Monday, 31 August 2015

What sparks a child’s dreams?

Guest post by Darlene Foster dreamer of dreams, teller of tales.

When I was little, my dear grandmother gave me a colouring book filled with pictures of children from around the world dressed in traditional garments. I loved that book and while colouring each page, dreamt of visiting those fascinating places. Growing up on a farm in the Canadian prairies, we didn’t venture far. 

My grade three teacher, Miss Roll, taught us about exotic places, like Mexico. She gave us Mexican names, brought sombreros and serapes into the classroom, played Mexican music and served Chilli Con Carne. This further kindled my dreams of travel, especially to Mexico. Miss Roll also noticed my vivid imagination and encouraged me to write my stories down.

As is often the case, life happened. I got married, had children, worked full time, volunteered, took correspondence courses, attended the occasional workshop and dabbled in writing. I filled many notebooks with short stories and ramblings over the years. The thought of being published was a distant and, what often seemed to me, impossible dream. It didn’t look like I was going to see much of the world either.

Those ideas that were sparked all those years ago still flickered. I boarded an airplane for the first time when my second husband took me to England to visit his family. You can imagine my delight when I finally found myself in a country I had been reading and dreaming about for years. We travelled back to England a number of times as well as to many other interesting destinations, including Mexico. With every trip, I became as excited as the little child who held that international children’s colouring book in her hands.

When a friend took a job in the United Arab Emirates and invited me for a visit, I jumped at the chance. This amazing experience where I discovered a totally different culture, unique scenery and so much history, inspired me. I had many stories to tell when I returned home. Although I attempted to write these experiences down, they just didn’t portray the excitement and feelings I had while there.

Then one sleepless night, I started to write the story from the eyes of a twelve-year-old. I based it on my experiences and a perfume flask I purchased while there, added some colourful characters and tossed in an adventure. It was fun to spin my story in a way that kids would enjoy while learning about another country. My hope was that it would entice them to explore new worlds someday.  Amanda in Arabia-The Perfume Flask was born and eventually my dream of being published came true. My main character, Amanda, has since gone on to explore other places such as Spain, England and her own province of Alberta.

Still pinching myself to make sure I am actually a published author, I am so glad I followed my dream of travel, which led to a writing career. I will forever be grateful to my grandmother, my grade three teacher and so many others for sparking the flame, and for all the people in my life who fanned those flames and encouraged me to follow my dreams. 

I believe it is our job as adults, to nurture the young people in our lives to develop and follow their dreams. If we don´t spark the flame, who will? As one creator of dreams come true once said, “If you can dream it, you can do it.” Walt Disney 

Brought up on a ranch in southern Alberta, Darlene Foster dreamt of travelling the world and meeting interesting people. She also had a desire to write since she was twelve. It wasn´t until she was a grandmother that her short stories started to win awards and were included in anthologies. She is the author of the exciting adventure series featuring spunky 12 year-old Amanda Ross who loves to travel to unique places. Her books include: Amanda in Arabia – The Perfume Flask, Amanda in Spain – The Girl in The Painting, Amanda in England – The Missing Novel and Amanda in Alberta – The Writing on the Stone. Readers from seven to seventy plus enjoy travelling with Amanda as she unravels one mystery after another. Darlene and her husband currently live in Orihuela Costa, Spain. She believes everyone is capable of making their dreams come true.

Books available:


Dear Darlene, thank you so much for agreeing to write for my blog and for allowing me to share your photographs. It is always a pleasure to welcome you here. 

I am always happy to share interesting posts from fellow bloggers or anyone wishing to try their hand at blogging.  I prefer the posts to be about childhood, hobbies, collecting or books but would consider other submissions. Please send an email with your idea, and I will get right back to you.   

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Inspiration - fiddlesticks ...

                  ... that's all bunkum I just sit down to draw a picture as one might sit down to make a pudding, then I concentrate on possible subjects until I strike a good one. If I were to wait for inspiration, I'd starve."   G. E. Studdy, The Royal Magazine 1924. 

George Ernest Studdy is probably best remembered for his drawings of ‘Bonzo’, a mischievous white puppy, but he also created several other characters like those featured in this calendar from 1922. 

