Monday, 30 March 2015

Guest Post - Amazing stories from Jan Williams

I can’t help it. I cannot stop telling stories either telling them aloud or writing them down because I was born in a magic place full of stories. These included Cantre Gwelod , a city  beneath the waves; Ceridwen, the witch, who threw the baby Taliesin into the ocean in a leather bag, and a white lady who emerges from caves in the cliffs. This place is Borth, a tiny seaside village on the west coast of Wales.
The village of Borth

 It was a lovely place to grow in because it had the most beautiful beach with a splendid prehistoric submerged forest, which even now is becoming increasing visible as more and more storms arrive. The village stretches out in a long line along the beach and behind it lays a great stretch of bogland, which because of the danger of sinking into peat, is always treated with respect. The old hag who lived there on the bog was said to afflict all who met her  with a shaking sickness. Then at the far end of the beach was a cliff pocked with holes which could become caves where mysterious creatures lived. Out at sea there where porpoises and maybe the odd mermaid gambolled  and best of all there are the most glorious sunsets.
The cliffs where the white lady lives
I was a sickly shy child, who missed a lot of school when I was very young. My mother was such a good storyteller that I was slow to read for myself and then when I did learn to read, I read everything I could lay my hands on including those great favourites  of the 1950’s - Enid Blyton’s adventure stories, any illustrated books of fairy tales and ‘Alice in Wonderland’ , just the sort of books we call Vintage now and of which March books have such a fine selection.

 My battle with shyness meant that I was determined when I was an adult to help children overcome this problem. When I became a teacher, I began to teach more and more Drama.  I spent 4 years in Moncton, Canada where we used Drama to try to deal with the difficulties of the French – English hostilities in the town.

Secretly I was feeling the urge to become a performer myself and was delighted to discover the art of traditional oral storytelling from Taffy Thomas and so for several years I wandered around Essex telling stories in schools and historic buildings.  By this time I was living in Brightlingsea, Essex, which still has fine sailing boats Then to my delight, I was asked by History Press  to put all these stories  in a book called ‘Essex Folk Tales’ and I discovered more tales of smugglers, ghosts, battles and witches and surprising six dragons!

           It was hard work but I was always encouraged in my labours by Mrs Puskin, my cat has always sits by my side while I type.  She even sometimes tries to press the keyboard to help! So to please her, my latest book has been “An Amazing Storytelling Cat”. 

The Amazing storytelling cat

Now this cat is called Kiyoko and he is a Japanese bob tail cat with one green eye and one blue eye who tells enchanting tales to his five lost cats. What a collection the stories are as they include is a ghost story from China, a Halloween tale from America, a humorous tale of the mouse who fell in a beer barrel, an Egyptian cat goddess and a queenly white cat from Ireland ! 
The lost cats who listen to Kiyoko

To find them, just look me up on Amazon or go to my web site   www.Janwilltell.co.uk

Jan in Essex
Thank you so much Jan, I'm sure readers of this blog will enjoy your lovely post, Barbara.

Monday, 23 March 2015

Caroline - The Little Girl in the Red Dungarees

Have you met Caroline the little girl with the blond bunches and red dungarees?

First published in France, Caroline is the creation of the cartoonist Pierre Probst.

Pierre Probst began his artistic career drawing posters, catalogue illustrations and calendars but is best remembered for his cartoon-like pictures and stories of a little girl named Caroline and her anthropomorphic animal friends Pip, Toffy, Snowy, Binkie, Shebo, Toga, Smokey and Broggie Bear.



I’ve recently listed three Caroline books on my website, if you would like further details, please click on the following links;;  Caroline's Party,  Caroline's Wonderful Journey and Caroline's Circus 

The illustrations are from Caroline's Party

Caroline sends her little dog Toffy down to the station to meet the guests.



 In all the excitement, nobody sees the farmer's wife running for her life at the sight of a spotted cat and a lion with a sun helmet over one eye. The farmer's wife is sure that Caroline will be eaten alive! 



A quick wash and brush up …



and it's time to get the party started.



The fun goes on late into the night ... 



and ends with a bang. 

Thanks for your visit I hope you enjoyed the party!

Monday, 16 March 2015

Goodnight Mister Tom

Goodnight Mister Tom has been at the top of my TBR pile for ages and having found a beautiful vintage copy it seemed only sensible to read and blog about it before offering it for sale.

A report in The Guardian newspaper on the 25th March 1982 described it thus:

For the first time since Watership Down, a first novel has won the Guardian Award for Children's Fiction. Goodnight Mister Tom, by Michelle Magorian, is everyone's idea of a smash- hit first novel: nostalgic but skirting sentimentality, full-blown characters to love and hate, moments of grief and joy, horror and serenity, compassionate, sensitive and a marvellous story that knows just how to grab the emotions.    They were not wrong!


London during the Blitz.

In September 1939 as Britain stands on the brink of World War II, an eight-year-old boy beaten and starved into stunned apathy by his mother is billeted as an evacuee with Tom Oakley in the village of Little Weirwold. Tom is a sad, reclusive widower whose wife and baby died 40 years previously. William "Willy" Beech is thinly clad, underfed and covered with bruises. Tom takes him under his wing, and William soon begins to thrive. 

Evacuee children grouped together to be taken away from the danger zones. 

As I read about the growing bond between William and Tom, I just knew something would happen to spoil things and lo and behold six months into the relationship William's mother calls him back to London.

When he arrives, William is surprised to learn his mother has given birth to a baby girl.  He is happy to help his mother, but she is angry when she hears about his time with Tom. In a fit of temper, she hits him around the head and renders him unconscious. When he regains consciousness, he has been stripped down to his underwear, his ankle is broken, and he is chained to a pipe in the understairs cupboard. The baby is on his lap.


