Thursday, May 8, 2014

Update: A small batch of children's authors

A few more stray children’s authors—those from my most recent update who don’t seem to have specialized in girls’ school novels (though at least two did dabble in that genre)—and one who certainly can't be called a stray...

Enid Blyton

I can’t think of any good excuse for never having included ENID BLYTON in my list until now.  I can only say that I glanced at her early on—before I really became interested in authors of children’s books or girls’ stories—concluded that she had mostly written for very young children, and never looked at her again.  While it’s true that she seems to have written a lot of stories for younger children, her novels for older children include two series of school novels—the St. Clare's stories and the Malory Towers stories—that seem to be calling my name, as well as several other series.  Live and learn!

GILLIAN AVERY also seems like quite an oversight—not only because her children’s fiction, including The Elephant War, about a girl in Victorian Oxford who becomes an activist to save an elephant from being sent to Barnum’s circus, sounds quite interesting, but because she’s written a history of English girls’ schools which seems destined for my bedside table (now that I’m a novice connoisseur of girls’ school stories).

ESMĖ CARTMELL seems to remain a bit of a mystery—the author, apparently, of only one novel, Rescue in Ravensdale, which seems to be partly a children’s holiday adventure story and partly a satire of just that kind of story.  I am intrigued.

NITA UNTHANK’s books could well be girls’ school stories, but little information seems to be available about her or them.  I have to say, though, I am not enticed by this rather creepy cover that could well have been a movie poster for a B-movie called “The Evil Twins Go to School.”

ALICE MASSIE’s covers are more my style, though...isn't this a rather odd title for a girls' story?  Living within one's means is important, of course, but hardly sounds like a glamorous adventure!

And Massie did write adult novels as well, though information about all of her work is hard to come by. Here's a cover from 1932:

Alas, only 12 new authors in all this time around, but have no fear!  I’ve already come across more children’s writers who will go into my next major update, which hopefully means more fun covers as well.  Meanwhile, the full list of this batch is below, along with a few more covers.  All have already been added to the main list.

GILLIAN AVERY (1926-     )
(married name Cockshut)

Children's author and historian whose works are known for their realism and their Victorian settings; her novels include The Warden's Niece (1957) and The Elephant War (1960), both set in Oxford; other works include a history of girls’ schools, The Best Type of Girl (1991).

ENID BLYTON (1897-1968)
(married names Pollock and Waters, aka Mary Pollock)

Hugely prolific and successful children's author; although much of her work is for young children, she also published several series of novels, including the St. Malory's school novels (1941-45), a mystery series starting with The Rockingdown Mystery (1949), and the "Secret Seven" series (1949-63).

ANN BULLINGHAM (????-1967)
(pseudonym of Ann Miles Jones)

Author of three children's novels about Penelope and friends in the English countryside, including Penelope (1953), Penelope and Curlew (1957), and Summer on the Hills (1960).

ESMĖ CARTMELL (dates unknown)

Apparently the author of only one novel, Rescue in Ravensdale (1946), a children's holiday adventure intriguingly set in the days leading up to WWII and in part satirizing some of the most stereotypical elements of children's adventure stories.


More research needed; author of three titles, the first of which, Chuckles: The Story of a Small Boy (1927), may be a children’s book; The Fighting Six (1929) and The Good Detectives (1931) might also be for children or be mysteries or adventure stories.


Journalist and writer on golf for women, Helme is best known now for her series of children's books about Exmoor ponies, including Mayfly the Grey Pony (1935), Runaway Mike (1936), Shank's Pony (1946), Suitable Owners (1948), White Winter (1949), and Dear Busybody (1950).

(aka Mrs. Albert G. Latham)

Author of children’s fiction—initially for younger readers, but later work includes novels such as The Young Crofters (1920), A Summer at “The Barn” (1923), and Those Two and the Queer Folk (1928).

ALICE MASSIE (1884-1961)

Beginning as a children’s writer, with titles like Two in a Tangle (1909) and Pavement Island (1925), Massie later wrote several novels, including Unresting Year (1926), The Blessed Roof-Tree (1927), The Cotswold Chronicle (1930), Crossings (1932), and The Wicked Captain (1933).

DOROTHY SEVERN (c1892-1950)

A relative of artist Joseph Severn and headmistress for many years at the Norton Church of England School in Letchworth, Severn published one book of poems, Beggar's Garden (1935), and one children's historical novel, Kerin the Watcher: An Ancient Tale of the Chiltern Borderland (1947).

BARBARA SLEIGH (1906-1982)
(married name Davis)

Author of children's picture books and novels, including the Carbonel series beginning with Carbonel: The King of the Cats (1955) and the time travel story Jessamy (1967); other works include The Patchwork Quilt (1956), No One Must Know (1962), and a memoir, The Smell of Privet (1971).

