Saturday, April 30, 2011

Penny Foolish Frontispiece

Still on Chapter 1 of Penny Foolish, here is the frontispiece of the book. After being considerably comforted after meeting Mrs. Fergus, Penny is further consoled after settling into her room, which affords her an excellent view of the island.

Quote of the Day

Mrs. Fergus was standing there ready to greet them.
Already now in this unwelcome exile to the wilds of Scotland Penny had found two reassuring things: the first was the loveliness of this island where she had landed - the hills and the soft colours and the distant sea; and the second was Mrs. Fergus. Mrs. Fergus had the kindest face that Penny had ever seen. Her grey hair was neatly drawn into a bun, her smile was sweet and gentle and her eyes were wrinkled with laughter.
"Och, Doctor Henry, I am just delighted to see you," said Mrs. Fergus, beaming. "and this is the wee lassie..." and she took Penny's hand in her work-hardened one. She spoke in a soft Highland voice, pronouncing her s's as "ss" and her "j's" as "ch". Penny smiled back at her and felt slightly less strange and homesick.

From PENNY FOOLISH, Chapter 1, Exile for Penny. To help her recuperate after a bout of typhoid fever, Penny's father decides that his daughter needs country air and decides to send her to Arran, a beautiful island just off the Ayrshire coast in Scotland, to stay with Mrs. Fergus. Penny is less than enthusiastic at first, but when she arrives on Arran, she begins to cheer up.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Quote of the Day

"Ann, just calm down and tell us what this is all about."
"Well..." This was just what Ann liked, to be passing on the news, the more sensational the better. Midge often said that she must have been a town crier in a previous existence. "Well," she said, "there'th a cutting from the Advertither up on the board, and it'th a photo of Thuthan - no, it couldn't be Gabrielle, it'th Thuthan - and underneath it thayth thomething about the unknown thcoolgirl running to the rethcue of Dennith Thrpinger who wath chucked off a merry-go-round during the Gingerbread Fair latht week - and go and thee for yourthelveth if you don't believe me."
The crowd in the common-room now rushed out to see the news-board, and those who had already gone rushed back. "It's true!" they said. "Photo of Susan up on the board," and they all turned and gazed at Susan, who went bright red.

From SUSAN'S TRYING TERM, Chapter 7, Shocks. Poor Ann Burton's lisp is used to great comic effect in this book. I wonder if this sort of thing would survive the editor's scrutiny today, although Susan does point out that she likes Ann, describing her as "brainy".


From New House at Northmead. To get Lynette from Africa interested in all things English, Nicky and Kay take her on a visit to the stately home of Lord Claire. They are lucky enough to get their guided tour from the old boy himself. Lynette falls in love with the place, although the girls are not so keen on the mysterious Green Gallery, which Lord Claire claims is haunted! 

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Quote of the Day

Penny didn't much fancy scrabbling about in the undergrowth half-way up a cliff. "I thought I'd go to the village," she said, "and look for something to buy with the money Daddy gave me."
Dr. Carter, much afflicted in the past by his daughters' expensive souvenir-buying, had that morning handed them each what seemed to Penny an enormous number of francs. "That's for spending and postcard-buying and souvenirs and everything," he said, "and don't come to me for any more, and don't go to your mother either and ask her to buy you things."
"Oh, we won't," said Penny. "All those francs!"
"It's only just over a pound," said Jill.
"Well, even a pound," said Penny. "I don't know when I had a pound, just to spend!"

From TWOPENCE COLOURED, Chapter 7, Penny Buys a Picture.

Adventures of a Snowman

Here's something a bit different, an illustration from The Adventures of a Snowman. This story was published in the Collins' Girls' Annual 1954 and reprinted in The Crackerjack Book for Girls in 1959. 

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Quote of the Day

Selina suddenly flung out her arms again with joyous abandon. "Let's dance!" she cried. Gabrielle ran to a radiogram in the corner and put on a record and, to the horror of Susan and Midge, began to dance round the room. Selina gaily dragged Susan and Midge to their feet. Hideously embarrassed, Midge and Susan thumped round like elephants.
When the record, which of course was a long-playing one, did at last stop after what seemed like a couple of centuries to Midge and Susan, Selina said, "Now I feel thoroughly refreshed! I know I could throw a superb pot-"
While the girls would have enjoyed seeing her throw pots about, they felt that this was their chance to get out of the house, so as soon as they decently could, they muttered polite thanks for coffee and cakes and took themselves off.

