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Children don’t need woke stories Meghan Markle's ghastly new book has nothing on Billy Bunter

The Duchess of Sussex with children who haven't read The Bench (Photo by Ben Stansall-WPA Pool/Getty Images)

The Duchess of Sussex with children who haven't read The Bench (Photo by Ben Stansall-WPA Pool/Getty Images)


May 17, 2021   7 mins

England, some time in the first half of the last century. Night.

In a boarding school near the Kentish coast, a ruffian sneaks along the corridor, hunting for the rare stamp that will make him rich. In a Home Counties village, a tousled-haired schoolboy lies awake, putting the finishing touches to his scheme that will win the war for the Allies. Many miles to the north, a boat pulls away from Wildcat Island, bound for fortune and glory. And far across the oceans, a group of schoolboys tremble in terror, as their South Sea captors prepare to sacrifice them to their idol …

Such is the world of the classic British children’s story: the world of Billy Bunter and his Greyfriars chums, William Brown and his fellow Outlaws, Titty, Roger and the rest of the Swallows and Amazons, Jennings, Molesworth and the Secret Seven. For more than half a century, such stories dominated the imagination of millions of readers. You can still buy second-hand editions of Richmal Crompton’s Guillermo el Detective, and wonder what on earth readers in General Franco’s Spain made of them.

When I was growing up, the books of Frank Richards, Arthur Ransome and Richmal Crompton were still everywhere, just about. Our local library groaned with stories in which middle-class British children spent their weekends in the barn across the fields and their weeknights sneaking out of the dormitory for some stolen tuck. Raised on the virtues of teamwork and courage, the boys grew up to become hunters, naval commanders and Spitfire pilots. I never found out what happened to the girls. For a boy in the early Eighties, to have been caught reading Mallory Towers would have been social suicide.

I thought of these splendid and now largely forgotten books when I read that a new star is about to join the constellation of children’s writers. Marcus Rashford, footballer and saint, has written a book, or at least put his name on a book by his collaborator Carl Anka. I don’t want to be rude about it: if it encourages football-crazed children to read, so much the better.

I’ll be as rude as you like, though, about Meghan, Duchess of Sussex’s forthcoming children’s book The Bench. Catchy title! According to the publishers, it aims to evoke a “deep sense of warmth, connection and compassion”. It sounds ghastly. What sane child wants to read about connection and compassion, when they could read Billy Bunter Butts In instead?

My own defiantly non-compassionate copy of Billy Bunter Butts In, first bought for my mother in 1951, is beside me right now. As far as I remember, it’s the first book that I read after lights-out, under the covers with a torch. I was risking my pocket money, but I simply couldn’t contain myself. Would the Fat Owl of the Remove be caned for failing to do his Georgic? Would Stephen Price of the Fifth manage to get his bet on for the two-thirty? And who would win the titanic showdown between plucky form captain Harry Wharton, the colonel’s son, and Herbert Vernon-Smith, cocky son of a millionaire stockbroker, the legendary “Bounder”? (Don’t worry: I won’t give the result away.)

Purveyors of Californian compassion might think this a dreadful book for a boy to be reading in the early Eighties. But I was in good company. In their heyday between 1910 and 1940, Frank Richards’s Greyfriars stories, which ran in the Magnet magazine, were the single most popular narrative in all British fiction. Then as now, some people deplored them. When V. S. Pritchett’s father discovered his son’s stash of Magnets, he burned them in the fireplace and told him to read John Ruskin instead. But Pritchett could not help himself. “One page and I was entranced,” he remembered. “I gobbled these stories as if I were eating pie or stuffing.”

Later, recalling his days teaching the sons of “shopkeepers, office employees and small business and professional men”, George Orwell reported that almost all read the Greyfriars stories and “were still taking them fairly seriously when they were fifteen or even sixteen”.

And in his book The Intellectual Life of the British Working Classes, the historian Jonathan Rose quotes a colliery winder’s son, a Camberwell labourer’s son and the disabled son of two Yorkshire millworkers, all of whom loved the stories. On the South Wales coalfield, a butcher’s boy called Aneurin Bevan made a weekly pilgrimage to the newsagent’s for the latest Magnet. Like many other parents, Bevan’s father, a miner, banned them from the house. But the NHS’s founding father bought them anyway and hid them underneath a local bridge.

In his famous essay “Boys’ Weeklies”, Orwell argued that these stories formed one of the great bulwarks of British conservatism:

“The year is 1910 — or 1940, but it is all the same. You are at Greyfriars, a rosy-cheeked boy of fourteen in posh tailor-made clothes, sitting down to tea in your study on the Remove passage after an exciting game of football which was won by an odd goal in the last half-minute. There is a cosy fire in the study, and outside the wind is whistling. The ivy clusters thickly round the old grey stones. The King is on his throne and the pound is worth a pound. Over in Europe the comic foreigners are jabbering and gesticulating, but the grim grey battleships of the British Fleet are steaming up the Channel and at the outposts of Empire the monocled Englishmen are holding the niggers at bay…”

Actually, they’re not quite as reactionary as you might think. The working-class scholarship boys are far brighter and more likeable than the aristocrats and stockbrokers’ sons, and they all go out of their way to shield their Indian chum Hurree Jamset Ram Singh (er, “Inky”) from the “colour prejudice” of their American classmate Fisher T. Fish.

But in essence Orwell was right. Greyfriars is a deeply conservative place, unchanging and hierarchical, menaced by an endless stream of loafers, ruffians, footpads and foreigners. I bow to nobody in my love of Billy Bunter, the “schoolboy Falstaff”, the jam-sodden embodiment of greed, laziness, stupidity and cowardice. Though when I was looking for a bedtime story for my son, even I drew the line at Billy Bunter Among the Cannibals.

Bunter wasn’t my only favourite. The first story I ever wrote as a boy was an illustrated sequel to Swallows and Amazons, rather undermining the innocence of Arthur Ransome’s original by equipping the characters with automatic weapons. But today I would give the gold medal to Richmal Crompton, the shy, unmarried invalid whose William Brown stories sold some 12 million copies between 1919 and 1969.

Originally written for middle-class mothers and published in women’s magazines, they chronicled the adventures of a mischievous 11-year-schoolboy in a Home Counties village. And if you’re looking for an antidote to connection and compassion, a repudiation of everything Meghan and Harry stand for, they are perfect.

For generations of readers, William and his fellow Outlaws Ginger, Henry and Douglas were as familiar as their own friends and family. Then there was the supreme villain for any 11-year-old boy, the terrifying, invincible Violet Elizabeth Bott, a monster of narcissistic self-pity. ‘I’ll thcream and thcream until I’m thick.’ That would make a good motto for somebody.

William himself is an inveterate culture warrior, an unashamed lover of flags and statues, the personification of the anti-woke spirit. Although he chafes under parental authority, he reserves his greatest contempt for idealists, do-gooders, artists and intellectuals. In one story, a League of Nations enthusiast arrives in the village and implores the boys to give up their weapons as a first step towards world peace. William pretends to go along with it, tricks his enemies into disarming, and then seizes their catapults and air rifles and turns them on his foes. Connection and compassion are definitely not his thing.

In another story, with a general election looming in 1929, the children organise their own mock election. Henry, the gang’s brainbox, lays out the position:

“There’s four sorts of people tryin’ to get to be rulers. They all want to make things better, but they want to make ’em better in different ways. There’s Conservatives an’ they want to make things better by keepin’ ’em jus’ like what they are now. An’ there’s Lib’rals an’ they want to make things better by alterin’ them jus’ a bit, but not so’s anyone’d notice, an’ there’s Socialists, an’ they want to make things better by takin’ everyone’s money off ’em, an’ there’s Communists an’ they want to make things better by killin’ everyone but themselves.’

No political scientist could put it better.

At first, attracted by the thought of so much violence, William flirts with the idea of Communism. But eventually he stands as a Conservative, influenced by his father’s friend, a big game hunter from the African veldt. The day of the election comes. Addressing the other children, William simply lists the man’s kills: buffalos, lions, elephants, even hippopotamuses. At last, slowly, grandly, he reaches his peroration: ‘An’ this man is a Conservative. He votes Conservatism at gen’ral elections.’

He wins in a landslide.

Crompton’s best stories date from the war. In one story, William half-hears his family discussing Norway’s Nazi puppet Vidkun Quisling at breakfast, and becomes convinced that a man called “ole Grissel” is at large in the village, preparing the ground for ole Hitler’s invasion. Later, he arms his friends with an air gun, bows and catapults, and scours the lanes for enemy parachutists. An actor appears, dressed for an entertainment at the local aerodrome. The Outlaws knock him senseless and call the police. The man denies everything. But William has a crushing, unanswerable riposte: “If you aren’t a parachutist, why are you dressed up as a woman?”

Is there any hope for such stories today? Probably not. Given the ultra-woke instincts of most children’s publishers, I suspect they’re sunk forever. There is too much stoicism and not enough self-pity, too much pluck and not enough diversity. I certainly can’t see Meghan enjoying Billy Bunter’s outings to Egypt, China and the South Seas. As for William Brown, his attitude to anti-racism campaigners, curriculum decolonisers and mental health professionals doesn’t bear thinking about. Sad to say, the only reason Richmal Crompton hasn’t been cancelled is that so few people still read her.

For me, though, her stories will live forever. Bunter and William will be charging around my imagination till the day I die, or at least until I lose my marbles. And when I think of Orwell’s imitation, I can’t help smiling in recognition:

“Lord Mauleverer has just got another fiver and we are all settling down to a tremendous tea of sausages, sardines, crumpets, potted meat, jam and doughnuts. After tea we shall sit round the study fire having a good laugh at Billy Bunter and discussing the team for next week’s match against Rookwood. Everything is safe, solid and unquestionable. Everything will be the same for ever and ever
”

The irony, of course, is that Orwell loved them as much as anybody. He’d have had no time for The Bench, would ole George.


