Thrillers for Kids

20
Sep 06

THRILLERS FOR KIDS! #1 in a (possibly very short) series

FT + The Brown Wedge13 comments • 750 views

zebraICE STATION ZEBRA by Alistair Maclean

This was in the library of the school I left aged 12, so was probbly 9 or 10 when I first read it. This is OK: it’s Bond-for-preteens viz NO SEX!! In fact, in Zebra at least, NO WOMEN AT ALL hurrah er boo as it is set half on a nuclear submarine and half in the arctic. The hero’s brother’s wife is mentioned, to intensify the fact that the hero is upset his brother is dead, but can only say so on her behalf as TOO MUCH BLUBBIN IS UNMANLY (look I am really not being that unfair even).

»
More

24
Oct 06

THRILLERS FOR KIDS! — #2 the lone pine club

FT6 comments • 2,044 views

saucersMy parents brought me up to be an Enid Blyton snob so I never read any of the FAMOUS FIVE stories — for me the kids-in-gangs-solve-crimes milieu begins a bit obliquely, with E.Nesbit (intra-family adventures in and around the home, no crimes solved) and Swallows and Amazons (adventures involving various families in various holiday-type locales, occasional v.v.minor crim types encountered and foiled except in the anti-realist piratical fantasies). I don’t even know if Blyton invented the sub-genre; I do know that Saville, who succeeded Blyton as editor of Sunny Stories magazine when she set up a rival — wrote some 80 children’s books, many in this general territory, between the mid-40s to the late 70s. The ones he’s best remembered for feature the LONE PINE CLUB. I’ve reread the 4 Lone Pine books I owned as a kid — which is a mere 4 out of 20, so I may not do Saville’s overall oeuvre justice, I don’t know.

The LPC format: in the opening pages of the book you were introduced to the 6-9 primary members (the club grew a little down the series; the full complete membership were almost NEVER involved in any given tale).There was an oath signed in blood buried in a biscuit tin under a Lone Pine near Witchend, a farm in South-West Shropshire. In each book there would be a map of the locale, usually drawn by David Morton, the central character. As a reader you yourself were invited to become a sort-of member as a reader, corresponding with Saville: part of the sense of inclusion was presumably that you might holiday (or indeed live) in this general area, and enjoy recognising features in the landscape.

»
More

14
Nov 06

THRILLERS FOR KIDS! — #3 the runners

FT + The Brown WedgePost a comment • 1,039 views

Joan Tate was a friend of the family: her lovely husband Clive worked closely with my dad on wildlife stuff; her kids babysat me and my sister when we were very wee and mum and dad wanted to go off and do young ppl’s dancing and that; and she was a writer and translater with ROOMS AND ROOMS AND ROOMS full of bookshelves, all walls right up to the ceiling is how I remember it (wrongly but not far off). She was a fierce, tough, clever, engaged, enormously generous woman who more than anyone else made me want to be a writer. As the obit at the link says, as a 17-yr-old she was trapped in Sweden when WW2 broke out, and basically had to shift for herself — taking odd jobs and teaching herself Swedish. She went on to become one of Britain’s leading Swedish-English translaters — and celebrated in Sweden — but she also wrote a pile of kids’ books, between the 50s and the late 70s, when her translation work became high-profile and time-consuming. I’ve got a whole pile of them* — many of them actually published as textbook stories for Swedish kids to learn English — and rereading some at the weekend I realised I knew many of them so well I hardly needed to reread them. But a couple I hadn’t seen — this one she’d given to my grandmother, because it was set in Edinburgh.

»
More

17
Nov 06

THRILLERS FOR KIDS! — #4 le cheval sans tête

FT + The Brown Wedge13 comments • 3,405 views

berna51 years old, and more widely known in the UK as A Hundred Million Francs, this rereads as potently as ever, despite the by-now somewhat clunky translation (the always tricky problem of slang). Gaby’s is I think the BEST KID GANG EVER — ten-strong, living in the poorer quarter of the small Paris-satellite faxctory town Louvigny, multi-cultural (Juan is Spanish Romany, Criquet is black, Tatave is er fat), raging in age from 11 down to 4 (I think — Bonbon looks about that in Richard Kennedy’s wrigglingly lively illustrations) [update: confirmed]. Tho Berthe and Mélie slightly take the “twins” role — they giggle more with each other than engage with the rest — and Zidore and Juan remain a little unsketched (but there are three further books for them to unfold as people) (which I haven’t read for 30 years, but HAVE RE-ORDERED FROM AMAZON) (one of them cost 1p!). But oh MARION THE DOG GIRL, my first ever fictional dreamboat!! Er, anyway, the gang’s obsessive pleasure is a headless wooden horse on tricycle wheels, which they ride pellmell down a steep cobbled street until it hurtles them into a patch of bomb-cratered wasteland, hard by an ancient rusting railway engine known locally as the “black cow”. The horse is rattling junk worth nothing to any but them — until one day a local villain offers them a fortune for it. They reject the offer with scorn — and shortly after the horse is stolen!

»
More