Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Threepenny Bit illustration

This scan from the opening of Threepenny Bit shows the Carters' car drawing near Bath for their first visit to the Mallory family. In this book they meet Marietjie and Piet from South Africa.

Jane Shaw Quiz 65

In the Susan series, who is Miss Phillimore?

The answer to Quiz 64: Belinda's nickname is Blinky.

Quote of the Day

"No, no," said Diana heartily, "these will be fine. A bit squashed perhaps, but they'll be all right when we pick all that fluff off them."
"Delicious tea we're going to have," murmured Hermione.
Susan had bustled forward and was giving the buns a dust down with the sleeve of her cardigan. "Susan," cried Diana when she saw what was going on, "don't use your cardigan, for goodness sake!"
"It's quite all right, Diana," said Susan, "they won't hurt it, I use it for wiping up ink and jam and everything-"

From SUSAN AT SCHOOL, Chapter 2, Super Fags.

Susan Interferes: Children's Press with Spine

This Children's Press cover scan from 1965 includes the spine. Susan is not enthusiastic about Peregrine being armed during the holiday in Switzerland... 

Monday, June 11, 2012

Collins' Annual 1954

The cover of the original Collins Annual 1954 with the first Susan short story, The Wilson's Won't Mind.

Susan Pulls the Strings spine (Children's Press)

A nice scan of the spine of the Children's Press edition of Susan Pulls the Strings. Here we see Susan at the beginning of the very first chapter of the book, doing her maths homework and feeling quite proud that she has worked out a theorem. The subject that she is working on is geometry. She comments, rather oddly in my point of view, that she "quite likes" geometry, if she has a decent point on her pencil. Even more curiously, she goes on to add that algebra is "not bad", but that she doesn't like arithmetic. As arithmetic is the easiest aspect of maths, preferring geometry and algebra sounds unusual, especially in the case of Susan as we gradually come to know her as the not-so-very-dedicated pupil she turns out to be at St. Ronan's. As noted in a previous post, which you can read here, maths teachers turned out to be the most unpopular instructors in all of Jane Shaw's school stories. But the main focus of the first chapter of Susan Pulls the Strings is to let the reader know that Susan will be moving to London to stay with the Carmichaels during her parents' sojourn in Africa, so the subject of her homework is not meant to be very important.

Det Fixar Fifi!

This is the last of the scans that Eva Löfgren has sent me so far, the cover of Susan Interferes in Swedish. The title means Fifi will fix it. The Swedish covers certainly cast the series in a different light.

Jane Shaw Quiz 64

In Venture to South Africa, what is Belinda's nickname?

The answer to Quiz 63: Jean Patrick graduated from Glasgow University with a degree in English Language and Literature.

Quote of the Day

Jill and John and Laura, who had been unobtrusively - they hoped - peeping behind the girl as she and Penny were talking, were itching to get inside. Penny, who was wondering why the girl had been crying, said without much conviction, "We don't want to bother you-"
"Bother us!" said the girl. "We haven't spoken to anyone in a fortnight! Come in."

From THREEPENNY BIT, Chapter 5, Showers of Pennies.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Fulle Rulle, Fifi!

Thanks once again to the indefatigable Eva Löfgren for sending me this scan of the Swedish cover of No Trouble for Susan. This is my favourite of the Swedish covers and it shows the hilarious scene where Charlotte gets the pot stuck on her head just before she's meant to go on stage. Hilarious! And the clothes are quite different from what British readers were used to. Midge looks somewhat like Daphne from Scooby Doo...

Jane Shaw Quiz 63

In which subject did Jean Patrick (Jane Shaw) earn a degree from Glasgow University in the 1930s?

The answer to Quiz 62: Susan's favourite cake is a walnut cake from Fuller's. The picture shows this delicious cake that Susan and Tessa enjoyed in A Job for Susan on a bitterly cold afternoon in Wichwood Village on their return from St. Ronan's in the Lyles' new house just down the road from where the Carmichaels lived. I always smile when I read this part of the book because although the girls are described as feeling bloated after a huge tea, Mrs. Lyle immediately sets to preparing dinner even before they have even begun to digest this hearty meal. Food is an extremely important element in Susan's life. No matter how much she eats at breakfast, lunch or dinner, there is always plenty of room for ices and snacks with cold drinks in summer or extra cakes and sandwiches with hot drinks in winter!

Treasure Book: The Wilsons Won't Mind

This is the cover of The Treasure Book for Girls 1958, which includes a reprint of The Wilsons Won't Mind, the first of the Susan short stories. Collins certainly made sure they got their money's worth out of Jane Shaw's short stories. Many of the stories she wrote for her publishers were included in a number of different annuals over the years. However, anyone imagining that the author rubbed her hands with glee over the extra royalties she would receive with every reprint should think again. As was common practice in the 1950s, the stories were sold outright for a flat fee. It was only in the mid 1960s that contracts began to include royalties for every copy of a book sold. By that time, Jane Shaw's career was winding down and she was only entitled to these extra royalties from the last few Susan books, which were not as widely circulated as their predecessors. Consequently, all the extra mileage eked out of the Susan books and Crooks Tour in the Children's Press editions was exclusively to the benefit of the publishers.

Quote of the Day

Susan didn't think that Pea-green had had nearly such an exciting day as she had had - who had had all the worry of the blessed silkworms anyway? Still, Pea-green temperaments weren't her concern, luckily.

From SUSAN RUSHES IN, Chapter 12, A New Career for Charlotte. The word HAD appears six times in one sentence, to great comic effect.

Jane Shaw Quiz 62

What is Susan's favourite cake?