Dominic Sandbrook is an author, historian and UnHerd columnist. His latest book is: Who Dares Wins: Britain, 1979-1982

dcsandbrook

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Looney Leftie
Looney Leftie
3 years ago

I fear for the next generation. Unless parents can take back some kind of control, out of the hands of the woke left I believe we will slowly but surely slip into a quasi totalitarian government and culture. With the likes of Markle, Biden, Corbyn, Andrews, Kendi and all their disciples at our schools and universities the picture looks grim. The following quote is from a book, it could easily be taken from a Kendi or Andrews book….

‘Finally, it is the business of the Peoples State to arrange for the writing of a world history in which the race problem will occupy a dominant position.’

But it isn’t, it’s from Mein Kampf. These are chilling times, I can easily see the coming generations not knowing what ‘freedom’ really is. And what is even more disturbing, is that people like Markle – by starting them at a young age – feel they are indoctrinating our kids for their own good. We really need some intelligent adults back in the room to realise that Markle is the thin edge of the woke wedge.

Last edited 3 years ago by Looney Leftie
Annette Kralendijk
Annette Kralendijk
3 years ago
Reply to  Looney Leftie

Let’s not put Meghan Markle in the Biden, Corbyn , etc category. She is more of a Kardashian. Being famous for marrying an air headed royal doesn’t make her a candidate for deep thought. Markle is fundamentally unserious and mostly interested in making money.

Looney Leftie
Looney Leftie
3 years ago

Markle is obviously not a deep thinker, but in a way that is even more alarming, she has access to all the ‘This Morning and ‘GMB’ crowd, and makes the woke creep even more acceptable and assessable.

Annette Kralendijk
Annette Kralendijk
3 years ago
Reply to  Looney Leftie

Yep, just like the Kardashians.

Looney Leftie
Looney Leftie
3 years ago

Don’t worry about it then. Markle is obviously no danger to our society at all.

Last edited 3 years ago by Looney Leftie
Annette Kralendijk
Annette Kralendijk
3 years ago
Reply to  Looney Leftie

Not in my opinion, no. She may be annoying but that’s different.

Looney Leftie
Looney Leftie
3 years ago

Well, you obviously have a brain, unlike the average ‘This Morning’ viewer, that’s my point. She is a danger, maybe a small one, but a danger none the less.

Last edited 3 years ago by Looney Leftie
kathleen carr
kathleen carr
3 years ago
Reply to  Looney Leftie

The main focus of this banal book is a bench, where it suggests their heir was conceived? In his more recent blaming session Harry claimed that when they lived in England he could only meet Meghan in a supermarket. I think I have discovered their problem. Neither of them has been shown how to use door handles-there were hundreds of rooms where they could meet in Kensington Palace & all the other royal places but they chose the fruit & veg aisle? They obviously chose their present home ( 14 bedrooms/16 bathrooms) in the hope staff might leave some of the doors ajar. They even gave their interview from a bench-obviously didn’t want to admit they don’t know how to get inside their own house. Tragic really isn’t it?

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
3 years ago

What is a Kardashian may I ask?

kathleen carr
kathleen carr
3 years ago

A Kardashian is a person who looks nothing like their photos but gets very cross if an assistant accidently puts a picture of a perfectly ordinary woman online instead of the obviously photoshopped one they prefer.They are a perfect analogy for the virtual world we now live in.

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
3 years ago
Reply to  kathleen carr

Thank you for that warning.
Fortunately ‘their’ influence has yet to penetrate to hills and valleys of deepest Arcadia.

Annette Kralendijk
Annette Kralendijk
3 years ago

It’s a descriptive word for a celebrity with no basis for celebrity.

David Boulding
David Boulding
3 years ago

An inconsequemtial trivia.

David Boulding
David Boulding
3 years ago
Reply to  Looney Leftie

‘This Morning and ‘GMB’ crowd are hardly “deep thinkers either!

kathleen carr
kathleen carr
3 years ago
Reply to  David Boulding

Since Meghan got Piers Morgan the sack This Morning are obviously terrified of her. They apparently found her first love who knew her when she was only 13 & Lorraine Kelly let him say how brave Meghan is & how awful the Royal Family are.

David George
David George
3 years ago

Yes Annette, I think we all know what (Meagain) Markle is all about, better than she does perhaps, but the “indoctrinating our kids for their own good” still stands, don’t you think.

Annette Kralendijk
Annette Kralendijk
3 years ago
Reply to  David George

Sure but Markle doesn’t have anything to do with that. Someone like Biden or Corbyn is far more dangerous. Markle is a passing fad, she won’t have the social or cultural impact of a Princess Diana even if her marriage lasts. Imbuing her with some sort of power or influence is over the top.
Getting all upset over her writing a book about a relationship with ones father is highly amusing since she hasn’t managed that herself and now has ruined Harry’s relationship with his dad. See the humor in it rather than empower her with some sort of tragic influence.

Last edited 3 years ago by Annette Kralendijk
andy thompson
andy thompson
3 years ago

I agree with you Annette. My money’s on her being a very expensive passing fad too. I worry about Harry though because as much as I loath the man for what he’s wrought upon his family I believe he’s blinded by love and I fear one day he’s going to need putting on a very, very close suicide watch. When she’s finished with him she’ll toss him to the gutter like a drunk does an empty chip wrapper – I am in no doubt about that whatsoever.

wendyb027594
wendyb027594
3 years ago
Reply to  andy thompson

V Sad but true

Annette Kralendijk
Annette Kralendijk
3 years ago
Reply to  andy thompson

Harry is fragile, no doubt. That’s precisely what attracted him to her.
And yes, I agree that they don’t have much prospect for a long term relationship. I don’t believe that Markle does long term. She wanted a title, that’s it.
He will be back home at some point, sheepish and relieved of most of what his mother left him, no doubt. But he will not be the only royal whose marriage failed. His dad’s, his uncle Andrew’s, his aunt Anne’s. Choosing a partner wisely doesn’t appear to be in the cards for the Windsors. Let’s hope that William has better luck.

Simon Baseley
Simon Baseley
3 years ago

I am with you, Annette. Megan Markle and poor Harry had their big score in the Oprah interview. From now on it is a slow decline. Sure, she and her spouse will return to the well – that’s what the Harry’s recent boo-hoo-my-dad-done-me-wrong interview was about and they will finesse every last drop and with it every last dollar they can from the business of their ‘pain’, but eventually they will become an embarrassment over there just as they have become one here. In a world of actors we need to take seriously, they’re the light entertainment.

Niobe Hunter
Niobe Hunter
3 years ago
Reply to  Simon Baseley

My money is on ‘ I was sexually abused at Eton’. Though the school may have more to lose and so take legal redress.

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
3 years ago
Reply to  Niobe Hunter

Eton recently took a very draconian approach when one of their teaching staff had the temerity to challenge the supremacy of the Gynarchy.

The fired him after nine years of unblemished service!

Floreat Etona!

Last edited 3 years ago by CHARLES STANHOPE
kathleen carr
kathleen carr
3 years ago
Reply to  Simon Baseley

Meghan won her case against the M on S because ( so they say) the Queen asked the judge for a favour. After Diana’s interview the Queen told her & Charles to divorce. The palace obviously feel they acted wrongly there & are frightened of seeming to be vindictive after this interview. M & H being rather immature people can’t help continuing to criticize the family from which they derive their power & money.

Annette Kralendijk
Annette Kralendijk
3 years ago
Reply to  Simon Baseley

Yes, I’d agree with all of that. There really isn’t anything for anyone in the US or the U.K. to be embarrassed about though. H and M are just light entertainment, very much like the Kardashians. You watch the train wreck but that’s about it.

kathleen carr
kathleen carr
3 years ago

It will be interesting to see what Archie and his sister make of this in 20 years time? Hopefully the Queen will send them some of her childhood favourite books for them to read to balance up the woke favoured by their parents

Annette Kralendijk
Annette Kralendijk
3 years ago
Reply to  kathleen carr

Yes, in all likelihood they will have childhoods split between divorced parents. Half in the US half in the UK. But woke on both sides. My guess is that however bad a job Harry claims Charles did, he and Meghan will beat it by a mile.

Last edited 3 years ago by Annette Kralendijk
kathleen carr
kathleen carr
3 years ago

Sadly thats true and exactly what seems to have scarred Princess Diana , having a childhood being passed like a parcel between two waring parents.

Johannes Kreisler
Johannes Kreisler
3 years ago
Reply to  Looney Leftie

 I believe we will slowly but surely slip into a quasi totalitarian government and culture. 

I was born into and grew up in one, most of my childhood fell into the horrid 1970s – i’m still too familiar with the vocabulary, the slogans, the visuals and the general stench of it all. And yes, there’s every sign that the “free West” is sliding into the cultural nighmare of totalitarianism – not even slowly but at quite an alarming speed.

Seb Dakin
Seb Dakin
3 years ago
Reply to  Looney Leftie

I wonder if anyone involved with the New York Times 1619 project knows about that Hitler quote.

andy thompson
andy thompson
3 years ago
Reply to  Seb Dakin

If they did they’d never admit it.

George Bruce
George Bruce
3 years ago
Reply to  Looney Leftie

It is interesting that a quote from Mein Kampf would seem appropriate today too. Surely racial studies and experts in race would also belong to either Hitlerian Germany or – the US or Europe now.

As the Nazi Party’s chief racial theorist, Rosenberg oversaw the construction of a human racial “ladder” that justified Hitler’s racial and ethnic policies.

