Aubrey Hopwood was involved with the famous names of the Edwardian musical comedy craze and also wrote nonsense books for children. Known as an adult as Aubrey, Henry Aubrey Hopwood was the second son of John Turner Hopwood of Blackburn in Lancashire and his wife Mary Augusta Henrietta (née Coventry). He was born in Charlotte Square, Edinburgh while his father was still MP for Clitheroe in Lancashire. His father's money came from the cotton trade and his mother's Coventry and Dundas connections linked him distantly to the peerage. One of nine children Aubrey was educated at Cheam School and at Charterhouse. His father kept a house at Rutland Gate in Kensington, London and later bought Ketton Hall in Rutland where he moved in a large musical organ. The family seem to have had a strong interest in music and in poetry with a younger brother, Ronald, finding fame in 1916 with poems with a naval theme including The Laws of the Navy.
Jane Hissey has become known to children throughout the world as creator of the stories about Old Bear and his friends. Both Jane and Old Bear are around fifty years old - he was given to her when she was a baby. The other toy characters she has collected over the years. Bramwell Brown was made for her son Owen who is now 22. Rabbit was bought in an Oxfam shop in Brighton for the princely sum of five pence - and Jane wondered at the time if he was worth it! Little Bear also belonged to Owen - being little he is very mischievous and loves falling off things! Hoot the Owl was made by Jane when she decided she wanted to do an Owl story and didn't have one.
"My Dear Lads, You are now-a-days called upon to acquire so great a mass of learning and information in the period of life between the ages of twelve and eighteen that it is not surprising that but little time can be spared for the study of the history of the foreign nations..."
So begins Henty's preface to The Lion Of The North - a Tale of the Times of Gustavus Adolphus published in 1886 - just one of Henty's 120 books, most of which were historical tales and adventure stories for boys which successfully combined fact with fiction.
George Alfred Henty was born in 1832. He was educated at Westminster School, London, and Gonville & Caius College, Cambridge. Soon after the start of the Crimean War he left Cambridge before taking a degree, and was commissioned in the army where he rose to the rank of Captain. Writing dramatic letters describing his experiences, he became one of the world's first war correspondents and from 1865 covered many of the minor 19th century wars for The Standard, a leading London daily newspaper.
Thomas Hardy III, of Dorchester, Dorset, was born on the 2nd of June 1840, in what he liked to call a seven-roomed house at higher Brockhampton. The house was built by his grandfather (also named Thomas Hardy).
Illegitimately conceived, Hardy was born less than 6 months after his father married his mother. After a difficult labour, his mother was told that they thought her baby was dead. A mid-wife later found him in a basket - alive! It appears that these facts would influence Hardy's later obsession with the Victorian class differences.
During his youth, Hardy used to love to go walking with his father on the local wild heath. Here he would learn about nature. These early excursions would later lead him to set many of his famous novels in like surroundings and his long detailed descriptions of the countryside are something that Hardy became famous for.
Let us consider what attracts us to a book and makes us want to purchase and read it. Well for me, and I suspect most people, it is a combination of (in no particular order):-Cover illustrations Internal illustrations Title Subject matter
Being a Monmouthshire boy born and bred - I wonder what they call a native of Monmouthshire? However, I digress - anything with “Monmouthshire” in the title gets my interest. Secondly, being a country bumpkin (sorry I can't stand cities, and just about cope with towns), the dust cover illustration has to be a scene from the countryside. For illustrations I like accuracy with simplicity, and it must be something I would say “I could not have done that” which does not take much as Art is not my strong point!
It was as I was working hard the other day, with my feet up on the desk, that my eyes turned to overlook the river which flows past just outside the shop window in Tintern. You can imagine my astonishment to see a mole and a water rat quietly sculling upriver by the far bank. And it made me think of the last time they had appeared, and the effect they had had on Kenneth Grahame. He had quite a sad life, for one who was so successful.
He was born on the 8th March 1859 in Edinburgh, the third of four children. He lived there, happy and carefree, until the death of his mother from scarlet fever when he was five years old. Indeed he himself caught the infection and for a time his own life hung in the balance. However he recovered, although his health was badly affected by the disease and was always poor thereafter. But his mother's death had a disastrous effect on his father who, always a rather unstable person, renounced all responsibility for his children and turned to alcohol for solace.
