Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Update: Children's Authors (Part 4 of 4)

Happily, although this is the last update of children's writers from the current batch, I'm pretty sure there will be a few more children's updates before my list is complete (should that unlikely event ever actually come to pass). Already I've stumbled across a fair number of children's writers who still need to be researched.  So, this is only the last updatewith its accompanying, lovely, colorful, children's book cover artfor the time being.

Below are 15 more authors, including the three PULLEIN-THOMPSON sisters, who, rather oddly, all wrote children's horse stories.  Certainly something fishy—er, horsy, rather—going on in that family!

Then, who knew that Margaret Kennedy's sister, VIRGINIA PYE, was also a successful author.  She specialized in adventurous holiday stories, some of which sound rather interesting.

MIMPSY RHYS is almost definitely a new name for just about everybody reading this.  While many of the other names came from current publishers who are reprinting classic children's books, Rhys comes from a contemporary review.  As far as I can tell, she published only one book, Mr. Hermit Crab: A Tale for Children by a Child (1929), about which I've been able to find absolutely nothing.  Anyone remember their grandmothers talking about enjoying this book?

Although horse stories are really not (so far, at least) my "thing," I have to admit that MARY TREADGOLD's stories which make use of wartime and postwar conditions, are tempting me a bit.  We Couldn't Leave Dinah (1941) is about children who miss the evacuation of a fictional Channel island because they refuse to abandon their horse, and end up aiding the resistance to the occupying Nazis, and its sequel, The Polly Harris (1948), "follows the Templeton children to the problems of post-war London, where they become involved in terrorist bombings and smuggling" (ODNB).  Hmmmm.

And finally, MARION ST. JOHN WEBB's Mr. Papingay series sounds oddly familiar, but I can find little information about it.  I wonder if one or more of these are among the few children's books I actually read as a child (I was a distinctly unrestricted child when it came to reading material, and I generally wound up picking my own books, usually with shockingly bad judgment, from whatever library shelf I happened to be near).

All 15 writers are shown below, and all have been added to the main list.  I hope you enjoy!


Children's author and BBC broadcaster who innovated broadcasts to interest children in history; most of her books were historical non-fiction and occasional historical novels, most notably Redcap Runs Away (1952), about a medieval boy who joins a troupe of minstrels.

(married name Popescu, aka Christine Keir)

Prolific author of children's horse stories and other fiction, including We Rode to the Sea (1948), Phantom Horse (1955), Stolen Ponies (1957), and A Dog In A Pram (1965); she also collaborated on early works with her sisters Diana and Josephine (see below).

(married name Farr)

Children's author who, like her sisters Christine and Josephine, focused on horse stories such as I Wanted A Pony (1946), Three Ponies and Shannan (1947), Janet Must Ride (1953), The Boy Who Came To Stay (1960), and Ponies In The Valley (1976).

(aka Josephine Mann)

Sister of Christine and Diana and also an author of children's horse stories; her titles include Six Ponies (1946), I Had Two Ponies (1947), Prince Among Ponies (1952), Show Jumping Secret (1955), The Trick Jumpers (1958), Fear Treks The Moor (1978), and Ride To The Rescue (1979).

VIRGINIA PYE (1901-1994)
(née Kennedy)

Sister of novelist Margaret Kennedy; children's author who specialized in holiday adventure stories; titles include Red-Letter Holiday (1940), Half-Term Holiday (1943), The Stolen Jewels (1948), and Holiday Exchange (1953); she wrote one adult story collection, St. Martin's Summer (1930).

MIMPSY RHYS (dates unknown)

More research needed; author of a single title, Mr. Hermit Crab: A Tale for Children by a Child (1929), described as a book "written by a child for children."

JOAN SELBY-LOWNDES (dates unknown)

Children's author who wrote about horses, the circus, and the ballet, as well as several books for children about religion; titles include Mail Coach (1945), On Stage Please (1952), Circus Train (1956), and The Blue Train (1958), the last a biographical work about dancer Anton Dolin.

EVELYN SMITH (1885-1928)

Prolific but tragically short-lived author of girls' school stories, starting with Nicky of the Lower Fourth (1922) and including Val Forrest in the Fifth (1925), Septima at School (1925), The Twins at School (1927), Phyllida in Form III (1927), and Milly in the Fifth (1928).

SHEILA STUART (1892-1974)
(pseudonym of Mary Gladys Baker, née Westwood)

Children’s author known for her series of adventures featuring Alison and Niall, including Alison’s Highland Holiday (1946), Well Done Alison! (1949), Alison’s Poaching Adventure (1951), and Alison and the Witch’s Cave (1956); some of her titles have been reprinted by Fidra in recent years.

MARY TREADGOLD (1910-2005)

BBC radio producer and children's author, best known for her classic We Couldn't Leave Dinah (1941), about children who miss the evacuation of a fictional Channel island and aid the resistance to the Nazis; later works include The Running Child (1951) and The Winter Princess (1962).

ELFRIDA VIPONT (1902-1992)
(married name Foulds, aka Charles Vipont)

Children's author and Quaker historian best known for several novels about the Haverard family—The Lark in the Morn (1948), The Lark on the Wing (1950), The Spring of the Year (1957), and Flowering Spring (1960); she also published at least one adult novel, Bed in Hell (1974).

MURIEL WACE (1881-1968)
(aka Golden Gorse)

Children's author known for her horse stories, particularly Moorland Mousie (1929) and its sequel Older Mousie (1932); her other titles include Janet and Felicity, the Young Horsebreakers (1937) and non-fiction works for children learning to ride and care for horses.