Swap a few words and phrases and it could be someone in a government or corporate position in 2021.

Mike Boosh
Mike Boosh
3 years ago
Reply to  Looney Leftie

” I believe we will slowly but surely slip into a quasi totalitarian government and culture”
Its already happened, and there’s nothing “quasi” about it. The government has banned people from leaving their own homes for a large part of the last year, closed businesses and is today allowing us to hug loved ones (though only cautiously, whatever that means). We have a state which intrudes into every aspect of everybody’s lives, and that’s as totalitarian as it gets.

Jayne Lago
Jayne Lago
3 years ago
Reply to  Mike Boosh

Think prior to The coronavirus issue…….none of what you are describing occurred before so if you are going to comment make sure it’s factual.

Mike Boosh
Mike Boosh
3 years ago
Reply to  Jayne Lago

Strange comment… The OP talks about how we WILL become a certain way, I’m talking about how we currently ARE a certain way, and you say this isn’t “factual” because it wasn’t like that 2 years ago. The genie is out of the bottle now and we don’t live in that pre-covid world any more. Do you think they’ll give up that control? Now that they’ve discovered how easy it is there will always be another crisis which can be used to justify complete control over any aspect of our lives. That’s totalitarian, and it’s here now. Fact.

Giulia Khawaja
Giulia Khawaja
3 years ago
Reply to  Jayne Lago

Yes, PRIOR to the coronavirus none of the restrictions applied. Now they do and I feel it’s unlikely they will be willingly removed.

SUSAN GRAHAM
SUSAN GRAHAM
3 years ago
Reply to  Looney Leftie

MM’s book is aimed – we are told – at 1-7 year olds – for whom books are usually bought by parents/grandparents etc, who mostly – unlike Markle – have a brain and are also ‘unwoke’. Nobody with any sense will pay money for this nonsense, in fact the price has already been reduced on Amazon even prior to release ! I do worry about this generation of children, mine were raised before the age of the screen for everything and were avid readers – my grandchildren shun books, not helped by schools, 6 year olds used to have a reading book from school – now this is banned due to OTT response to Covid which will have repercussions.

John Smith
John Smith
3 years ago
Reply to  Looney Leftie

Ahh – Mein Kamph. It sits on a special shelf in my library with all the other really dangerous volumes; the Bible, the Koran, Mao’s Red Book, Das Kapital, Brave New World, 1984, Thus Spake Zarathustra, and a few more. If it were Howarts they’d all be in the forbidden section 😉

Katharine Eyre
Katharine Eyre
3 years ago

I loved Roald Dahl. Grandsons poisoning their nasty, unkind Grandmas, farting giants, uncaring parents, unimaginably cruel headmistresses who hated children, bald witches…this is the stuff of classic children’s books. Not woke waffle about compassion and diversity.

The Bench is just virtue-signalling with a dust-cover.

Judy Johnson
Judy Johnson
3 years ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

The stories were good but when my children were small I refused to put money in the pocket or estate of such a rampant anti-semite.

Katharine Eyre
Katharine Eyre
3 years ago
Reply to  Judy Johnson

That’s fair enough and you probably aren’t the only one. However, I think it is quite helpful to separate the personality and views of children’s authors from their stories, especially as far as older books are concerned. Enid Blyton was really quite an unpleasant person too – but her stories are wonderfully entertaining and shouldn’t be done down just because of their author’s personal shortcomings.

kathleen carr
kathleen carr
3 years ago
Reply to  Judy Johnson

I think you will find the best children’s authors are all a bit odd-J M Barrie for example , it sort of goes with the ability to re-enter childhood.

Drahcir Nevarc
Drahcir Nevarc
3 years ago
Reply to  Judy Johnson

I hate antisemitism, but I still like the poetry of Ezra Pound.

Andrew D
Andrew D
3 years ago
Reply to  Drahcir Nevarc

Good point, although Pound’s antisemitism is present in his poetry, whereas I don’t think anyone’s spotted it in Dahl’s children’s stories

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
3 years ago
Reply to  Judy Johnson

R Dahl is a sickko in my thinking too.
I LOVED reading as a child, Books I read were what I became. My Favorites: CS Lewis, The Tove Jansson, Moonentroll books, (I became Snufkin eventually) PG Wodehouse, Rider Haggard, some Connan Doyle, Nesbit, Five Children and It, Anthony St Xupre, Tolkin, Kipling, Mark Twain, Science Fiction of all kinds, and on and on – but most of all ‘The Weirdstone of Brisingamen: A Tale of Alderley is a children’s fantasy novel written by the English author Alan Garner’.
When I left school, which was a hell for me, and I suppose those trying to manage me, I hit the road and it took 22 years to calm down enough to get back off it – but I seeked the magic, the adventure, the mysteries of nature and existence I had been formed by, from the books I sank so totally into. I found the road as a poor drifter was almost entirely tedious and exceedingly hard and lonely, but the glimpses of wonder one gets on those rare occasions, the remarkable experiences, and remarkable people which happen along, kept me on it – I think because I had such a huge capacity for adventure that I would suffer the 99.99% of hardship to catch those fleeting moments of aesthetic wonder.

Last edited 3 years ago by Galeti Tavas
kathleen carr
kathleen carr
3 years ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

I expect you’ve read The Owl Service and Elidor? We were really a lucky generation for reading as there were both terrific new authors and re-issues under Puffin of classics like Ballet Shoes (though I don’t imagine you read that)

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
3 years ago
Reply to  kathleen carr

Oh, Yes. His terrible book Red Shift’ put me off, but otherwise Garner is my favorite children writer. The feel of mystery he instills…..I actually became a bit of a caver, exploring caves of pretty high difficulty as I had become enthralled by that magic environment.

In my years remote, and in ancient lands and wild places, mostly alone, I could feel the ultimate mysteries of nature, sometimes, they mostly remain hidden. It is only in the remotest, or hardest to get to, or most crazy, places does real mystery still come about. Where man is set, especially modern man, mystery is lone gone, nature has retreated into the normal, tame kind, we know – Exactly as Alan Garner says in his books. Only when you do long, solo, sojourns in the wilds do you get that glimpse of what is behind the curtain. All the remote writers mention this.

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
3 years ago
Reply to  kathleen carr

“The Midnight Folk is a children’s fantasy novel by John Masefield” I loved these sort of books. And adventure like Treasure Island and such… I lived in imagination – I was out in the local forests of my part of London most nights, running about – I was totally comfortable in the woods at night, usually not even using a light, one can train ones self to see in the dark surprisingly well, by using peripheral vision – when I hit the true wilds after leaving home I was already an expert woodsman – From London small forests – I had the freedom of the city on my bicycle and would go miles and miles. – the fear of the dark is strong, but once overcome even the tiny woods of the Green Belt and parks are magic at night. During the day in London it is all so normal and congested, but at night in the woods and parks the buildings disappear, the natural world of sky, weather, soil, forest come alive and become wild places as man’s works are hidden by dark.- No one can keep me inside and my parents just let me run wild from a Young age as I was so hard headed.

Andrew D
Andrew D
3 years ago

Just about any children’s author worth reading has been deemed ‘problematic’ by some tw*t or other – Richmal Crompton, C S Lewis, Roald Dahl, J K Rowling and of course the wonderful HergĂ©. Strangely Lewis Carroll hasn’t yet, and Tolkien also seems to have escaped – doubtless their times will come. Fortunately my children’s copies of all the above are safely stored in the attic and can be brought out for their children. With luck the publishers will all go bust.

Last edited 3 years ago by Andrew D
kathleen carr
kathleen carr
3 years ago
Reply to  Andrew D

The woke mob tend to re-visualize anything that doesn’t fit their ideas , so you are best finding old dvds of favourites like The Railway Children or The Box of Delights before they disappear as well.

Giulia Khawaja
Giulia Khawaja
3 years ago
Reply to  Andrew D

Lewis Carroll has been criticised for his photographs of little girls. It doesn’t stop me appreciating his stories and poems.

Kathy Prendergast
Kathy Prendergast
3 years ago
Reply to  Andrew D

Lewis Carroll was a very odd bird. But then, a lot of great storytellers are, or were. And the most memorable fictional characters are often odd birds, too. One of my favourite books as a child was Astrid Lindgren’s Pippi Longstocking.

George Bruce
George Bruce
3 years ago

I was a 60s child, so older than the author of this article.
My two favourites were Biggles and Bunter. I probably read (and in fact had – I think I very rarely got them from libraries) about 30-40 Biggles books and 15 Bunter books.
The Biggles ones were definitely educational as well as entertaining due to being set in all sorts of places. I looked at some of the Bunter ones recently, and thought they are actually well written. It is by no means childish English, it is witty, and has classical and Biblical references aplenty.
Never liked Blyton. (Well, maybe Noddy was good but sorry, not the Famous Five. Total read, about 1 or maybe 2.)
I was not a huge fan of Jennings, but I read a couple and here is a part of one that stuck in my mind.
The boys are in France on a school trip.
Derbyshire : Those men over there are natives.
Jennings : Natives? That is ridiculous. They are speaking French. Natives do not speak French. They say things like wallah-wallah and mbongo mbongo.
Now come on, that is funny!

Last edited 3 years ago by George Bruce
Seb Dakin
Seb Dakin
3 years ago
Reply to  George Bruce

I remember an advent back in probably the 70s but maybe possibly the 80s for a fruit drink where the jingle was ‘mbongo mbongo they drink it in the Congo’. Truly, the past is a foreign country.
Good to have a smile about it.

