recess radio program

11/15/05
Monty Python's Children's Books
    by Kevin Shortsleeve

You've heard of Monty Python, the television show. You've probably seen at least one of the Monty Python movies, and it's not at all unlikely that a friend has played you one of his Monty Python records over and over again at one time or another. What you may not be aware of, however, is Monty Python: the children's books. It should not be so surprising after all, that various members of a comedy troupe so steeped in nonsense would, from time to time, turn to children's fiction as a creative outlet.

Michael Palin, best known perhaps as the man who wants to have an argument, has gone on from Python and written a number of novels, including the young adult fantasy, The Mirror Stone, published in 1986. In 1987, he released a collection of limericks and more recently recorded a narration to Simon and Schuster's audio book of Jack and the Beanstalk. Along with Terry Jones, the Python member who often appeared in his birthday suit playing the organ in the television show, Palin collaborated on a book they called Dr. Feggs' Encyclopedia of All World Knowledge. Released in 1985, it is described as "a wide ranging compendium of nonsense for Boys and Girls." Terry Jones, actually, has been the busiest Python working in the name of children's entertainment, most notoriously perhaps with his 1998 release Lady Cottington's Pressed Fairy Book. The book is a mock diary describing a certain Lady Cottington and the fairies she captured in her garden and then attempted to "preserve" like flowers, by pressing them into her book. Jones has also released a number of successful original fairy tales such as Nicobobinus, A Fish of the World, and The Beast With a Thousand Teeth. Like Palin, Jones lent his voice to audio books of children's classics such as The Wind in the Willows and others. Terry Gilliam, the animator on the team who created the Monty Python title sequence and animated links, released a novel and a film based on the old German fairy tale, The Adventures of Baron Munchausen. Eric Idle, who wrote songs for the team such as "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life," has recorded audio books of a number of children's classics including The Owl and the Pussy Cat, The Pied Piper, The Frog Prince, and The Secret of Nimh. And last but not least, John Cleese, the Minister of Silly Walks himself, recorded an audio book version of Did I Ever Tell How Luck You Are by Dr. Seuss. So tonight at bedtime, why not pick up a Monty Python children's book--or tape--, turn to your kids and say "And now for something completely different."

Copyright 2005 Kevin Shortsleeve

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