Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Update: Children's authors (Part 3 of 4)

Another batch of 14 children's authors and yet another batch of lovely cover images—I’m getting more and more seduced by these writers all the time, which suggests, I suppose, that I—however foolishly—do judge books by their covers!

A 1929 novel with a groovy 60s cover

This batch includes DOROTHY ANN LOVELL, whose In the Land of the Thinsies, about a girl who slips through an escalator to a strange flat land, was recently discussed by Sarah Bakewell and looks quite charming.

Illustration from Dorrothy Ann Lovell's
In the Land of the Thinsies

I've been growing more and more infatuated lately with Scottish settings (surely a trip to Scotland can't be too far behind???), and I can't imagine that I'll be able to resist sampling ELINOR LYON's Ian and Sovra novels, adventure stories set in the Highlands and now reprinted by Fidra.  In fact, these posts on children’s authors have led me to explore all the books published by small presses like Fidra, Girls Gone By, and Jane Nissen Books—which will surely only wreak more havoc on my book-buying budget.

A rather ominous Elinor Lyon cover

For example, after reading my first girls' school novels recently, perhaps I'll be seduced by some of PHYLLIS MATTHEWMAN's tales as well?  Indeed, I might just have to check out one of ELSIE OXENHAM's Abbey Girls novels, too, as the setting in and around an ancient abbey sounds rather appealing.  (I wonder why the first two books of the series, at least, published as they were in 1914 and 1920 and therefore out of copyright, haven't been made available by Google Books or Project Gutenberg?)  And Awesome Books has already seduced me into nabbing a cheap copy of Fidra's edition of MARGOT PARDOE's The Far Island.  I do love a bargain!

An irresistible cover for one of
Matthewman's romance novels for adults

I only recently discovered that Gwendoline Courtney's cousin, PHYLLIS IRENE NORRIS, also wrote fiction for girls.  It appears that she is not nearly so widely known as Courtney?

And surely some of you brilliant readers have read K. M. PEYTON's Flambards novels, set in a crumbling manor house.  Are they as intriguing as they sound?

The full list of 14 is below, and all are already added to the main list.

GRACE JAMES (1864–1930)

Playwright, folklorist, and children's author, known for her classic anthology Japanese Fairy Tales (1910); she also wrote plays and the John and Mary series of children's books (1935-1963); Japan: Recollections and Impressions (1936) is her memoir of her early life in Japan.

DOROTHY ANN LOVELL (dates unknown)

Children's author whose books were apparently quite popular in the 1930s-1950s; titles include The Strange Adventures of Emma (1941), In the Land of the Thinsies (1944), about a girl who slips through an escalator to a strange flat land, and Shadows on the Stairs (1946).

Elinor Lyon

(married name Fox)

Children's author and journalist who covered the 1916 Easter rising in Ireland; her fiction for children includes The Turf-Cutter's Donkey (1935), The Cobbler's Apprentice (1947), and The Bookshop on the Quay (1956), about a country boy learning bookselling in Dublin.

ELINOR LYON (1921-2008)

Author of more than 20 children’s books, many about the adventures of a group of children in western Scotland and some reprinted by Fidra; titles include The House in Hiding (1950), We Daren't Go a-Hunting (1951), Sea Treasure (1955), Cathie Runs Wild (1960), and The Wishing Pool (1970).

One of Ruth Manning-Sanders'
novels for adults

(née Ruth Vernon Manning)

Folklorist, children's author, and novelist known for her collections of fairy tales from around the world with titles like A Book of Giants (1962) and A Book of Witches (1965); she also wrote adult novels including Waste Corner (1927), Hucca's Moor (1929), and Circus Boy (1960).

Ruth Manning-Sanders

(née Barton, aka Kathryn Surrey)

Prolific author of girls' stories—including the Danewood series starting with Chloe Takes Control (1940) and the Kirkdale Priory series starting with Because of Vivian (1947)—children's biographies, and Mills & Boon romances such as Utility Wedding (1946) and Fetters of a Dream (1956).