Marion St. John Webb

MARION ST. JOHN WEBB (1888-1930)

Author of fiction and poetry for children, including the well-known Knock Three Times! (1917) and the Mr Papingay series, including Mr Papingay and the Little Round House (1924), Mr Papingay's Ship (1925), Mr Papingay's Caravan (1929), and Mr Papingay's Flying Shop (1931).


Author of four popular children's books with Katharine Hull, most famously The Far-Distant Oxus (1937), written when the pair were still teenagers, about six children on their own in Exmoor; later titles were Escape to Persia (1938), Oxus in Summer (1939), and Crowns (1947).

Ursula Moray Williams

(married name John)

Children's author best known for Adventures of the Little Wooden Horse (1938), about a toy pony who sets out in the world to make a living; others include Gobbolino the Witch's Cat (1942), The Three Toymakers (1945), Malkin's Mountains (1948), and The Noble Hawks (1959).


  1. Lovely to see Sheila Stuart on your list. "Well done Alison!" and "Alison's Highland Holiday" have been on my bookshelves since the early 1950s. However it was only last year, when we started to downsize and I faced selling many of my beloved books, I reread them and at once set out to acquire the rest of the series. So much for selling books...

    There is a remarkable sameness about the adventures of Alison and her brother Niall usually involving spies, the reluctance of their uncle to share with "the children" what he is currently investigating, and "the children's" remarkable ability to solve whatever it is before he and their older siblings do. There is something strangely soothing and hypnotic about knowing exactly what is going to happen. And there are wonderful descriptions of highland scenery and activities as well.

    Elfrida Vipont is another favourite; she sits in the same filing cabinet drawer in my head as Lorna Hill but is rather more elegant and sedate.

    1. I'm so happy to see that my instincts are guiding me well or the stars are aligned or something along those lines. In the last children's update, Call Me Madam recommended Elinor Lyon just after I'd picked up one of her books, and as it happens this time I've just found a lovely cheap copy of the Fidra edition of Alison's Christmas Adventure from Awesome Books. Perhaps I should wait until Christmas to read this one, though? It doesn't feel much like Christmas in San Francisco today... At any rate, thank you for making me feel that my purchase was a good one!

  2. Treats in store for you here! of the authors you mention, Virginia Pye is probably my favourite. I had no idea she was Margaret Kennedy's sister! I also like Elfrida Vipont. Evelyn Smith is one of the best of the authors of school stories, IMO. We Couldn't Leave Dinah is far more than just a pony book. I also like Treadgold's post-war adventure story No Ponies. Maybe you've found it already, but everything you could want to know about pony books can be found on Jane Badger's blog.

    I can't remember if you've mentioned Jane Shaw? Best known for her Susan books, which are very funny.

    1. I can see I will definitely have to track down We Couldn't Leave Dinah. Thanks for the recommendation. I do tend to resist pony books (I can't even get around to National Velvet, though Bagnold is a favorite author), so with your reassurance I will check it out.

      I don't think I do have Jane Shaw in my list, but I've just added her to my database and she will definitely go into a future update! Thanks for mentioning her!

  3. I agree with callmemadam's opinion of We Couldn't Leave Dinah, which I borrowed from my local library in the edition shown above and which I loved, although I was usually wary of books with horses after a teacher subjected my class to heart-rending readings of Black Beauty. I would love to have a copy now. I also liked the wonderfully-named Elfrida Vipont and Jane Shaw. I'd like to contribute two Barbaras to the conversation - Barbara Willard (the Mandlemass Chronicles) and Barbara Softly (Plain Jane). I was delighted last year to track down Plain Jane on AbeBooks and to stay in bed one Saturday morning to read it all through.

    1. Wonderful, now I know for sure I will have to read We Couldn't Leave Dinah. And I think you capture exactly my worry about "heart-rending" pony books, so I am glad to know that you recommend it anyway.

      I've just looked up both Barbara Willard and Barbara Softly, and am excited to have found them. I'm adding them to my database, and they will appear in a future update. Thanks so much for mentioning them. And a Saturday morning in bed with a good book sounds like heaven after my last couple of weeks!

  4. Fully agree you should read We Couldn't Leave Dinah. I first read it as a child when the war was still vivid in the memories of parents and the cold war was very real. I loved it, but was also terrified by the description of the infiltration and occupation by the Germans. I have a copy, and have re-read it as an adult, and still find it a very good read. Definitely one that can be enjoyed by adults as well as children.

    I've just found this blog, and have been enjoying going through it. It looks like I have many of the children's books you have been reviewing - Olivia Fitzroy, Sheila Stuart, Elinor Lyon, Monica Edwards, Cynthia Harnett, the Pullein Thompson sisters and many others all have places on my shelves.

    I haven't got far enough to see if you have one of my favourite authors listed or not - Elizabeth Goudge, who wrote for both children and adults. There is an almost ethereal quality to her books.

    1. So glad you found me and felt like commenting! I'm certainly planning to check out Dinah when I have a chance, though my "to read" list is becoming quite overwhelming. Happily, I do have both an Elinor Lyon and a Sheila Stuart on my shelves now too!

      Elizabeth Goudge is on my list. I've only read The Castle on the Hill and the very beginning of her memoir, but I really liked both and want to explore more. Oh, for the power to stop time while I peacefully read to my heart's content!

  5. Can give you loads of info on Mimpsy Rhys, she was my great-aunt, I have both her books and my mother remembers her well.

    1. Helen, thanks so much for commenting. I've emailed you as well. I'd love to hear more about your great-aunt--she's one of the more mysterious figures on my life, and I'd love anything you or your mother would care to share. Thanks for getting in touch!

    2. Are you still interested? I have a copy of her other book. Sorry for not getting back to you sooner but I've been very ill

    3. Hi, Helen. So sorry you've been ill. Yes, I'd still love to know more about your great-aunt. Please feel free to email me--my email is shown at the bottom of the page.


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