Review of The Little Hunchback Zia by Frances Hodgson Burnett

“And it came to pass nigh upon nineteen hundred and sixteen years ago”

Front page, The Little Hunchback Zia

This begins Frances Hodgson Burnett’s little book published in 1916 about a rejected, deformed orphan boy who is sent to beg for the cruel woman who keeps him.

The Little Hunchback Zia

The Little Hunchback Zia

One day, hiding in the brush near the road to Bethlehem, he watches a surprising number of families and animals pass by on the road, playful and happy. But Zia falls asleep sobbing in unbearable loneliness.

The Little Hunchback Zia

Yet in the night Zia awakens smiling, feeling an unexplainable calm, without and within. Soon he sees one part of the sky growing lighter, and the sheep nearby suddenly attentive. In the darkness, a weary man walks slowly up the road, leading a donkey which carries a woman. A radiance surrounds her.

 

The Little Hunchback ZiaAlthough he thinks he is dreaming, Zia nevertheless feels compelled to follow them. And as the crippled and diseased boy climbs the steep hill toward Bethlehem, he does not waver or stumble.

Whatever had led Zia to Bethlehem now leads him to find the radiant woman and her husband in the mangers of the cave. The woman invites him to come near to the new born baby.

But he refuses, warning her that he is an unclean leper. Yet she insists. “Draw nigh,” the woman says, “and let his hand rest upon thee!”

Front cover, The Little Hunchback Zia

Zia obeys. He bows his head to the Holy child and feels the feather light touch of his tiny fingers. Soon Zia is healthy and standing upright for the first time in his life.

Frances Hodgson Burnett, the well-known author of The Secret Garden, Little Lord Fauntleroy, and many other books, writes in a way that immediately engages and grips her reader. Every page of this little book seemed to draw me deeper into Zia’s experiences and emotions. Even though the story is based on the well-known events in the Bible, and the ending is predictable, every compassionate word of this beautiful story is precious.

The intricately drawn illustrations were done by Spencer Baird Nichols and W.T. Benda. I always love it when a book has a beautifully hand-written presentation in the front pages, and this brand-new book was a gift to a Sunday School student for faithful attendance during 1916.

Inscription, The Little Hunchback Zia

You can buy a printed copy of this sweet book on Amazon, read the Kindle version for free on Amazon, and various versions for free on www.gutenberg.org, www.childrenslibrary.org, and http://www.online-literature.com/burnett/3042/ .

Fair’s Fair in Calgary

Fair’s Fair is my favorite used book store in Calgary, actually a “chain”, with 5 locations around the city. They are a joy to browse because they are organized, neat, well-lit, clean, well-labelled and full of near-new books (that is, except for their wonderful vintage books!). The staff at all locations are friendly and helpful.

A few weeks ago, I bought a gift for a friend, encouraged in the baby shower invitation to bring a gently used favorite book, signed, in place of a card. What a sweet idea! I had borrowed The Rosie Project through my library, and found it at Fair’s Fair’s central location. This is where they have their warehouse, an enormous facility with endless shelves going up to the ceiling. I especially appreciated their shelves set aside for award-winning books, like Pulitzer Prize winners.

As I went to buy the book, the children’s shelf caught my eye, one sweet little board book in particular, Guess How Much I Love You. I bought that one, too. (Guess how much they cost—only $15! And a week later as I was buying baby clothes, I amazingly ran across a cute little pink Guess How Much I Love You outfit.)

Rosie Project  Guess how much I love You

Recently I had the privilege of browsing the vintage children’s books at the Mount Royal (17th Avenue SW) store. It was breathtaking. I’ve never seen so many beautiful classic books for young adults and children in one place. All the usual books and collections were represented there, including Nancy Drew, Elsie Dinsmore, school readers, fairy tales, classics like Alice in Wonderland and Bambi, Mother Goose, the My Book House series, Dr. Seuss, Winnie the Pooh, and the Journeys through Bookland series.

I had brought in books to trade, and they gave me credit for half of them (which is actually quite good, as they are picky). I turned right around and used that credit for these gems…

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The Little Hunchback Zia, published 1915, by Frances Hodgson Burnett (the author of the well-known The Secret Garden and A Little Princess)
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Sam’s Mission, by Beatrice Marshall, published 1892

 

Lonely Lily by M.L. Code, published 1893
Lonely Lily by M.L. Code, published 1893

(I’ll post more about these three soon!)

So remember that if you live in the Calgary area, or are passing through, Fair’s Fair is worth a visit!