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Banbury in Literature – Frodgedobbulum’s Fancy

Banbury is most famous for the nursery rhyme:

Ride a cock horse to Banbury Cross
To see a fine lady upon a white horse
With rings on her finger and bells on her toes
She shall have music wherever she goes1

But Banbury crops up in other literature and verse from time to time and the town and surrounding area has also been home to some well-known authors throughout its history.

Today, I stumbled across a bit of nonsense verse I hadn’t heard of before and it features Banbury so I thought I would share it. The verse is Frodgedobbulum’s Fancy (not the easiest one to spell… or say) and it is by William Brighty Rands (1823-1882).

Frodgedobbulum’s Fancy by W. B. Rands (taken from Lilliput Levee)

I
Did you ever see Giant Frodgedobbulum,
With his double great-toe and his double great-thumb?

Did you ever hear Giant Frodgedobbulum
Saying Fa-fe-fi and fo-faw-fum?

He shakes the earth as he walks along,
As deep as the sea, as far as Hong Kong!

He is a giant and no mistake,
With teeth like the prongs of a garden rake!

II
The Giant Frodgedobbulum got out of bed,
Sighing, “Heigh-ho! That I were but wed!”

The Giant Frodgedobbulum sat in his chair,
Saying, “Why should a giant be wanting a fair?”

The Giant Frodgedobbulum said to his boots,
“The first maid I meet I will wed, if she suits!”

They were magic boots and they laughed as he spoke –
“Oh-ho,” says the giant, “you think it’s a joke?”

III
So he put on his boots, and came stumping down,
Clatter and clump, into Banbury town.

He did not fly into Banbury,
For plenty of time to walk had he!

He kicked at the gate — “Within there, ho!”
“Oh, what is your name?” says the porter Slow.

“Oh, the Giant Frodgedobbulum am I,
For a wife out of Banbury town I sigh!”

Up spake the porter, bold and free,
“Your room we prefer to your company.”

Up spake Frodgedobbulum, free and bold,
“I will build up your town with silver and gold!”

Up spake Marjorie, soft and small,
“I will not be your wife at all!”

Th giant knocked in the gate with his feet,
And there stood Marjorie in the street!

She was nine years old, she was lissome and fair,
And she wore emeralds in her hair.

She could dance like a leaf, she could sing like a thrush,
She was bold as the north wind and sweet as a blush.

Her father tanned, her mother span,
“But Marjorie shall marry a gentleman,

Silks and satins, I’ll lay you a crown!” —
So said the people in Banbury town.

Such was Marjorie — and who should come
To woo her but this Frodgedobbulum,

A vulgar giant, who wore no gloves
And very pig-headed in his loves!

IV
They rang the alarum, and in the steeple
They tolled the church-bells to rouse the people.

But all the people in Banbury town
Could not put Frodgedobbulum down.

The tanner thought to stab him dead –
“Somebody pricked me?” the giant said.

The mother wept — “I do not care,”
Said F. — “Why should I be wanting a fair?”

He snatched up Marjorie, stroked his boot,
And fled; with Banbury in pursuit!

“What ho, my boots! Put forth your power!
Carry me sixty miles an hour!”

In ditches and dykes, over stooks and stones,
The Banbury people fell, with groans.

Frodgedobbulum passed over river and tree,
Gallopy-gallop, with Marjorie; —

The people beneath her Marjorie sees
Of the size of mites in an Oxford cheese!

V
Castle Frodgedobbulum sulked between
Two bleak hills, in a deep ravine.

It was always dark there and always drear,
The same time of day and the same time of year.

The walls of the castle were slimy and black,
There were dragons in front and toads at the back.

Spiders there were, and of vampires lots;
Ravens croaked round the chimney pots.

Seven bull-dogs barked in the hall;
Seven wild cats did caterwaul!

The giant said, with a smirk on his face,
“My Marjorie, this is a pretty place:

As Mrs. F. you will lead, with me,
A happier life than in Banbury!

Pour out my wine, and comb my hair,
And let me to sleep in my easy chair;

But first, my boots I will kick away” —
And Marjorie answered “S’il vous plait!”

Then the giant mused, “It befits my station
To marry a lady of education;

But who would have thought this Banbury wench
Was so accomplished, and could speak French?”

Did you ever hear Frodgedobbulum snore?
He shook the castle, from roof to floor!

Fast asleep as a pig was he —
“And very much like one” thought Marjorie.

VII
Then Marjorie stood on a leathern chair,
And opened the window to the air.

The bats flap, the owls hoot —
Marjorie lifted the giant’s boot!

The ravens shriek, the owls hoot –
Marjorie got into the giants boot!

And Marjorie said “I can reach the moon,
Before you waken, you big buffoon!”

Once, twice, three times, and away,
“Which is the road to Banbury, pray?

The boot made answer, “Ha-ha, ho-ho!
The road to Banbury town I know.”

VII
The giant awoke in his easy chair,
Saying, “Ho, little Marjorie, are you there?

“A stoup of wine, to be spiced the same! —
Exquisite Marjorie, je vous aime!”

Now where was Marjorie? Safe and sound
In the Magic Boot she cleared the ground.

Frodgedobbulum groaned, “I am bereft!
The left boot’s gone and the right is left!

“The window’s open. I’ll bet a crown
The chit is off to Banbury town!

