Monday, May 4, 2020

"NEW" AUTHORS: children's writers (2 of 2)

Twelve more children's authors newly added to my author list with the last update, now more than six months ago (it does take me a while to get round to these, doesn't it?).

First off, no fewer than three authors who came to my attention thanks to my inimitable Fairy Godmother. She also provided some lovely dustjackets for them, as usual.

I'm particularly intrigued by (but of course still haven't got round to actually reading) MARGARET LOVETT, a schoolteacher and the author of six children's books. The first three—An Adventure for Fivepence (1945), Family Pie (1947), and No Other Children (1949)—are holiday stories, though Family Pie also appears to have a distinct postwar feel to it. Sir Halmanac and the Crimson Star (1965) and The Great and Terrible Quest (1967) seem to have fairy tale qualities, and the latter must have been Lovett's most successful book, as copies of it seem to abound. And her final book, Jonathan (1972), is about a group of young orphan mill workers during the Industrial Revolution.

RUTH TOMALIN seems like one of those authors I should have known about long before now, but then, there are always those authors in every update I do, even with more than 2,000 in all already included! She was a poet, journalist, children's author, and novelist. Her first novel for adults was All Souls (1952), called by the Observer "A prettily written first novel with a long-dead witch resurrected in an English village," which could really go so many different ways. That one, like so many others, is waiting patiently on my TBR shelves. Four of her later works—The Garden House (1964), The Spring House (1968), Away to the West (1972), and The Orchard House (2008)—trace the youth and young adulthood of Ralph Oliver and his cousin Rowan, and have been considered by turn to be children's fiction or adult novels about childhood. The Spring House was included in my revamped WWII Fiction List recently.

Tomalin's children's titles include two published under her maiden name, Ruth Leaver—Green Ink (1951) and The Sound of Pens (1955). In comments to Twentieth Century Children's Writers, Tomalin said "Most of my stories are about people and things of the English countryside. All are set in places well known to me at different times, ranging from a copse full of wild life (The Daffodil Bird) to Broadcasting House, London (The Sea Mice); and from a glass "watch-house" in a nature preserve (A Stranger Thing) to a reporters' room on a provincial evening paper."

Next up is PAULA HARRIS, whose three music-themed children's titles—Music at Pendragon (1959), Cressida and the Opera (1960), and Star in the Family (1965)—look absolutely irresistible. Thanks to FG for the tantalizing cover art. Harris also published two music themed works of non-fiction, Introducing Beethoven (1963) and The Young Gilbert and Sullivan (1965).

Fans of pony stories may well be familiar with MARJORIE MARY OLIVER, who wrote or co-wrote ten books in all. Her solo titles, most or all of them also concerned with horses, include Riding Days in Hook's Hollow (1944), Horseman's Island (1950), Land of Ponies (1951), A-Riding We Will Go (1951), Menace on the Moor (1960), Mystery at Merridown Mill (1962), and The Riddle of the Tired Pony (1964). She also co-wrote three early pony stories with EVA DUCAT (also newly added to my list)—The Ponies of Bunts (1933), Sea Ponies (1935), and Ponies and Caravans (1941). On the 1939 England & Wales Register, Oliver is shown as running a riding school in Sussex with her farmer husband, so she clearly knew her subject matter.

Ducat, meanwhile, seems to have had her main claim to fame in being a friend, mentor, and "musical agent" of poet William Butler Yeats. She published a memoir, Another Way of Music (1928), which includes mention of many of her other famous friends.

A couple of unidentified authors contribute a handful more titles. ANN BARTON, for whom there are simply too few clues and a far too generic name to allow for identification so far, published a single girls' career story, Kate in Advertising (1955). 

And VEGA STEWART, a translator as well as a children's author, has proven elusive as well, but she certainly wrote two children's books—Fourwinds Island (1951), a holiday adventure with an island setting and an orphaned schoolgirl heroine, and Spies' Highway (1954).

A. M. (ANNIE MCDOUGALL) WESTWOOD started her career with four novels for adults in the 1930s—The Flying Firs (1930), Elfinstorm (1931), Quinlan (1933), and To What Purpose? (1936)—at least some of which appear to be adventure stories with Indian settings. In the 1950s she returned with five children's titles: Ali Baba and the Lonely Leopard (1951, with Jack Westwood), The Riddle of Kittiwake Rock (1956), Dundi Shah, Beloved Prince (1959), Trouble at Kittiwake Rock (1960), and Jungle Picnic (1960).