Missed boat. Will turn up later, Tom. 

Sorry could not dine with you last night. Got a touch of flu, Bertie.

Sorry to disappoint you. Cannot possibly put you up, Horace.

Spending week-end on river. Hope to get a line from you, Percy.

Expect to arrive in dock shortly. Portland in sight, Bill.

I found the calendar at the Bath & West Flea market a couple of months ago... was produced for D. J. Snell Music Publisher, Piano & Gramophone Dealer, 
Alexandra Arcade, High Street, Swansea. 

I'm not sure if I have an enquiring mind or a nosy nature but either way I felt compelled to find out more about D. J. Snell.

David John Snell was born at 44 Dyvatty Terrace, Swansea on the 1st August 1880. He was the son of Henry Snell and his wife Eliza (nee Lewis). David had a brother James and sister Ann. Nothing is known of his early life but on the 7th October 1906 he married Elizabeth Ann Evans, and together they had four sons. On the cover of one of his early catalogues, he is shown to be selling gramophones, phonographs and records (by far the largest stock in Wales) and to be an agent for Spencer pianos and Malcolm organs.

By 1911 D. J. Snell was dealing in sheet music as well as musical instruments – indeed one of his catalogues boasts: Every popular song (Welsh or English) kept in stock. At the same time, he was acquiring the copyright to musical compositions with the intention of publishing them. The majority of the works he purchased in the early years had already been published, but he republished them under his own name. He was scrupulous about buying not only copyright but also the available stock and the printing plates, and by so doing he was free to sell the stock with his own name over stamped on the previously printed copies.

In 1917 he purchased the copyrights and all stock and plates of the North Wales Music Company. Four years later, he purchased the music published by the Welsh National Publishing Company of Caernarfon. When he acquired the firm of J.R. Lewis of Carmarthen in 1924 and that of Isaac Jones of Treherbert in 1930, he effectively established for himself a music publishing empire in South Wales. The growth of the publishing side of the business in the years to 1939 is reflected in the catalogues which he issued.  The earliest such catalogue was just seven pages long, later catalogues ran to thirty one pages. Though the firm continued to publish during the forties and fifties, the last-known catalogue was the one issued in 1939. Bombing raids over Swansea in February 1941 saw the loss of numerous printing plates and a large amount of stock.  In spite of his advancing age, D. J. Snell continued to be active in the business until his death on the 13th January 1957. His wife died a few months later.

It’s possible his sons continued the retail side of the business but having trawled through hundreds of newspapers and online records I'm unable to say for sure.  I will keep looking and update this post if I should find any answers.


The National library of Wales
Find my past
Chris Beetles Gallery

Sunday, 16 August 2015

A letter from Julie

A week or so before March House Books closed I received an email from a lady by the name of Julie Drew.  It turns out Julie and I have much in common, a love of books being just one of our shared interests. Since then we've communicated several times, and I'm very happy to say Julie has now agreed to share some of her thoughts here. This is a short excerpt from Julie's first email, there will be more to follow; 

Over to you Julie…


My name is Julie Drew and I live in tropical North Queensland, Australia. I often find myself linked onto your magical website, and thoroughly enjoy every moment I spend browsing through your treasures. But today I found your fabulous Aladdin's Cave even better than usual. I made the time to read your entries and feel that we must be kindred spirits, with so many loves which coincide.....

The first of these was your love for your precious Rosie who went off to Rainbow Bridge in 2009. (If you wish you can read about Rosie here)  I almost cried with sadness at the loss of this beautiful little friend, and I know how much you must still miss her. I lost my Tibetan Spaniel, Furble, aged almost 15 in August 2010, and not a day goes by when I do not think of him as I feed my other 3 beloved fur babies.

