Night Birds on Nantucket by Joan Aiken

Night Birds on Nantucket cover

I’m making my way through this Joan Aiken series featuring Dido Twite. This was the first of the series that I picked up at a secondhand bookshop, an original Puffin book which cost all of 25p when it was published in 1966, but as it comes third in the series I had to find and read the first two before getting around to this one.

I was attracted to the book because of the back cover blurb:

Here is a new adventure for Dido Twite (the enchanting heroine of Black Hearts in Battersea), waking from a long sleep to foil Miss Slighcarp, the wicked governess, in her plan to assassinate King James III by long-distance gun – and her greatest ally is a pink whale called Rosie.

Who could resist that craziness?!

Dido has been rescued from the sea by a whaling ship and slept for ten months, being fed on whale oil and molasses while she slept. When she wakes up the sailors have just caught a whale and are dealing with it (not a pleasant description) and Dido is sorry to hear that they can’t take her back to England immediately, they’re going in the opposite direction. The ship’s captain has a daughter on the ship, Dutiful Penitence is about the same age as Dido but is pining away after the death of her mother on board. Dido succeeds in making Pen take an interest in life again and together they get mixed up in another Hanoverian plot to kill King James III.

The long distance gun is so powerful it will blow Nantucket back as far as Atlantic City – a horrific thought apparently!

It’s a daft but fun read.

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang by Ian Fleming

chitty chitty bang bang cover

I bought my copy of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang by Ian Fleming very recently and I must admit that it was the fact that it is illustrated by John Burningham which tempted me to buy this edition. I am trying to work my way through any children’s classics which I missed out on when I was actually a child. The book was first published in 1964, when I was only 5 years old and was probably aimed at kids who were a few years older than that.

However this is a really enjoyable read for children of all ages although if you’ve seen the film you might be a bit disappointed that the book is so different. There’s no Truly Scrumptious nor Grandfather and they don’t wheech off to a fairytale castle, although they do fly over to France. Unusually of course Ian Fleming didn’t get rid of the parents, the Pott children, Jeremy and Jemima have a father AND mother in the book, Caractacus and Mimsie, although the mother is so shadowy a character she might as well not be there at all. There is a Lord Skrumshus who owns a sweet factory though.

Obviously the film makers took a great idea and ran with it – off to an even crazier land than Fleming had imagined.

You can see images from the book here.