“But follow, follow, my faithful boot!
One is enough for the pursuit;

“And back to my arms the wench shall come
As sure as my name’s Frodgedobbulum!”

VIII
Hasty Frodgedobbulum, being a fool,
Forgot of the Magic Boots the rule.

They were made on a right and a left boot-tree,
But he put the wrong leg in the boot, you see!

It was a terrible mistake
For even a giant in love to make,

Terrible in its consequences,
Frightful to any man’s seven senses.

Down came a thunderbolt, rumble and glare!
Frodgedobbulum castle blew up in the air!

The giant, deprived of self-control,
Was carried away to the very North Pole.

For such was the magic rule. Poor F.
Now sits on the peak of the Arctic cliff.

The point is so sharp it makes him shrink;
The northern streamers, they make him blink;

One boot on, and one boot off,
He shivers and shakes, and thinks, with a cough,

“Safe in Banbury Marjorie dwells;
Marjorie will marry someone else!”

IX
And so, Frodgedobbulum, the giant,
Sits on the North Pole, incompliant.

He blinks at the snow, with its weary white;
He blinks at the spears of the northern light;

Kicks out with one boot, says, “Fi-fo-fum!
I am the Giant Frodgedobbulum.”

But who cares whether he is or not,
Living in such an inclement spot?

Banbury town is the place for me
And a kiss from merry Marjorie,

With the clerk in the vestry to see all fair,
For she wears orange-flowers in her hair!

She can dance like a leaf, she can sing like a thrush,
She is bold as the north wind and sweet as a blush.

Her father he tans, her mother she spins;
Frodgedobbulum sits on the pole for his sins;

But here comes Marjorie, white as milk,
A rose on her bosom as soft as silk,

On her finger a gay gold ring;
The bridegroom holds up his head like a king!

Marjorie has married a gentleman;
Who knows when the wedding began?

W B Rands wrote extensively but is most remembered for his poetry for children. He didn’t often put his name to his writings and frequently wrote under a pseudonym. This poem is taken from Lilliput Levee (published in 1864, author anon. but known to be W B Rands).

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Title page illustration from Lilliput Levee

 


1 There are numerous variations to the Banbury Cross rhyme and quite a bit of controversy about the meaning of cock horse and the identity of the fine lady. This may be the subject for a future blog post.

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Book Review: The Winter Garden Mystery by Carola Dunn

The Winter Garden Mystery is the second in a long series of gentle cosy crime mysteries by Carola Dunn, the Daisy Dalrymple mysteries.

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The Winter Garden Mystery by Carola Dunn 

Daisy Dalrymple, or more correctly the Honourable Miss Dalrymple, is the daughter of aristocracy but the family estate was passed onto a cousin when her only brother was killed in the First World War. Daisy is expected to live with her mother at the family estate’s Dower House but, independently-minded Daisy prefers to make her own way in the world and house-share with a friend in London, while earning her living as a writer for a country magazine. Daisy has a particular skill for being in the wrong place at the wrong time and becoming embroiled in murder investigations.

It’s 1923 and Daisy is off to stay at Occles Hall to write an article for Town and Country about the history of the house and estate. Invited by the daughter of the house, a girl she was at school with though not particular friends with as the girl was a few years older, Daisy isn’t at all sure what to expect. She’s heard a few stories about the Lady of the manor, Lady Valeria, who carries before her a formidable reputation as an unrelenting battleaxe and Daisy starts to wonder what sort of an assignment she’s taken on.

When she arrives Daisy is soon put at ease by the welcome from horse-fanatic Bobbie, otherwise known as Roberta, her younger Adonis-like brother Sebastian and the family’s secretary, Ben Goodman. Sir Reginald also makes Daisy feel quite welcome, though he is a rather absent-minded man and spends all his waking hours at his estate’s dairy, creating award-winning cheeses. Lady Valeria is the only uncomfortable presence so Daisy does her best to avoid her and goes about writing her article and photographing the Hall and gardens.

A visit to the winter garden is a must as it is February at the time of Daisy’s visit so the winter garden is the best-looking part of the estate gardens to show off in the photos and article. Daisy is handed over to the young Welsh under-gardener, Owen, for the tour of the winter garden and on their visit Daisy spots a dead azalea bush in the middle of the garden which looks quite out-of-place amidst the winter flowering shrubs and evergreens. Owen is dismayed and calls on the head gardener straight away. They go to dig it up and make the shocking discovery of a dead body wrapped in a sheet buried under the dead bush. What’s more, the body is that of young Grace Moss, previous parlourmaid at the Hall and particular friend of Owen. She had disappeared a couple of months previously and it was assumed that she had gone off to London to find fortune and fun. A shocking secret lies buried with Grace as well… something to ruffle feathers and rock relationships up at the Hall.

The local Inspector proves to be worse than useless, so Daisy surreptitiously calls on her friend Alec, Detective Chief Inspector Fletcher, from Scotland Yard; an acquaintance made on a previous case Daisy found herself mixed up in and who seems to be as fond of Daisy as she is of him… though both are very aware that they come from different social classes and so their friendship is frowned upon by some members of the upper classes…

Daisy refuses to leave the excitement at the Hall and head back home to London, so Alec needs to find and catch the killer, with some urgency, before they strike again. Daisy’s meddling nature may well be putting her at risk. The trouble is, with a number of likely suspects and little hard evidence, can this murderer be caught?

