The Growing Summer by Noel Streatfeild was first published in 1966 but my copy is a 1973 Puffin reprint and has illustrations by Edward Ardizonne. It was serialised for children’s TV in the 1970s.
If you’re a children’s author the first thing you have to do is get rid of the parents quickly because as we all know parents put a dampener on adventures. In no time flat the four children of the Gareth family are dispatched to Ireland to stay with their Great-Aunt Dymphna. Their father had gone to Australia for a year and had become seriously ill there so their mother went out to join him. Dymphna is a complete stranger to them but they have no other relatives to look after them and Dymphna feels it’s her duty to take them in.
They soon discover that she’s very odd, in fact the locals think she’s a bit of a witch. It’s just that Dymphna is really just a wee bit ‘away with the fairies’. She’s steeped in a certain type of children’s literature – Alice in Wonderland, Edward Lear, Kipling, G.K. Chesterton and such and enjoys quoting bits from them.
Dymphna’s house is a big ramshackle place full of broken furniture and ornaments, she loves nothing more than a sale of stuff that nobody else wants, but she thinks that by taking the children in she has done her bit, she expects them to look after themselves, wash their own clothes, buy and cook their food – and as their mother had done everything for them at home they were pretty clueless apart from being able to boil eggs. An unexpected visitor that they have to keep quiet about causes them even more problems.
I enjoyed this one and wish I had seen the TV serial of it which was made by London Weekend Television in 1968.
One of those strange coincidences that crop up amongst readers is that the poem below also featured in the Angela Brazil book (For the Sake of the School) that I read just before reading this one, and I had never come across it before.
Up the airy mountain,
Down the rushy glen,
We daren’t go a hunting,
For fear of little men.
by William Allingham
Apple Bough by Noel Streatfeild was first published in 1962 and it’s about the Forum family which consists of two boys and two girls. Their parents are quite feckless really where the children are concerned as they’re both more interested in their own lives, the father being a musician and the mother has taken up painting – to the exclusion of just about everything else. Money is always a problem, but when it turns out that the eldest boy Sebastian is a gifted violinist Miss Popple is employed to teach all of the children as an ordinary school is of no use to Sebastian.
Apple Bough is the name of the family home and they all love it, but Sebastian’s talent means that they end up travelling the world in his wake, something which seems exciting to begin with but soon palls as far as the other children are concerned. The parents are far too busy enjoying themselves at all the parties involved and being the parents of a child prodigy that it never occurs to them that the three other children are losing out on having lives of their own. The children are more mature than their parents are as quite often happens in some families. Eventually it all ends well though. This was an enjoyable read albeit a bit unlikely and far-fetched at times.
The House in Cornwall by Noel Streatfeild was first published in 1940 and was probably aimed at children aged 10 or over but I found it to be a good read. The advent of World War 2 undoubtedly galvanised many authors and inspired them to write about wartime. Streatfeild doesn’t mention the war at all, which may not quite have begun when she wrote the book but she was certainly influenced by all the shenanigans going on in Eastern Europe due to Hitler’s ‘lebensraum’ invasions.
The book begins with a railway journey from Paddington Station, four siblings are travelling to Cornwall where they are going to stay with their great-uncle for a six week holiday, they’ve never met their uncle before, but they know that their father doesn’t like the uncle. It’s just a desperate family situation that has led to the visit.
But when the children reach their destination they feel that they are being treated more like prisoners, there are guards in and around the house and during the night the children can hear what sounds like a child crying somewhere nearby. They’re determined to find out what is going on.
There is danger, secrets and revolution in the house in Cornwall. This is a tense read and I would have loved it if I had read it as a child, it’s not at all bad if you’re an awful lot older.
I’ve often seen copies of King Albert’s Book but as they’re over 100 years old they’re quite often in bad shape with torn pages, missing illustrations (they’re sort of tipped in) or drawn on. The book was sold in aid of the Belgian refugees at the beginning of World War 1 and published by The Daily Telegraph in conjunction with The Daily Sketch and The Glasgow Herald so there are quite a lot of them about. Basically it contains words of support for the Belgian people from many of the great and good of the day. There are illustrations by Edmund Dulac and Arthur Rackham to name a couple, pieces of music written by Elgar and Debussy and others. I bought it for all of £3. Beside it was a copy of Queen Alexandra’s Christmas Gift Book which I’ve never seen before. Again, this was sold for charity, but was published in 1908. She was apparently a keen photographer so it’s full of paper copies of many of her photos, tipped in as if they were in a photo album. There are a lot of family groups – the Empress of Russia appears a lot, but there are also photos of fjords and other places she visited and ships, including The Nimrod which was Captain Shackleton on his way to the South Pole in 1907. Another three quid – what a snip!
The Glory of the Garden – snippets from Country Life magazine over the years.
The Strongest Weapon by Notburga Tilt (an Austrian Resistance member in WW2 – signed.)
Dunbar’s Cove by Borden Deal. I’ve never even heard of this book but it seems to be well liked on Goodreads. I’m shocked to see that a copy with the dust jacket just like mine is on sale on Amazon for over £220. Mine cost £1.
Now comes a clutch of crime fiction.
The Mystery of the Blue Train by Agatha Christie
Peril at End House by Agatha Christie
Penhallow by Georgette Heyer (I’ve already read this one but I didn’t have a copy)
The Doomed Five by Carolyn Wells
Lastly some children’s books.
The House in Cornwall by Noel Streatfeild
The Spanish Letters by Mollie Hunter
The Sprig of Broom by Barbara Willard
These Happy Golden Years by Laura Ingalls Wilder
Three of those are Puffin books and I have a feeling that I might just have inadvertently started a bit of a collection as I think I bought a couple a few weeks ago.