The second crossover interest is of course my love of old and antique children's books which I have collected since 'acquiring' my now 85 year old Dad's  first edition of Enid Blyton's Boys and Girls Story Book No 2 which he was given back in 1934!! Stories from this were read to us each night at bedtime, for so many years; and was repaired so often by my ever patient mother to the point of it being almost totally rebound. It is completely non-recognisable from the outside, these days, but the contents are totally intact ,thanks to her efforts when I was a child in the 60's! Imagine my delight at discovering that this was one of 6 Annual-style books published by News Chronicle, filled to overflowing with the incomparable works of Enid Blyton back in the days before her Magic Faraway Tree tales which we all know and love so dearly in their original format before Political Correctness went mad and ruined so many old kid's treasures for good!!  I have still got Dad's treasure here, but I also have completed collecting the entire set of the 6 books which I have recently enjoyed reading from Beginning to End! Dad was so very interested to learn that the book he loved so much as a child was just one of 6 which came out annually till 1940. I have been so blessed to be have been raised by parents with this love for the written and illustrated word! Mum passed away at only 42 when I was 17,and I inherited her super collection of books which had meant so much to me while she was still with us. It is the very greatest legacy she could have left for me in the 70's.

Thirdly, I also became besotted with 'The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe'. I was 10 years old, in grade 5 of primary school, and fortunate enough to have a teacher who every Friday afternoon, to end the school week, would read the class a chapter of this amazing book. Every cent of my Christmas money went into buying a Hard Cover copy from the local bookshop!! I then went on to complete the set and still have these with their dust jackets!!   I almost lost 'The Magician's Nephew' for all time though, when it was stolen from my locker in my first year of High School. I was totally heartbroken at this heinous act, and to this day have no idea who stole it. But I vowed that if it took me till the end of my days, I would somehow find a replacement. Well!!! Glory Be!!! After 45 very long years, I did indeed find a copy with the same colour dust jacket, though printed a year later than my others all are!!! Thank heavens for the Internet!! It really is true that everything DOES come to those who are prepared to wait!!!

I have so many favourites among the thousands of books on my shelves (and tables, chairs, and also piles of them on my floors!!!) that it is very hard to say which call the loudest to me. But I can happily name the British Judge, Edward Abbott Parry's eccentric and delicious books 'Katawampus: its Cure and Treatment' with its sequel 'Butterscotia, or a Cheap Trip to Fairyland' as two of my absolute all-time cannot-put-down treasures!!! I only came across them in the past 2 years, both found in UK on completely different sites and a good 6 months or so apart. I have the matching Heinemann editions published in 1927, a good 30 years after they first appeared!! The strangest thing of all though, is that I had, some few years even earlier, been tempted to purchase the third (and final) book to feature the same characters; and it too is in the matching 1927 binding!! Oh Joy of Joys!!!!

Another little gem, and I do mean little, is 'Pigs is Pigs', an American treat by Ellis Parker Butler, from early in the 20th century!! It was actually first published as a short story in the American Illustrated Magazine, and then a few years later as a book in its own right. It was published many times after that in various covers! A bookseller in USA sent me a copy as a gift about 7 years ago due to my love of guinea pigs as well as dogs! I read it through and laughed till my tummy ached!!  I did not even realise till very recently that it has more than once been adapted for film, and even nominated for an Academy Award for Animated Short Film, for Walt Disney in 1954!!! Now THAT, I really have to see!!  Again, thank heavens for the internet!

Anyway, I really have taken far too much of your time for now, for someone you have never met!! So if you have not fallen asleep yet, I shall wish you a lovely weekend.

My thanks and many smiles, Julie Drew
July, 2015

Monday, 10 August 2015

Bodleian Library Launches Children’s Imprint

The Bodleian Library is launching new imprint Bodleian Children’s Books.

One of the UK and Ireland’s six copyright libraries, Oxford University’s Bodleian Library is home to the Opie Collection of Children's Literature – along with over 12 million items, ranging from early manuscripts, rare books, maps and postcards to the latest printed publications.

Bodleian Children’s Books will focus on mining the collections to discover and republish timeless and beautifully illustrated children’s books; forgotten gems that can be reintroduced to a new audience. It will also include newly commissioned books, with a connection to libraries, reading and books. Titles will be handsomely produced as attractive gift hardback editions, to be treasured for future generations. Samuel Fanous, the Bodleian Library’s Publisher, said: ‘Many children’s books from the twentieth century have that magic combination of timeless stories perfectly illustrated with gorgeous art which can fire the imagination, as many of us remember well from our own childhood. We aim to bring these to new audiences and commission new titles with a similar profile for young readers.’