Dorothea Moore

DOROTHEA MOORE (1881-1933)

Prolific author of early girls' school and girls' adventure books, including Terry the Girl-Guide (1912), Septima, Schoolgirl (1915), Wanted, An English Girl (1916)—set in Germany during WWI—A Nest of Malignants (1919), Smuggler's Way (1924), and Sara to the Rescue (1932).

ELSIE SMEATON MUNRO (dates unknown)

More research needed; apparently the author of only two books, Glasgow Flourish: Short Sketches (1911), and a children's book, Topsy-Turvy Tales (1923).

VIOLET NEEDHAM (1876–1967)

Historical novelist and children's author best known for a sequence of Ruritanian novels including The Black Riders (1939), The Emerald Crown (1940), The Stormy Petrel (1942), The House of the Paladin (1945); her novel The Boy in Red (1948) focuses on William the Silent.

PHYLLIS IRENE NORRIS (dates unknown)

Sister of Gwendoline Courtney; author of eight children's novels of her own 1937-1951, including The Mystery of the White Ties (1937), The Duffer's Brigade (1939), Meet the Kilburys (1947), The Cranstons at Sandly Bay (1949), The Polkerrin Mystery (1949), and The Harlands Go Hunting (1951).

Elsie Oxenham

ELSIE OXENHAM (1880-1960)
(pseudonym of Elsie Jeanette Dunkerley)

Prolific author of girls' school books, best known for her "Abbey Girls" series, which center around a group of schoolgirls and a romantic ancient abbey; titles include The Abbey Girls (1920), Queen of the Abbey Girls (1926), The Abbey Girls on Trial (1931), and Maidlin to the Rescue (1934).

MARGOT PARDOE (1902-1996)
(married name Swift)

Children's author best known for her dozen or so "Bunkle" books, beginning with Four Plus Bunkle (1939) and extending through Bunkle Brings It Off (1961), some of which have been reprinted by Fidra; other titles include The Far Island (1936), Argle's Mist (1956), and The Nameless Boat (1957).

H[AZEL]. M[ARY]. PEEL (1930-     )
(aka Wallis Peel)

Author of horse stories for older children and adults, beginning with Fury, Son of the Wilds (1959), some of which have been reprinted by Fidra; others include Pilot the Hunter (1962) and Jago (1966); in recent years, Peel has written fantasy novels under her pseudonym.

K. M. Peyton

K. M. PEYTON (1929-     )
(pseudonym of Kathleen Wendy Herald Peyton, née Herald, aka Kathleen Herald) (children's)

Children’s author whose first book, Sabre, the Horse from the Sea (1947), appeared when she was 18; best known for the Flambards series, beginning with Flambards (1967), set in a crumbling manor house in the early 20th century; several of Peyton’s titles have been reprinted by Fidra.


  1. I'm loving your discovery of British children's books! Grace James is one of my favourite authors; I have all her children's books and it took me years to find them! Elinor Lyon is so good and I love Bunkle, too.

    Re Elsie J Oxenham, the copyright situation is very complicated. Girls Gone By have bought the copyright to some books, but for others it's still held by a relative of EJO. Strictly speaking, the Abbey series begins with The Girls of the Hamlet Club, which is in my opinion the best of the lot. It was very rare and expensive but has recently been reprinted by the EJO society, see here.

    I should point out that the Children's Press edition of The Abbey Girls at Home is a chopped up travesty of the original and hardly worth reading.

    I do hope you'll enjoy some of these books.

    1. Thank you for all the information! Now I know why the Children's Press editions are affordable. Interesting about the copyrights. Could a 1914 book still by copyrighted in the U.K.? In the U.S., nothing before 1923 can still be under copyright, so that's why I'm surprised the first couple of Oxenhams haven't been put up on Project Gutenberg yet, but I couldn't find anything there or anywhere else.

      I'm having great fun exploring these books and their lovely covers. It just led to me nabbing a copy of Elinor Lyon's We Daren't Go a-Hunting, and I'm glad from what you say that that's a good choice!

  2. Peyton’s book Flambards was turned into a wonderful series in the late 70s. Thanks to your reminder, I will watch it on Youtube and hope that I am charmed as much as I was in 1980 when it was on the air on PBS in North America. It must have been on Wonderworks.

