Friday, February 16, 2018

Update: New children's authors (3 of 3)

My pick for best cover art in this batch

My third and final post about children's authors just added to my British & Irish list contains Scottish settings, witchy "hags", and enticing book covers. But I find myself irrationally attracted to a single WWI-era title by one of the new authors…

WINIFRED PARES was the author of more than a dozen children's books, but the one that has caught my eye is Hen and Chickens: A Story of Girl Life in the Great War (1920). I can find no details about it. Has anyone ever come across it?

Pares published her first two titles—A Pair of Ducks (1898) and Peacocks, or, What Little Hands Can Do (1899)—appeared under her maiden name, Winifred Percy Smith. She married in 1900, which may explain why she apparently didn't publish again until 1919. Other titles include An Everyday Angel (1919), The Grey House Opposite (1924), The Secret of the Dusty House (1925), The Creaking Bough (1926), Miss Lavender (1926), Poor Man's Pepper (1930), The Toymakers of Trev (1939), and Mr Nobody's House (1939).

But now, on to Scotland (and oh I wish I was really bound for Scotland)! ELLEN JANE MACLEOD has almost as good a claim to be on my American list as here, having emigrated to the U.S. with her family at age 9. But she returned to Scotland in the early 1950s, and her work is almost entirely set there, so she fits here better. Reportedly, she began writing after an automobile accident ended early efforts to be a dancer. Her children's books include The Crooked Signpost (1957), Adventures on the Lazy "N" (1957), Mystery Gorge (1959), The Vanishing Light (1961), Stranger in the Glen (1969), and Isle of Shadows (1974). 

MacLeod also published a romantic novel, Orchids for a Rose (1963). The Writer's Directory lists several additional titles not shown in Worldcat—From Aunt Jane, with Love (1974), Wing Home, My Heart (1975), Those Joyful Days (1976), and Another Time, Another Place (1977). These could have been self-published, and information is hard to find, but they could plausibly be memoirs.

Like MacLeod, ISOBEL KNIGHT spent a number of years in the U.S., though her time was spent there as an adult. she was the author of numerous readers and story books for younger children, as well as retellings of works by other authors. The only title I've found that appears to be for older children is The Mystery of the Island (1948), about children exploring a ruined castle on a small Scottish isle. She got married in Calcutta and on the 1930 U.S. census was living in Detroit and working as a stenographer in an auto factory.

Sadly, ELIZABETH LEITCH remains untraced, but she wrote four children's titles—The Raiders' Road (1937), The Two Houses by the Shore (1938), The Saturday Club (1940), and The Family at Kilmory (1955). Some or all of these seem to have Scottish settings, and most were reprinted at least once.

BRENDA G. MACROW wrote mostly non-fiction about Scotland, as well as verse for children, but she also published two works of children's fiction, the fantasy-themed The Amazing Mr. Whisper (1958) and its sequel The Return of Mr. Whisper (1959), about children whose summer tutor has magical powers.

And now we come to the hags, which I admit are intriguing me a bit. I've had a love for witchy kinds of books ever since discovering Lolly Willowes, so a series of books by LORNA M. WOOD about the "hag" Dowsabel appeals to me. Depressingly, it seems like it will be a challenge to get my hands on any of them though. The series includes The People in the Garden (1954), The Hag Calls for Help (1957), Holiday on Hot Bricks (1958), Seven-League Ballet Shoes (1959), Hags on Holiday (1960), Hag in the Castle (1962), Rescue by Broomstick (1963), and Hags by Starlight (1970). Her first published title was The Crumb-Snatchers (1933), a novel which the Spectator called "vivacious." Two subsequent titles, Gilded Sprays (1935) and The Hopeful Travellers (1936), appear to also be for adults. Her childhood, which she described in a Contemporary Authors entry, was clearly unconventional—no formal education, raised in a home without gas or electricity, then discovered as a musical prodigy and giving regular concerts. She and her husband visited Spain during the Spanish Civil War, and she contributed a piece about their experiences, "Correspondent's Wife," to the 1939 anthology Nothing But Danger.

K. WALLIS COALES wrote (and often illustrated) nine works of children's fiction, some with scouting and/or mystery themes. These include The Wharfbury Watch-Dogs (1930), The Pennyfound Puzzle (1931), The Monkey Patrol (1932), The Secret of the Fens (1935), The Mascot at No. 7 (1936), and Patricia at the Wheel (1937). She came by her interest in scouting honestly—her father was Herbert George Coales, who published scouting fiction under the pseudonym Mark Harborough.

Another title that sounds a bit intriguing is MODWENA SEDGWICK's The Children in the Painting (1969), which the Spectator called "a case history, told from the eye-level of a seven year old, about loneliness, unwantedness and the sense of loss." 

Sedgwick also had success with several books about a ragdoll named Galldora and several volumes of tales about a harvest mouse named Jan Perry.

LYDIA S. ELIOTT published a single adult novel, Lake of Destiny (1948), about which I couldn't locate any details. She then progressed to writing more than two dozen works for children, including fiction, non-fiction, and Bible stories, some for younger children. 

