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Rachel Reviews: The It-Doesn't-Matter Suit and Other Stories by Sylvia Plath

Sylvia Plath's book of children's stories and verse is funny, original and magical and has that repetitive rhythmic quality for easy reading

By Rachel DeemingPublished 3 months ago Updated 3 months ago 3 min read
Top Story - December 2023
20
Photo credit: Rollie McKenna

I had no idea that Sylvia Plath wrote children's stories and I'm not sure why this surprised me so much. I purchased this book on a whim in a charity shop, out of curiosity but also because I have not really read much of Plath's work. I'm not sure why that is really. I think that my perception of Plath is of someone battling with depression and so my view of what her work may contain or the subjects that her compositions may be about has been tainted somewhat. I'm not saying that that has put me off but likewise, that assumption may not have drawn me in. I have rectified this by ordering "The Bell Jar" and will report back on my impressions in due course.

This view may also have been reinforced by a poem of hers called "Mirror", which I must confess, is the only work of hers before this collection that I've read (shameful!), it being about a woman who's ageing and doesn't really like what she sees reflected back as a result.

The cover of the book

The It-Doesn't-Matter Suit and Other Stories, however, does much to present Plath in a more favourable light as it contains two stories and a poem aimed at children, and as a result, is filled with quirky characters and episodes and events that have elements of family and magic and all round goodness in them. I suppose, as a starter to Plath, these gentle stories do lead you in gently and if anyone ever asks me if I have read Sylvia Plath, I can answer "Yes" in earnest.

The first The It-Doesn't-Matter Suit is a tale of a boy called Max desperate to have a suit of his own but before it becomes his, it has to go through a whole load of transformation until eventually, he gets to wear it. You could read some deeper message into this about individuality and not pigeonholing yourself into a certain mindset or group of habits from what happens in the story, or you could simply read it as a funny little tale of a boy and his aspirations for a suit to suit. Either way, it has charm. I think that the days of children wearing suits of daily activity may be a long way behind us now - my kids prefer loose fitting elasticated "tracky pants" and the thought of wearing anything tailored produces a grimace equivalent to being told they need to put on a suit of armour - and so, this may be a story of its time but I liked it.

The second story is Mrs Cherry's Kitchen which was my favourite. It is slightly surreal, involves pixies and some appliances who want to diversify their roles in the kitchen and again, like The It-Doesn't-Matter Suit, you could probably read some deeper meaning into it but I read it as a tale of silliness, resulting in chaos which is all reordered by the end.

The final entry is a poem of four-line verse called The Bed Book, which is an exploration of the many properties that beds can have and, I would surmise, seeing the bed as an area to indulge in play-pretend. I liked this one the least despite its rhythm and fun and again, it may be of its time when kids were less entertained and had to find ways to entertain themselves.

The book has a quality of a time gone by so I'm not sure how well today's child would relate to it without some parental encouragement but worth exploring for its provenance? Maybe. It's not the best children's book I've ever read but it is by no means the worst either. It contains nothing really that makes it stand out other than its famous author.

Rachel Rating: 3/5 stars

Parts of this review were first published on Reedsy Discovery:

Thanks for stopping by. If you have read the book, please let me know your thoughts on your reading of it. And, of course, if you've read this review, please do leave a comment as I love to interact with my readers.

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About the Creator

Rachel Deeming

Mum, blogger, crafter, reviewer, writer, traveller: I love to write and I am not limited by form. Here, you will find stories, articles, opinion pieces, poems, all of which reflect me: who I am, what I love, what I feel, how I view things.

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Comments (15)

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  • The Dani Writer2 months ago

    So glad I finally got around to reading this! Truly appreciative of your sharing. I LOVE children's books! I don't think I would have thought Sylvia Plath when rummaging the children's section before, but now it will be a consideration. Well done Top Story-an!

