I don’t know why I put my RIP Helen Cresswell notice on NYLPM but it allows me to go into more detail here about the BAGTHORPE SAGA. This series of books doesn’t rate much as a ‘cult’ children’s book, there seem to be no websites dedicated to it, and not surprisingly as I think it probably only works if you ARE a kid. Cursory research though revealed TEN of the things, I certainly don’t remember there being ten.

The books are basically a sit-com based around the antics of a middle-class family replete with ‘gifted children’. It is always somewhat of a moot point whether or not the children ARE gifted, or at least whether their gifts (playing the violin, good at languages etc.) have any connection at all to intelligence, as they behave much more ridiculously than the non-gifted Jack, who is the ‘normal one’ in the family and as such the protagonist. For the first few books in the series the humour derives from this, though you get the feeling Cresswell finds other characters – particularly the enormously bitter minor-league TV writer dad – much more entertaining to write.

So, those Bagthorpe books in full.

1. Ordinary Jack – Jack tries out various hobbies to try and become ‘gifted’ and get his parents attention. Standalone satire on hothousing and the notion of the gifted child. Not that funny. The short-lived TV series adapted this one.
2. Absolute Zero – Feckless Uncle Parker wins a Caribbean cruise from a cereal packet competition, envious family enter loads of competitions and somehow win ‘Happiest Family’ prize. Pretence, hijinks ensue. Pretty funny if a thin plot.
3. Bagthorpes v The World – Huge tax bill leads family to try ‘Good Life’ style self-sufficiency, much funnier than it sounds.
4. Bagthorpes Unlimited – Awful cousins arrive to stay, o noes. Plot largely incidental to comic setpieces involving lead characters by this stage, which are all funny.
(I think these may be the wrong way round in my memory)
5. Bagthorpes Abroad – family goes on holiday.
6. Bagthorpes Haunted – family goes on holiday, part 2. These were the last two I actually read, I was disappointed but also probably too old for them (I would have been 12, 13 maybe, whereas I devoured the first four at 9 or 10). I fear the ghost is not actually real.

And the ones I haven’t read:

7. Bagthorpes Liberated – alarm bells ringing here as Mrs B discovers women’s lib.
8. The Bagthorpe Triangle – ??? the first summary I can find makes mention of a disappearing tramp.
9. Bagthorpes Besieged – media shenanigans as Mr B suspected of murder.
10. Bagthorpes Battered – housekeeper becomes have-a-go-hero tabloid cause celebre for thwarting a terrorist bomber. Satirical, I’m guessing. Published in 2001, and that’s yer lot.