    I love to read your blog and rediscover favorite authors and find new ones.

    Pam Carson

    1. Thanks, Pam, so glad you're enjoying the blog! I think I will have to try the Flambards novels, because the concept sounds right up my alley. And then, no doubt, I will want to watch the series as well, so you've added something else to my loooooooong list of things to read and watch! :-)

    2. Like Pam, I so enjoyed the Flambards series. I think I can still hum its theme! ;-) I have the novels around here somewhere, but it has been 30 years since I've read them. Worth reading, as I recall.

    3. That made me have to check out the theme music on YouTube. I can see that it might linger in one's memory! The previews I watched for the series looked intriguing too.

  3. 'Romance Goes Tenting' is such a wonderfully awful title. (As a camping hater, I think the concept could do with some work!).

    1. I agree with you, Vicki, but perhaps camping is more fun to read about than to do? I confess I'm somewhat taken with the cover image though. It almost (but not quite) makes me want to track down the novel and give it a try.

  4. Oh Scott, these all look delicious, and I'm sure as a girl I would have loved them, as I was much taken with ripping tales of plucky schoolgirls. Not sure if I could enjoy them in quite the same way these days.

    About the copyright. Roughly speaking, all countries who were signators to the Berne Convention on Copyright (which the US did not join until 1989) maintained copyrights until 50 years after the author's death. In the States, this has now been raised to 70 years, which is hard on the readers but nice for Disney.

    It's more complex than that, of course. see and

    1. Ah, yes, the Mickey Mouse Protection Act! I had forgotten about that. Disney spent many many millions wining and dining politicians to get that passed. I used to work in permissions at the Smithsonian years ago, so knew a bit about copyright. But the extension only applies to works published after 1923, since everything before 1923 had already fallen into the public domain at the time of the change. So I still don't understand the early Elsie Oxenham copyrights. Sometimes publishers err on the side of caution and will offer royalties to heirs even if works aren't legally copyrighted, but I would think Gutenberg would have jumped on the Oxenhams. Ah, well, that's all above my pay grade, happily.

      By the way, welcome back, Susan!

    2. I happened across this comment exchange on Librivox, which shows all the Oxenham titles that are public domain in the US and Canada at least. Odd that no one has added any of these to Gutenberg, as there would seem to be a real demand for them. It might perhaps be because of the scarcity of the original editions, since at the least a scan of the original copyright page is required to prove the publication date?

  5. There's a nice article about KM Peyton in today's Guardian:

    1. Cestina, this is wonderful. She sounds like a lovely, feisty person, which makes me want to read her books more than ever. And I had no idea she's done a memoir of the war. Thank you for sharing!

  6. Coming late to the discussion ... as the Administrator of the EJO Appreciation Society, might I add a few comments? Oxenham herself did not die until 1960, so in UK terms at least she is still in copyright. Could the fact that the Oxenham titles were reprinted - sometimes several times - after 1923 have in some way 'renewed' the copyrights? Some of her publishers had bought the rights at the time of publication, but others, notably Chambers and Muller, the rights were hers and she left them to her sister, who in turn left them to their niece, who has granted the EJO Society [of which I am administrator] the rights to reprint, and we have copyrighted our reprints. More details of what is currently available at:

    1. Hi, Ruth, lovely to hear from you. I'm very tempted by EJO Society's reprints! Re copyright, as far as I know reprints do not have any effect on copyright status, which is usually based on original publication (U.S.) or author's death (U.K. and Canada). As I understand it, only new material in a reprint (new intro or foreword, etc.) can be copyrighted, not the original material itself. But your comment did make me wonder if Gutenberg and other online book sources might be erring on the side of caution since the Oxenham books did not (as far as I can tell) have U.S. editions prior to 1923. Ordinarily, it makes no difference where a book is first published, but there's apparently an ambiguity in U.S. copyright law that could affect Oxenham's books:

      On the other hand, since online repositories generally require at least a scan of the original copyright page, it could be, as I mentioned above, nothing more that the scarcity of those original editions that's preventing them from appearing online.


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