  • Marie Wilson3 months ago

    I also found my copy in a used bookstore; my kids & I have loved it through the years: it hadn't mattered to us that suits & bed-play might be outmoded - we found the writing & pics endlessly "charming" - your most accurate word for it! I'm a Plath fan. I hope you enjoy her other works. Ty for this review & congrats on TS!

  • Kendall Defoe 3 months ago

    Now, this was a revelation! I have read some poems - and 'The Bell Jar' is right beside my bed - but I had not a clue about these stories. Many thanks for your insights here. And now, I have more to read... ;)

  • Carminum3 months ago

    Just some weeks ago, I discovered her poems. I had certainly known of her and her position in literary history, and I had read a couple poems -- but I hadn’t properly gotten into her work yet. When I did, I was strongly struck by its fanged power, the originality and assurance of her imagery. (E.g., this is brilliant: “There is the sunlight, playing its blades, / Bored hoodlum in a red room / Where the wireless talks to itself like an elderly relative.”) Even so, I didn’t know about her writing for children either, so I much appreciate your review. Congrats on TS as well.

  • Caroline Jane3 months ago

    I did not know about her children's stories either. Looking forward to hear what you make of The Bell Jar. I have read it a few times. It is brilliant, and oddly I hate it and love it in equal measure. 😅❤️

  • Paul Stewart3 months ago

    Well done on the Top Story for this delightful review piece!

  • Babs Iverson3 months ago

    Marvelous review!!! Love it!!! 💕❤️❤️Congratulations on Top Story too!!!

  • Donna Fox (HKB)3 months ago

    This was such a great review! I also did not picture Sylvia as a children's author but I love that you discovered this and gave us such a great review of it! I also love that you ended your review with a Rachel Rating!! Made me smile! Congrats on Top Story and great work!

  • You can’t beat a good second hand store. Oh the treasures just waiting to be found. Congratulations on your top story. I loved this review

  • Celia in Underland3 months ago

    Glad this popped on TS. I haven't read any of your review yet and have been meaning too -This gave me the kick up the behing I needed! So firstly, congratulations! Secondly...she writes children's books??? I never knew that! I really like, 'The Bell Jar'. But definitely not for young people! I'm curious to read your thoughts on it 🤍

  • What a find! I love coming across something special in a second hand store. I’ve read a lot of Plath I would have had the biggest smile. Great review.

  • Shirley Belk3 months ago

    I love your review! And it makes me want to read her all of her works now. I love complex people...more layers to peel.

  • Jay Kantor3 months ago

    Dear RD - Well aren't you 'Something'...Here you are surprising us with another of your 'ecletic' topics. You always Gift me with 'Reach-Back' memories. I just have to share something with you: I wrote a 'Childrens' story when in High School (Got an 'A' on it...Hmm)  "LaRue the Lama Loved his Mama." Certainly not legalese of me; but fun to play with words. Your Vocal Neighbor, JB in L.A.

  • Paul Stewart3 months ago

    I think we are from the same position about Ms Plath...I grew up knowing that she wrote about feminism, depression and never felt...in my youthful 80s//90s boyhood that it was for me and I was not a massive fan of poetry. I wasn't sexist or down on depression...but I always thought it sounded very "depressing" So, yeah, I too did not know she had written anything beyond that lol and have not read anything in full by her yet. I will probably not get this book...but I have been thinking it may be time to cross off The Bell Jar from my long list of "should have already read" books...once I've read a collection of books I still need to work through last time I bought any. Anyway, that aside, I appreciate your reviews. Love the way you come at them from a fan of reading, obviously, I think that's hard to separate, but also are not afraid to give criticism...but you always give it with a certain warmth and back it up, so it doesn't sound like you are just taking a crap on someone's work. Well done, Rachel, is what I am saying. lol.

  • I've never even heard of Sylvia Plath before this 😅 The only children's stories I read when I was young was Enid Blyton's. At age 10, I moved on to horror so I guess that's why I've not heard of her. But the second story in the book, Mrs Cherry's Kitchen kinda reminded me of Enid Blyton so I think I would enjoy that!

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