Leon Garfield was born in Brighton on the 14th July 1921 and died 2nd June 1996, just short of his 75th birthday. He was a prolific writer of over thirty books for children and adults, including picture book texts, short stories, as well as the retelling of traditional and classical material. Mr. Garfield's first book was a pirate story entitled 'Jack Holborn' which he submitted to Constable, the publishers, as a novel for adults. Constable however persuaded him to adapt the novel for children and this he did very successfully.
Mr. Garfield lived with his second wife, Vivien Alcock, in Highgate, North London. Separated from his first wife after only a few months of marriage, he met Vivien during the war when she was an ambulance driver and he was a medical orderly. There was some opposition to their marriage from both families. Mr. Garfield worked as a bio-technician and Vivien as a commercial artist. Her character was shy and retiring and it was only when her husband began to write fewer books that she took to writing her own books for children. Her first book, 'The Haunting of Cassie Palmer', was published when she was fifty six years old.
Into a world of Crayola crayons, Dr. Seuss introduced an adventure of rhyme and image with the power to alleviate our boredom, challenge our imaginations, and even shape our young lives.
More than one hundred million Dr. Seuss books have been purchased by parents, grandparents, and children. Green Eggs and Ham is the third largest selling book in the English language. Ever. The Butter Battle Books, supposedly for children, set a world record by appearing for six months on the New York Times adult best-seller list. Dr. Seuss is definitely a house-hold name, but who was he?
The garden to Gipsy House was a maze. At its entrance was placed a slate paving stone which read "...Watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don't believe in magic will never find it". This motto well reflected the attitude of the occupier of the hut at the top of the garden. For, inside the hut at the top of that particular garden, Roald Dahl wrote his stories.
"Roald Dahl was, quite simply, a magician. Those who were lucky enough to get to know him experienced his magic powers directly. And for others, perhaps Roald became a writer so that he could cast his spells by telling them stories. He was able to catch readers young and old in the first sentence of a story and to hold them to the very end". So wrote Tom Maschler, Roald Dahl's publisher. Although Roald Dahl did not choose writing as his first vocation, he was an incredibly gifted and imaginative man, developing into possibly the most important children's author of the 20th century.
"Don't quibble. You've made a frightful bish and you're about as much use as a radio-active suet pudding."
It is perhaps the inventive slang vocabulary and wordplay that give the Jennings stories of Anthony Buckeridge(1912 - 2004) their enduring appeal. This example of Jennings' reproach to his long-suffering friend Darbishire helps to transport us into an almost timeless world in which the innocence (and anxieties) of childhood are captured forever.
The origins of the Jennings stories can be traced back to the author's time as a schoolmaster at St. Lawrence College in Ramsgate, Kent . As a tutor at this preparatory school, Buckeridge would encourage his young wards with offers of stories if they did as they were told. It was not long before his supply of stories was exhausted and he began to create his own, and gradually the character of Jennings emerged as the recurrent hero of each tale. Since Buckeridge maintained that authors should write about what they know, it is not surprising that the stories he created were about life at a preparatory school. His earlier teaching career in Suffolk and Northamptonshire also provided experiences on which he would draw in the Jennings books.
Babar, the peace-loving elephant was created by Jean De Brunhoff who was born in Paris on 9th December 1899. Jean studied Art at L'Academie de la Grande-Chaumiere in Paris and here he became close friends with fellow pupil Emile Sabourand. They had much in common. Besides their wealthy, middle-class backgrounds both families loved music and literature.
Jean became a frequent visitor to the Sabourand home and this is where he met his wife Cecile, who was Emile's younger sister. Jean and Cecile married in October 1924. Jean and Cecile's first son, Laurent, was born on 30th August 1925, their second, Mathieu, on the 28th July 1926 and their third, Thierry in 1934.
I first remember seeing the name 'Dorita Fairlie Bruce' on a Dimsie title in my local library. At the time that I was devouring everything from Enid Blyton's Famous Five, Alfred Hitchcock's The Three Investigators to Elinor M. Brent-Dyer's Chalet School books. Now seeing the Dimsie titles on a fairly regular basis, I realized that I did not know anything about the author of the Dimsie books, so here is a little of the information that I discovered:
Isabella Beeton was born on March 14th 1836. She was the eldest of 4 children born to Elizabeth Mayson during her first marriage. After the death of her father Benjamin, her mother married Henry Dorling, a Clerk of Epsom Racecourse, who also had 4 children from his first marriage. By the time Isabella met her perspective husband, there were 17 children in the family!
Isabella married Samuel Orchart Beeton, a successful publisher on 10th July 1856. There were eight bridesmaids in pale green, pale mauve or white. The couple lived in Hatch End until 1861. Her husband Sam began his publishing career in 1852 with a best-selling "Uncle Tom's Cabin".
