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Stella & Rose's Books

Specialists in Rare & collectable books


Have you ever wondered how you hatch a dragon

Actually dragons are rather good at hatching themselves.

If you ever happen upon a large oval stone, about 1 foot in length, polished till it glows and cool to the touch, think carefully before taking it home! It might be red, or blue or even black, but you will notice thin veins of white weaving across its surface, a surface with the texture of hardened silk. A dragon hatchling is patient, waiting hundreds of years until the time is right for it to emerge. Then, after a few squeaks, your stone will start rocking, faster and faster, until suddenly - you see the first crack splinter the stone's surface. Then another and another and another, until a small dark head appears, possessing large, intelligent eyes which bewitch you from the first moment.

(Published 7th Oct 2014) Read full article

Door Onto The World

There are so many lovely and interesting people who visit our shop - Stella Books in Tintern in the Wye valley. It is a joy to work here - surrounded by books, all sorts, sizes and subjects, with their own special atmosphere, and with the wonderful view of the Tintern Abbey, the wooded hills and tidal river.

We have people who visit us from across the globe and those who come in from just down the road to share their memories and knowledge with us. I have learned much over the last couple of years - here are some snippets I'd like to share with you.

How do you know if you have a first edition dustwrapper on Five On Kirrin Island Again (left), one of Enid Blyton's Famous Five series? George is looking through the wrong end of the telescope! This was corrected and appeared the right way round in the 3rd edition.

(Published 7th Oct 2014) Read full article


Dogs are part of the Canidae, a family including wolves, coyotes and foxes, thought to have evolved 60 million years ago. Domestic dogs of today are direct descendents of wolves which, it is believed, entered the towns & villages of the Northern Hemisphere about 12,000 years ago in search of food.

Early Man exploited dogs for their own needs, such as guarding, herding and hunting. Particular characteristics were selected depending upon what task they were expected to perform, and now, the various Kennel Clubs worldwide, have split the breeds into various groups i.e. Hounds; Working; Terrier; Gundog;Pastoral; Utility and Toy.

The Saluki, recognised as a dog of grace, great speed and endurance, appears on the ancient tombs of Egypt and is thought to be the dog mentioned in the Bible. This breed is classed as a Hound under the Kennel Club regulations and was originally used for hunting, either by scent or sight. They require a significant amount of exercise but make trustworthy companions.

(Published 7th Oct 2014) Read full article

desert island books

I sometimes listen to Desert Island Discs on BBC Radio 4. For those not in the know this is when a guest chooses eight pieces of music they would take with them to a desert island. They already have the Bible, or another appropriate religious work and the complete Works of Shakespeare and they are allowed to choose one other book and a luxury. In a quiet moment one day I invented a new programme - Desert Island Books where the castaway gets to choose eight books to take to their desert island. I of course would be the first castaway!

This desert island could be anywhere in the world. Unlike Robinson Crusoe I would not be shipwrecked to get there! It would have all mod cons - shelter, food and drink - no survival techniques would be necessary. I would have plenty of time to read!

(Published 7th Oct 2014) Read full article


I have always loved dogs and love watching Crufts on the television. Last year, I thought I really ought to go but it fell through at the last minute. This year, at the last minute (again!), I asked Chris if she would like to go on the Thursday (believing this to be the quietest of the four days). Thursday 6th March 2008 was Toy dogs and Utility dogs day. Bruno stayed at home as I thought it might be stressful for him with the noise and crowds.

We left home at the unearthly hour of 6am (Yawn!). Arrived at the NEC car park at 8.15am . There was a shuttle bus to take you to the main entrance but we decided to walk instead. Upon arriving, we were greeted by a huge (30-plus foot high) inflatable 'Gromit' - as in Wallace & Gromit. Gromit is the new face of the Good Citizen Dog Scheme, the largest dog training scheme in the UK with over 1800 participating clubs.

(Published 6th Oct 2014) Read full article

Cowley: a century of car manufacture

March 2013 marked the 100th anniversary of car production at the Cowley motor plant in Oxford.

Founded on the site of the former Oxford Military College, production commenced on March 28th, 1913 when a Bullnose Morris Oxford rolled off the production line. It was the first of nearly 12 million cars produced at the plant in the following century. British marques such as Morris, Austin, MG, Triumph and Rover are among the 14 makes associated with the factory.

BMW is the current tenant of the plant and manufactures Minis there. The first Mini was produced in 1959 and throughout the following years some 2.8 million new and old style Minis have been produced at Cowley. The site currently employs 3,700 people with 900 vehicles rolling off the production line daily.