Last edited 3 years ago by Seb Dakin
George Bruce
George Bruce
3 years ago
Reply to  Seb Dakin

Inspired by your comment I looked up the meaning of Mbongo and got:
Mbongo (also called Mbengo, Nambongo, and Nembongo) is the common ancestor of the Sawa peoples of Cameroon according to their oral traditions. Sawa genealogies usually place Mbongo at the head of the lineage. … A Bakweri honorific, mokpel’anembongo, translates as “free-born and descended from Mbongo“.

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
3 years ago
Reply to  Seb Dakin

I briefly worked with the guy who wrote the ‘Mbongo/Congo’ slogan and campaign. I sometimes adapt it as ‘Mugabe, Mugabe, they like him in Zimbabwe’ whenever that unfortunate country is in the news.

Katharine Eyre
Katharine Eyre
3 years ago
Reply to  Seb Dakin

The drink was called Um Bongo. My sister and I loved it.

Mike Boosh
Mike Boosh
3 years ago
Reply to  Seb Dakin

The drink was called “um bongo”, I remember the advert well.

Jayne Lago
Jayne Lago
3 years ago
Reply to  Seb Dakin

It is good to smile about it …….make the most of smiling as if you listen to most woke people they are as miserable as sin. Likely it won’t be too long before smiling or laughing is banned…….when did you last hear a good belly laugh?

William Murphy
William Murphy
3 years ago
Reply to  George Bruce

I read that the author of the Jennings books (yes, I was a huge fan) was actually quite left wing, despite being a headmaster of a private school. So some of his hugely enjoyable output might have been slightly tongue in cheek.

kathleen carr
kathleen carr
3 years ago
Reply to  William Murphy

A lot of them were like E Nesbitt. I think they created a safe world for themselves, the author of A little Princess and A Secret Garden was born into a wealthy Manchester family who lost all their money and emigrated to America.

Jon Redman
Jon Redman
3 years ago
Reply to  William Murphy

I was a huge Jennings fan, but I find it hasn’t worn well. William is still a scream, but the Jennings milieu makes no sense. What sort of school has 79 pupils? Jennings arrives in the Third Form aged 10; there is a First Form containing Binns Minor and Blotwell, and a form above the Third containing Binns Major. So how many pupils per year is that? The school appears to have only five staff, of whom one’s the head, one’s Matron, one’s the part-timer Mr. Hind the music teacher, leaving Carter and Old Wilkie to teach about 30 lessons a week to at least 3 year groups.
Rereading these now I tend to think what is being portrayed is not boarding school life of the 1950s, but of the 1920s, when the writer was himself at school.
And yes, like Arthur Ransome, Anthony Buckeridge hated private schools and wanted to destroy those his characters attended.

Johnny Sutherland
Johnny Sutherland
3 years ago
Reply to  George Bruce

Born in 1951 but I preferred his SF books.

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
3 years ago

John Wyndham perhaps?
Living in Dounreay must be rather apposite.

simon taylor
simon taylor
3 years ago

Absolutely love John Wyndham, still revisit them in my late fifties.

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
3 years ago
Reply to  simon taylor

Have you tried John Christopher’s’The Death of Grass’?

Jonathan Marshall
Jonathan Marshall
3 years ago
Reply to  George Bruce

I agree with you about Biggles – some really excellent stories there. Swallows and Amazons were also a favourite with me, and many were genuinely riveting tales (try We Didn’t Mean to Go to Sea for instance)..
The Just William books were hilarious – and still are. The “election” quote had me laughing aloud!

Jon Redman
Jon Redman
3 years ago

Biggles had a nice line in snappy dialogue too. There is one episode where his party are in a gunfight with some baddies who offer if he surrenders, “we won’t hurt you any more”.
“You flatter yourself,” retorts Biggles, “you haven’t hurt us yet.”
“I advise you to vanish in a cloud of dust and small pebbles” is another, as is “anyone who comes in here will meet a small piece of lead travelling the other way”.

Jonathan Marshall
Jonathan Marshall
3 years ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

That takes me right back! Thanks, Jon.

Colin Elliott
Colin Elliott
3 years ago
Reply to  George Bruce

I loved W E Johns (even though a little troubled by poetic licence on Biggles’ age), but never read them all. While I was away at school, my mother was offered the full set, but turned them down, not realising that I read them. It was decades before I forgave her.
Other favourites were John Buchan, Rider Haggard, Fennimore Cooper, Jeffery Farnol, Rafael Sabatini (all inherited from my father), and I discovered Tolkien years before everyone else.

Last edited 3 years ago by Colin Elliott
Fred Atkinstalk
Fred Atkinstalk
3 years ago
Reply to  Colin Elliott

Anyone else remember and like Douglas V Duff ?

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
3 years ago

No, but thanks for the recommendation!
Having read his outstanding CV he seems to have obviously been made of the ‘right stuff’.
Thank you.

Last edited 3 years ago by CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
3 years ago
Reply to  Colin Elliott

Never read any George Alfred Henty? The personification of ‘ Play up & play the Game’.

Susannah Baring Tait
Susannah Baring Tait
3 years ago
Reply to  Colin Elliott

I inherited all my father’s books too. I have no idea how, but they survived the war. Most were the titles mentioned above but my favorite was King Solomon’s Mine. And another book that i swear was called The Green Door. Beautiful colour plates. I often wonder whether the writer of Dr Who obtained his ideas from it. And even more so, C. S. Lewis with his Narnia stories.

The boy protagonist discovered an ancient green door in the wall of their kitchen garden, hidden behind a thick wall of ivy. When he eventally managed to open it and step through, he found himself in the middle of ancient history and into an exciting and dangerous situation. Each time it was a different place and time period. I remember one story so well as he stepped into a battle commanded by Julius Caesar. What was different to the above fictional worlds was that these situations were real, documented historical ones, accurately described. The book brought history alive for me and got me hooked. Notwithstanding, future schools doing their best to deaden one’s enthusiasm.

These books followed me around as i moved countries. I read them to my own children. Sadly, i returned from vacation in the mid nineties to find my cleaning lady had decided to free up space in my youngest daughter’s bedroom and decided that these by now ragged specimens had to go.

I have tried to find mention of the Green Door book on line but, nothing. There is another of the same name but not this one. I imagine the book belonged to my father’s father before him. So early 1900s perhaps.

Susannah Baring Tait
Susannah Baring Tait
3 years ago

No one has mentioned comics that I’ve noticed. I was allowed one and chose the Eagle. A character that informed a deep impression was the green Mekon man in Dan Dare. Step forward a couple of decades, early 70s, and i am once again in London. In my work, I had to visit the Polish Embassy. I almost gasped out loud in shock when the door opened and there stood, albeit sickly white, a Mekon clone.

Last edited 3 years ago by Susannah Baring Tait
Andrew McDonald
Andrew McDonald
3 years ago

H G Wells – ‘The Door in the Wall’??

Giulia Khawaja
Giulia Khawaja
3 years ago
Reply to  George Bruce

I loved Jennings and Derbyshire, I think the kind teacher was Mr Carter. When I got older I wondered if he was a self portrait of the author, Anthony Buckland.

Paul N
Paul N
3 years ago
Reply to  George Bruce

I remember those – excitement, adventure, humour, and seeing the bad guys lose. Simpler times!

Simon Baseley
Simon Baseley
3 years ago
Reply to  George Bruce

Aged nine in the local library I used to howl with laughter at Jennings and Derbyshire. Being from a background of modest means, Linbury Court, their prep school was a world away from my own which is exactly what it made so exciting. These days I daresay I would be guided towards reading – if I one is guided toward reading at all – books whose characters’ lives more accurately reflected my own. Goodness I had a lucky escape.

kathleen carr
kathleen carr
3 years ago
Reply to  Simon Baseley

Thats why I loved the comic Bunty. It was all about girls at boarding school & a life a million miles from my own. I wonder if ‘posh’ people become left wing as an escape from all the boarding school, big house , money & ponies world that they grew up with?

Benjamin Jones
Benjamin Jones
3 years ago
Reply to  kathleen carr

Yes, ‘The Four Mary’s’ was a favourite of mine too and I enjoyed ‘Mallory Towers’ which was mentioned in a earlier comment. Luckily it didn’t lead to social suicide as I was never caught reading them in my sister’s bedroom. It set me up nicely for the St Trinian’s films in my adolescence.

kathleen carr
kathleen carr
3 years ago
Reply to  Benjamin Jones

Thats the trouble with some of this recent literature , it doesn’t sound very inviting . People seem to forget that childhood isn’t always a happy time and childen need escapism as much as adults-as the circus man said to Mr Gradgrind-people must be entertained.

Helen Nevitt
Helen Nevitt
3 years ago
Reply to  George Bruce

Sorry to be a pedant but I don’t think they were in France on a school trip I think this book was Jennings and Derbyshire and they end up with a package of fish, they are trying to take a photo and their French isn’t good enough, neither is the fishermen’s interest. I can’t remember why they’re near the sea but I’m pretty sure they’re in England.
Funny enough I was thinking of Jennings today, I was thinking of the term Archbeako for Head Teacher, ie, Mr Pemberton Oakes MA (Cantab).
William is the King of children’s literature, fact, I will brook no argument and Martin Jarvis deserves a Knighthood for William to another generation, my 30 year old daughter laughed herself silly over the winter listening to these tapes in New Jersey. But Narnia is real; more real than the The Bench.

Helen Nevitt
Helen Nevitt
3 years ago
Reply to  Helen Nevitt

Sorry, 1st para error; fishermen’s English.

George Bruce
George Bruce
3 years ago
Reply to  Helen Nevitt

Helen, you may well be right – I presumably read it about half a century ago.