From SUSAN RUSHES IN, Chapter 1, A Job for Susan, describing the girls' first encounter with Selina Gascoigne.

House Night

A scene from Susan at School. When St. Mark's hold House Night, they invite everyone to dress up as monsters. Susan suggests that the Remove should go as the Loch Ness Monster. Everything goes well until Susan remembers that she has forgotten Diana upstairs with her legs tied together (Susan had been helping her to dress up as a creature from Outer Space). Dreamy Tessa doesn't hear Susan's instructions and the monster splits up and the two parts blunder off in different directions. However, all is finally set to rights and the Loch Ness Monster wins the first prize of eight bars of chocolate!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Kent and Scotland

It may surprise you to learn that Kent is the most popular location for Jane Shaw's novels. Seven of them were set there, beating even Wichwood Village, which only hosted four. This was due to so many school stories being set in this region, including both Northmead novels and the stories set at St. Ronan's, Susan, Midge and Charlotte's school. However, Susan's Helping Hand and one of the Thomas books, Willow Green Mystery, are also set in Kent, along with the short stories Jumble Sale and Susan's School Play (a St. Ronan's story). But her heroines are almost predominantly Scottish: Caroline and Sara, the Moochers, Susan and the trio of Ricky, Julie and Fay plus the Macfarlane sisters of The Crew of the Belinda, not to mention Amanda and Elizabeth from the 1941 short story Amanda's Spies, are all Scots. And the surname of Dizzy and Alison is Fraser, another Scottish connection no doubt. Three of the Penny stories (Threepenny Bit, Fourpenny Fair and Crooked Sixpence) are set in Bath, where Jane Shaw lived during part of World War II, another favourite location.

Quote of the Day

Fiona wasn't listening. "Tuesday, July the first, 1794," she read, in awe. "Katherine, 1794!"
"I know," said Katherine, apparently unmoved by the age of the little book; "I told you it seemed to be an old diary. I expect it's the diary of some Morton or other."
"But you don't want to give it to me," Fiona demurred; "it might be frightfully valuable."
"Well, I doubt that," said Katherine. "Besides, they're your ancestors as well as mine. Mummy said you were to have it, if you wanted it."
"Goodness, I'd love it - it's thrilling! I mean, I knew Mummy's and Uncle John's family have lived in this house since the eighteenth century, but I thought all the old family papers had been tracked down ---"
"Apparently no one thought this old thing had any value," said Katherine. "You can spend your convalescence deciphering it; and if there are any interesting bits, you can read them out to me. Oh, blow, there's Mummy calling! I must go."
As Fiona was already absorbed in the little book, she didn't even notice Katherine's departure.

From THE MOOCHERS, Chapter 2, The Journal.

Threepenny Bit Frontispiece

Here's the frontispiece for Threepenny Bit. The youngsters admire their work as they put the finishing touches to the new shop that Marietjie, Piet and their mother are opening in Abbey Green to dispose of Mrs. le Roux's unusual inheritance. The South African family wish to return home but, if the shop is a success, maybe they can be persuaded to stay on in Bath despite their dislike of the English climate.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Anything Can Happen (Review)