(Published 30th Sep 2014) Read full article

Collecting Childrens Books as an investment

There are many reasons to collect children's books: for the amusing story line; for the charming illustrations or to evoke a childhood memory. Any one of these may lead to the purchase of a book which rises in value and can be seen as an investment. Selecting a book to buy as an investment first, and for interest second, is much harder. Which of today's new books will be "The Wind in The Willows" of tomorrow? Which of today's illustrators is the Arthur Rackham of 2020? It's impossible to provide a definitive answer but the purpose of this article is to provide some guidelines.

(Published 18th Sep 2014) Read full article


What is a collection and what makes a collector collect?

One dictionary definition of collecting is "the act of gathering things together" and a collection is defined as "a set of objects collected for their interest, value, or beauty". The desire to collect seems to be something that is built into us, an intrinsic part of being human. We all collect something even though we may not view ourselves as collectors (Don't believe me? What about that collection of shoes in the cupboard, or suits in the wardrobe, or CDs in the rack?)

Me - I collect children's books and teddy bears. Why? Because I like them. But is that really a good enough reason for collectingthem? I like lots of things but I don't collect everything I like. So how did my collections begin?

(Published 17th Sep 2014) Read full article

the christmas tree - a long-time passion

When I wrote this article it was June - but for those of us with the bug, our Christmas Tree is a year round passion.

Mine started as a child, when the Woolworth's plastic tree with matching baubles my Mother used to put up every year did not match the pictures in my books, i.e. trees laden with candles, glowing in the corner of the room, intricate ornaments dripping from every limb. A clash of images I never forgot.

Left: "The Christmas Tree" by E. Osborn.

When it was time for me to create my own tree, it had of course to be a reflection of my childhood image of what a tree should be. So the purchase of the tree involves trips out into the countryside, looking at many and various options, perfection never quite achieved, but this never stops me trying again each year and surprising my wife with the size of tree you can get into the back of a Ford Ka!

(Published 17th Sep 2014) Read full article

christmas is a-coming

It happens every year - and I am not referring to this annual enforced hard labour in a locked cell with a typewriter! No really - writing these articles is joy unconfined (as anyone working here will tell you). No, I am talking (or rather writing) about the annual misery of P u t t i n g - u p - t h e - C h ri s t m a s - L i g h t s.

It always seems to follow the same predictable path. All the lights and decorations which were carefully put away in labelled boxes have, in the intervening eleven months, mysteriously moved around and, in the process, completely entangled themselves with each other. What was going to take 30 minutes to sort into the bundles of 'inside' and 'outside' lights now takes over two hours.

(Published 17th Sep 2014) Read full article

The Children's Laureate

The children's author and illustrator Anthony Browne had the honour of being selected as the new Children's Laureate in June of this year, 2009. This role is awarded to an author or illustrator of Children's literature and acknowledges their contribution in their chosen field. The idea for a Children's Laureate materialised during a conversation between the late Ted Hughes (a previous Poet Laureate) and the children's writer Michael Morpurgo.

Nominations are received from various organisations representing critics, librarians, booksellers and writers and these are considered by a panel of judges from the same range of fields. The position is awarded for a two year period and during this time the post holder, in their own way, attempts to raise the profile of children's literature both with adults and children. There have been five previous Children's Laureates and so far, although each has taken a different approach, all of them have carried out the role with enthusiasm.

(Published 17th Sep 2014) Read full article

Cheltenham Literature Festival

October is one of my favourite times of the year. Not just that it harbours the last vestige of summer warmth or the portent of the autumn still to come. Not even the childish pleasure that comes from crunching through the brittle golden leaves underfoot or delighting in finding shiny Horse Chestnuts - I love this time of year for The Cheltenham Literature Festival!

Cheltenham is a Spa town nestling on the edge of the Cotswolds and every October for 10 days the town is alive with all things literary - authors, biographers, illustrators, philosophers and critics.

I started going to the festival about ten years ago when I was still living in a sleepy village in Lincolnshire and my yearly excursion to Cheltenham felt like a journey to a different planet, not just a different town, although catching the train from Peterborough to Cheltenham Spa was nothing like space travel!

(Published 17th Sep 2014) Read full article

Chalet School

What popular series of books has spanned three generations and still continues to be sought today? What author was able to pen 58 full length hard back books (plus one shorter paperback story!) and retain the magic and character of these well loved tales?

Two words - Chalet School!

British born author, Elinor M. Brent-Dyer was born and grew up in South Shields, an industrial town on Tyneside. Although her stories told of large, happy families, Elinor's own family was small and faced many difficulties particularly in Elinor's early years. She had only one brother (a year younger than herself) and two unknown half brothers. Her parent's marriage was short-lived.

(Published 17th Sep 2014) Read full article


The cat has developed an intimate relationship with mankind whilst still having its own independence. The cat leads a double life. Out of the home the cat is its own boss, alert and free living wild creature. In the home it is an overgrown kitten. The cat manages to remain tame because of its upbringing, being with humans and other cats from an early age it considers itself both.