The answer to Quiz 61: In Bernese Adventure, when Sara realizes she has no money, she pays for her lemonade with a book.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

The Treasure Book for Boys and Girls

This Treasure Book for Boys and Girls (dating from the late 1940s or early 1950s) is quite a special Collins annual because it contains not one but two Jane Shaw stories, namely The Lonely Giant (Page 69), immediately followed by Griselda and the Rain Fairies (Page 77). A real treat...

Maths Teachers in Jane Shaw

I wonder whether Jean Patrick had trouble with mathematics when she was at school. I say this because I've noticed that all of the most unpopular teachers in her stories are maths teachers. In the Caroline and Sara books and The Crew of the Belinda, we only see the characters during the holidays or on the last day of school, so we know little about their teachers. But starting in The Moochers and recurring in all the other school stories she ever wrote, the maths teachers are the ones who get the hardest deal. The Moochers mention that at their bankrupt co-educational school, Percie, they had a maths teacher called Mr. Williams, whom they describe as having a "lashing tongue". At Pendragon Manor, the most horrible teacher is Miss Perry, known to the girls as The Winkle. She is sarcastic and has an "acid voice"; the girls take an instant dislike to her and she to them. In the Northmead books, we do not actually get to meet the maths teacher, but we are told that her name is Miss Pratt-Paton, known as P-squared and described as "an old meanie". Later in the 1960s Jean Bell wrote A Girl with Ideas, set at Thornton Combe in Somerset. The dreaded maths teacher at this school is Miss Parker, whom the girls predictably nickname Nosy Parker. She is a nasty piece of work, never hesitating to tell the girls how useless and stupid they are and springing surprise tests on them out of the blue. At one point she even demands that the whole form should be expelled for cheating in their homework. However, when it comes to really horrible teachers, first prize has to go to Miss Ferrier (picture), the dreaded maths teacher at St. Ronan's, known to the girls as The Ferret. Susan, Midge and Tessa detest and fear this woman. She too has an acid tongue and indulges in cruel sarcasm. But there is more: she is apparently devoid of any redeeming qualities. In The Moochers and A Girl with Ideas, there are times when the reader feels sorry for the teachers or can at least sympathise with them. Miss Perry takes up with a crooked local councillor who just uses her to obtain inside information about the school so that he can force it to close and Miss Perry is let down because she believes this connving man actually wishes to marry her. Katherine and Fiona can't help thinking that this is more than even she deserves. Miss Parker is not 100% bad because the girls actually did cheat and she is quite right to be angry about it. But Miss Ferrier possesses no attributes that soften her character at all. She doesn't hesitate to punish the girls with extra maths even on a Saturday afternoon and is oblivious to their appeals that they should be playing hockey, even when it is a big match and the honour of the school is at stake. The only characters that come off worse than her are the Gascoignes.

So why is it that the maths teachers come across as such unlikeable people? I suspect that the author had some bad times with them at school. When I was growing up in Glasgow, I too had some awful experiences in maths classes. Most of the teachers of this subject that I came up against were sarcastic and seemed to adopt the attitude that if you couldn't understand maths that was just hard lines. I remember one teacher, whom we called Big Bob D or Bob the Slob. He would come in, scribble an equation on the board that always seemed to end with x=2 and tell us to "dae the exercise" while he stomped out of the room for a smoke. The only time I sought help from him while struggling with the bewildering maze of algebra he mockingly said with his unforgettable big cheesy grin "So ye cannae understand it? Aww..." Then, to add insult to injury, at a parents' meeting, he told my mother to tell me to "just ask him" when I found the going too tough! I did have one maths teacher who was nice, a Mr. Durkin. He did strange things like explaining, giving clear examples and even repeating if you didn't get it, something his peers seemed incapable of. But if I were to write a book about a school, the maths teacher would probably come out like one of Jane Shaw's.

Quote of the Day

So then I began to feel better and tried to thank Pierre for dashing to my rescue, but Pierre only laughed and said that it was easy to be courageous when an important member of the Sûreté was right behind you.
"The Sûreté?" I gaped. "That's the French equivalent of Scotland Yard, isn't it? Then he really is a flic after all?"

From ANYTHING CAN HAPPEN, Chapter 14, Show-down.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Susan in Swedish: Fiffigt, Fifi!

Thanks once again to Eva Löfgren, who sent me this scan of Susan's Trying Term in Swedish. While the  UK edition shows an illustration of Gabrielle Gascoigne's arrival at St. Ronan's, the Swedish edition shows a scene from Chapter 4, when Susan catches the young boy who was thrown off the roundabout at the fair. The title in Swedish means Smart Girl. All the Swedish covers were drawn by Heidi Lindgren. Although the name Fifi is used in the titles, Susan's real name is used in the stories. However, Midge's name is changed to Myggan, and Pea-green becomes Grinus, meaning Whiner or Complainer. For more about the Swedish editions, you can read Eva Löfgren's chapter in Susan and Friends, entitled Fifi and the Fish, which is the sole source of information on the Swedish books and translations.

Jane Shaw Quiz 61

In Bernese Adventure, when Sara finds she has no money to pay for the lemonade she has just finished drinking, how does she resolve the situation?

The answer to Quiz 60: The Folding Letter is the handwritten letter by William Shakespeare in Susan's Helping Hand that is stolen by the Mad Collector.

Quote of the Day

But she couldn't just stand there, feeling sick. She made a dart at the bed, remembering her own invariable hiding-place for illicit comics when she was small, and pushed back the mattress. There lay a solitaire diamond ring and a crescent brooch, the very bag with Midland Bank on it that she had handed to the unknown at the gymkhana, a soft pigskin purse.
("I was right," she though, "I was right!")

From FOURPENNY FAIR, Chapter 15, Proof.