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A great shout-out

This is even better than Glenn Close invoking If You Give a Mouse a Cookie in Air Force One. Richard and I are up to season eight of MI-5 (Spooks to you Brits), which opens with the return of my lady-crush agent Ruth but whose emotional trajectory is provided by the team’s tech whiz and mild-mannered confirmed bachelor Malcolm, who finds himself awkwardly trying to comfort Ruth’s little stepson while under guard by scary gunmen, first ours then theirs.  In a quietly great performance by Hugh Simon, Malcolm at first (and hilariously) tries to distract the boy with backgammon but when it looks like the bad guys are about to execute them both, he instructs the boy to close his eyes while Malcolm tells him a story we (well, some of us) come to recognize as Philippa Pearce’s A Dog So Small, a chapter book published in 1962. A Dog So Small is kind of a Holy Book in these offices but I don’t think it ever had much of a life on this side of the pond. Brits: would viewers of this episode, first broadcast in 2009, have been expected to recognize the story (whose title Malcolm does not name)? Regardless, it was a mesmerizing piece of TV.

Roger Sutton About Roger Sutton

Roger Sutton has been the editor in chief of The Horn Book, Inc, since 1996. He was previously editor of The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books and a children's and young adult librarian. He received his M.A. in library science from the University of Chicago in 1982 and a B.A. from Pitzer College in 1978. Follow him on Twitter: @RogerReads.



  1. One of the highlights of our year was when we discovered MI-5 was available on Netflix streaming.
    We’ve now seen all 9 seasons, and cannot wait for season 10’s DVD release, which will sadly be the last.
    Ruth is my crush too. Was so happy when she returned.

  2. Roger Sutton Roger Sutton says:

    What’s tough about that show is something our marketing VP Andrew warned me about when I started watching the show: beloved characters get knocked off in a way and at a clip that would never be countenanced on American TV.

  3. True, Roger. It was tough parting with agents I had just gotten attached to. It might be the series’ weakness, but in my mind, it’s also its strength. Few series are still so fresh after 10 seasons.
    And I love that Harry stuck around, and that they brought Ruth and Malcolm back. Those were the most appealing characters to me, although I remain hopeful that Adam will show up again. Not because he was such a great character, but because he was so darn cute.

  4. Roger Sutton Roger Sutton says:

    Harry is my man-crush agent, and I didn’t even see him naked in Equus. I don’t think the sudden-death aspect is a weakness at all–it’s one way the show keeps viewers on their emotional toes, if that makes any sense.

  5. You’re right. Not a weakness. It certainly made my heart patter a little faster! Did Harry get naked in Equus too? I must look into that.

  6. I consulted on this question (“would British viewers be expected to get the reference?”) with my colleague Leah Thaxton, Fiction Publisher of Egmont UK. Her response “an emphatic no!!! This is way too subtle and left of field!” Still, it always makes me cheery when these references pop up. Back when I was the American publisher of the Frederick Warne imprint, I got a big laugh at sales conference showing a brief clip of Jack Nicholson, playing the husband in Heartburn, reading Jemima Puddle-duck to his daughter at breakfast. “‘Jemima was never a very good sitter.'” (Nicholson pauses) “What a story.”

  7. Roger Sutton says:

    Thanks, E. I must say, the feeling I always got from the old Horn Book crowd was that while Tom’s Midnight Garden was of course great, only the really cool kids got A Dog So Small. Like the cineaste who disdains an actor’s Oscar-winning turn in favor of his bit part in Wayne’s World.

  8. Roger, Did you guys happen to see the first season (just ended) of HOMELAND? It’s gripping and smart: well-written, well-acted. Problem: it was on SHOWTIME which costs extra but is worth the $$$$ because it also has THE BIG C with Laura Linney and Oliver Platt, BREAKING BAD, and DEXTER. All of them worth the price of admission.

    And PS: the American version of THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO is actually better than the Swedish. In my opinion.

  9. Roger Sutton Roger Sutton says:

    Lois, we LOVE Homeland. It’s such a great blend of action and intelligence. And Betty Carter gave us the first season of Justified, and now that I understand it’s not set in the 19th century, we’re going to watch it.

  10. I love Homeland too.
    thanks for sharing
    thanks Roger Sutton

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