow and then ends up having to give it all away. Rainbows are fleeting! You can't posess them! That's the moral of the first story and I was wondering if they would all have morals, but they don't. Which is good, but the mid eighties were a totally different time so I did wonder. I will also say that I wondered if there would be anything in this book that we would now consider 'problematic'. I'm thinking of Blyton and Dahl, both mentioned above, both of whom I really loved, but both of whom I now wouldn't read because of their racism, sexism, anti Semitism, and so on. Honestly children's literature has moved on so far in forty years which I'm really glad about, but it does make me nervous about revisiting some of my favourite books. However, I'm pleased to report that there wasn't anything in this book that I found offputting, which I'm glad about. 

As I read, I did remember another of the stories, in which a small boy called Tim gets tricked by a stone goblin. I loved that one, too. I didn't remember any others. I did think there was a bit of an over reliance on princesses and kings and queens, but that maybe was the fashion at the time. I liked the rich worlds of those stories anyway. I also liked that not all the protagonists of the stories were 'good'. We need a baddy every now and then! Maybe then they don't get their happy endings!

In all, I would recommend this for children these days as I think it would still go down well. My copy had some really lovely illustrations in it which I liked. I'm giving it four out of five. 

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