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Stella & Rose's Books

Specialists in Rare & Collectable Books

The Magic Finger by Roald Dahl

The Story

The Magic Finger by Roald Dahl is one of the author's shorter works (approximately 60 pages long depending on the edition) so the book can be thoroughly enjoyed in a relatively short time.

This story is told by an eight year old girl, who remains nameless throughout. She tells us of the Gregg family and the 'very funny' things that happened to them the week before. We learn that 'the one thing that Mr. Gregg and his two boys loved to do more than anything else was to go hunting'. Every weekend they would take their guns into the woods and find animals and birds to shoot. However, the little girl telling the story 'can't stand hunting'. She warned the Greggs about it but her warnings went unheeded. 'Well, that did it!'... The girl 'saw red' and she '...PUT THE MAGIC FINGER ON THEM ALL !' - even the family members who weren't there at the time!

(Published 10th Dec 2014) Read full article

Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans

We are lucky to have a mobile library service in our little village and recently one of the books on board wasLudwig Bemelmans's book Hotel Bemelmans. I recognised the author's name from the Madeline series of books which are to the left of the shop desk in Rose's Books. So having read about some of Ludwig Bemelmans's experiences in his early life I was intrigued to read a few of his Madeline series of children's books.

The first book in the series is, naturally enough, called Madeline. This was his wife's name but it was the childhood antics of his only daughter Barbara which inspired him to write the series. The books are written in rhyming couplets and the text is simple, sometimes with just one or two words to a page. Every page has a large illustration by Ludwig Bemelmans himself, a few are in colour and the rest in two-tone. Some of the illustrations in the Madeline books I read are of landmarks in Paris and London and, helpfully, the wrapper rear flap provides a list of those he has featured. Madeline made her first appearance in 1939 and millions of copies of her colourful picture books have been sold since.

(Published 10th Dec 2014) Read full article

The Little Grey Men by 'BB'

Can you guess what type of beings the Little Grey Men are? I bet you can... go on... guess!

Yes, the little grey men are gnomes! Not only are they gnomes, but they are the only four remaining gnomes in Britain!

Baldmoney, Sneezewort and Dodder live under an oak tree on the banks of the Folly brook in Warwickshire. "The Little Grey Men" is the story of how the three gnomes set off in search of their long-lost brother Cloudberry. Previously Cloudberry had decided to go off in search of the source of the Folly brook. He never returned...

The three central characters of the story are described by the author as follows:

(Published 10th Dec 2014) Read full article

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis

As a child, one of my all-time favourite novels was (and still is) 'The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe' by C.S. Lewis. This is a fantasy about a land known as Narnia and was first published in 1950. There followed a further six novels, the full seven novels collectively known as 'The Chronicles of Narnia'. 

The interesting thing about these novels is that they are not published in chronological order:

Publication order

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe 1950Prince Caspian 1951The Voyage of the Dawn Treader 1952The Silver Chair 1953The Horse and His Boy 1954The Magician's Nephew 1955The Last Battle 1956

(Published 10th Dec 2014) Read full article

The Fairy Tale books of Vojtech Kubasta

Vojtech Kubasta was born in 1914 in Vienna and moved with his parents to Prague when he was four. He lived in Czechoslovakia for the rest of his life and became best known for the many pop-up books he created.

As a young boy Kubasta showed great artistic talent and wanted to be an artist but his father had other ideas – he wanted his son to be a lawyer. A compromise was reached and Kubasta studied architecture which was then considered more of an artistic subject than technical discipline. He graduated in 1938 with a degree in architecture and civil engineering. His career as an architect was short lived as from the early 1940s he worked as a commercial artist and book designer.

(Published 9th Dec 2014) Read full article

Anthony Browne's King Kong (from the story conceived by Edgar Wallace & Merian C. Cooper)

I sit at my desk here at Stella Books and constantly catch in my peripheral vision the two large brown eyes and even larger nostrils of King Kong as he sits quietly on our shelf in the Special Book Room. I can't quite make up my mind if the face is scary or scared, possibly the latter. Most definitely the original signed sketch of him inside the book has quite a coy, wry look. 

I'm sure the majority of you are aware of the story of King Kong, the archetypal tale of Beauty and the Beast, with the sad ending of the Beast's death - mind you it would be a little quirky for Beauty to live happily ever after with Kong! Luckily for her, the ship's captain, who of course dislikes women in general, falls madly in love with Ann and she with him - the knight in shining armor who comes to her rescue. It is also very much about the tunnel vision of Carl Denham a film director who goes to extraordinary lengths to better each succeeding film with ever more exotic locations and fantastical ideas.

