Wednesday 3 October 2012

When is a novelty book not a novelty book?

When it’s something else!

According to the definition - a novelty book is a book with special built-in features such as pop-ups, foldout pages, flaps, or hidden sound chips.

When applying the above criteria none of the following books can be classified as novelties. So what is the collective term for books that include knitting or crafting patterns, 3D glasses, paper models, tracing pages, painting and colouring books and books with cut out paper dolls? I suppose activity book could be applied to some of them - but would you call a book with knitting patterns an activity book? I'm at a loss to think of a title that adequately describes them.

Make it yourself bird showcases! If that’s not a novelty, I don’t know what is! There are four different books in stock - the blue tit, the kingfisher, the long tailed-tit and the green woodpecker. Each bound in the original paper wraps with cut-out windows to view the birds, simple to construct without cutting or pasting. Published by Amex undated but c1940. 

Three story books with added extras;

Jimmy Jumbo's exciting Day written by Ethel Butterworth, published in 1945. Read the story and make your very own Jimmy the elephant. Complete with pattern and instructions. 

Dinah, Jum & Mac story book complete with patterns of Dinah, Jum & Mac to make up out of the 'rag bag'. Dinah is a little black rag doll. Jum is a blue and white elephant, and Mac is a little brown 'Scottie' dog. Complete with full-page colour illustrations plus six pages of text and patterns to fold out and make up. Published by the R A Publishing Co Ltd in 1948. 

The story of Willie Wombat and his friends, Flappy Frog, Paddy Platypus, Kathumper Kangaroo, Lizzie Lizard, Katy Koala, Mr. Possum, Robbie Rabbit, and the Happy Kookaburra who lived in Gundygoo, a little village far out in the bush. As you read about their adventures, the eight little pals come to life because you simply knit them!  Pretty book with ten knitting patterns. Published by Southdown Press in Melbourne, undated. 

Now for some fun and Games;

Before 1066 & all that stories for children and adults with pictures to paint and crayon. Told by Richmond Lewis with pictures by Albert Underwood. I would guess this was published in the 1940s/50s so it’s remarkable to find it complete with the removable dust jacket, especially as the jacket turns into ‘an exciting race game’. The aim of the game is to move your chosen boat down the Trent from Trent Lock to Kelham passing Nottingham Castle, Beeston weir, Trent Bridge, Colwick Weir, Stoke Ferry and many other places en route. The game is unused and still has the spinner and four boats the Robin Hood, the Little John, the Friar Tuck and the Maid Marian ready to cut out and play. 

Living picture book  a series of photographs comprising animals, modern & ancient buildings, wonders & curiosities of the world, which when viewed through the Wonder Spectacles immediately spring to life!

Treasure Hunt designed by Alan George and published by W & A K Johnston in 1945.  John and Jennifer know that somewhere along the road is a castle where a miserly baron hid his treasure. John and Jennifer mean to find it, and could use your help!

Next week - colouring & paper-craft, a model tableau, a cut-out shop, express train, Samurai warrior and more. View here

Did you play with books like this when you were a child? Would you like to play with them now??

All the featured books are now sold, thank you for your interest.

Update July 2016: March House books closed on my retirement in 2015, but I do still blog here at March of Time Books and always appreciate your visit. 


  1. I think I would call them activity books if they are aimed at children and craft or model making books if they require adult intervention.

    I LOVED books like your last Treasure Hunt book - that would have bee a dream present for me when I was a child.

    When my son was younger I bought and made many of the magnificent Usborne models from their series - the medieval castle and wizard's castle were my favourites. He played with them and they eventually fell apart - so I've bought replacement books (including the full medieval town) and I've put them away to make for myself one day when I have lots of time and space! These sorts of books have fascinated me all my life. (The Klutz Hogwarts was also fab)

    (By the way - when I re-discovered Hilda Boswell last weekend the first thing I did was check your site - I realised straight away they must be snapped up as soon as you get any!)

  2. barbaraannefisher3 October 2012 at 21:37

    Hi Sharon, I think you’re spot on there! At the moment, they are all lumped together in one category, but I will have to do a bit of reorganisation. The problem is I only have a few of each ‘kind', and if I'm not careful I will end up with lots of categories.

    I loved building things like this with my son too. One of his favourites and the one he still remembers was a home-made version of a Dalek! We made it out of card, paper and other bits and pieces; he spent hours playing with it. In fact, I say we, but I think Steve did the majority of the construction - I just supervised!

    I read your post about Hilda Boswell and went straight to my stock list to see if I could find the poem you mentioned in any of her books – but guess what they were all sold! I listed my first fairy tales (with Hilda Boswell illustrations) on my website today. I checked to see if 'a fairy went a-marketing’ was in it, but sadly not.

  3. I would call knitting books, hobbies or craft and the rest activity?

    Dinah Jum & Mac *drool* nice book you have there Barbara, never seen that one before.

  4. I loved books like the ones about when I was litte. Anything with pop- ups, 3D, things to color, overlays, hidden messages you could reveal, etc. These types of books are such fun. I think the racetrack dustjacket it fabulous. My brothers and I would have loved that- but it would have been destroyed (just like our pop-ups and 3D books). I am not sure what you would call these books- I think they could be called unique novelty or books with bonus features.

  5. I love these kind of books! i think you are never too old for them.

  6. Those are awesome - i'd love to play with them now, LOL! ;)

  7. barbaraannefisher5 October 2012 at 10:34

    Hi Michelle, thanks for the advice I think that’s what I will have to do, three categories – novelty for the early novelty items, activity books for the more up-to-date things and the rest hobbies.

    Dinah Jum & Mac is lovely and very scarce. I’ve only been able to find two other copies online and one of those is missing its patterns. I was very pleased (understatement!) when I found this one.

  8. barbaraannefisher5 October 2012 at 10:42

    Hello Stephanie, thanks for calling in. Bonus features is a good idea! It’s lovely to get so much input from other people. Thanks for that.
    There is no way the dust jacket would have remained on the book if it had belonged to me – the boats and counters would have been cut out and played with until they fell apart! I always it’s sad when they have not been used, good for me of course, but sad none the less.

  9. barbaraannefisher5 October 2012 at 10:49

    Hello Darlene, I would love to play with all of them, but then I think of the amount of work that went into making them and manage to resist!

  10. barbaraannefisher5 October 2012 at 10:50

    Hello Joleene, me too. Just think of the fun we could have!

  11. Seems like they ought to expand what's considered a novelty book. I remember those 3-D glasses for books. Such fun.

  12. barbaraannefisher7 October 2012 at 17:48

    Hello Donna, It would be a lot easier to call them novelty books, but it might make it harder for people to find them. I think I will have to do some categorisation just a question of finding the time. I remember the 3-D glasses too. They were a lot of fun when we were kids.

  13. I love it when folks come together and share opinions.
    Great site, keep it up!

  14. Hi, I have just come into the ownership of a Dinah, Jum and Mac book. I can't find out much about rarity and whether or not they have a following, can anyone help?

    1. Hi, I don't think these little books have a great deal of value although there are not many of them around now. The copy I had sold for £8.00 in July 2015. Hope that is of some help. Barbara


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