“She saw: first, a square opening, about eight inches wide, in the lowest step…finally, she saw that there was a walnut shell, or half one, outside the nearest door…. She went to look at the shell—but looked with the greatest astonishment. There was a baby in it.”
So ten-year-old Maria, the orphaned mistress of Malplaquet, discovers the secret of her deteriorating estate: On a deserted island at its far corner, in the temple long ago nicknamed Mistress Masham’s Repose, lives an entire community of people—“the People,” as they call themselves—all only inches tall. With the help of her only friend—the absurdly erudite Professor—Maria soon learns that this settlement is no less than the kingdom of Lilliput (first seen in Gulliver’s Travels) in exile. Safely hidden for centuries, the Lilliputians are at first endangered by Maria’s well-meaning but clumsy attempts to make their lives easier, but their situation grows truly ominous when they are discovered by Maria’s greedy guardians, who look at the People and see only a bundle of money.
About the Author
T(erence) H(anbury) White (1906-1964) was born in Bombay, India, and educated at Cambridge University. His childhood was unhappy”my parents loathed each other,” he later wroteand he became a solitary person with a deep fund of strange lore and unusual enthusiasms. Fascinated by medieval life and legend, White taught himself Latin shorthand and translated a Latin bestiary. He taught himself the ancient art of falconry, which he wrote about in his book The Goshawk. Indeed, it was as a writer that he became famous, most of all for The Once and Future King, his wonderful retelling of the stories of King Arthur. An exceptional fisherman, an airplane pilot, and a deep-sea diver, T. H. White seemed to follow the same advice he has Merlin give in The Once and Future King: “The best thing for being sad is to learn something.”
Fritz Eichenberg (1901-1990) was born and raised in Germany, where he became a successful political cartoonist. The rise of Hitler made him worry about his family’s safety, and in 1933 he left Germany for the United States, where he illustrated classics such as Crime and Punishment and Wuthering Heights, along with the pages of Dorothy Day’s radical news-sheet The Catholic Worker. Eichenberg also founded the Pratt Graphic Arts Center in Manhattan. He considered his teaching work “ a debt I have paid off to this country. . . . I’m very fond of America as a country that has welcomed so many people from different parts of the world without asking questions.”