(aka Elizabeth Steward)

Author of several children’s titles, including Mock Uncle (1932) and a short series of books about “On’y Tony” and his horses (1935-38); Spender also wrote one novel for adults, The Unlikely Wooing (1932).

NITA UNTHANK (1901-1966)

More research needed; author of three children’s books which could be girls’ school stories—From Rebels to Helpmates (1949), Robina's Secret (1951), and Because of Berry (1955).


  1. Blyton actuall did two series of school stories - the Malory Towers series and the St. Clare's series. Both are excellent (I devoured them all as a child) but a warning - never, *never* read modern editions as they have been completely bowdlerised and re-written. Example: the heroine Darrell Rivers slaps another girl in the first book so hard she can see the marks on her leg. In the modern version it's a small shaking. I have ranted a bit about this on my blog. Anyway, they're wonderful books, as long as you read her original stories!

    1. Thanks, Kaggsy. Seems like a common problem for school stories. I know I've been warned about reprints of Brent-Dyer and Oxenham as well. I suppose it's a sign of how these books weren't taken seriously--imagine someone publishing an "updated" version of a Virginia Woolf novel!

  2. So agree with Kaggsy about Blyton's school stories. I only really like Malory Towers and then only with the original illustrations.

    When I first read Rescue in Ravensdale, I thought it read as though written by a man. I've an idea someone found that out to be the case, but no amount of searching will find the reference now, Tsk.

    Carbonel is lovely! My daughter adored those books when she was small (probably still does). Barbara Sleigh's husband David Davis was for many years a reader of stories on BBC radio (The Home Service in those days) Children's Hour. He had a beautiful, distinctive voice which I can still hear in my head.

    1. How interesting about Rescue. I barely found any information about it at all. I'll add it to my list to ask John Herrington about. I didn't know that about Sleigh's husband. The Carbonel books do certainly look like fun!

  3. I agree about Carbonel - delightful.

    Whatever you do, read the Blyton books with substantial time gaps between each one in a series. I adored them as a child but read through both the Mallory Towers and St Clares series very fast when preparing my talk on school stories. Had I not known that word processors didn't exist in her day I would have suspected her of cutting and pasting huge sections from book to book....cue key word, cue same paragraph again in the next book.

    Given that Jane Austen is now being completely rewritten I don't think anyone is safe anymore. Though maybe whole new books is a step worse (or better?) than chopping and changing originals.

    I guess the budget comment may be tongue in cheek? Lots of girls' books are called this so just in case it wasn't - a definition: "• archaic A quantity of written or printed material" :-)

    1. Ha! Never assume that I know what I'm saying, Cestina! I had no idea "budget" also had that meaning. Strange that I've never come across that--or have I? And just assumed that it was used with its financial meaning?

      You've mentioned your talk on school stories before, Cestina. Is it something that could be shared? I'd love to read it, if you felt comfortable with that (and if it's in a form that made that possible).

  4. I'd be very happy to share it but sadly it's not in a transmittable form - on lots of pieces of card which are now in a sad state of disarray since I rarely need them anymore and occasionally I find myself glancing down and thinking "What on earth does that say?" Sorry......

    Apropos school stories - I've just been rereading all the Little Women books and if Joey Bettany/Maynard, one of the lead characters in the Chalet School series, isn't a straight steal from Jo March/Bhaer, I'm a Dutchman. And given that Jo March is held to be Louisa M. Alcott herself, that puts L.M.A straight into the Chalet School series.....

    1. I'm sure you're right, Cestina. I remember reading about how influential Little Women was for women writers in England as well as the US, and have always meant to get around to reading it for that reason, but alas never have. I wouldn't be surprised if Brent-Dyer meant Joey to be a recognizable homage.

      Too bad about the talk, but I completely understand. You'll just have to come and give the talk in San Francisco someday!

  5. How did that manage to get posted as Anonymous? Hmm - must have hit the drop down thingy by mistake. Sorry.....

  6. Scott, reading this last post, I cannot but wonder, is your furniture made out of books? Do you have remote storage? Do you have a separate apartment just for books? A sort of "Scott's Annexe?" WHERE do they all go? WHEN do you find time to sleep, eat, work? It must annoy you to have to take away reading time for mundane everyday activities! Tom

    1. How on earth did you know, Tom? I do in fact find myself sometimes annoyed by the need to go to work, the fact that I get hungry in the middle of doing my research, and the fact that I require sleep. Such wastes of time! :-)

      As much as I wish I had my own spacious, multi-floored library, in fact most of the books I mention in these update posts are not, in fact, in my personal collection. I collect lovely cover images of books more than I collect books. But were I to win the lottery...

  7. I'll go along with ATomonymous... I think one of my Lost Comments was a request to see photos of your bookshelves.

    1. Oh, my, I do need to work on that, Susan. Of course, it will be a bit less impressive (but a lot tidier) now that the Great Purge of 2014 is almost complete...


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