Anything Can Happen is the first of the two Dizzy and Alison books, published by Nelson in 1964. The protagonists are the oldest leading characters to appear in Jane Shaw’s books, the two English girls being 17, going on 18. The story, told in the first person by Alison, begins with the good news that, as a reward for getting a place at university, Alison is given a two-week trip to Paris. Along with her somewhat eccentric cousin Dizzy, whose real name is Elizabeth, she will stay with her Aunt Sophie, a writer of mystery stories. Whenever Aunt Sophie receives a cheque from her publishers, she goes out on a spending spree. The aunt is so generous that the girls are even flying to Paris, a real luxury in the 1960s.
Once in Paris, the girls enjoy excellent French food and go sightseeing. But they also unwittingly get mixed up in a jewel robbery. As a favour to her mother, Alison agrees to call on Madame Bertholet, Mrs. Fraser’s former governess. However, far from the kindly old lady who loves to reminisce about the past that they had expected, Madame Bertholet is cold and unfriendly and can hardly wait to get rid of the girls. As an added insult, she does not provide the delicious French cakes that she promised, serving instead some awful dry English biscuits. Dizzy simply can’t get over this, especially because they are in Paris, which is famous for its food. A little analysis by the girls leads them to believe that this woman cannot possibly be the governess. So who is the mysterious Madame X, and who is the man in the grey suit that is suddenly following them everywhere they go? To help them investigate, they enlist the son of one of Aunt Sophie’s friends, Pierre de Gramont. Alison falls for Pierre at once, but believes that her chances with him are nil, since every young man they ever meet seems to have eyes only for Dizzy. Alison readily acknowledges that Dizzy can have any man she wants: she has beautiful copper hair and the skin and features of a beauty queen, whereas Alison is shorter and has a little nub of a nose. Pierre and his brother Alain and their two little sisters, RĂ©gine and Danielle (les petites), show the girls around Paris and come up with ideas for the investigation. The story for the most part is fast paced and builds up to an exciting climax in Alison’s Paris hotel room.
In Anything Can Happen, Jane Shaw appears to be trying to hold onto the audience she had captured a couple of years earlier with Crooks Tour. And she succeeds. The first person narrative by Alison, the straight man, is excellent and captivates the reader. There are many detailed descriptions of the Paris landmarks, the best being in Chapter IX, Up Among the Gargoyles, describing a visit to the top of Notre Dame tower. The Paris of Anything Can Happen seems to be more intimate than the Paris of Crooks Tour or Looking After Thomas. This may be due to the fact that the girls go to many places by car. In the other stories, the characters are school children who go everywhere by bus or on foot. But the more mature girls here find their way around more easily and have the advantage of having French friends to guide them around almost everywhere.
This is an excellent work and well worth reading. If there is a flaw in the story it lies in the characterisation laid down in the first chapter. At the very beginning, Alison describes Aunt Sophie as “mad as a coot” and Dizzy as “a good deal dottier than Aunt Sophie”. However, neither character realy lives up to these descriptions. Aunt Sophie’s quirks are that she has a list of restaurants to visit (she prefers eating out to cooking at home) and that when she gets an idea for a story she can’t tear herself away from it and is oblivious to everything else. As she’s in Paris, liking the restaurants is hardly a sign of madness, and probably every writer in the world gets caught up in his stories. Dizzy may indeed be described as a little dotty, but her eccentricity lies more in her thinking being just a little bit off-beat or warped rather than mad. Her reactions to some situations are unusual and not what you would expect from the average person, but not particularly over the top, certainly a far cry from the much more exasperating Ricky and Susan.
The traditional Jane Shaw traits are there, but with a difference. The humour is much more subtle than in the books for younger readers, but still makes you smile. The girls’ conversation after their first visit to the phoney Madame Bertholet is hilarious, and Alison’s reaction to the French love for coffee at every possible opportunity is very funny.
Finally, for a Jane Shaw story, the romantic element in a novel is something new. Romance had crept into a couple of short stories in the early sixties, but now we see Alison in love with Pierre – and her affection is reciprocated. She is more than pleasantly surprised when Pierre asks her to write to him. For once, she is liked more than her beautiful cousin. Will their romance actually blossom? So far, that is left to the imagination after the girls return to England. But maybe the sequel, Nothing Happened After All, will provide the answer.
On a scale of one to ten, I would give Anything Can Happen an 8. An excellent piece of work. The book is 207 pages long and has six black and white illustrations by Thelma Lambert.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Quote of the Day

"I'm sick of this scrounging for money, it's disgusting," said Midge. "Haven't you anything you could sell? Haven't you a single valuable stamp in your whole collection?"
"I shouldn't think so," said Bill. "But I'll ring up Stobbs after lunch."
"They listened to his conversation with Stobbs.
"Hi," Bill said. "You know this Oxfam thing I said I'd raise ten pounds for? Well, it's not so easy raising ten pounds, I can tell you. You wouldn't like to buy any of my stamps, would you?"
"No," said Stobbs, who was a boy of few words.
"Gosh, Stobbs, be a pal. It's a good cause ---"
"The only decent stamps you've got are the ones I've given you," said Stobbs. "I'm not buying any of those."
Bill wrangled for a bit, but Stobbs was firm...
"Nothing doing," Bill told the girls unnecessarily. "Stobbs is tough," he said.
Midge was also tough. "There's nothing for it," she said. "You'll have to get another job---"

From A JOB FOR SUSAN, Chapter 13, Blow After Blow.