A gentle 1920s cosy crime mystery, peppered with social etiquette, manners, and featuring the interesting and newly independent Daisy Dalrymple, finding her way in the new 1920s upper and middle class society. A very enjoyable and easy, lightweight read. Absolutely no gore, no deep psychological twists and no suspense of the sort to stop you sleeping at night. A very good, Golden Age-style, old-fashioned murder mystery. If you enjoy the Daisy Dalrymple series, you may also enjoy the Maisie Dobbs books by Jacqueline Winspear and the Kate Shackleton mysteries by Frances Brody.

A complete list of The Daisy Dalrymple mysteries to date (up to April 2017):
1. Death at Wentwater Court
2. The Winter Garden Mystery
3. Requiem for a Mezzo
4. Murder on the Flying Scotsman
5. Damsel in Distress
6. Dead in the Water
7. Styx and Stones
8. Rattle His Bones
9. To Davy Jones Below
10. The Case of the Murdered Muckraker
11. Mistletoe and Murder
12. Die Laughing
13. A Mourning Wedding
14. Fall of a Philanderer
15. Gunpowder Plot
16. The Bloody Tower
17. Black Ship
18. Sheer Folly
19. Anthem for Doomed Youth
20. Gone West
21. Heirs of the Body
22. Superfluous Women

About the Author

Carola Dunn (born in 1946) grew up in England, graduated from Manchester University and now lives in Eugene, Oregon. She is the author of around 60 books, including the 22 Daisy Dalrymple books, 4 Cornish mysteries and 32 Regency novels. To find out more about the author, visit her website caroladunn.weebly.com.

Where to Buy

You can buy the series from your local independent bookshop, or you can buy online from hive.co.uk and still support your local independent bookshop by nominating them to receive a percentage of your sale on Hive. Shop local, where possible, to help keep your High Streets alive. The Winter Garden Mystery is currently available as a new paperback, RRP £7.99 ISBN 9781845297466. At Books & Ink Bookshop most of our new books are for sale at a discounted price. If we don’t have it in stock we would be happy to order it in for you. We also have a large second-hand stock.

Book Review: The Name of This Book is Secret by Pseudonymous Bosch

I’m a long way beyond the target audience age range for this book but I enjoy reading children’s fiction; sometimes it’s the perfect switch-off at the end of a busy day. All the best children’s novels are just as good to read as an adult – good writing, good characterisation, plot structure and so on are the main requirements. If a book can meet all those elements I don’t mind who it’s aimed at.

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WARNING:
DO NOT READ BEYOND THIS PAGE

A good opener. I was intrigued. If a book can grab my attention at page one then I’ll read on, whatever the subject. This was just too intriguing. ‘Do not read beyond this page’. Nothing could be more likely to make me want to keep reading than an instruction telling me not to! A great means to get the reader to buy or borrow the book and see what happens next.

“Generally speaking, books don’t cause much harm. Except when you read them, that is. Then they cause all kinds of problems.
Books can, for example, give you ideas. I don’t know if you’ve ever had an idea before, but, if you have, you know how much trouble an idea can get you into.

Books can also provoke emotions. And emotions are sometimes even more troublesome than ideas. Emotions have led people to do all sorts of things they later regret…” [from the first page]

I like the way the author talks to the reader, telling us the book is dangerous. There’s a secret in the book and knowing this is worse than not knowing. Of course we’re supposed to read on!

Cass (short for Cassandra) is quite a serious and a very practical 11 year old. She is always prepared for an emergency and carries around a backpack containing items to help with surviving all kinds of disasters; her ‘survival’ kit. Cass has two surrogate grandpas who live near her house in an old abandoned fire station, where they also run an old antiques store. This is one of Cass’s favourite places and she spends her Wednesdays after school here, supposedly helping in the shop but really listening to the grandpas’ stories and exploring some of the antiques.

Max-Ernest, also 11 years old, fancies himself as a bit of a comedian but his classmates aren’t as amused by his jokes as he is. Max-Ernest is always on the lookout for someone to try his jokes out on at school and looking around the school yard one day, he can only see one pupil who hasn’t yet heard his current joke; sitting alone at the edge of a field is Cass. Cass isn’t lonely; she’s investigating a finding on the field which she thinks may spell doom and disaster for the school. Cass is convinced that the school has been built on top of a toxic waste dump. She loves to imagine disaster scenarios and it frequently gets her into trouble with the headteacher.

This meeting on the playing field is the beginning of a friendship between Cass and Max-Ernest and spells the beginning of their adventures. They end up trying to uncover a mysterious secret, involving a rare antique case of vials of smells, a missing magician and his diary and a suspicious estate agent called Gloria Fortune. The pair find themselves embroiled deeper and deeper in this mystery as it leads them on some quite perilous adventures, needing their wits, decoding skills, intuition and escape capabilities. I won’t reveal any more but I can recommend reading the book to find out their SECRET.