Children's titles that appear to be fiction for older children include Susan of Red Rock Fjord (1949), The Chief's Secret (1951), Ceva of the Caradoes (1953), The Girl from 'Chinooks' (1954), The Young Explorers (1958), and Found in the Forest (1958). Interestingly, her 1950 title Children of Galilee was illustrated by Mollie M. Kaye, later better known as novelist M. M. KAYE.

WINIFRED FINLAY may not be exactly a household name, but she garnered some good cover art. Finlay wrote more than 20 volumes of adventure and mystery fiction for children, as well as several collections of folktales, many of which she collected from oral sources. Her titles include The Witch of Redesdale (1951), Peril in Lakeland (1953), Cotswold Holiday (1954), The Castle and the Cave (1961), Mystery in the Middle Marches (1965), Summer of the Golden Stag (1969), and Beadbonny Ash (1973). 

Finlay wrote several series for the BBC Children's Hour. In the 1970s, she co-authored, with Gillian Hancock, several collections of themed stories, including ghosts, treasure hunter, and dog stories. She also published several late volumes of fantasy fiction, including Secret Rooms and Hiding Places (1982).

I don't have a lot of detail about the remaining five authors, but of course I have to include them and some of their charming, pretty, ordinary, and/or appalling cover art.

M. E. MATHEWS remains untraced, but there seems to be a consensus that the books are by a woman. She wrote about half a dozen books, including The Featherlight Family (1942), Princess Storm (1943), Runaway Adventure (1944), The Redheads of Windyridge (1950), The Island in the Lake (1951), and Sixpenny Holiday (1953).

Elaine Joan Murray Warde wrote as E. J. WARDE and published nearly a dozen volumes of adventure and mystery fiction for children, including Dangerous Diamonds (1960), Stoneacres (1962), The Riddle of Anchor Farm (1965), Adventures in Anderton (1968), Stowaway Farmer (1973), and The Jigsaw Puzzle (1978).

JEAN VAUGHAN is the untraced author of three children's titles—Lone Star (1940), Star and Company (1947), and Elizabeth's Green Way (1950)—described by one bookseller as girls' adventure stories.

Kathleen Mary Gadd, who published as K. M. GADD, is also unidentified (the full name comes from the British Library catalogue, but we can get no further). She published seven children's titles, some or all of them designed as readers for schools. Her first work, apparently non-fiction, was From Ur to Rome (1936). The others—La Bonté the Trapper (1939), X Bar Y Ranch (1939), White Hawk (1939), Wang Shu-Min: A Chinese Boy (1950), Sally Ann: A Tall Ship (1953), and Summer-Tenting: A Circus Story (1956)—seem to be fiction.

And finally, MARJORIE THORBURN published a single children's title, Edward and Marigold (1933). Her other two published works were Child at Play (1937), apparently based on her observations of her own child, and The Spirit of the Child: A Study of the Moral and Spiritual Development of Small Children (1946). She is described in one source as an educator, but little else is known.

So much for a big finish. But there still remain 32 new additions to the list who wrote primarily for grownups, and there are some intriguing discoveries among those as well. Stay tuned.


  1. Wow what a list. I love the jacket designs.
    One book jumped out at me " The family at Kilmory" by Elizabeth Leitch. I read this aged about 10 and it stuck in my head so that 40 years later when we went to Hay On Wye I had to visit the Childrens book shop and search out a copy. I still have it

    1. That one looked particularly enticing, Sue, so I'm glad to know that you enjoyed it (as did another commenter below--unusual to have two people familiar with any of these titles!).

  2. I don't think I have ever read any of these, but oh, how I wish I had the chance. And some lovely cover art.

    On an unrelated note, I just discovered that the first 4 Patricia Moyes mysteries have been reprinted in the US, in kindle and paperback (print on demand?) formats. I picked up one of her titles when I was last in England at a booth/room selling books at some stately home or such that I visited, and then purchased those I could find in used book stores. I remember your comments in at least one review of this author, how you regreted them being out of print in the US. Well, the first 4 are back, and since the publication date was Jan 1, with luck more will be on the way.


    1. Thanks, Jerri, I haven't read any more Patricia Moyes recently. I should probably get back to her. But I'm certainly glad to know she's being made available again, and it seems to be by Felony & Mayhem, who have done some other good things as well. Thanks for letting me know!

  3. MAN! I am in love! Or at least in the throes of a heavy crush! A big fantasy would be to be visiting - oh, say - some older spinster zaaunt, and find them all in pristine condition in the back den, still there from her childhood, or for her older nieces and nephews.....................
    Thanks, Scott!

    1. I imagine winning the lottery, Tom, and having a full-time librarian and a whole wing of a house devoted to copies of all of these books. Is that excessive???

  4. I have a copy of "The Family at Kilmory" by Elizabeth Leitch. My older brother received it in 1955 as a school prize. Alas, the dw has not survived, but the book is well read! Excellent family story. Would love to read quite a number of the books on your list. :-)

    Lesley H in West Lothian, Scotland.

    1. Thanks, Lesley. As I mentioned above, I may have to track that one down, now that I have the unusual circumstance of having two different readers who enjoyed it. Thanks for sharing!


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