Susan Takes on Timmy

A scene from No Trouble for Susan. When Louella, the owner of the local bookshop, takes ill during the busy Christmas season, the Carmichaels and Susan offer to run the store for a few days. However, there is a gang of urchins on the loose, led by Timmy the Terror. The menaces invade the store and try to wreak havoc, but Susan's Scottish blood boils over once again as she attempts to drive them away.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Quote of the Day

"She thought you were a crook," said Fay in her calm voice.
Ricky glared at her, and the young man stared. Then he burst into a bellow of laughter, and soon they were all laughing, which eased the tension considerably, and very soon they were all the best of friends.
"No, but honestly," the young man said eventually, "did I look like a crook?"
"Och, you don't need to look like a crook for Ricky to think you are a crook," said Julie. "Ricky's got crooks on the brain."
"Well maybe I have," said Ricky, "but it was you who knocked him down."
"Well, you were standing there dithering and muttering and jumping from foot to foot like a hen on a hot girdle," said Julie. "Somebody had to do something."
"The young man laughed again. "That's right," he said. "Knock him down first and work it out afterwards. Much safer."

From CROOKS TOUR, Chapter 2, Crook in the Station.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

New House at Northmead

Here are the cover and frontispiece of the first of the Northmead books, New House at Northmead, published by Nelson in 1961. It was followed two years later by Northmead Nuisance. It is a school story. Elizabeth is upset that she has been made head of New House rather than Clarke's. And when she sees that Nicole Charteris and Kay Crawford are also in the house, she feels that the year will be a dismal failure. How will things turn out? We'll have to wait and see... Illustrations by Robert Hodgson.

Quote of the Day

"Well," said Dizzy, shovelling sugar into her lemon, "that wasn't the cosy little visit that we expected, was it?"
"Heavens, no," I said. "What can my mamma have been thinking of, to foist that old warrior on us? Distance must have lent enchantment to the view or something if she cherished tender recollections of that old dragon."

From ANYTHING CAN HAPPEN. Dizzy and Alison are disappointed by Madame Bertholet, the former governess of Alison's mother. But is she really who she claims to be?

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Susan Meets Tessa

On Susan's first day at St. Ronan's, she finds that she is not the only new girl. Dreamy Tessa Marshall is also making her debut at the school. The two immediately become friends and get into trouble by unwittingly invading the prefects' study and guzzling all their chocolate eclairs. The above is the first illustration from Susan at School. 

Quote of the Day

Suddenly Dr. Carter clutched Penny's arm and gave a tremendous sniff. "There!" he cried. "D'you smell it? That's the smell of peat! It was always just there, at that cottage, that we got the first whiff of peat!" Penny glanced round the bus in embarrassment, wondering what the other passengers would be thinking of this eccentric man. But nobody, fortunately, so much as glanced at him.

From PENNY FOOLISH, when Penny and her father arrive on Arran.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The Boards

For all you nostagics out there, the green boards are a staple feature of the Jane Shaw books published by Collins. However, they are by no means the only colour used. I've seen blue and grey boards, and even red boards, as seen below, used on my copy of a Thomas book, Willow Green mystery.

Venture to South Africa

Another hard to find illustration, the frontispiece of Venture to South Africa, a single title published in 1960 by Nelson.

Quote of the Day

"What do you think you're doing with our hose, Pea-green, sorry, Peregrine?" said Susan.
"Nothing," said Peregrine, who was an extremely handsome small boy with black curls and the face, but certainly not the nature, of an angel.
"Well, give it to me," said Susan.
"Certainly," said Peregrine in his pedantic way. He handed Susan the hose by the nozzle and walked away with quiet dignity.
The confused roaring that had been coming from the other side of the wall now ceased and a furious red face from which water poured in streams appeared over the top.
"So it was you!" yelled the owner of this face which became, if possible, even redder at the sight of Susan. "As if it ain't enough trouble getting me marquee up with her ladyship and them all changing their minds every five minutes where it's to go, without you giving me a shower-bath!"
"I - I - I ---" began Susan, quite taken aback.

From SUSAN MUDDLES THROUGH, at the wedding of Selina Gascoigne and Sam Pilkington. Peregrine gets the better of Susan yet again!