The first in a series, this book is followed by:
2. If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late
3. This Book Is Not Good For You
4. This Isn’t What It Looks Like
5. You Have To Stop This

Recommended for ages 8+

About the Author

Pseudonymous Bosh is a pseudonym, or pen name and it belongs to American author Raphael Simon. He has written other books under the Pseudonymous Bosch name – the Bad series and a stand-alone children’s novel, Write This Book. To find out more, have a look at his website www.pseudonymousbosch.com

Where to Buy

You can buy the series from your local independent bookshop, or you can buy online from hive.co.uk and still support your local independent bookshop by nominating them to receive a percentage of your sale on Hive. Shop local, where possible, to help keep your High Streets alive. The Name of This Book is Secret is currently available as a new paperback, RRP £6.99 ISBN 9781409583820. At Books & Ink Bookshop most of our new books are for sale at a discounted price. We also have a large second-hand stock.

Review: The Beach Street Bakery series by Jenny Colgan

Sometimes a series of books just sell themselves… If you’re looking for a fun, light-hearted escapist mini-series, if you like a bit of non-slushy romance, puffins, seaside, Cornwall and an independent, hard-working main character, then look no further.

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The Beach Street Bakery trilogy by Jenny Colgan

Polly has just emerged from a messy break-up and business failure, leaving her pretty well destitute and homeless. She’s sick of the rat-race and city life and, looking to escape Plymouth and find somewhere affordable to live, she stumbles across the perfect place – a somewhat run-down flat on the little island of Mount Polbearne (loosely based on St. Michael’s Mount off the south coast of Cornwall). Her best friend think she’s nuts but Polly falls in love with the place and before she knows what she’s doing, she’s signed a lease. Almost the first thing to happen to Polly, when she’s barely unpacked, a crash and a screech in the middle of the night… and all of a sudden Polly seems to have adopted a little puffin with a broken wing. Determined not to get too attached, she doesn’t name him but it doesn’t take long for this cute little bird to worm his way into her affections and very soon he’s going by the name of Neil.

And then there’s the baking… the clue is somewhat in the title but, for those who haven’t read the series, I won’t give away how Polly gets into baking on Mount Polbearne. She’s always loved baking, been passionate about different breads and spent her weekends kneading dough and creating tasty loaves and treats but she’s never earned her living by baking before. However, once Polly realises she can’t live on fresh air alone and an opportunity presents itself, well, the rest you’ll need to find out from the books.

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St. Michael’s Mount, Cornwall © Sam Barnes

This is a really warm series about starting afresh, about it never being too late to follow your dreams (even if you don’t yet know what those dreams are), about living for the moment and getting in touch with your creativity. There is some romance to be found but not the slushy variety. Polly is an independent young woman; not someone to lose herself or her identity in an all-consuming relationship, though she does of course like to have a bit of fun and everyone wants to find their Mr. Right.

Start with ‘Little Beach Street Bakery’; follow on with ‘Summer at Little Beach Street Bakery’ and finally, settle down by a cosy fire with a glass of mulled wine and enjoy ‘Christmas at Little Beach Street Bakery’. If you have young children you might like to introduce them to her spin-off series for kids, starting with ‘Polly and the Puffin’. Oh, and you’ll find a few yummy recipes in each book as well!

About the Author

Jenny Colgan is the author of a number of romance novels, starting with ‘Amanda’s Wedding’ (2000). She’s also written several Dr Who novels and writes occasional pieces for The Guardian. You can find out more about Jenny on her website www.jennycolgan.com.

Where to Buy

You can buy the series from your local independent bookshop, or you can buy online from hive.co.uk and still support your local independent bookshop by nominating them to receive a percentage of your sale on Hive. Shop local, where possible, to help keep your High Streets alive. ‘Little Beach Street Bakery’ and ‘Summer at Little Beach Street Bakery’ are in paperback at the RRP of £8.99; ‘Christmas at Little Beach Street Bakery’ is only in hardback at time of writing, RRP £12.99. At Books & Ink Bookshop most of our new books are for sale at a discounted price. We also have a large second-hand stock.

Review: Green Smoke by Rosemary Manning

A friendly green dragon, a mermaid, Arthurian legend and eight-year-old Sue who is on holiday at the Cornish seaside with her parents. Add together these ingredients for a magical, gentle children’s story.

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Green Smoke by Rosemary Manning (Jane Nissen Books, 2008)

First published in 1957; I don’t know how I missed this growing up as I LOVED green dragons… but perhaps they didn’t have it in my local library. Anyway, I’ve just finished reading Green Smoke and I’m about to go on the hunt for the sequels: Dragon in Danger (1959), The Dragon’s Quest (1961), and The Dragon in the Harbour (1980). Original editions are hard to find but second-hand Puffin paperback reprints aren’t too tricky to track down.

“A story about life-long friendship and magical adventures – a happy book, with lots of jokes” – Amanda Craig

So Sue is on holiday in Constantine Bay. Perhaps I should let the author introduce Constantine Bay – this is how the story opens:

‘This is a story about a girl called Susan, or Sue for short, who went for a seaside holiday to Constantine Bay in Cornwall. Perhaps you have never been to Constantine Bay. Perhaps you have never even been to Cornwall. That won’t matter at all. Just think of the rockiest rocks, the sandiest sand, the greenest sea and the bluest sky you can possibly imagine, and you will have some idea of Constantine Bay.’

There is a high cliff with a lighthouse, a ridge of rocks jutting into the sea, sand dunes ‘with hummocks of tough grass, and little hot sandy paths running in and out like yellow streams’.

Idyllic, yes? I think so.