Roger Tilbury
Roger Tilbury
3 years ago

William was always my favourite. About 10 years ago there was a play about Richmal Crompton on BBC R4 and we were discussing it on a social media group I frequent (UMRA since you ask) and wondering what happened to William.
I suggested the following…

The old man woke up with a start. That loud and tuneless whistle reminded him of something. He looked round the unfamiliar surroundings of the nursing home that he’d been moved to earlier that afternoon. Another old man was being hustled along by the senior nurse. He was wearing baggy khaki shorts that were held up by red braces. His bandy legs disappeared into shapeless grey socks that had gathered round his ankles above muddy shoes. Despite the shorts he was wearing a blazer and a bacon and egg tie that was slightly off-centre.

“Right Bill, you sit here until tea-time”

“Jolly good Matron, what’re we havin’ ?”

“You’ll find out when it gets here.”

As she settled him into the chair she tugged off his beret, tousling the already untidy hair that surrounded his bald crown.

“Hello ol’ man, just arrived ?”

“Yes, I’m Henry.”

“William Brown.”

Henry looked at him, recognition slowly growing. He knew he’d heard that whistle before.

“William ? Good God, it must be 50 years !”

“Have we met old man ? Good Lord yes, Henry and it’s been more than 50 years. Wonderful to see you.”

“And you too William.” Henry nodded at the retreating back of the nurse, “Trouble ?”

“Oh that” said William scornfully, “not really. Dot said that she needed a little Easter outin’ so I jus’ took her for a walk. It wasn’t my fault that the brakes on her ol’ wheelchair weren’t workin’. But the pond wasn’t very deep, just a bit muddy is all. And Dot said she enjoyed the paddle.”

Henry grinned.

“Sounds like old times. Do you ever see any of the other Outlaws or the rest of the crowd ?”

William sighed and offered Henry a pear drop.

“No, not for a long time. I heard Douglas became a secretary somewhere foreign and writes ol’ thrillers now. We lost touch though. Ginger died early in the war. His Group Captain wrote to me, Johns I think his name was, said what a brave chap Ginger had been and how fond he’d been of another officer who died on the same raid. Buggersworth or something. Joan and I met the C/O a few months later.”

“You stayed in touch with Joan Crewe all that time ?”

“Oh yes” William smiled sadly “we stayed together orlright, as long as we could. That RAF chappie was bad luck for the Outlaws though. He dropped Joan and I into Occupied France and she was captured. I never saw her again.”

Henry thought back to that lovely, slender little girl and how much she’d adored William, but without ever being soppy about it. She was the only girl who was ever allowed to join the Outlaws.

“I’m very to sorry to hear that, Joan was wonderful, much nicer than that silly girl at the big house.”

William looked at him, grinning “Violet-Elizabeth ? Oh we met up at the end of the war. V.E. day was aptly named. Well V.E. night actually. Don’t look so embarrassed old man, you weren’t to know. She grew up into a fine woman. Had speech therapy for the lisp and saw real life driving an ambulance in the East End all through the Blitz. We had many happy years together.” William’s voice trailed off and he looked down.

“What happened ?” asked Henry.

“Cancer. She had a very painful end. She screamed and screamed. She was very sick.

They sat in silence for a while.

William looked at his watch.

“Time for tea Henry, come on I’ll show you the way, and afterwards we’ll go down to the woods. No gamekeepers now chasin’ us an’ all.”

“And no Jumble either.”

William looked at his old school friend, tears in his rheumy old eyes.

“No, they’re all gone. Jus’ us two left, but they’ll always be with us.”

The old men shuffled into the dining room, arm in arm. They picked at the sandwiches and cake, and completely ignored the jelly. Henry fell asleep again. William got up quietly and left him. He walked out of the home and down the lane to the woods, hands in his pockets, whistlin’ tunelessly.

© Roger Tilbury  2001

Dan Gleeballs
Dan Gleeballs
3 years ago
Reply to  Roger Tilbury

That was surprisingly moving, Roger. I was expecting a mickey-take. Well done.

Jos Haynes
Jos Haynes
3 years ago
Reply to  Roger Tilbury

But William & the Outlaws NEVER aged. They were the same in the ’20s as in the ’50s – only society and surroundings changed.

Helen Nevitt
Helen Nevitt
3 years ago
Reply to  Jos Haynes

Woke be damned. William with all his faults was good where it counted. He was honest, brave, resourceful and patriotic. He protected the weak and stood up to bullies. And not a smarmy goody goody either a role model for ours and any times I think.
II couldn’t really get on with Ed Milliband, he sounded like Hubert Lane, or exactly as I’d imagine Hubert Lane would sound. Not his fault.

Jon Redman
Jon Redman
3 years ago
Reply to  Roger Tilbury

Fantastic!

Alexandra Thrift
Alexandra Thrift
3 years ago
Reply to  Roger Tilbury

Tears in my eyes .

Helen Nevitt
Helen Nevitt
3 years ago
Reply to  Roger Tilbury

Lovely. But I do know what happened to William; he was based on Richmal Compton’s brother who had rather a distinguished War record. He was based in Iceland in WW2 and – get this – the guy who Biggles was based on was based there at the same time.
Hitler never stood a chance.

Roger Tilbury
Roger Tilbury
3 years ago
Reply to  Helen Nevitt

Thanks to everyone for the comments.
I don’t know who WIlliam was based on, but the first Biggles books were written in the 30’s and based on Group Captain WE Johns’ own WW1 experience, although I suppose someone he knew back then could have been in Iceland in WW2.

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
3 years ago

What did you think that all of those people who say “it takes a village” meant? The wokerati have already come for the kids. They hate the idea of school choice, viscerally attack home schoolers, and have little time for any independent thinking youngster.

Kathy Prendergast
Kathy Prendergast
3 years ago
Reply to  Alex Lekas

I’ve always hated the expression “It takes a village to raise a child.” It doesn’t; all it takes is two intelligent, committed and loving parents. The “village” is needed only when parents fail.

Andrew Grant Dutch
Andrew Grant Dutch
3 years ago

Back in the mid-1970s, my Dad accepted a civil engineering job in Kuwait (supposedly to design a railway line linking Basra and Kuwait city). In the multicultural classes of the New English School for foreign children, I was required to learn French and Arabic. Although I progressed rather well with the former, I failed miserably at the latter. Eventually I was exempted from the Arabic classes and permitted to sit quietly at the back of the classroom reading Billy Bunter books, with which the school library was well stocked. So although I did not learn much Arabic, I did pick up that most marvelous word “egregious”, usually in combination with “ass”. Of course, it might have been better if I’d persevered with that strange (to my pre-pubescent ears) tongue as it will surely come in handy if ever our overlords decide to switch from Woke to a much more aggressive religion. In which case, children will not be reading wonderful mind-bending books like Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland/Through the Looking Glass or The Phantom Tollbooth, or even egregious crap like The Bench for that matter.

Waldo Warbler
Waldo Warbler
3 years ago

Does anyone know of a Markle-filter that can prevent any coverage of this vacuous woman’s blatherings ever polluting my awareness?

Paul N
Paul N
3 years ago
Reply to  Waldo Warbler

The best way may be to avoid sites with a Markle obsession: UnHerd, for example.

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
3 years ago
Reply to  Paul N

What utter tosh! The Markle person has hardly been mentioned this past year.
Why would such an overtly avaricious witch command our attention I ask you?

Paul N
Paul N
3 years ago

To be fair, Waldo may just need to avoid the comments. The commentariat here seem more Markle-obsessed than the site. She was shoehorned into many discussions around the time of her big interview, as I recall.

Last edited 3 years ago by Paul N
CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
3 years ago
Reply to  Paul N

Fair point.

Elizabeth
Elizabeth
3 years ago

I think Dominic is worrying unduly. All his favourites are still very popular (my children read them all) and there are also plenty of modern children’s books in the same spirit (the Mr Gum series springs to mind). Children’s literature in fine shape.

The Duchess of Sussex’s book sounds awful but then so were the Duchess of York’s books 30 years ago, so nothing new there. Turns out writing for children takes talent and application, who knew?

Susan Imgrund
Susan Imgrund
3 years ago
Reply to  Elizabeth

I agree – although the children’s book market is rather clogged up with moralistic stories that seem to be addressing adults more than children, there are recent reprints of Willard Price and Biggles to be had, as well as plenty of new writers of humour and adventure. I’ve written a series of retro-style adventures in the Biggles mode, and while they weren’t snapped up by a Big 5 publisher (a literary consultancy warned me mainstream publishers might be a little queasy about possible “colonial” associations), a small press was more than happy to publish them. https://www.burmeon.com

Seb Dakin
Seb Dakin
3 years ago

Great article & fond memories, although I never quite got into Swallows and Amazons.
Does anyone remember Hal and Roger Hunt? They went around the world having adventures capturing animals for their father’s zoo as I recall. Brilliant stuff for a boy to read. I haven’t seen any of those books for decades.

chris sullivan
chris sullivan
3 years ago
Reply to  Seb Dakin

the “adventure ” series – it was graet

George Bruce
George Bruce
3 years ago
Reply to  Seb Dakin

Yes, Seb, I read one or two of them. As Chris Sullivan below says, they had adventure in the title. The phrase Mountains of the Moon rings a bell – I am sure they went there.

daniel Earley
daniel Earley
3 years ago
Reply to  Seb Dakin

I read a load of those as a kid, written by Willard Price including one where they went onboard a whaling ship that was a sailing ship and hunted using whaling boats and old harpoons. Hal, I thin kit was, rode a harpoooned whale back to the ship by covering an eye with his tshirt to steer it. More information is available here. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adventure_series_(Willard_Price)

Paddy Taylor
Paddy Taylor
3 years ago
Reply to  Seb Dakin

God, what a blast from the past. I read several of them at the age of about 10 or 11. Loved them at the time.
I never tried them on my sons. Had forgotten all about them. Though getting them to read anything that wasn’t current was a struggle. Even the Hornblower series, and Flashman, which I loved, failed to grab them.

