I've been posting here about The Borribles for more than a decade (proof!). Michael de Larrabeiti's young adult fantasy trilogy from the 1980s remains among my most favourite examples of both YA literature and literature about London. The books detail the lives of the Borribles, a race of elfin, pointy-eared changelings, whose number swells every time a naughty child simply walks away from home and begins a new life as an immortal, pointy-eared trickster. The Borribles live by a strict code: they never work, only thieve; they do not handle or covet money; they squat in derelict buildings, and they must earn their names by completing a daring adventure, such as taking up arms against the hateful Rumbles, a race of covetous, materialistic overgrown rodents who inhabit an underground world called Rumbledom.
Today, Tor UK is relaunching The Borribles for a new generation as three ebooks with lots of extra art and other supplementary material. They're also still publishing the UK omnibus edition a (the great Tor Teen US paperbacks are sadly out of print, though easy enough to get used). Only the ebook comes with China Mieville's wonderful introduction.
This is simply great news. De Larrabeiti's books are a magnificent love-poem to the city of London, as well as a celebration of all that is anarchic and anti-authoritarian about childhood. Indeed, the books are so anarchic that Collins Publishers reneged on publishing the third book, The Borribles: Across the Dark Metropolis, on the eve of the Brixton riots, because "the battle between law and lawlessness is glamourised and given a status," which they felt was inappropriate "now that Britain has entered a new era in which this battle is a daily reality":
It's really hard to imagine a better endorsement for the book than that cowardly letter from 1985, isn't it?
Like every good kids' book, the Borribles is a dangerous one, one that will give your children weird and perilous ideas. It certainly did that for me.
The Borribles began as a bedtime story told to de Larrabeiti's daughters, who have graced us with a pair of essays that we'll be running tomorrow, along with some of de Larrabeiti's original sketches for the books and some of their family photos. And the day after, we'll be running a chapter from The Borribles that Tor UK has given to us.
I sincerely hope that you give these books a try. They are full of romance — in the sense of far-away places that beckon you away from the dreary normalcy of your daily live — adventure, thrills, chases, fights, camaraderie, nobility, betrayal: everything you could possibly ask for in kids' literature.
The Borribles [Ebook]
The Borribles [Print]