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Beach at low tide – St Ives, Cornwall © Sam Barnes

It’s on the third day of the holidays, early in the morning when there aren’t many people about, that Sue is scrambling about on the rocks by herself and she hears a sound like a very loud sneeze and sees a little puff of green smoke come out of a cave nearby. Sue goes to investigate and another sneeze erupts and with it a paper bag comes flying out of the cave. Sue goes to bury the paper bag in a hole and cover it over with sand when a voice comes out of the cave to thank her for burying their rubbish. Sue keeps the conversation going with the mysterious voice until she can coax it into telling her who it belongs to… a rather surprising Mr R. Dragon; Cornish, green and a friendly, if occasionally grumpy, dragon.

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Prehistoric Cornwall – Lanyon Quoit in the mist © Sam Barnes

R. Dragon and Sue become firm friends and Sue visits nearly every day to share her picnic, or a bun or a biscuit, to hear the dragon’s tales and to go on the occasional adventure. Dragon is some 1500 years old and he’s quite lonely in his cave so he loves spending time with Sue and gets quite grumpy if Sue misses a visit due to bad weather or a day spent with her parents! However, his manners are impeccable, he’s very polite and he’s lived a long, long time, so has some fabulous tales to tell. Most of R. Dragon’s tales relate to Arthurian legend as he lived for a time at the court of King Arthur so knows all about the legend of the sword Excalibur, the Lady of the Lake and Arthur and his knights.

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Tintagel, Cornwall © Sam Barnes

As to why he’s called R. Dragon… well, he can’t tell Sue his full name. If a dragon or a mermaid or a fairy tells you their name then you will have complete power over them and that can be a very dangerous thing…


About the Author

Rosemary Manning was born in 1911 and studied Latin and Greek at one of the first universities to take women students, the Royal Holloway. She was a teacher and later headmistress of a school for girls in North London. She wrote several books for children and adults and was also known by the pseudonyms Sarah Davys and Mary Voyle. She died in 1988.

Where to Buy

Green Smoke is currently out-of-print in the UK. For collectable editions try biblio.co.uk. For second hand paperbacks try your local second hand and antiquarian bookshops, charity shops and the internet. Click here for a good resource to help you find your local second hand bookshops in the UK.

All About Ladybird Books

‘…here is Peter
and
here is Jane’.

Very few books are as evocative of childhood to me as Ladybird books. In fact, there must be very few people in their 30s, 40s, 50s and even 60s who don’t remember a Ladybird book.

I learned to read in the early 1980s, mostly from books in the local library and second hand and jumble sale finds but I did have just a few new Ladybird books and they are the ones which became my very firm favourites. I LOVED Dennis the Dragon, Mervyn Town Mouse, Thumbelina, Cinderella, The Elves and the Shoemaker, The Princess and the Frog and Rapunzel. They were my treasured new ones and the ones I loved most of all.

Others might remember best the factual Ladybird books, such as Transistor Radios, Exploring Space, The Ladybird Book of Motor Cars and so on, but for me it was the fairy tales and other fiction stories that captured my imagination.

Wills & Hepworth, the publisher of Ladybird books, began this infamous series way back in 1914 but it wasn’t until 1940, when wartime paper shortages prompted Wills & Hepworth to look at a new and more economical way of printing, that the Ladybird book in its slim pocket-sized format, was born. Essentially each book was printed on one single sheet of paper (40” x 30” in size) including pages, endpapers and dust jacket; thus an efficient and economical way of producing a book for children.

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Single printing sheet showing a whole Ladybird book

The first Ladybird book to be made in this format was Bunnikin’s Picnic Party, written and illustrated by Angusine Macgregor, with a delightful gentle story told in rhyming verse. Two more books were published in this series, Series 401, in 1940 and three more, though with a different author, were published the following year. These proved to be successful for Wills & Hepworth and they followed these in 1941 with the first three books in The Adventures of Wonk series and their first book for series 413, The Ladybird Book of Nursery Rhymes.

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A c. 1981 edition of Bunnikin’s Picnic Party, matt cover Ladybird book.

These ten books, plus a 1944 edition of Cinderella (Series 413) were the only books to be published during the Second World War, though they were popular and most of them stretched to a number of reprints during those years.

A note on series numbering: The first two digits of the series number indicate the year of publication of the first title in the series, i.e. Bunnikin’s Picnic Party being the first book published in 1940 begins Series 401; the first Tasseltip story, A Little Silk Apron, was published in 1947 and so begins Series 474. Nobody knows where the last digit in the series number comes from; no documentation survives and perhaps it was simply a random number choice.

From 1945 onwards the Ladybird offering really started to grow, first with the introduction of their non-fiction Uncle Mac titles – the first one, In Green Pastures, published in 1945 – and with more books added to series 401 and 413 and then series 474 (Tasseltip tales) from 1947 and series 497 (Animal tales) from 1949. The 1950s then saw an expansion of their non-fiction offerings, with the nature, history, travel adventure, and bible stories series all taking off.

The look of the boards of the books underwent various different changes over the years but up until 1965 all books were first published with printed dust jackets. After 1965 the books were given a printed pictorial front board with a matt finish. At first these colourful designs were the same as the dust jackets which had preceded them but illustrations evolved for some of the series to change with the times. The matt-finish pictorial boards were changed to laminated (or glossy) boards in around 1983.