(Published 9th Dec 2014) Read full article

Just William by Richmal Crompton

The daughter of a curate hardly seems the most likely candidate to write about a young scallywag, roaming the countryside with his band of 'Outlaws', but that is what Richmal Crompton found herself doing. Born Richmal Crompton Lamburn in Bury, Lancashire in November 1890, she took a B.A. degree at London University and then followed in her father's footsteps, becoming a Senior Classics Mistress at her old school, and then moving to Bromley High School for Girls, where she taught until 1923.

During her spare time, and during the school holidays, she started to write, and created eleven year old William Brown, whose escapades first appeared in Home Magazine in February 1919. Why it should have been such a success is really rather a mystery, as the magazine was aimed at women, offering a mix of romantic short stories and serials. Be that as it may, 'William' was a great success, boosting the circulation of Home Magazine. A further 40 stories appeared, until October 1922 when William transferred to 'Happy Magazine', where he appeared in nearly every edition until February 1934.

(Published 9th Dec 2014) Read full article

Josephine Goes Travelling

Let me introduce you to Josephine who is 8 years old and is an only child. She is never lonely as she has a large family of dolls - 16 in all, of all shapes and sizes. Most of them have bits missing but Josephine loves them all and together they have great adventures.

The books are written by Mrs H.C. Cradock and beautifully illustrated by Honor C. Appleton. The first title (Josephine and her Dolls) appeared in 1915 and this title, the last in the series, in 1940.

Mrs. H.C. Cradock was born Augusta Whiteford in 1863 and spent her childhood in Lincolnshire and Nottinghamshire. She became a teacher and taught younger children in Wakefield. Here she met her husband Henry Cowper Cradock who was the Vicar of Ossett. They were married in 1893 and their daughter, Aline was born in 1905. Mrs. Cradock began her writing career in 1908 when The Care of Babies, a Reading Book for Girls was published. This was followed in 1909 byThe Training of Children from Cradle to School, and subsequent books for children. Mrs Cradock died in 1941 aged 77.

(Published 9th Dec 2014) Read full article

Johnny and the Bomb by Terry Pratchett

I have really enjoyed Terry Pratchett's books ever since my brother introduced them to me several years ago. They have so many wonderful layers - you may just skim the surface and read with exquisite enjoyment or you can read a little more slowly and discover the layers beneath connected to Mr. Pratchett's many areas of expertise.

One of the central characters in this children's book is Mrs. Tachyon who has a cat called Guilty "with his fur like carpet underlay, broken teeth and boomerang-shaped backbone" and a shopping trolley filled with strangely moving black plastic bags. She is seen as a "bit.... touched", but it transpires that she lives and moves between many "time trouser-legs". If you look up the meaning of her name you find that tacho is derived from the Greek for "speed, swift, fast" and that a tachyon is any hypothetical particle that travels faster than light!

(Published 9th Dec 2014) Read full article

The John Cobb Story by S.C.H. Davis

"The world land speed record requires the minimum of skill and the maximum of courage". Tommy Wisdom

I drive a 1990 1.4 litre Renault 5 Campus that is my pride and joy, (in addition to being something of a running joke with my colleagues), and answers to the appropriately continental name of 'Claude'. Claude and I have had many adventures together but there are a couple of trips that I long to take in him before we are both too old!

If I were to win the lottery, mine and Claude's first port of call would be the North Yungas Road in Bolivia, 'El Camino de la Muerte' (below) - more commonly known as the 'Bolivian Road of Death' - due to its extreme danger, with an estimated 200-300 travellers killed yearly along its winding paths. Built in the 1930s by Paraguayan prisoners it is one of the few roads that connects the Amazon rainforest region of northern Bolivia, or Yungas, to its capital city and is said to be one of the most spectacular routes in the world.

