Cockle Button, Cockle Ben by Richard Phibbs

 Cockle Button, Cockle Ben cover

Cockle Button, Cockle Ben by Richard Phibbs was first published in 1940 and it’s one of the books that I bought at a great secondhand bookshop in Aberdeen. Actually I bought a pile of books there and for that reason I swithered over adding this one to the pile, but the great cover art persuaded me, it’s so of its time and somehow cheery looking.

It’s a collection of six short stories for children and while flicking through the book the words ‘air raid’ jumped out at me from a page. This seemed like a very strange thing to be featured in a children’s book, I was intrigued. It was the third story called Mary Luz and Mary Sol which contained an air raid, but it turned out that it must have been a Spanish civil war air raid. The editor must have thought that as the story was being published in wartime Britain it would be a good one for youngsters who would be experiencing bombs being dropped in their neighbourhood, it still seems a bit strange to me though.

The first story – Cockle Button, Cockle Ben is about two Plymouth Rock chickens, Cockle Button isn’t a good layer but the farmer’s wife wants to show them at the May Fair, however they think that the differences in their routine must mean they are being readied for the chop and make an escape bid. Parts of this story reminded me of the film Chicken Run.

The second story – Kitty Alone features cats, and the fourth one – Jacka’nory is a tale about a feckless man. The fifth The Mist-Woman of the Mountain is about a young boy who takes his mother’s beloved clock to be mended, with disastrous results and the sixth story – The Roll of Red Flannel is about a toyshop owner whose business is failing until he has an idea which transforms his fortunes.

This collection of children’s tales is very different from books for children that are being published nowadays and in truth for me it was the art work which I appreciated most, it’s very much of its time, the illustrator was Gladys M. Rees, whom I had never heard of before. You can see some of her work here.

This is what the endpapers looked like.

Book Endpapers

Aberdeen book purchases

Jack had done his homework and looked up the addresses of the secondhand bookshops in Aberdeen before we got there. There’s a great online directory that you can see here.

So when we were in Aberdeen the first port of call was Old Aberdeen Bookshop, which took us to a part of the city we hadn’t been to before. It was my kind of place, not very big but crammed with books, double parked on the shelves and piled all over the floor. I dug into the piles and Jack even found a couple of books there he knew I would like, so it’s not all my fault! But I thought I had only bought five books there – it turns out it was much worse than that. It’s a real mixed bag and showcases my catholic taste I suppose.

Books Again

The Enchanted Land (1906) by Scottish author Louey Chisholm and illustrated by another Scot Katharine Cameron. The illustrations are really enchanting and you can see some of her work here.

The other book for children (of all ages) that I bought is Cockle Button, Cockle Ben (1943) by Richard Phibbs and illustrated by Gladys M. Rees which has very different illustrations but is very much of its time and is almost equally charming.

Jack found Money by Emile Zola for me, another one to add to my Classics Club list.

He also found Wolf Among Wolves by Hans Fallada, a great find as his books rarely pop up in secondhand bookshops – at a reasonable price anyway.

The last three are all by the Scottish author Jane Duncan who also writes as Janet Sandison.
My Friend Flora
My Friend Muriel and
My Friends the Miss Boyds

I read some of her books back in the 1970s when they were very popular but I can’t remember anything about them. The blurb is hopeful though, one front cover says: A riotous romp – moving, funny, fresh and alive. They might be the perfect light reading for when the news is too depressing.

Have you read any of these books?