Ladybird Books came to be well-used by schools. They were well-written, often beautifully illustrated, appealing to children and in the case of the factual titles, very well-researched. The Key Words Reading Scheme, featuring Peter and Jane, came to be the series that thousands of children learned to read with from the mid-1960s through to the 1980s and beyond. The first book, 1a Play with Us, was published in 1964 and the last one, 12c The Open Door to Reading, was published in 1967, so they managed to complete the publication of the series in quite a short space of time. Spin off Picture Dictionaries (Series 642) and Easy Readers followed in the 1960s and 70s and a range of supporting educational resources were also created for use in schools – workbooks, flash cards, puzzles, audio tapes.

Children of the late 1980s might have developed their reading instead with the Puddle Lane Reading Programme, another very popular reading scheme published by Ladybird.

The popularity of Ladybird Books wasn’t just confined to the British Isles. By 1970 a number of Ladybird books had been translated and were being sold overseas and it is estimated that Ladybird Books have been translated into around 70 different languages. The most unusual I have come across is a Fijiian edition of a religious title. I have also seen a few copies of the rather bizarre Esperanto edition of London. More commonly seen are Welsh, German, Scandinavian and Arabic editions.

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Foreign Ladybird books – London in Esperanto and The Child of the Temple in Fijian

In 1996 Ladybird Books became a subsidiary of the Penguin Books Group and in 1998 Penguin took over the management of the company, closing the iconic Loughborough printing works later that same year. A notice at the town’s railway station welcoming visitors to ‘The Home of Ladybird Books’ was taken down but in 2015 a green plaque was unveiled at Angel Yard in Loughborough, the original home of Ladybird Books, recognising the company’s importance in the town’s history.

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Ladybird Books green plaque at Angel Yard, Loughborough

 

Collecting Ladybird Books

Collectors come in all types, ages and budget sizes! If you’re thinking of getting started as a collector, you can start your own collection for very little cost at all. Prices in our bookshop start at just £1, with many matt edition standard Ladybird Books being around the £3-4 mark. You can browse charity shops, antiquarian bookshops, bring and buy sales and the internet and pick up many lovely Ladybird books for the price of a cup of coffee and a piece of cake. Best of all, as book collections go these little books take up such little space on your bookshelf that they’re not going to take over your living space… unless you go really crazy…

Some series and titles are more sought after by collectors and that makes them more difficult to find and more expensive when you do find them. Some collectors focus on the early standard format Ladybirds from the 1940s and 50s; some collect only Ladybirds with dust jackets; some only books in a particular series; the 606C Well-Loved Tales series are currently quite sought after by collectors of my generation who grew up with these; some collectors seek out the early Ladybird books from the pre-1940s, some collect books with illustrations by well-known illustrators and some collect foreign language editions. Some series like the ‘Wonk’ books will have prices which vary considerably – it’s not too difficult to find an inexpensive tatty Wonk without its dust jacket (readable but with considerable flaws) but once you go looking for really tidy copies with very good condition spines and good condition dust jackets, you might have to weigh up the weekly shop vs a nice Wonk book in really good condition!

In general first editions will usually command a higher price than later editions and the condition of the books is also something to look out for – if you are only after near pristine copies in excellent dust jackets they are clearly going to be harder to find and more expensive than a ‘reading’ copy which may have creased pages, thumbing marks and previous owner’s names inside.

Dating the books is done with a mixture of methods – from endpaper and Ladybird logo design, to more obvious points such as the presence of a dust jacket (pre-1965), the price and the lists of other titles in the series (initially on the last few pages of the book, then the dust jacket flaps and later on the back covers of the post-1965 matt board editions). You will also see mention of so-called tally numbers in books that have been offered for sale online with good descriptions. This relates to the number of Ladybird books in publication at a particular time and this figure was often mentioned on the last few pages, rear dust jacket flap and then on the rear board of the book as well. Tally numbers started in 1963 and increased every year with new titles published; they ceased being mentioned in about 1974. The following indications might help you to loosely identify the age of your Ladybird Books*:

Tally of 100 titles 1963-4
120-140 1965
150-180 1966
190-200 1967-8
210-225 1968
230-260 1969
270-280 1970
290 1971
300 1972
320-340 1973
350-370 1974

Good luck with building up your collections and enjoy re-reading your old favourite Ladybird stories and discovering new ones you never knew existed!

To view our current range of Ladybird books online at Books & Ink Bookshop please click here. We have many more in the shop so contact us with your requests, or pop in and see us.

This article can be found both on our website as a static page article and on our wordpress blog.
*Johnson, Lorraine; Alderson, Brian, ‘The Ladybird Story: Children’s Books for Everyone’ (The British Library, 2014; p. 165).

Review: The Clue in the Diary (Nancy Drew)

The Clue in the Diary – Nancy Drew Mystery No. 7

It’s been a very long time since I last read a Nancy Drew story – I would have been around 9 years old and borrowing them from my local library, along with many, many other books which I devoured, particularly in the school holidays.

I have always loved books with a passion and, although I didn’t have very many, the books that I owned as a child are the ones that were re-read and they are the stories that stayed with me most vividly. I remember borrowing the Nancy Drew stories – I even have a visual memory of the carousel in Daventry Library that housed them – but I can’t remember anything more about them… that is, until now.