(Published 9th Dec 2014) Read full article

The Iron Wolf and Other Stories by Richard Adams

I'm sure that most people on hearing the name Richard Adams would think of his first novel, Watership Down, which was published in 1972 and won both the Carnegie Medal and the Guardian Award in 1973. Adams wrote other novels including Shardik, The Plague Dogs and The Girl on a Swing as well as picture books for children including Tyger Voyage and The Ship's Cat. The Iron Wolf and Other Stories by Richard Adams is neither a novel nor a picture book but a collection of nineteen folk tales from all over the world. They are set in countries as far afield as China and Alaska as well as much closer to home in the Isle of Man and Wales. Some, such as The Nightingale, a tale of why the nightingale sings so beautifully, could be set anywhere. The book is illustrated with full colour plates by Yvonne Gilbert and black and white drawings by Jennifer Campbell. All are exquisite and, I think, help to bring the folk tales to life. 

(Published 9th Dec 2014) Read full article

The Inimitable Jeeves

Is there anyone who has not heard of Jeeves? The creation of P.G. Wodehouse, Jeeves has come to mean unbeatable and unmatchable. The valet to Bertie Wooster, he appeared in some 11 novels and over 30 short stories, forever extracting his master from the soup.

This novel, the second Jeeves collection but the first to be devoted solely to Jeeves, combines 11 stories previously published in the Strand Magazine. However the first six and the last one were split in two, making a book of 18 chapters.

Set in the 1920's in an England where the 1st World War does not appear to have occurred, you meet Bertie Wooster, a wealthy, happy go lucky character, a member of the idle rich, full of good intentions, but beset by 'The Code' which forces him to never let a pal down, 'noblesse oblige', and to be a 'preux chevalier' etc. Bertie spends much of his time in the Drones Club, where he meets most of his pals. He is beset by a bevy of Aunts, some good, like Dahlia, and some terrifying, like Agatha. Luckily he has Jeeves to help him out. Without him, Bertie's life would be even more chaotic than it is: he makes an excellent hangover cure, his bets usually win and he's intelligent enough to rescue Bertie from nearly any situation. He disapproves of Bertie's more garish items of clothing, and will take it upon himself to deal with the offending item.

(Published 9th Dec 2014) Read full article

Hounds of the World by David Alderton, photography by Bruce Tanner

If you like dogs and especially hounds, this is a beautiful book with fabulous colour photographs of different breeds of hound found throughout the world. There is a colourful map of the world at the beginning which shows very clearly which hound originated from where.

According to the first chapter of the book: 'In the Beginning', the origins of today's hounds closely parallels the former distribution of the Grey Wolf. Looking at the map, one can see that the vast majority of hounds originated north of the equator, where the grey wolf used to be the most widely-distributed of the larger mammals. 

The fly leaf of this book sums it up nicely:'The grouping of dogs known as hounds includes some of the world's oldest breeds. In many cases their origins date back thousands of years, with the earliest evidence of their existence coming from Egypt, where portrayals of hounds with a striking similarity to certain contemporary breeds have been noted on ancient artefacts. Over the years, many new breeds of hound have been developed for a variety of purposes. They have also been evolved to work in a wide range of landscapes, with some, such as the greyhound, being bred for their pace, while many, like the beagle and bloodhound, are valued for their scenting skills and stamina.

(Published 9th Dec 2014) Read full article

The History of Monmouthshire by David Williams

I only have to write one featured book a year, but I see so many wonderful books though the year that it's hard to choose just one; but on the down side with many of the books it is hard to say something about them. The book I have chosen this time is of such good quality that I feel any words I write will detract from its sheer excellence - simply put - it is just stunning! However without words there would not be much of an article, just a series of photos, which would actually work well with this book, but anyway I procrastinate....

Why is the book stunning?

(Published 9th Dec 2014) Read full article

Here Comes Thursday by Michael Bond

There can't be many people who haven't heard of Paddington Bear, created byMichael Bond. But I wonder how many of the other characters created by Michael Bond you know of. Amongst them are Parsley the lion & Dill the dog from The Herbs, Olga da Polga - a guinea pig, a dog called Pomme Frites who accompanies his master in the Monsieur Pampelmousse series, even an armadillo called J.D. Polsen. And then there is a mouse called Thursday.

Thursday made his first appearance in Here Comes Thursday in 1966. The book is delightfully illustrated by Daphne Rowles with some very detailed black and white drawings. When we first meet Thursday he is causing a stir by floating in a strange object towards the organ loft cupboard of St. Mary's in the Valley. The resident family of mice can't identify this mystery object in the sky and are very concerned that it may be something sinister, until Grandpa Aristide points out that it is a balloon - with a label and a bag tied to its side. They manage to guide the balloon into their cupboard where the inhabitant of the bag wakes up to find himself surrounded by the Peck family.

