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The Box of Delights, or When the Wolves Were Running, is the sequel to The Midnight Folk by this sometime Poet-Laureate. So again we enjoy a charming young hero named Kay Harker, home from school for the Christmas holidays and experiencing another round of adventures involving wicked witches, talking beasts, ancient philosophers (of the Nicolas Flamel variety), mythical figures, and an appalling crime wave which can only be stopped by a boy with a magical box. And sometimes it seems as if it all might be a dream…
Its hard not to love young Kay, who accepts magic and perilous adventures as a matter of course, and who labors heart-and-soul to save good folks from the seminarians-cum-burglars who have scrobbled them. Leading the forces of evil are a couple of witches we are familiar with from The Midnight Folk: Abner Brown and Kays own former governess, Sylvia Daisy Pouncer. This time Kay is aided by a box that, depending on what you do with it, can take you back into the past, make you very small, or transport you instantly to any place you wish to go.
Abner wants this box desperately. He wants it to exchange for the Elixir of Life, whose discoverer he has scrobbled (Masefield does like that word) along with Kays guardian, his friend Peter, and the entire staff of the Tatchester Cathedral. As the cathedrals 1000th Christmas draws near, and Abner draws a web of really dark wizardry around the whole area, it looks as if something drastic must happen to prevent the millennial Christmas midnight service from being scuttled.
This book is truly a fine magical adventure in the same tradition as E. Nesbits Psammead tales and Susan Coopers The Dark Is Rising sequence. Judging by the number of excellent childrens authors who have done homage to it, it is a veritable classic. I am therefore outraged to find it out of print, and the first used copy I was able to obtain turns out to be an abridged version!
Dear publishers: when sales of the latest Flavor-of-the-Month begin to slow down, wont you consider reprinting a beloved classic like this? Dear readers and parents who want a shelf-ful of quality books to read to and be read by your children: wont you trouble yourself to make it worth the publishers while? Buy it, borrow it, share it around, tell people about it! Thats what you can do to help revive a worthy book. Sermon ended.