The Clue in the Diary is the 7th Nancy Drew mystery and features Nancy with her friends, the cousins George and Bess, and her new friend Ned Nickerson. Together the three girls, with a bit of help from Ned, are trying to solve the mystery of a diary and signet ring found at the site of a burning house which the girls saw on their way home one night. They stopped at the scene to see if they could help. Nancy saw a man fleeing the scene into the undergrowth and the diary and signet ring were found soon afterwards…

I thoroughly enjoyed this quite undemanding but entertaining read. I’ve recently re-read a number of Enid Blyton’s Famous Five stories. This is very similar but (and I never thought I’d say this) not quite as well written or as well plotted as a Famous Five. Still, the characterisation is very good, the novel well-plotted and I enjoyed it very much. Although Nancy drives a car and has had boy friends, this is perfectly suitable for 8 and up and is  equally suitable for teenagers and beyond looking for a lightweight read.

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Nancy Drew novels

About the Series

Set in America the first four novels in the series were published in 1930. The original series kept running until 2003 with 175 novels published in total. The main character has also appeared in spin off series The Girl Detective, The Nancy Drew Files and is the heroine in the Diaries series as well.  The author, Carolyn Keene, is the pen name for a number of different writers used to write the books.

Where to Buy

The book is currently in print with Grosset and Dunlap in a 2015 edition. The UK RRP is £6.99 for a hardback copy. ISBN 9780448489070. You can buy this and other titles from your local independent bookshop, or you can buy online from hive.co.uk and still support your local independent by nominating them to receive a percentage of your sale on Hive. Shop local when you can to help keep your high streets alive. At Books & Ink Bookshop we sell most of our new books at a discounted price and we also have a large second-hand stock (specialising in second-hand and antiquarian children’s books). Online we recommend biblio.co.uk for collectable and out-of-print books.

Review: How to Find Love in a Book Shop by Veronica Henry

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How to Find Love in a Book Shop by Veronica Henry

Having met my other half in the bookshop (him customer, me bookseller) I loved the sound of this book; it was a definite must read and just the thing for a summer’s eve.

Emilia is 32-ish and she inherits, from her father Julius, the bookshop and home she grew up in but where she has spent little time over the past few years. It has been just the two of them since Emilia was a baby, so when Julius dies there is no other family to help out and Emilia has to make all the decisions about the future of the bookshop by herself.

Julius has poured much energy,  love and money into the bookshop for the past 32 years but has he left a strong enough business for Emilia to continue his legacy…?

‘A book shop could only make things better – for everyone in Peasebrook. Julius imagined each person he passed as a potential customer. He could picture them all, crowding in, asking his advice, him sliding their purchases into a bag, getting to know their likes and dislikes, putting a book aside for a particular customer; knowing it would be just up their street. Watching them browse, watching the joy of them discovering a new author; a new world.’

Nightingale Books occupies a prime location in the yellow-stoned Cotswolds town of Peasebrook and it occupies a very special place in the heart of the community, with a core of customers who are determined to help keep the bookshop open now that Julius has gone.

There’s the ‘lady of the manor’, Sarah, who has a long-standing connection to the bookshop and understands all too well what it’s like to be in financial difficulty. There is Thomasina, the painfully shy teacher, just a few years younger than Emilia, who falls for a man she met in the cookery section. There’s Mia, a young mum who’s given up a high-flying career to have the country life at home with her baby but is looking for something more. There’s Marlowe who used to put the world to rights with Julius several times a week over a drink or two, and who Julius used to play cello with in a small chamber group and then there’s Jackson, the young builder who is trying to save his marriage and form a deeper connection with his young son, through books.

There are several love stories woven through the novel, each of them appealing in their own way and the multiple plot strands make it a great page turner; it literally kept me up one night to finish it. I was slightly less enthused about the inner workings of the bookshop, renovations and practicalities but that’s only the bookseller / bookshop owner in me picking holes in the detail. It is a novel after all, not a factual account. Very few readers are going to notice anything to grumble about there; just bookshop owners like me! My only other grumbles are extremely minor but they niggled at me so I’m going to mention them. Book Shop or Bookshop? There are so few examples of ‘Book Shop’ being used these days; the norm being bookshop or bookstore (bookstore being slightly more American but both terms are used in both countries). This bothered me, perhaps unduly. What do you think? My only other niggle was just a tiny editorial thing. Near the beginning of the novel Veronica Henry has the characters going ‘up to London’ from Oxford… and that just didn’t work for me; you don’t go ‘up’ to London from Oxford, you definitely go down. They really are tiny grumbles.

I haven’t read any other novels by Veronica Henry so I can’t make any comparisons with her other books but when I fancy a light-hearted romance I would read another. I enjoyed her style and multiple plot strands and anything that keeps me up into the early hours of the morning has to get the thumbs up from me.

About the Author

Veronica Henry lives in Devon and has penned 14 romance novels; one of which won the 2014 RNA Novel of the Year Award, A Night on The Orient Express. Before trying her hand at fiction she also had a successful career as a scriptwriter for The Archers, Holby City and Heartbeat, amongst others

Where to Buy

You can buy How to Find Love in a Book Shop from your local independent bookshop, or you can buy online from hive.co.uk and still support your local independent bookshop by nominating them to receive a percentage of your sale on Hive. Shop local where possible to help keep your High Streets alive. The current RRP for a new hardback is £12.99. ISBN no 9781409146889. At Books & Ink Bookshop most of our new books are for sale at a discounted price. We also have a large second-hand stock. First published by Orion in hardback in 2016.