Cats have been domesticated for more than 3,500 years. Remains dating from 9,000 years ago have been found at a Neolithic site at Jericho, but there is no proof that these were domesticated cats. The only proof we know that the transformation from wild cat to domestic animal took place, is that from specific records and detailed pictures from ancient Egypt.

(Published 15th Sep 2014) Read full article

The History of the Domestic Cat

How do you feel about the domestic cat? Chances are, if you are looking at this webpage now, you love them rather than hate them. Few people are neutral towards cats. Throughout its history, the cat has been seen as both demonic and godlike – what a contrast!

The domestic cat can be traced back to a small African wild cat, a grey animal with blackish stripes and spots on the body and legs, dusky feet and a black-tipped tail with several rings.

Ancient Egypt:

The cat, along with the lion and a number of other creatures, was sacred to the Ancient Egyptians. The killing of a cat, whether intentional or not, was punishable by death. It has been recorded that a soldier who drove his chariot over a cat in Alexandria was consequently stoned to death by an enraged mob!

(Published 15th Sep 2014) Read full article

The Carnegie Medal

The Carnegie Medal was established by the Library Association early in the last century, in memory of the great Scottish-born philanthropist Andrew Carnegie (1835-1919). Carnegie was a self-made industrialist who made his fortune in the steel industry in America - wealth that he used to provide funding for many British Public libraries. Reminiscing on his own childhood experience of using a library, Carnegie resolved that "if ever wealth came to me it should be used to establish free libraries".

1935 was the centenary of Carnegie's birth and it was decided that a medal should be instituted in celebration of this. Therefore, on April 2nd 1936, the Library Association executive committee accepted the recommendation that "a gold medal be made annually for the best children's book published during the year by a British author". The medal for a given year is not announced until the summer of the following year, allowing time for the judging process. Therefore, in the summer of 1937, the winner of the first Carnegie medal was announced - Arthur Ransome for Pigeon Post.

(Published 15th Sep 2014) Read full article

Can I Help You?

I sing with a small choir and before a recent concert our conductor suggested we rest our voices for a day or two and tried to talk as little as possible. How, I wondered, was I going to do that when talking to customers is a large part of my job! I really enjoy chatting to the many people who visit or phone Rose's Books. I ignored his advice and carried on as normal!

As well as dealing with book related queries I seem to spend some time (particularly in summer) giving Tourist Information. We do have an excellent Tourist Information Centre in Hay at the top of the main car park which is the other side of town from us. I can usually answer questions about where to go for coffee/lunch/tea/ice cream, (I admit to being a little biased here as one of my daughter's works in Shepherds where they sell the most scrumptious sheep's milk ice-cream in a wide variety of flavours), where to get milk or bread and how to get to other book shops. I find it useful to give out the map of Hay Booksellers which shows where each shop is and what they specialise in.

(Published 15th Sep 2014) Read full article

Nikolaus Pevsner - The Buildings of England

Pevsner's unique inventory of English Buildings comprises 20,000 pages in forty-six volumes. The Series has been universally acclaimed as a triumph of scholarship, insight and perseverance. Today a tour of the Buildings Of England without a "Pevsner" in hand is unthinkable! But where did it all start?

On his arrival as a refugee from the Nazis in the 1930s, Pevsner was amazed to find that there was no comparable accessible detailed record of English architecture along the lines of the invaluable "Hand-bucher", compiled by the great pioneering architectural historian Dehio who had cycled his way round every important building in Germany.

Left: Nottinghamshire, 1st edition 1951.

(Published 15th Sep 2014) Read full article

bonzo the dog

As I sat at the shop desk, waiting for inspiration to hit me for my Theme Of The Month article, I turned towards the book shelves and there was Bonzo the dog smiling back at me from the cover of the 1948 Bonzo Annual and it was a eureka moment.

I am, and always have been, a dog lover and at home, since I was 5 or 6 years old, we have always had at least one dog, and sometimes up to three. Bonzo always makes me smile so I decided to try and find out a little more about him and his creator George Studdy.

(Published 15th Sep 2014) Read full article

Blue Peter Memories

My sister and I were avid Blue Peter fans in our childhoods and everything stopped on a Monday and a Thursday evening for half an hour as we sat glued to the television. Blue Peter was first broadcast on the 16th October 1958 but it would be the late 1960s before we started to tune in. At that time the presenters were Valerie Singleton, Peter Purves and John Noakes and even though we watched various other excellent presenters over the years these three were always our favourites. To date there have been 35 presenters and, due to it's continuing popularity, Blue Peter is still broadcast every week. I don't suppose there are many, if any, other children's programmes that have had such a long run. A mix of guests in the studio, outside broadcasts, daredevil stunts and things to make filled each programme - as I'm sure you will remember if you were also a fan.

(Published 15th Sep 2014) Read full article