Black and Littlejack are bad men. Littlejack has a map that indicates the existence of a treasure on a far and lonely island. He needs a ship to get there. Black has a ship. So they team up and sail off on Black's vessel, the "Aeiu." "A weird uncanny name," remarks Littlejack, "like a nightbird screaming." Black explains that it's all the vowels except for O. O he hates since his mother got wedged in a porthole. They couldn't pull her in so they had to push her out.
Black and Littlejack arrive at the port of the far and lonely island and demand the treasure. No one knows anything about it, so they have their henchmen ransack the place—to no avail. But Black has a better idea: he will take over the island and he will purge it of O.
The vicissitudes visited on the islanders by Black and Littlejack, the harsh limits of a life sans O (where shoe is she and woe is we), and how finally with a little luck and lots of pluck the islanders shake off their tyrannical interlopers and discover the true treasure for themselves (Oh yes—and get back their O's)—these are only some of the surprises that await readers of James Thurber's timelessly zany fairy tale about two louts who try to lock up the language—and lose.
James Thurber (1894-1961) was one of the outstanding American humorists and cartoonists of the twentieth century. Thurber wrote nearly forty books, including collections of essays, short stories, fables, and children's stories. Marc Simont has illustrated nearly a hundred books. He won a Caldecott Honor in 1950 for illustrating Ruth Krauss's The Happy Day, and in 1957 he was awarded the Caldecott Medal for his pictures in A Tree Is Nice by Janice May Udry.
The period coloured illustrations add to the charm to make a very inviting book. School Librarian Linguistic romp with an important lesson at its heart. London Review of Books A tale of loss, liberty and language laced with typical Thuberian wit. London Review of Books
New York Review of Books
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New York Review Children's Collection