Blitz on Westminster.

Back in Little Weirwold, Tom grows increasingly worried and after several sleepless nights, he becomes convinced William is in trouble. He travels to London and eventually locates the house where William and his mother are living, but it appears to be abandoned. A policeman is called and after some persuasion agrees to break down the door.  Together they discover William, beaten, sick and clinging to his dead infant sister. His mother is nowhere to be seen.


This may sound like a depressing read, and indeed parts of it are upsetting but in spite of that I found it totally absorbing. I'm sure the story will live with me for a very long time, so I'm pleased to say it does have a happy ending.


Goodnight Mister Tom is a novel by the English author Michelle Magorian. The copy I have in stock was published by Kestrel in 1982 a few months after the first edition. Further details here 

Winner of the Guardian Award for Children's Fiction, 1982. Highly commended, the Carnegie Medal 1982. International Reading Association Award 1982. Runner-up for The Young Observer Prize 1982 and Western Australian Young Readers Book Award 1982. In 2003, the novel was listed at number 49 on the BBC's The Big Read. At the 2010 Hay festival Goodnight Mister Tom was voted Favourite Puffin Title Of All Time.

The novel has been twice adapted as a musical, once as a play and once as a film, Goodnight Mister Tom (1998). The most recent theatrical adaptation won the Laurence Oliver Award for Best Entertainment. 

Have you read Goodnight Mr. Tom? Did you enjoy it?


Thanks for your visit...

Monday, 9 March 2015

Pop-Up Worlds

Manville Fenn Wild animal stories a panorama picture book circa 1898

Pop up worlds in the form of mechanical books have been around since the 13th century but most were scholarly works intended for adults. Towards the end of the 18th century pop-up books for children began to appear. The very early pop-up books are now mostly beyond the reach of all but the deepest pockets, but you can still build a wonderful collection by concentrating on newer examples.

These are a few of my favourites; 


Sleeping Beauty Peepshow Book

Pop up pages and a mobile to hang by a ribbon loop
First of this edition published in 1975. Five double page pop up pages that can be tied to make a star shape mobile to hang by a ribbon loop.  

A Pocketful of Posies by Roy Gerrard 

Selection of traditional nursery rhymes

A selection of traditional nursery rhymes with one pop-up posy at the very end.  Award winning artists Roy Gerrard provided the nostalgic Edwardian style illustrations. Published by Victor Gollancz in 1991.


New little prayers pop-up
Janet and Anne Graham Johnstone illustrated this little treasure of a book. Published by Dean in 1976, it does have some wear and tear but full details and condition report can be found by clicking the link above.

The Rabbit Problem by Emily Gravett

Emily Gravett The rabbit problem
Follow the lives of two rabbits and their fast expanding brood as they handle a different seasonal challenge each month. A cold February turns into a wet April followed by a warm July and so on until the family of two gradually grows to be a family of two hundred and eighty eight! This extraordinary picture book is packed with gorgeous details and novelty elements, including a baby record book, a carrot recipe book and a surprise pop-up at the end. 



Charles Perrault Nicola Bayley Puss-in-boots

Charles Perrault first published his collection of classic French folk tales more than 300 years ago, included among them was the story of Puss In Boots. In this adaptation, the story has been retold by Christopher Logue with illustrations by Nicola Bayley. 1st edition pop-up book Published by Jonathan Cape Ltd in 1976.

In Puss and boots, a poor miller dies and leaves his youngest son nothing but a cat. The son is none too happy about it, either; Once I've eaten my cat and made a muff out of the fur, I'm sure to starve, he says. But what a legacy the bequeathed cat turns out to be! The cat in tall boots creates a new identity for the youngest son complete with fine clothes, fields of wheat, a castle stolen from an ogre, and in the end, the respect of the king and the hand of the king's daughter.  Puss in boots is now sold, thank you for your interest.





Pop-up books the coming of mammals and The flight of the Pterosaurs
The coming of Mammals - 65 million years ago the last of the dinosaurs died out, and small mice like animals came creeping out of the forests. These were early mammals - and without the dinosaurs to fear, they soon began to grow and evolve into a great variety of creatures. This book shows some of the largest mammals of the past, all of them now extinct. Eight pop-ups, paper engineering by Keith Moseley.
The Flight of the Pterosaurs Pop-Up Book - Keith Moseley brings to life the mysterious flying creatures who ruled the skies when the dinosaurs ruled the earth.


Watch the nursery rhyme come to life



Little Boy Blue published in 1982. This one is not so much a pop-up more a press-out concertina style. 

Will you wake him? No, not I. For if I do he's sure to cry. Press out the figures, stand them up and watch the nursery rhyme come to life. 6 figures to press-out including little boy blue, the sheep in the meadow and the cow in the corn. 





It’s interesting to think these inexpensive little books could well be the antiques of the future. Thanks for looking, have a great week.


Update; several visitors to this blog have expressed surprise at the date of the earliest pop-up book. For anyone looking for more information, please visit A concise history of pop-up and movable books by Ann Montanaro.   It is not known who invented the first mechanical device in a book, but one of the earliest examples was produced in the 13th century by Catalan mystic and poet Ramon Llull of Majorca, who used a revolving disc or volvelle to illustrate his theories...more here  



Just before I go, I thought you would like to know the PBFA (Provincial Booksellers Fairs Association) is offering free tickets to their children’s, illustrated and modern 1st editions book fair to be held at the Hilton London Olympia Hotel. Further details here or Download your complimentary ticket here


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