Adrian Gascoigne

It's not often that readers get a glimpse of Adrian, Peregrine and Gabrielle Gascoigne's older brother. This picture is taken from Susan Muddles Through, when Susan is dubious about Adrian's choice of clothes: a suit, a sweater, a cape and a deerstalker for a walk around Arran on a hot summer's day! Adrian is sometimes referred to as the "nice" Gascoigne and even Charlotte can't totally resist his charms and sometimes goes to the pictures with him. But Midge and Susan will readily tell you that rather than nice, Adrian is just the least hateful of the family. Adrian is 19 and speaks with an affected upper-class accent, which the Carmichaels describe as "talking with a hot potato in his mouth". He studies archaeology at Cambridge University and is the nephew of Julian Gascoigne, a famous archaeologist who goes on digs in Syria and is a lecturer and Master at Cambridge. Adrian annoys Susan on Arran by putting on a terrible imitation of a Scottish accent and saying silly sentences like "Hoots, mon" and "Dinnae haver", which Susan swears that no real Scot would ever say.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Quote of the Day

"D'YOU think you'll be all right?" Vanessa, standing with one hand on the carriage door of the train that was to take her to Paris and her husband, regarded her young sister and cousin doubtfully. "I wish I didn't have to dash off and meet John. But it isn't far from here to Madame's, and the one we've chosen seems the most fatherly of those villainous-looking taxi-drivers."

Opening lines of THEY ARRIVE, the first chapter of BRETON ADVENTURE.

Crooked Sixpence

Here are two rarities: the frontispiece and cover of the much sought after Crooked Sixpence, the final book in the Penny series. After her jaunt to Austria, Penny is back in Bath, where her friend Mr. Gauntlett is having some problems. Penny is still collecting her coins, and her hobby will once again be a key factor to solving the mystery.

Susan and the Spae Wife

The colour illustration of Susan and the Spae Wife, the last of the Susan short stories, published in the Collins' Girls' Annual 1960. The story is set on Arran during the summer holidays. For those of you who are not familiar with the Highland dialect, a spae wife is what we would normally call a fortune teller. This is a good solid story with a lot of comedy and a mystery. There has been a daring hold up at the local post office. Thanks to Beth for providing the scan. My only complaint about this beautiful drawing is that Midge has been given black hair.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Twopence Coloured

We haven't had anything from the Penny books for a while, so here are the cover and frontispiece of Twopence Coloured. In this book, Penny travels to Brittany and Paris. The town of Binic, the centre of all Jane Shaw's stories set in Brittany, in this book is called Kerdic. Of the four Breton books (Breton Adventure, The Moochers Abroad, Twopence Coloured and Susan's Kind Heart), this book has the most detailed description of Binic. It is in the second book of the series that Penny becomes friends with Laura and John Mallory, who will also feature in the later books. The adventure in this story involves Louise, a girl that Penny chatted with on the plane to France who is kidnapped. This was the first book set in Brittany that I really liked on the first read. It took me a while to appreciate Susan's Kind Heart and Breton Adventure. As for The Moochers Abroad, I'm still waiting for it to arrive. I hope it gets here this week.

Friday, April 15, 2011

The Moochers Frontispiece

This is the frontispiece of The Moochers. I am about halfway through this book and it is really good. Set in Cornwall, it tells the story of two sixteen-year-old Scottish cousins, Fiona Auchenvole and Katherine Morton, who are moving to a new school in Cornwall. Before they set out, the girls find an old diary from 1794 that was written by an ancestor of theirs, also called Katherine. Great-aunt Katherine's journal tells of her only day at Pendragon Manor. The girls follow her footsteps to Cornwall and their new school. This is the only Jane Shaw novel set in Cornwall and it is quite intriguing. I'll probably finish reading it this afternoon. The cover and frontispiece are quite interesting. We see the girls imagining their distant aunt writing her journal way back in 1794. The title is also puzzling. The girls are given the nickname The Moochers by the head girl at Pendragon Manor, Betty Hill. She values her traditional school and dislikes the Scottish girls because they came from a modern school where they apparently enjoyed almost unlimited freedom. The cousins also refuse to grovel to Betty, who clearly thinks of herself as the most popular girl at the school. Betty claims that her rivals are always "mooching around", hence the nickname. The girls enjoy sending Betty up and actually relish the nickname and their reputation. They do not hide their contempt for the public school system with its houses and head girls and captain of the hockey team. Surprisingly, they are not reticent about letting their teachers know either. Unlike Susan and Midge, who lived in terror of the Ferret and other teachers, Fiona and Katherine actually enjoy baiting the unpleasant maths teacher, Miss Perry. "When I can command Fiona's attention," interrupted the acid voice of Miss Perry, "I shall take the register. I quite realize that what she has to say to Katherine is infinitely more interesting than anything I may have to say, but there it is ---" "Oh, that's all right, Miss Perry," said Fiona magnanimously; "you can't help saying these dull things, can you?" Miss Perry would have had Susan quaking in her boots, but the Moochers are clearly not so easy to intimidate. However, despite their nonchalant attitude, it is clear that the girls deep down begin to like the school, especially when Katherine begins to hope that she can get a place on the hockey team. 