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
3 years ago
Reply to  Paddy Taylor

You would have to know something about the historical context to enjoy either Hornblower or Flashman.

If that is absent you’re stuffed, I’m afraid.

Graeme Caldwell
Graeme Caldwell
3 years ago
Reply to  Seb Dakin

Yes, I still clearly remember—although possibly inaccurately—being somewhat disturbed when a character got his foot stuck in a giant clam and drowned after attempting to saw it off. Excellent stuff.

Last edited 3 years ago by Graeme Caldwell
Pete Kreff
Pete Kreff
3 years ago

I had a horror of giant clams when I was young, but I don’t think it came from a book. Wasn’t there a film where that happened? Maybe The Deep? Or some Bond film?

Tom Adams
Tom Adams
3 years ago

The real kicker was that he asked Roger to do the deed, and Roger couldn’t bear to. Roger’s guilt when the incoming tide duly drowned the chap…
There was some serious stuff in those books.

Giulia Khawaja
Giulia Khawaja
3 years ago

That would be so upsetting to the Wokerati, they would not feel safe.

Jon Redman
Jon Redman
3 years ago
Reply to  Seb Dakin

I liked S&A but the series was patchy. We Didn’t Mean To Go To Sea was excellent, as was Winter Holiday, but the rest were a bit meh. I suspect the empty Lake District was never true.
There was a series called the Lone Pine Club by Malcolm Saville, which had some spooky sounding titles but were a bit preachy and not enough happened.
Me-Again’s book will go the way of Pippa’s.

Heather Scammell
Heather Scammell
3 years ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

I loved Malcolm Saville, don’t remember them being ‘preachy.’ There was also a series based in the Lake District- Fell Farm holiday etc by Marjorie somebody (Lloyd?) where they walked a ridiculous amount of miles (even as an adult I don’t think I could match them,) but it all seemed perfectly normal and fitted well after S&A. I had a headmaster who had known Anthony Buckeridge and loved reading the Jennings books to us, he really made them come alive.

Lee Floyd
Lee Floyd
3 years ago

I loved this article, and the comments below. They confirmed for me how poor I was growing up. I read none of the books quoted, know no characters, plots, themes or series…..I was working class. We never had a book in the house. The occasional comic and a Beano annual for Christmas. You lot are so middle class. Do you seriously think ordinary people give a tuppeny happeny stuff for all of the woke business? It’s the bete noire of the politically aware club.

Mike Boosh
Mike Boosh
3 years ago
Reply to  Lee Floyd

Being working class doesn’t mean you can’t read books. I also grew up working class but always had my nose in a book(mostly the Target Doctor Who books, or some other scifi).
I’ve never read any of the stuff mentioned in the article, probably because it sounded very old-fashioned and dull. Probably my loss.

Paul N
Paul N
3 years ago
Reply to  Mike Boosh

I still laugh out loud when I read the Just William books. Or Don Camillo.
If you want something more recent, try Terry Pratchett – particularly the early ones.

George Bruce
George Bruce
3 years ago
Reply to  Lee Floyd

Depends what you mean by not give a tuppeny happeny for all the woke business.
I would imagine a lot of ordinary people are forced to kow-tow ; if you are an ordinary NHS worker, for example, do you think you can give your true thoughts to people around you about the Muslim rape gangs or BLM and George Floyd?
On that level, most people are forced to be woke.

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
3 years ago
Reply to  Lee Floyd

The ordinary people may not care about the woke, as you say, but be certain the woke care about you. And your kids. And their kids. And they will go after them as early as and as often as possible.

kathleen carr
kathleen carr
3 years ago
Reply to  Lee Floyd

I was lucky enough to get seriously ill when I was a child. An aunt married a teacher, who taught me how to read , so while I was recuperating kind people gave my parents any books they had for me to read ( like you we had only religious books in the house). My first books were Rogue Herries and Judith Paris by Hugh Walpole. I started to read children’s books when we moved to a city and could use the junior library-I started at A, Gillian Avery and worked my way through the alphabet.

Jon Redman
Jon Redman
3 years ago
Reply to  kathleen carr

Other than the handful that I owned, there were no more than about twenty books in our house when I was growing up. Most were gems like The Organization Man and The European Philosophers From Descartes To Nietzsche, which nobody read. When I was of school with chicken pox aged about 10 – I felt absolutely fine, I just couldn’t go to school – I searched out every book in the house and read anything that didn’t look too dull.
I read all the James Bonds (these belonged to my sister) aged 10. I couldn’t fathom Bond’s interest in girls at all. Ian Fleming set out very clearly how Bond killed people, which he did on a frequent basis in lots of ways not always involving his Beretta (“ladies’ gun, sir”) or his Walther PPK. Fleming wholly failed to describe exactly what Bond did with girls, beyond some aggressive and rather disgusting snogging. My comparative textual analysis of Bond versus villains and Bond versus women, however, suggested to me that as the account of what Bond did to baddies was complete, the account of what he did with women was equally complete. Hence, apart from the snogging he did not do a lot with them at all. This didn’t seem remotely worth the effort Bond expended on it, he seemed to dislike his women anyway, and it was all certainly a lot less satisfying than offing villains. I duly found myself wondering if James Bond was, in fact, some sort of closeted pansy, as Bond puts it in You Only Live Twice.
Another find was Monte Cassino, a supposedly-autobiographical, enjoyably violent and foul-mouthed Sven Hassel novel about the tank crews of 27th Panzer, a hard-bitten penal unit, in Italy in 1943. This was a hoot. The Panther tank company commander’s pre-battle briefing to his men begins, “Right, you p155ers – all guns are to f@rt off simultaneously” – sound ambush tactics for the KwK 42 75mm L/70-equipped Panther D, no doubt. Later in the novel, the likeable Axis scallywags blow up a bridge, waiting until there is an Allied truck crossing it, from what they imagine to be a safe distance. They are nearly killed by debris when the truck proves to be an ammunition truck and explodes far more violently than expected. Incensed at nearly being killed, they write a letter of complaint to the Allied general, Mark Clark, which begins “B100dy General A5s3ho!e…” and there is then a debate among ze wacky Germans as to whether the enemy general will read the letter if it starts off like that.
I read and re-read this historically dishonest gem surreptitiously several times, and to this day I can’t fathom how it came into the house at all. Nobody else had read it (had anybody done so, it would have been binned because of its frequent foul language). 
It all did me less harm than any woke tripe would have done.

Last edited 3 years ago by Jon Redman
kathleen carr
kathleen carr
3 years ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

I think when you are a child you just ignore anything you don’t understand. Someone once showed my daughter a picture page 3 girl ( expecting me to get all guardian). My daughter said she’s a rude lady , so i asked her why & she said because she was showing her knickers.

Drahcir Nevarc
Drahcir Nevarc
3 years ago
Reply to  Lee Floyd

I’ll never apologise for being middle class. You can do one.

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
3 years ago
Reply to  Drahcir Nevarc

‘Own Your Privilege’! as the woke say so disparagingly.

Drahcir Nevarc
Drahcir Nevarc
3 years ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

I have lately taken to walking around Bristol, where I live and possibly the UK’s wokest city, wearing a T shirt with the slogan ‘Anti Woke’.

Last edited 3 years ago by Drahcir Nevarc
Jon Redman
Jon Redman
3 years ago
Reply to  Lee Floyd

There weren’t any books in my house either. Reading and drawing was discouraged. Your sums and your times tables were all that mattered. you want to draw something? Draw some sums.
I did an English degree.

Paul N
Paul N
3 years ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

Very good, Sir!

Paul N
Paul N
3 years ago
Reply to  Lee Floyd

The library was a brilliant place for finding stuff to read. It would have been hard to buy enough books to keep me going, and browsing in the library led to all sorts of buried treasure.
It’s sad that libraries aren’t properly funded these days, and seem to have fewer books – particularly new ones. And the slashing of British Council libraries around the world is a tragedy – for those who read the books, and for the loss of influence that follows. It’s a problem of successive governments who seem to know the price of everything and the value of nothing.

Kathy Prendergast
Kathy Prendergast
3 years ago
Reply to  Paul N

Children’s libraries are filled with toys now (as if even the poorest kids don’t have plenty of toys at home these days) that always seem to draw kids like magnets. These places more like indoor playgrounds than the children’s libraries I remember from my own childhood. Rarely do I see kids looking at books in these places anymore; they play with the toys while mum or dad picks out books for them. I’ve seen (and heard) quite a few toddlers and preschoolers throw tantrums in the library when it was time to leave because they wanted to keep playing with the toys. If I were a mother trying to instill a love of books and reading in my kids that would drive me mad; perhaps a librarian could explain the reasoning behind it. But maybe the Covid panic will lead libraries to ditch all these toys for hygiene reasons.

Pauline Ivison
Pauline Ivison
3 years ago
Reply to  Lee Floyd

I am from a working class home, my parents both left school at 13/14, but they valued education resulting in my lifetime love of reading. My father taught me to read before I was old enough to attend school. He also made me a bookcase from lengths of used wood, which helped to fill our sparsely furnished 2 up 2 down home.
At 75 I am still an avid reader. Maybe I’m old fashioned, but I feel youngsters nowadays are missing out on so much magic, fun, adventure and education because they haven’t had the opportunity or encouragement to enjoy reading books.

ckinniemcneil
ckinniemcneil
3 years ago
Reply to  Lee Floyd

Library?

Tom Graham
Tom Graham
3 years ago

Is the problem “woke” children’s stories, or children’s stories written by celebrities?
Why are publishers and bookstores promoting books – and parents buying them – not because they are good, but because the (ghost) author is famous?
We got given a David Walliams book for our kids, and it’s pretty terrible. Not particularly woke, but tiresomely uplifting.
What sort of parent would buy a book for their children “written” by Meghan Merkle?