Among the one hit wonders can be counted PRUDENCE M. HILL, but Wind and Weather Permitting (1954), described as a sailing holiday story, could be a find for those who have exhausted their Arthur Ransome collection. Hill also published a biographical work about her father, To Know the Sky: The Life of Air Chief Marshall Sir Roderic Hill (1962).

After I'd already published this post, FG sent this additional Irene Byers
cover, which is quite striking!

On the other hand, IRENE BYERS was prolific enough I'm surprised I hadn't come across her before. She published more than three dozen children's books, many of them adventure and holiday stories and some including recurring characters. Titles include Mystery at Barber's Reach (1950), The Adventure of the Floating Flat (1952), Tim of Tamberly Forest (1954), Adventure at Fairborough's Farm (1955), The Sign of the Dolphin (1956), The Missing Masterpiece (1957), Adventure at the Blue Cockatoo (1958), Kennel Maid Sally (1960), Tim Returns to Tamberly (1962), The Merediths of Mappins (1964), Joanna Joins the Zoo (1964), The Stage Under the Cedars (1969), Cameras on Carolyn (1971), and Fox on the Pavement (1984).

AVERIL DEMUTH was the author of five children's titles which seem to feature fantasy elements. Trudi and Hansel (1937) is set in the Austrian Tyrol, The House in the Mountains (1940) in Switzerland, and The House of the Wind (1953) in Cornwall. The others are The Enchanted Islands (1941) and The Sea Gypsies (1942). She later published The Minack Open-Air Theatre (1968) about a theatre for which she also wrote at least one play. Sadly, her husband died in World War II after only one year of marriage and she does not appear to have ever remarried.

And rounding out my "new" children's authors is ALICE STERRY, who published at least two children's titles—The Moorings Mystery (1955) and The Museum Mystery (1959). She also published one additional book, Hold My Hand, Sister (1959), about which I could find no details. (But now I have details--see the additional dustjacket scan from FG below!)

And that's that. I still have one or two more posts to do about the last update, including one about women whose lives might have been more interesting than their writing and one, hopefully, that might be labelled "Odds and Ends".


  1. Golly, I feel abashed. I was the "subject specialist" in the Children's Literature Department at Los Angeles Central Library for some years, and nary a one of these authors rings a bell. Still, love that cover art! AND some look like fun reads!

    1. Shame on you Tom! How could you not be familiar with all 2,100 authors on my list? :-)

  2. Tom: I'm afraid that US children's books are frequently unknown in the UK, and vice versa. The classics are generally published in both countries, but that's often not the case with more modern books.

    Scott: I think you get Shirley Neilson's magazine, The Scribbler? I had an article on Music at Pendragon in the last issue (#14) - it's a lovely, sunny book, one of my favourites from childhood.

    1. Oh Sue, I don't think I've got started on the last Scribbler yet. Something to look forward to! And the dustjacket certainly looks enticing.

  3. I think I may have known Averil Demuth through her connection with the Minack Theatre. I worked in the theatre from 1978 - 1980 as a summer job and her name, which is very unusual, sounds familiar. I certainly recognise the book jacket

    Next time you are in the UK you must visit the Minack. It is an open air theatre built into the cliffside near Lands End with a programme of plays and musicals from Easter to September. It was built by a redoubtable lady called Rowena Cade and she would have mingled effortlessly with your legion of lady Authors.

    1. How interesting Alice. Definitely Cornwall and Lands End are on our list for our next trip!

  4. My friend Jane Badger has republished the Bunt pony books - you can find them at Jane Badger Books and they're all on Amazon, too!

  5. Thank
    you for this new list of chldrens authors, some I havn't seen before which will be fun . Vega Stewarts 'Spies Highway' is a wonderful book absolutely one of my favorites and I have been hunting for her second one ' Four Winds Island' for at least 20 years and just hope one day it will turn up

    1. Great to know, I'll be on the lookout for it. Good luck finding the elusive second book!


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