Magic Ships

Among the books I received this week was Magic Ships. This is a story for much younger children, with many lavish black & white and colour illustrations, published by Collins in 1943. I've already posted the cover elsewhere on the blog, and here is the frontispiece.

Anything Can Happen

Here we can see the blurb of Anything Can Happen, the first of the Dizzy and Alison books. There were two stories about these girls: Anything Can Happen (1964), and Nothing Happened After All (1965), both published by Nelson. The first book is set in Paris and the second in South Africa. These characters are a little older than the average Jane Shaw protagonist. At the very beginning of the first book, which is told in the first person, Alison informs us that she has just passed her A levels and got a place at university. As a result of this feat, she has been rewarded with a couple of weeks in Paris, with the added bonus of flying to the French capital rather than going by car or bus. The story also adopts a romantic theme (as can be seen from the blurb). I imagine that after the success of Crooks Tour, Jane Shaw was hoping to hold on to its readership as they got older. However, one consistent trait remains: like Susan and the Carmichaels, Sara and Caroline and Fiona and Katherine from The Moochers, Dizzy and Alison are cousins. I'm looking forward to reading both of these books, which were delivered this week. The only books that I ordered at the end of March that have yet to arrive are The Moochers Abroad and New House at Northmead. Below is the frontispiece of Anything Can Happen. This book has six illustrations in all, but my copy has no dust jacket. My copy of Nothing Happened After All has a dust jacket but no illustrations whatsoever, not even a black and white frontispiece.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Matchmakers (2)

A happy ending to The Matchmakers as Elizabeth shows off her engagement ring and her sisters rejoice that they are going to be bridesmaids. I would like to express my gratitude to Beth Drysdale, who provided me with all the scans used in this and the previous post. A very welcome contribution to this site. Below, a high resolution scan of the Collins' annual in which the story was originally published.

The Matchmakers (1959)

The Matchmakers was published in the Collins' Girls' Annual 1959 and marks something of a turning point in the writings of Jane Shaw. Besides being the only short story of hers that is set in South Africa, it also introduces an element of romance into her work that hadn't appeared before. Jennifer, Jill and Tina wish that their big sister Elizabeth would hurry up and get married, as they all want to be bridesmaids. While they lie sunbathing, they watch Elizabeth and James on the other side of the river and decide that he needs some "prodding" and concoct a plan. Tina will pretend that she has fallen into the river and is drowning. James will jump in and rescue her and Elizabeth, who cannot fail but to be impressed by this brave deed, will marry him on the spot! 
But either Tina's acting deserves an award or things have gone awry! But not to worry, Tina is rescued, but to her surprise by James's rival for Elizabeth's affections, Paul.
Next day, Tina tries again by getting lost in the mountains to give James a second chance. But a troop of baboons have spotted her and look set to chase her!
Tina escapes the baboons but finds herself out on the steep mountainside, unable to crawl back to safety. And Paul comes to the rescue again!
But this is a Jane Shaw story, so all will end well! Elizabeth gets engaged to James after all and tells Paul's admirer, Jennifer, that she can have him for herself. The wedding is not in the story, but the artist provides us with a glimpse of the happy couple, with the bridesmaids in tow.

Monday, April 11, 2011

The House of the Glimmering Light

This is the frontispiece of 1943's The House of the Glimmering Light, set in Connel Ferry, Oban, on the west coast of Scotland. The book is very hard to find, so much so that I haven't found a single copy in all my online searches. But I did come across the stub of an article by Sheila Ray, entitled The Strange Case of the Invisible Jane Shaw, published in 2003 in the hundredth edition of Signal Approaches to Children's Books, which I had never heard of before. Sheila Ray was a librarian in the 50s and 60s and says that her library stocked Jane Shaw's books, but that the author was not "highly regarded" in her library circles. She also says that she recalls reading The House of the Glimmering Light when she was a child and it inspired her to put pen to paper herself and write a story. She was also at a conference in 2002 and met Alison Lindsay, who was launching Susan and Friends. Jane Shaw's work was "not condemned", she claims, "but was certainly not up there with Alan Garner, William Mayne... and other bright lights that began to twinkle in the late 1950s and 1960s". I'd love to read the rest of this article to find out what other information it yields about people's reactions to Jane Shaw. It's hard for me to understand how the librarians could rate the likes of Susan and Penny so low. But we're all entitled to our opinions... 

