A Traveller in Time by Alison Uttley was first published in 1939. My copy is a lovely Folio edition which is illustrated by Omar Rayyan. It’s yet another children’s classic that I’ve only just got around to reading thanks to Constance who mentioned it on my blogpost about Uttley’s books for very small children. Th eauthor was very much influenced to write this book by her own childhood. She grew up in a house very close to the Babington manor house in the book and her father told her stories of those Elizabethan days as if he had lived them himself, and Alison Uttley visited them in her dreams.
A Traveller in Time is told by Penelope Taberner Cameron as she looks back to her childhood which began in London’s Chelsea where she was the youngest of three children and was regarded as being a bit ‘fey’. Possibly she has the second sight, or maybe she’s just a dreamer, her older siblings are happy to listen to her tales of the past. She’s prone to soar throats and her mother decides that Penelope needs to get out of the atmosphere of London to some fresh air. Aunt Tissie and Uncle Barnabas are contacted and they’re very happy to have all three children for the holidays at their manor house and farm called Thackers.
It isn’t long before Penelope finds herself slipping back in time when least expected and she becomes a much-loved member of the Babington household who are puzzled by her intermitent appearances but always happy to see her. Penelope knows her history so she realises that Anthony Babington, the eldest son of the house is on a path to a terrible end which she is powerless to change. Mary, Queen of Scots has been captive in England for years on the orders of her cousin Queen Elizabeth. Anthony is determined to rescue her and get her to safety in France.
This is a beautifully written book and it is such a shame that she didn’t write more books for older children. There are so many characters to like too so it was a treat to be in their company.
Apparently in 1978 the BBC dramatised the book, I don’t recall ever seeing it though. Do any of you remember it?
If you know the history of Mary, Queen of Scots you’ll be aware that she was moved around a lot over the twenty years that she was imprisoned, and several times she did manage to escape, in fact I’ve lost count of the amount of places I’ve been to that she has also walked around in. She was imprisoned in what was my childhood local castle Dumbarton Castle, and I believe escaped from there. More famously she escaped from Loch Leven Castle which is close to where I live now, you can see my blogpost about that here. Even closer is the hunting palace of the Stuarts Falkland Palace, which is a place that she loved in her younger years.
Mary Poppins Comes Back by P.L. Travers was first published in 1935 but my copy is a 1997 paperback. For years I thought there was only the one Mary Poppins book, but this one is the second of four. It’s illustrated by Mary Shepard.
Nothing seems to have gone right within the Banks household for ages, probably not since Mary Poppins left them in fact. The boot boy has polished Mr Banks’s bowler hat with boot polish and to make matters even worse Mr Banks has just had a letter from his old nanny. She’s coming to stay with them and he’s horrified by that idea. Lots of children’s nannies have come and gone since Mary Poppins left but nobody but Mary can cope with them. There are five children in the family so it is quite a handful, especially as they Miss Mary Poppins so much.
Mrs Banks is being driven mad by them all and she tells Jane and Michael to take the twins to the park in their perambulator. Michael takes his kite to fly and when it flies so high in the sky that they can’t see it the Park Keeper helps to haul on its string. But it isn’t their green and yellow kite which appears, it’s something navy blue and as it hurtles towards them they realise that it’s Mary Poppins – she has come back just as suddenly as she had left.
Mary Poppins is of course completely different from the Disney version, she leads the children into all sorts of adventures, they meet strange people and Mary Poppins isn’t at all sweet or even caring, but they have great fun.
Apparently P.L. Travers was so upset by the Disney film version of her first book that she stipulated in her will that no other films were to be made after her death.
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.
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.