Isabella wrote cookery and household management articles for her husband's publications, and also commenced work on a cookery book. Sadly their first son died aged 3 months in 1857. The first instalment of her famous Book of Household Management was published in 1859 when her second son was born, and it was later published as a complete volume in 1861.
Over the last few years I have been revisiting one of the authors I have most enjoyed, an author with whom I first really developed my love of reading; an author who has an ability like no other author I know, to transport the reader to a far-away location and allow him or her to picture themselves there – to live the story. Also an author where every book you read teaches you something - about world culture, science, nature…
Desmond Bagley first became famous in the 1960’s when he wrote the first of his novels. He was never a prolific author only publishing 16 adventure stories. In those stories he drew heavily on his exciting and colourful life.
What puzzled me and, I guess, many people when they first come across BB's wonderful illustrations, is - why did Denys Watkins-Pitchford decide to use the pseudonym 'BB'? Well the explanation is quite simple - BB is the size of the lead shot used for goose shooting.
He decided that it was much more memorable than his real name, was instantly recognizable and gave his work an air of mystery. In this he definitely succeeded and the mystery continues for the uninitiated today.
BB was born on 25 th July 1905, the second son of twins, in Lamport, in the Northamptonshire countryside. His father, a rector, encouraged him to spend much of his boyhood exploring the countryside around the family home, Lamport Rectory, which was a spacious Queen Anne period house. It was at this early stage that BB developed his talent for drawing and painting, and at the age of 15 went to Northampton School of Art.
Rev Awdry was born at Romsey, Hampshire, in 1911. His father was Vicar of Ampfield, and had been interested in railways all his life, for he had been born in 1854 and had, as he said, grown up with them. Many of Awdry’s senior parishioners were railwaymen, and he visited them in their platelayers’ huts or on the station - sometimes he would take his young son Wilbert with him. The men were all aware that their Vicar knew almost as much about railways as they did, and no-one ever turned ‘Railwayman Parson’ away.
Hans Christian Andersen was born in April 1805, to poverty stricken parents. His father was a shoemaker and his mother a washerwoman who worked in the big houses of the more wealthy. The Andersen family, however, lived in a small room in the town of Odense in Denmark , often with not enough food to go around.
Andersen spent his early life learning Danish folklore, passed on by word of mouth from women in the spinning room of the asylum, where his grandmother worked. These tales, and the Arabian tales from the book The Thousand and One Nights which his father owned, were to influence Andersen's later works as we shall see.
Jane Austen was born in Steventon, Hampshire on 16th December 1775, being the seventh of eight children.
For the first 25 years of her life Austen, along with her family, lived at the Rectory in Steventon. Whilst young, Jane and her sister Cassandra went to school in Oxford and Southampton and also attended the Abbey school in Reading. It was during this period that she was encouraged to write and at the age of 14, began writing drafts for her novels. However it would be over 20 years before her first novel, Sense and Sensibility, was published in 1811.
Around the year 1801, the family moved from Steventon to Bath. It was a difficult time for them; they made some acquaintances but not many friends. Jane was not at her happiest in Bath, although the area did influence some of her writing.
Allan Ahlberg was born 5th June 1938 in Croydon, Surrey and soon after moved to the Black Country. He had many jobs ranging from postman ('The Jolly Postman'!), plumber's mate & gravedigger before working as a Primary Teacher and eventually becoming a Head Teacher.
Janet Ahlberg (nee Hall) was born 21st October 1944 and brought up in Leicester. The couple met at Sunderland Teacher Training College in the early 1960s and married in 1969.
I still remember the purchase of my first carnivorous plant. It was in the unlikely surroundings of Chatham Dockyard and perhaps more surprisingly it wasn't a Venus Fly Trap! Instead, I became the very proud owner of a Sarracenia flava - or a North American pitcher plant. At the time I did not even know of the existence of these plants, and had probably assumed that it was only Venus Fly Traps that actually caught and consumed insects.
Left: happy in its new home, Nepenthes veitchii x maxima produces its first mature pitcher for years!
I think that it was the unique appearance of this plant - an elegantly tapering funnel with a flared mouth and projecting lid - that fascinated me the most. The fact that the plant would happily feast upon any flies that were foolish enough to attempt to crawl around this funnel of doom seemed to be almost incidental. Whatever the initial attraction, this was the plant that 25 years ago began my love affair with this most intriguing group of plants - those that turn the tables on the animal kingdom and pursue a carnivorous diet.