Saturday, April 9, 2011

The Tall Man

The Tall Man is the third and last of the Thomas series, published in 1960 by Nelson. Like Bernese Adventure and Crooks Tour, it is set in Switzerland. The Waring children are invited by their Uncle James and Aunt Madeleine to spend a holiday there, but when they arrive in Zurich there is no one to meet them, and a series of adventures ensues. Jane Shaw was at the pinnacle of her career around this time, with the Penny and Susan books all the rage and Crooks Tour in the works. Above, we can see the front cover and, below, the frontispiece. 

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Susan's School Play (2)

This is the cover of the Collins' Girls' Annual 1957, where Susan's School Play first saw the light of day. This is one of the easiest annuals to find. The story provided the first glimpses of St. Ronan's, but most of the characters that became well known to readers in the books, such as Ann Burton (the girl with the lisp), Hippo the prefect and teachers like Dotty and the Ferret are not mentioned. However, the disagreeable prefect Hermione Pennington-Smith is present, although she has yet to be given the nickname H. P. Sauce.
This is a scan of the annual I own. Susan's School Play was the first Susan story that I read and the third Jane Shaw story, after Crooks Tour and Family Trouble. I read it first because it was the first one to arrive when I ordered a number of JS books from various online dealers. I actually bought this annual for fifteen Canadian dollars from a bookshop in Ontario. I knew as soon as I started reading it that I would enjoy the series. When I read Midge's words describing Susan, "I could tell you plenty about Susan's character only she happens to be reading this over my shoulder," I somehow knew that I would love these stories.
Not every Jane Shaw short story was rewarded with a colour frontispiece, but this one was. Just after his arrival at St. Ronan's, Peregrine went backstage and started getting up to mischief by putting on a costume and showing off to the girls.

Susan's School Play

Susan's School Play was originally published in the Collins' Girls' Annual 1957 and is unusual in two ways. First of all, it was published about a year before readers saw Susan going to St. Ronan's for the first time in Susan at School; and, secondly, it is the only Susan story told in the first person, by Midge. But in spite of this difference in style, the story is as good as any other story in the series, be it a novel or a short story, and is lavishly illustrated. It was obviously very popular when first published because it was reprinted a couple of years later in the Crackerjack Girls' Own Book. And, of course, it is anthologized in Susan and Friends. The reason for the erratic chronology is that it was after the publication of Susan's School Play that Jane Shaw suggested a school novel to her publishers. Up to that point, all the Susan stories had been about holidays or set in Wichwood Village. The publishers requested at least four, and the author decided to start at the beginning, with Susan's first day at St. Ronan's. In the end, only two books were actually set at the school, the other being Susan's Trying Term. The opening scenes of Where is Susan? and A Job for Susan take place at St. Ronan's, but as the school story was on the way out in the late fifties and early sixties, no more full length tales of this genre were added to the series.
The story begins with Midge and Susan receiving a letter from Aunt Lucy with the devastating news that Selina Gascoigne and her awful son Peregrine will be accompanying her to St. Ronan's on 20th December to see the girls perform in The Tempest. No sooner has Peregrine arrived than he begins to get on the girls' nerves with his dreadful behaviour. Here we have a rare glimpse of Aunt Lucy and an equally rare look at Selina Gascoigne. One of the main beefs that the Carmichaels and Susan have with Mrs. Gascoigne in the books from the 1950s and early 1960s is that she wears trousers, as is the case in this illustration.
To put an end to Pea-green's shenanigans, Susan concocts a plan: lure him into a shed on the other side of the school grounds with a big tin of of cakes and sandwiches and bolt the door. However, Matron is running a tight ship today...
Yes, getting past Matron is going to be harder than she expected...
Susan finally takes to the stage as Juno.
But Pea-green has escaped and is out to cause trouble! The audience think this is all part of the show and howl with laughter. A fracas ensues and Susan pursues Peregrine, who tries to hide under the rickety makeshift stage. During the final act, he dislodges one of the shaky improvised supports and the stage collapses under the weight of Midge and the other ballerinas.
To the delight of all present, Lord Dulwich announces that after the day's hilarious events it is obvious that the school needs a new hall with a proper stage. A little in-joke here. Dulwich is the real name of Wichwood Village, where the Carmichaels live!