Review: Mobile Library by David Whitehouse

I’m not sure what I was expecting when I chose Mobile Library as my next read; something cute and fluffy about books and reading perhaps. The story is about a 12 year old boy and I think I was expecting a children’s book. What I got was something quite different. Mobile Library is something of a contemporary fairy tale, complete with all the dark and dismal parts that usually crop up in fairy tales, as well as the redeeming fairy-godmother.

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Mobile Library by David Whitehouse

 

Twelve-year-old Bobby lives a bleak and lonely life, devoid of affection since his mother died. His father and girlfriend appear to care little for Bobby and show little interest in the boy, except for when they are venting their anger. When he’s at home Bobby spends his time neatly arranging and rearranging memories of his mother into files, or boxes, so that she can pick up her life where she left off when she returns… Bobby is also bullied at school but has a best friend, Sunny, who is his greatest protector. Bobby and Sunny are on a mission to turn Sunny into a cyborg so that he can protect Bobby from bad things forever.

Then Bobby meets Rosa when he’s passing by her house on his way home from school. She is 13 and she asks Bobby if he’d like to play. She has a disability of some sort, has a loving and trusting nature and immediately takes to Bobby as a friend. Rosa is attacked by the same bullies picking on Bobby (while Bobby, through fear hides in the bushes) and through this situation Bobby comes to meet Val, Rosa’s mum. Val and Rosa both warm to Bobby very quickly and take him into their hearts. Bobby spends more and more time with them, learning better how to communicate (after the silence he endures at home), taking baths (another forbidden thing at home), reading books, playing, eating proper meals and indulging in treats like ice cream (not allowed, his father says). Val enjoys Bobby’s company – for many years she has had little company other than her daughter – and Bobby feels love and a sense of belonging for the first time since his mother’s death. The little trio start to become like a functional family unit, although Bobby still has to go home to his father at the end of the day.

‘In every book is a clue about life,’ Val said. ‘That’s how stories are connected. You bring them to life when you read them, so that the things that happen in them will happen to you.’

‘I don’t think the things that happen in books will happen in my life,’ he said.

‘That’s where you’re wrong,’ she said. ‘You just don’t recognise them yet.’

Then events occur which put their surrogate son-mother relationship in danger and Val decides to take off across the country with Bobby and Rosa in the mobile library which she cleans once a week. In their time together this library has become like a dreamworld to Bobby – full of stories, adventures and escapism:

Morning hours vanished somewhere inside the books. Bobby read The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery, amazed that a man whose name he couldn’t pronounce might write a story that seemed like it was written just for him. Like the young prince, he too found the adult world strange. He too saw very few certainties in it.

They encounter quite a number of adventures while travelling and trying to evade detection, including picking up a fellow traveller-on-the-run who leads them all the way up to Scotland, from middle England, and back down and Bobby, Rosa and Val are all having the times of their lives when reality strikes. Will they be able to stay together in their new-found family unit…?

The novel starts at the end, which I didn’t particularly mind; it’s usually a device that annoys me as I like the novel to tell the story but in this case it is the ending told from a slightly different narrative perspective to the actual ending which is narrated in more detail and with Val’s voice, so the story isn’t fully revealed at the beginning. I didn’t get into the book right away, perhaps because it was so different to what I was expecting. I found the characters all a bit extreme and therefore not very believable and the plot a bit far-fetched. But. Then I settled into the fairy-tale-type style and it no longer mattered to me if the characterisation was over-the-top and the accumulation of events unbelievable; the characters were living out their own story and that’s when it started to work for me and fall into place. There’s no doubt that child abuse on this level does take place, disability discrimination, and so on. And there’s no doubt that reading stories, along with love and nurture, can really help unlock a child’s potential. The author also explores the theme of imagination and how far one can go with imagination before harm is done, i.e. is it always good to be imaginative, or should the self or another inflict boundaries to protect you from harm? A number of deep themes are explored.

There is some interesting philosophising in the novel, some great snippets about books, reading and the influences of literature, and some deeply disturbing aspects regarding child abuse and abusive relationships. It is not a novel for children, that much is clear but it doesn’t otherwise fit into a neatly arranged category. It is a good, thoughtful read. I often find it easy to forget a book almost as soon as I’ve read it but I won’t forget this one. The book isn’t perfect and can feel overdone and blatant but I would recommend it, particularly for the universal message about the power of stories to change, heal and transform.

About the Author

David Whitehouse was born in 1981 and lives in London. His first novel, Bed, won the inaugural 2010 To Hell With Prizes Award for unpublished work, the 2012 Betty Trask Prize and has been published in eighteen countries. His journalism has appeared in the national press and he has undertaken TV and film projects as well.

Where to Buy

You can buy Mobile Library from your local independent bookshop, or you can buy online from hive.co.uk and still support your local independent bookshop by nominating them to receive a percentage of your sale on Hive. Shop local, where possible, to help keep your High Streets alive. The current RRP for a new paperback is £7.99, ISBN no 9781447274711. At Books & Ink Bookshop most of our new books are for sale at a discounted price. We also have a large second-hand stock. First published by Picador in hardback in 2015; Picador paperback edition 2016.