J Bryant
J Bryant
3 years ago
Reply to  Tom Graham

Because books by celebrities sell in large numbers. Simple as that.
The economics of the publishing business are horrible. Many talented, traditionally published (as opposed to self-published) authors can’t make a living from their fiction alone, even though they have several books in print. That’s why many of them offer on-line writing classes or work as ‘book doctors’ where they provide feedback on novels by aspiring writers.

David Brown
David Brown
3 years ago

The world has changed, and not for the better.
For most of the summer of 1976, I was eleven, the age of Just William, and, if memory serves, Jennings. When I was not reading either Jennings or the Target Doctor Whos, I was outside, living a much tamer version of the William life. That summer, there was certainly no escaping the parental favourite, “It’s a nice day, go outside and play.”
Children roaming the local streets or parks in that way today would be considered “feral”, and earn their parents a visit from social services for “neglect”. But letting children gradually off the leash encouraged the growth of independence, and an awareness that the world did not revolve around us. We did not go to college or university expecting that our views would not be challenged; they had been challenged enough before we got there, so we knew what was in store for us.

Cathy Carron
Cathy Carron
3 years ago

There was a great on-the-spot headline yesterday, which read that, “Prince Harry has had too much therapy”. It was just too funny but also tragic. And now he has Meghan to further mess with his head. Mrs. Markle is an opportunist and for that she gets an A+. Sadly, she fails as a human being; Avarice & virtue signaling is a toxic combination.

Craig Bishop
Craig Bishop
3 years ago

It does seem a bit odd (like reviewing a sweetshop without mentioning the hallowed concepts of Mars Bar or Creme Egg) that the author hasn’t included Enid Blyton. The other authors (and here I refer to authors, not Duchesses) mentioned are wonderful, wonderful story-tellers and I read every single one of them as a lad. Some, many times. Some as an adult on a train or a plane. But, for me, not one came close to Enid Blyton, and I suspect the number of books sold would reflect that. Willard Price enthralled me as a boy, but he never sold 600-million copies of anything. Megan, on the other hand, is not a story-teller, not does she pretend to be. The publishers might punt her guff as a story, but that’s just politics. And kids do not do political. Their parents, of course, might, but that’s why children are so tiny, so that we can identify them as story-takers, not story-tellers.

Andrea X
Andrea X
3 years ago
Reply to  Craig Bishop

He does mention Mallory Towers.

Jos Haynes
Jos Haynes
3 years ago
Reply to  Craig Bishop

the author hasn’t included Enid Blyton
Secret Seven!

Jon Redman
Jon Redman
3 years ago
Reply to  Craig Bishop

I hated Enid Blyton even aged 5. The exception was the Five Find-Outers. I hated the Secret Seven and the Famous Five, and for all the right reasons, too.
Firstly, they didn’t talk like any children I knew – “I say! Let’s all buy ices!” Ices? ICES?? Who calls an ice cream an “ice”, apart perhaps from the Queen and time travellers from 1894?
Then there was the way they always just happened to have unspent money in their pockets (to buy “ices” with, of course), and quite often they had chocolate too. They just happened to find complete unopened unmelted unscoffed bars of chocolate about their person, the way kids do, right? Puhleese.
Then there were the generic dogs, whose contribution consisted of “Woof!” A lot of thought went into that one, clearly.
And of course they were odiously cliquey. If you didn’t look, speak and think like them, you were weird and they hated you.
Of course, some children were actually brought up exactly that way in the 1950s. The result was not happy and well-adjusted adults, but rather, self-righteous, morally incompetent, borderline-certifiable psychotic loonies. Look at Tony Blair: a smug, grasping, overprivileged, delusional, narcissistic, toff public schoolboy, he had exactly the kind of early life Blyton characters have, and as a kid probably closely resembled Julian out of the Famous Five.
In each Find-Outer story, the children usually get together to pick on, exclude, and twit some hapless inoffensive outsider. The outsider has no feelings, deserves to be hated because s/he usually fails to speak in the clipped 1940s BBC accents of the heroes, is less economically fortunate than they are, and thus isn’t really human at all. This is not just OK, it is tacitly approved of by the writer. So it’s Mr Goon’s nephew in one, the obnoxious daughter of a family friend in another, the new copper PC Pippin in another.
The most surprising character is Mr. Goon, who actually develops (i.e. gets worse) from book to book. He progresses from buffoon to violent bully who assaults animals, threatens to frame people, and comes over as completely deranged. He’s also obsessed with turf, he feuds with and harasses the law-abiding, and he routinely misleads his superiors. In fact, if you were trying to write Life on Mars for the under-10s, you’d come up with someone very like him as the archetypal bad copper.
There are other astonishing features too. One character actually reads a book!
These titles appear to have been updated recently, though patchily. The bally biffo binky slang has all gone, and the children now have pound coins in their pockets. They still don’t have TVs, computers or mobile phones, however, and nor do they listen to music. But they do use the landline and they regularly go for coffee. I don’t remember this last point of old, and I’m sure in earlier versions they would have gone for lemonade and eclairs or something equally middle-aged instead, but they are recognisably up-to-date 1970s kids. If the editors keep updating the text like this, then in about 30 years we’ll be reading about the Find-Outer Massive getting inked up, hitting their pipes, smacking up their bitches, and shanking mofo players wid deir blades, innit.

Last edited 3 years ago by Jon Redman
CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
3 years ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

Your parody of Enid Blyton has a certain validity, but that rant about the wretched Blair creature sounds a bit extreme, even chippy if I may so.

For many of us, somewhat older than Blair, those long Summers of the late 40’s & early 50’s were halcyon days.
Travelling down to North Cornwall on the famous ACE* followed by six weeks of nectar on the Cornish beaches was all that small boys & girls could ask for.

Blyton captures the spirit perfectly. Yes it was cliquey, as it had been for centuries, but does that make it evil? No that is crucible of life, it’s not meant to be easy.

(* Atlantic Coast Express.)

Susannah Baring Tait
Susannah Baring Tait
3 years ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

I discovered The Famous Five at about 6 years of age and by 8 would read a book cover to cover in about 2 hours. Drove my mother mad because there were only hardcover books back then and expensive. My father had returned to university to study medicine after 5 years in the RN – never shore-based – so there wasn’t much cash to vo around . And I was always begging for the next book.

However, ices, was what we called ice-cream. Rationing meant that cream wasn’t on the menu.

I thought they were pretty advanced themes for the time. A tough girl, Georgie, etc. And my dog was just like theirs. I always thought Uncle Quentin was a bit weird but he wasn’t around much. My childhood was much like theirs in that adults rarely made an appearance. I had my share of adventures, just not involving criminals. I’m the most well-adjusted person I know!

I’m sad your own childhood was not so happy. But it doesn’t help to feel bitter about those of others. My only material luxury was books. I made my own entertainment and playthings and was mostly alone as there were few children in the fairly remote area where i lived. I would never have exchanged my childhood for those of kids today.

Oh, and the ever present bar of chocolate. Every time it entered the narrative, my mouth would literally water. (Chocolate back then was as hard as a brick and didn’t melt. Especially, as the weather was never that hot. )

Jos Haynes
Jos Haynes
3 years ago

I have a shelf-full of William books. I have just taken one at random and found it was first published in 1925 and had 20 reprints by 1941. I have plenty of reprints from the 1950s too so some of these books must have had 30 reprints at least. I used to read these stories to my children in the 70s and I still occasionally pick one up for a chortle at bedtime.
And let’s not forget the illustrator, Thomas Henry.
They don’t make ’em like they used to.

Jon Redman
Jon Redman
3 years ago
Reply to  Jos Haynes

They are hilarious. You have to read about one a week and then they are laugh out loud funny. Read too quickly you get too used to the humour.
There is a classic one where William is trying to wheedle money out of Ethel.
“I did get that spider out of your hair las’ week,” he reminded her.
“William, you put it in my hair!”
At school once, when I was about 10, we were having something boring read to us and I was surreptitiously (very Richmal word) reading William the Outlaw under the desk instead. It was so funny I was noticed giggling, and the teacher, to his great credit, said Right, if it’s that funny let’s have that instead..so we did.

Peter Francis
Peter Francis
3 years ago

It is good to know that UK booksellers still have a sense of humour. One describes the book as containing “inspiring rhyming text”.
This is your bench
Where you’ll witness great joy.
From here you will rest
See the growth of our boy”
Can you really rest “from” a bench, rather than on it?
To paraphrase Yoko Ono, she would rhyme “June” with “spoon”. 

peter lucey
peter lucey
3 years ago

“You can still buy second-hand editions of Richmal Crompton’s Guillermo el Detective, and wonder what on earth readers in General Franco’s Spain made of them.”
I worked in Germany in the late 80s. Beside the queue at a small village corner store was a small rack of cheap paperbacks – German, of course. I was amazed to see the trademark Enid Blyton signature on one of them! Blyton’s genius crosses language and culture, her St Clare’s stories have been translated (into the “Hanni und Nanni” series) and sold – in their millions of copies – to happy German children!

Last edited 3 years ago by peter lucey
Peter LR
Peter LR
3 years ago

Thanks for a great laugh (and acknowledgements to Richmal).

Fred Dibnah
Fred Dibnah
3 years ago

I would suggest d**k King Smith as an author.
I also think that there is a arrogance about some people who think writing fiction for children is simple. And in more recent times look at David Walliams and J K Rowling.

Ian Standingford
Ian Standingford
3 years ago

Indeed, we did think things would be this way forever. Why have we allowed ourselves to be dispossessed?