Susan Makes the Team

Susan's Trying Term is the seventh book in the series and sees ghastly Gabrielle Gascoigne moving to St. Ronan's School, much to the despair of Susan, Tessa and Midge. With Gabrielle around, there are many harrowing moments, but there are some pleasant scenes for Miss Lyle too, the happiest being when she discovers that she has made the hockey team. In this illustration, her friends congratulate her on this amazing feat.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Miss Pershore

In Susan Pulls the Strings, the first book in the series, Susan arrives in London to find that Aunt Lucy has become fast friends with Miss Pershore,  a jet-setting culture vulture. Bill tells his cousin that the two women are "thick as thieves". Ominous words. For the Plum, as the children call her, is really a smuggler of watches. When she catches Susan snooping around her secret stash, she ties her up and tells her that she doesn't really care what happens to her as long as she can get rid of her. In this book, poor Susan has already fallen into a frozen pond and only came across the watches when she stumbled into the house next door to look for Chang. But now she is to be left freezing in this prison cell. Of course, everything works out in the end, but this is one of Susan's more testing moments!

The Crew of the Belinda (2)

An alternative cover for The Crew of the Belinda (Collins, 1945). You can read a review of this adventure of the Macfarlane sisters on Loch Lomond at

Willow Green Mystery

This is the cover of Willow Green Mystery, the first Thomas book that I read back in Scotland in January. I later bought The Tall Man, which I haven't got round to reading yet. I also bought the first book in the series, Looking After Thomas. However, it was only delivered to my mother's house in Annbank the day after I left. I'll pick it up in July when I take my daughter to Europe. I quite enjoyed Willow Green Mystery, which is told in the first person by Thomas's brother David, and the three stories involve him, Thomas and their two sisters Clarissa and Tish (real name Patricia). The target audience for the Thomas books, published by Nelson between 1957 and 1960, was somewhat younger than the contemporary Penny and Susan series. Quite an enjoyable read.

The Crew of the Belinda (Review)

Set entirely in Scotland, The Crew of the Belinda was published in 1945 and tells the story of the three Macfarlane sisters: Lilias, just about to turn sixteen, Frances Mary, known as Fanny, who’s about to turn fifteen and Pips, whose real name is Juliet. The girls must all have been born in quick succession because Pips is also said to be fourteen. The tale begins with the girls coming home to their little village twenty miles from Glasgow for their summer holidays, only to discover that their father has gone off and forgotten to arrange money for them at the bank. The girls decide to rent the house to holidaymakers for the summer and go to Loch Lomond, where they have a boat called the Belinda. They can live on the boat for free and get by on the rent.
The story doesn’t really pick up until they get to Loch Lomond, and the first few chapters drag a little. Before deciding to rent the house, they are faced with the prospect of having a dreaded Aunt Mattie come to stay with them, and spend a long time wriggling out of this. And there is a shocking scene in which Fanny and Pips actually try to burn their house down to prevent their aunt from coming to stay. How this could have been included in a children’s story or got past the editor is bewildering.
However, once they finally reach Loch Lomond and locate the Belinda, the story takes a turn for the better. Pips meets a school friend and her brother, Elizabeth and Robert Buchanan, and the girls have to find a way to survive because they are broke, the rent money only being expected over a week later. On two occasions they find themselves in possession of a five pound note, but both turn out to be false. Someone on the loch is making forged money. The girls become entangled in this mystery. They also try to make some money by helping the owner of a local book shop, who is going through a rough patch, by opening a library service, with the girls sailing around the loch with Elizabeth, delivering and collecting books. As this is a Jane Shaw book, there are a couple of coincidences. They find their father at the house of Sir Henry Chalmers, who is donating some books to Glasgow University, where Mr. Macfarlane works. He apologizes for leaving them without a farthing and gives them some money. The library service is a success, the girls foil the gang of forgers and an amusing remark brings the story to a close.
This is the only story Jane Shaw wrote about the Macfarlanes and it is a difficult book to assess. The descriptions of Loch Lomond are splendid and the adventures the girls have when they get there are exciting. For comic relief there is a particularly funny scene with treasure hunters fighting and falling into the loch. The characterization is good, but there aren’t the stronger personalities that would later blossom in the Susan and Penny books. Mr. Macfarlane cuts a rather unsympathetic figure by leaving his daughters to fend for themselves, and the book has an uncomfortable underlying feel about it because the children spend so much time worrying about having no money and struggling to get their next meal

This book has its commendable points, but it is not Jane Shaw at her very best. A little editing and tightening of the text in the earlier chapters would have improved it immensely, and a better reason could have been contrived for Mr. Macfarlane’s disappearance that would have made him more likeable. All said and done, I would give the book five out of ten.