Quill Hedgehog On His Way


Why don’t we have hedgehogs in the United States?001 002

According to the online National Geographic animal encyclopedia (animals.nationalgeographic.com), hedgehogs are about the size of three teacups. That is a perfect comparison, as hedgehogs are famously English. Some people there have them as sort-of pets. That’s because they eat garden pests.

We do not have hedgehogs in the United States, but we are lucky to be the birthplace of the Quill Hedgehog Adventure Series, three children’s books. John Muir Publications in Santa Fe took them on in 1980, no doubt recognizing their importance to the environmental movement. The author, an English teacher (medieval language and literature) and non-stipendiary Anglican priest, originated the anthropomorphic cautionary tales for his daughters in the1960s, and decided to publish them as a protest against pollution. There were three printings before what had become the largest press in New Mexico began to focus on its travel guides. Just a few Quill Hedgehog books were left to warn young readers to take better care of the planet Earth than their parents did.

In Book One, which I received as a gift from the author, youthful Quill sets out with eagerness to see the Great Beyond. He meets Horatio, a cat of noble lineage who turned tramp when the Wastelanders chased him out of his territory. These invading rats, led by a mangy cat (previously a lawyer), had ruined their own country by greed and were in the process of wrecking everything peaceful and fruitful in the Great Beyond with their destructive machines. Now Horatio is returning to claim his castle, and Quill is at his side.

The subject is modern, but the format of this “chapter book” is suggestive of the popular Wind in the Willows, written for his children by Kenneth Grahame in 1908, when England was still a green pasture and the lessons were about morality. It reminds me, too, of Watership Down (Richard Adams, 1972), where overpopulation was a theme. That novel, set in Hampshire, was presented to adults, and many of us devoured its message. It was both nostalgic and forward-looking.

QUILL’S ADVENTURES IN THE GREAT BEYOND (ISBN 1-56261-015-5) is similar in effect, but is a small paperback (85 pages) with charming illustrations and a map of the territory, by Doreen Edmond. The narrative is delightful to read, so precise is the author in his choice of words. American children might be puzzled by some of the nouns. If they are persuaded to look them up in the OED, they may be eased into their first “foreign” language.

At the moment, the Quill Hedgehog books are hard to find. After John Muir Press gave up their children’s list, three additional Quill Hedgehog books were published in England. Now all six will come back from near extinction by the magic of Kindle. Waddington-Feather also has published a Kindle mystery series for adults, featuring a detective-priest working against crime in West Yorkshire. His dismay in seeing the spread of urbanization is evident in those as well.



2 comments to Quill Hedgehog On His Way

  • It’s good to see John Waddington-Feather’s books back in circulation as e-books. He’s written some first-class work: The Quill Hedgehog Novels (reviewed excellently above, the Blake Hartley crime novels, the Chance Child trilogy of romantic historical novels and a wide variety of plays, one of which “Garlic Lane” made the London stage and was staged by many provincial theatres.

  • I wish more books were published like the Quill Hedgehog books. Their message of conservation wrapt up in well told tale is sorely needed in our generation. A gifted writer, John Waddington-Feather had penned a wide range of work, from children’s fantasy novels to historical romances and drama.

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