He Also Wrote Children's Books
With the exception of a thoughtful passage in John Fraser's remebrance of the late great Mordecai Richler, the magnificent legacy that he left to Canadian children's literature was sloughed off. That's no surprise really¨the adult literary world doesn't regard children's literature as its equal. After all, these are only books for children¨how good do they have to be? What does it matter that some of the obits got the number of children's books he actually wrote wrong or that others described these splendid comic novels as merely children's storybooks as if these finely crafted comedies were just piffle and not to be celebrated along with Richler's obviously richer adult masterpieces. But the hand that penned Barney's Version and Solomon Gursky and Duddy Kravitz penned the three Jacob Two-Two books as well, and while Richler wrote them for a younger audience, he certainly didn't write down to that audience. That no mention was made of Richler having won the Ontario Arts Council's very first Ruth Schwartz Children's Book Award for Jacob Two-Two and the Hooded Fang is shameful because Richler's book helped set the tone for excellence in Canadian children's literature that the prestitigious Schwartz Award has stood for since 1976. That first Jacob Two-Two novel also won the Canadian Library Association's Children's Book of the Year¨another important Canadian book award. The third book in the series, Jacob Two-Two's First Spy Case, won the Mr. Christie Book Award, another feather in Richler's literary cap¨again not mentioned anywhere in the aftermath of the great man's passing.
And yet, Jacob Two-Two is an exceptionally important literary creation in Canadian children's literarture not only because of the delicious way that Jacob succeeds in each book¨foilng the evil plans of the Hooded Fang, aiding and abetting Dippy the Dinosaur and putting an end to the perfidious hi-jinks of horrible headmaster I.M. Greedyguts, but because he is also Richler's richest legacy to his children. They are all a part of these hilarious books¨Daniel, Marfa, Noah and Emma (better known as the Terrible Two aka Child Power) and, of course, Jacob who will be two plus two plus two years old forever in the minds and hearts of the children who follow his adventures.
Who will ever forget discovering that it is the dreaded Hooded Fang himself who slips Jacob chocolate bars in an attempt to inspire fear and terror or the digusting school lunches cooked up by perfectly Loathsome Leo Louse whose miserly ways make us howl with glee.
Books in Canada would like raise a glass and hoist the petard in memory of that other Mordecai Richler, the one who wrote children's books and whose legacy includers a unique Canadian hero who might have to say everything twice because he is the youngest but who is well worth listening to¨as Dippy the Dinosaur would say,"Hooray for Mordecai Richler and for Jacob Two-Two!!"
Jeffrey Canton, Editor, Children's Books Section