Last edited 3 years ago by Ian Standingford
Dan Gleeballs
Dan Gleeballs
3 years ago

Very enjoyable article.

I read Just William to my youngest son, when he was around 10. I hadn’t realised how funny they are! Great stories. Some women do write boys well – Potter, Adrian Mole and William being the best examples.

I loved Bunter and Jennings too – a child of the 70s. I even read Mallory Towers, along with the Famous Five and Secret Seven.

All my kids loved The Faraway Tree. I do recommend reading to the little bleeders. It gives us shared stories – and stories are culture.

Great to read the memories here of Hal and Roger Hunt – the Willard Price Adventure books. I *loved* them aged 10, traded and swapped them. Didn’t manage to pass that love on, sadly.

Ender’s Game was one both my sons took to, aged 13/14. Hornblower, I’ve just given to the oldest. That insight into Britain of the past is one I want to pass on.

Last edited 3 years ago by Dan Gleeballs
davidalankavanagh
davidalankavanagh
3 years ago

I’m staggered! Richmal Compton a woman?!?

Jon Redman
Jon Redman
3 years ago

Oh, come on!

kathleen carr
kathleen carr
3 years ago

I think it was based on her own brother. William is obviously the youngest ‘ problem’ child to parents who thought they had completed their family with his older brother & sister.

Giulia Khawaja
Giulia Khawaja
3 years ago

I read somewhere that this book had the woman watching the father and son from a window. The woman is crying.
She may have foreseen what any future readers will do.

Alexandra Thrift
Alexandra Thrift
3 years ago

My brother read his son Biggles for bedtime stories in his idea of airman accents or other 1940s accents. You could hear them both in paroxysms of giggles all over the house. My nephew ( now 30 years old) just loved Biggles.

Last edited 3 years ago by Alexandra Thrift
Nikki Hayes
Nikki Hayes
3 years ago

I’m a woman and as a young girl I used to love to read the adventures of Billy Bunter, Just William and Jenkins, for the life of me cannot recall the author of this one. I daresay in the 21st century I would have been pegged for identifying with the male sex, rather than my female one, and all the nasty medical treatment that ensues. I was a girl, and am a women and have no desire to be anything else. Although, I did pick up some strange proclivies from both Billy Bunter and the Jenkins series ;o)

kathleen carr
kathleen carr
3 years ago

For some reason being made to read a book for study makes you want to read another one instead.Perhaps banning books will make children read them-the thrill of the forbidden?Secretly passing round copies of Jules Verne?

Lucille Dunn
Lucille Dunn
3 years ago

When Lockdown started my grandchildren were 6 & 7 and used to Peppa Pig, Superheroes etc., but the only kids’ book I had in the house to read to them over Skype was “The Railway Children “ by Nesbitt. Somewhat doubtful, and lightly editing I started reading it. They were spellbound. We have gone on to The Lion the witch and the wardrobe, When Hitler stole Pink Rabbit, Tin Tin and are now deep into Alex Rider. Real quality endures.

Geoff H
Geoff H
3 years ago
Reply to  Lucille Dunn

Good for you, don’t forget the unexpurgated version of ‘Wind in the Willows”, my fav book of all time.

Andrew Harvey
Andrew Harvey
3 years ago

So was that a dare to get Orwell cancelled?

Claire D
Claire D
3 years ago

Great article, and brave I should think.
Richmal Crompton also wrote some good adult novels, eg, Family Roundabout, Steffan Green, Leadon Hill, + dozens more, great middlebrow fiction.

Andrea X
Andrea X
3 years ago

I feel your fears are exaggerated.
The “old” books are all readily available, and anyway, kids will vote with their feet, no doubt. If a story is no good they will simply refuse to read it.

James Hamilton
James Hamilton
3 years ago

Well, that was very encouraging, but has he actually read Markle’s book?

Johnny Sutherland
Johnny Sutherland
3 years ago
Reply to  James Hamilton

Errr – who cares?

Dan Gleeballs
Dan Gleeballs
3 years ago

One thing about Unherd – it’s so difficult to uptick posts, at least you know the successful ones really mean it!

Lyn Griffiths
Lyn Griffiths
3 years ago

When to read, and as I got older the author and their life history was as important as the story they had written. So to find myself influenced by their achievements and personality as much as their writings. Therefore, if a life based on kindness it would incline me to read more of their storylines fact or fiction and to recommend them. Megan Markle has a fantasy imagination and can whip up a story at a moment’s notice, I agree. But her recent past and help in racial division and to add family division and with this to have spread in it’s negativity through to her husband and media and on going globally. I would not feel the published children’s fiction moving forward into the future would be ideal reading for my child and so would prefer the classics or more sympathetic authors of this age who show common sense and dignity..

Jon Redman
Jon Redman
3 years ago

How long will it be before Harry has “work” done?
MeAgain is on her second or third nose, and has had Botox and some dental work. Harry’s teeth are a bit yellow so had I to guess I’d say there will be some veneers coming up.

Annette Kralendijk
Annette Kralendijk
3 years ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

Yes. He also seems to be acquiring an American accent.

David Boulding
David Boulding
3 years ago

Such a well written and intelligent article. How I loved “William” and have read the books over and over again. A great vocabulary for young people too.

Alan Tonkyn
Alan Tonkyn
3 years ago

Brilliant article! We laughed as much as we did as a family, listening to tapes of some of the wonderful William stories on the motorway – a dangerous activity. Richmal Crompton, Arthur Ransome, W.E.Johns, John Buchan: all great stuff!

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
3 years ago

Ah, the fun of revisiting old books!
Mind you, they are not all compassion and empathy these days either. Try the brilliant Cherub books by Robert Muchamore (admittedly for young teens), that manage both realistic characters and some highly combative stories without either being goody-goody or offending against modern morality.

Dougie Undersub
Dougie Undersub
3 years ago

A very enjoyable article, although I’m sorry the author has a gap in his knowledge where Jennings and Darbishire should be. When recycling my bookshelf for my own children I realised that Richmal Crompton and Anthony Buckeridge were excellent writers and Enid Blyton was abysmal.

Martin Terrell
Martin Terrell
3 years ago

Wonderful nostalgic journey to childhood books. The Bunter books were formulaic but great stories and well written.

Mud Hopper
Mud Hopper
3 years ago

I have two bound collections of ‘Boys of Our Empire’ lent to me recently, and for the years 1900 and 1901. Really great stuff, mainly about old whitey beating up and subjugating the fuzzy wuzzies in far flung parts if the globe, when the map was mostly coloured pink. I’m sure Megain and her contemporaries would love them.

Last edited 3 years ago by Mud Hopper
Simric Yarrow
Simric Yarrow
3 years ago

I played the audio versions of Just William to my daughters when they were younger and they absolutely loved them, played them over again and again. Both of them stand up fiercely for social justice now in their late teens but have a great sense of humour and take none of it too seriously (and are notably sceptical about the new “trans rights” conversations). I think a character like William really appealed to their tomboy side which was very healthy. And of course they were written by a woman for women’s magazines in the first place which tells you something!

mark taha
mark taha
1 year ago

As a lifelong Hamiltonian who regards Butts In as the best book, I must point out that it was Wharton’s Georgic and that he was the Colonel’s nephew. I agree with the author’s views!

Howard Medwell
Howard Medwell
3 years ago

Markle owes her celebrity to the British monarchy – if you don’t like her, you should vote to abolish the monarchy

Annette Kralendijk
Annette Kralendijk
3 years ago
Reply to  Howard Medwell

Because Harry is a dupe?

Daniel Björkman
Daniel Björkman
3 years ago

See, I was predisposed to be on your side, because I really do feel I have gotten so much connection, warmth and compassion that it’s sticking in my craw at this point. But if the alternative is the blood-thirsty little psychopath you describe, I am suddenly undecided.

Tom Graham
Tom Graham
3 years ago

William Brown a blood-thirsty psychopath?
You Americans do make me laugh.

peter lucey
peter lucey
3 years ago
Reply to  Tom Graham

Agree completely. I loved William as well. However – er – there are low points in Crompton’s oeuvre – one could mention “William and the Nasties” where the Outlaws persecute a Jewish shopkeeper. I think that one has been removed from the reissues!

Last edited 3 years ago by peter lucey
Jos Haynes
Jos Haynes
3 years ago

Eh?

James Moss
James Moss
3 years ago

This book comes out on June 8th. So, presumably, not one of the people winding themselves up in yet more bizarre intricacies of intellectual self-abuse in order to criticise it has actually read it.

I’ve been watching Suits on Netflix. I think Meghan Markle’s character is very endearing. What’s that got to do with anything? Well it’s a critical statement based on some actual output not my on my presumption of what something yet to be published is like, based on what bandwagon I will get paid a few quid for jumping on, or that will give me a warm glow for joining in with a crowd of Meghan-bashers on today’s latest pretext.
Did you know she’s black? Oh, and her husband is a veteran.

Jos Haynes
Jos Haynes
3 years ago
Reply to  James Moss

What does it matter what colour she is? (Though as an aside she doesn’t look black to me. When I first saw her I thought she was from the Mediterranean). And what’s her apology of a husband got to do with her writing sideline?
You are right about comment on an unread book coming down to prejudice. I think perhaps our prejudices have been formed and fed by Markle’s own distasteful publicity antics.

Jon Redman
Jon Redman
3 years ago
Reply to  Jos Haynes

I would have guessed Thai. She has three white and one black grandparents.

kathleen carr
kathleen carr
3 years ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

She and Harry both identify as being oppressed & for a fee they will share your pain. This book she is selling is supposedly based on a poem she wrote. Great minds must think alike as its very similar to another book by a British author. Her next book will probably be the diary she says she kept which is possibly being written, sorry edited as we speak , just in time for the autumn/christmas sales.