Friday, June 17, 2011

Quote of the Day

Most of the silly things that happen in our school are caused by my friend Dotty Ellis. Her real name of course isn't Dotty, it's Dorothea - can you imagine? - and that's what the staff and other grown-ups call her, but everybody else calls her Dotty, it suits her much better. There's nothing wrong with her brain, mind you, quite the reverse, it's just that she gets these ideas. There was one time last term, when she had spent all her pocket-money - on another of her ideas, I forget what - and she got this idea of doing everybody's maths prep for sixpence a time. It worked like anything for a while, too, and Dotty made stacks of cash, but as Dotty happens to be a sort of mathematical genius (her father really is a genius, top man in nuclear physics if you know what that means, we don't) we all got such good marks that eventually even Miss Parker, who isn't all that bright in the head, smelt a rat. There was a fearful row and Miss Parker wanted us all expelled, but after all you can hardly expel a whole form so we just had lots of boring old detentions and gatings and so on instead. It was maddening, we were all dying to be expelled and go home for an extra holiday.
Then another time Dotty thought that she would wire up the dorm so that she and I, who had been put at opposite ends for talking or something, could speak to each other in the middle of the night. So she wrote to her father for all the bits and pieces (she has no mother and he spoils her like mad) but before she had even got the thing going properly she'd got tangled up in the electricity and fused all the lights in the whole school and there was a bit of a rumpus about that.

From the novella A GIRL WITH IDEAS. The story is told in the first person by Denise Wilson and centres around Denise, Dotty and new girl Lisa Russell. Lisa secretly keeps a pet mouse in the school and Dotty has the idea of starting a mouse club. The story progresses from there in typical Jane Shaw fashion. The familiar elements are all there: lazy pupils, teachers with names that happen to form perfect nicknames, like Nosy Parker, and of course an ancient mystery to solve, this time it's not buried treasure but King Arthur's castle! In the mid 1960s, Jane Shaw began to use the pen name Jean Bell (although the final Susan books were, of course, published under the name of Jane Shaw). The result was two books for younger readers published in paperback in the Collins 'Spitfire' series in 1967. These books were Paddy Turns Detectives and The Penhallow Mystery. Collins also requested A Girl With Ideas, which began life as Adventures of a Mouse. This story was written before 1967 and later lengthened and expanded. Although it is excellent, Collins never got round to publishing it and it was only to see the light of day in Susan and Friends in 2002.