The inaugural titles in the new children’s imprint are Penguin’s Way and Whale’s Way, originally published in the 1960s, due for publication 18 September. Written by US author Johanna Johnston, and with stunning illustrations by Caldecott Prize winner Leonard Weisgard, these titles are a delightful introduction to the natural world of the emperor penguin and humpback whale, told in narrative form with vintage illustrations. Each title has a paper to board cover, cloth quarter binding and charming endpapers.

The Bodleian aims to publish at least two titles per season under the Bodleian Children’s Books imprint. The first for spring 2016 is Veronica by Roger Duvoisin, again from the sixties; an enchanting tale about a hippo named Veronica who travels to the city and has a series of run-ins with the law. Duvoisin was a renowned Swiss-born American author-illustrator who created the Happy Lion and Petunia series of picture books, along with more than 40 other titles for children. He was awarded the Caldecott medal in 1947. The second spring title will be the children’s classic The Story of Babar by Jean de Brunhoff. The adventures of Babar the little elephant have delighted generations of children ever since his first appearance in 1931. The Bodleian’s gift edition of this unforgettable children’s story, the first in the Babar series, will be the perfect opportunity to rediscover this charming tale and its perennially popular characters. 

Bodleian Library Publishing has a diverse list of gift, general interest and scholarly books on a wide range of subjects drawn from or related to the Library's rich collections of manuscripts, rare books, maps, postcards and other printed ephemera. To find out more visit


I'm excited to know a new generation of children will grow up enjoying the delights of Babar the elephant and Veronica the hippo. I remember Babar from my childhood and enjoyed becoming reacquainted when my son was growing up.  Now it will be the turn of my grandchildren and how lovely it will be to have these beautiful books to share with them.

Just before I go I thought you might like to see these photographs taken on a recent trip to Oxford.

The Bodleian Library
The architecture of the 30-plus university colleges around the city’s medieval centre led poet Matthew Arnold to nickname it the 'City of Dreaming Spires'. 

Photograph taken in the Christ Church War Memorial Gardens

First stop the Alice Shop - wonderful for grandchild sized gifts!

Punting on the Isis
The Isis is the name given to the part of the River Thames above Iffley Lock which flows through the university city of Oxford, England.

I received no financial compensation for writing this post and have no material connection to the brand or products mentioned. 

Monday, 3 August 2015

March House Bookshop Closed but March of Time Book Blog continues.

March House Books Bookshop is now closed, but this blog will continue for as long as I am able.  It feels odd thinking that never mind writing it. Buying and selling books was a big part of my life for a very long time, but I know I've done the right thing. Just think, no more worrying about finding new stock, no getting up at 5am to travel hundreds of miles to auctions, no more packing parcels at midnight to make sure they catch the morning post. Oh dear, I miss it already!

Thank you to all the customers who became friends, I know we will remain in touch. Thank you to everyone who Tweeted, Facebooked and contacted me in numerous other ways. Special thanks to Claudine at Carry us off Books and Yvonne at Winter Moon for writing such nice things on their blogs. I also want to thank Sue at Green Meadow Books. She was the inspiration behind March House Books, and I will be forever grateful to her.

March of Time Books as suggested by my cousin John came top in the ‘rename this blog’ competition. March House Adventures suggested by Yvonne came a close second, and Willie came up with some interesting ideas ‘Beware the ides of March’ being one of them! Willie also mentioned giving a prize for the best name (why didn't I think of that?) hence this little book will soon be on the way to John.   John is a writer and a poet, so I feel sure he will enjoy it.  There is also a second prize for Yvonne and a highly commended for Willie. Both will be on the way in the next few days.

I have lots of ideas for this my new/old blog. One thing I really want to do is to make space for lots of guest posts. Do you have a favourite book, a fascinating hobby or collection or are you working on a new venture?  You don’t have to be a ‘professional’ blogger just someone with an interesting story to tell.  Maybe you are thinking of starting your own blog but have yet to take the plunge – why not post something here it just might give you the motivation you need.  Send me an email (via the email me button in the right-hand column) tell me what you want to write about, and I will do the rest.

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