(Published 9th Dec 2014) Read full article

Heath Robinson on Leather

“It is an old proverb that there is nothing quite like leather, and the opinion is equally widely held, though of more recent date, that there is nobody quite likeHeath Robinson.”

So begins the Preface to this remarkable Collected Edition of illustrated essays crafted by W. Heath Robinson in which 'the difficult and recondite subject of Leather' may be 'illumined by such moonbeams from the larger lunacy'.

W. Heath Robinson (1872-1944) had initially sought to make a living as a landscape painter. However, he was forced to turn to more lucrative forms of illustration and joined his older brothers, Charles and Tom, who were already book illustrators. By 1900 he had become one of the country's leading book illustrators, receiving acclaim for his Art Nouveau inspired line drawings to accompany an edition of The Poems of Edgar Allan Poe. He received further recognition in 1902 for the children's book The Adventures of Uncle Lubin, which he wrote as well as illustrated.

(Published 9th Dec 2014) Read full article

Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift

"My name is Gulliver, Lemuel Gulliver. I was born in Nottinghamshire and was sent to Cambridge University when I was fourteen years old. Three years later I began training as a surgeon, first in London and afterwards in Leyden in the Netherlands. I made several voyages as a ship's surgeon, but grew tired of the sea and decided to set up as a doctor in Wapping, where I moved with my wife and children. However, business did not go well and I again took a post as a ship's surgeon."

Left: Illustration by Savile Lumley

So starts (a slightly abridged version of) the most intriguing and imaginative travel book that you will ever set eyes on! What travel book do you know that describes extraordinary voyages into lands so diverse that you can be a giant in one and a midget in the next? The book Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift, orTravels into Several Remote Nations of the World by Lemuel Gulliver as it was originally titled when published in 1726, is possibly the most readable of all the eighteenth-century prose classics.

(Published 9th Dec 2014) Read full article

The Growing Summer by Mary Noel Streatfeild

One of the delights of working in a bookshop is helping customers to find 'old friends', those books they remember from childhood. Since coming to work in Rose's Books I too have been reunited with old friends and have reread books of my childhood. One author I remember well is Noel Streatfeild so when a collection of her books came our way, it was a good excuse to become reacquainted with 'old friends'!

Noel Streatfeild was born on Christmas Eve in 1895 in Sussex where her father was curate. Her great grandmother was the prison reformer, Elizabeth Fry. She didn't particularly enjoy school and her father was asked to remove her from Hastings and St. Leonards College. During the first world war Noel worked in the kitchens at a hospital for wounded soldiers and, later, as a munitions worker at Woolwich Arsenal. After the war Noel entered the Academy of Dramatic Art and trained as an actress. Her career came to an end following a tour ofAustralia in 1929. While she was on this tour her father died and she was unable to get home in time for the funeral. Disillusioned with acting she chose to pursue a new career.

(Published 9th Dec 2014) Read full article

Goblin Market by Christina Rossetti

Goblin Market - a familiar title but a poem that I knew only from my interest in the books illustrated by Arthur Rackham, of which Goblin Market is one. Having decided to write an article featuring this book I thought perhaps I'd better read the poem in its entirety. And what a surprise awaited me!

Goblins - the very word conjures up images of fairy tales, mythical little creatures, magical happenings. Goblin Market, published in 1862 and the longest of Christina Rossetti's poems, has enjoyed a reputation as one of the finest of children's poems and indeed Christina herself insisted that it was simply a fairy tale. However, the sensuous language used in the lengthy descriptive passages does give a somewhat different impression. But more of that later...

(Published 8th Dec 2014) Read full article

The French Foreign Legion by Douglas Boyd

They say you're without honour or faith,but what more could they have asked?Did you not fulfil unto death the sworn duty with which you were tasked?

Legion Captain Borelli, to his Legionnaires who died at the siege of Thuyen Quang in 1885.

Established in 1831 by the French king Louis Philippe, The French Foreign Legion (or in French: Légion étrangère, L.E.) is a military service wing of the French army, unique because it was exclusively created for foreign nationals willing to serve in the French armed forces. The direct reason for this was that foreigners were forbidden to serve in the French Army after the 1830 July Revolution, so the foreign legion was created to allow the government a way around this restriction.

(Published 8th Dec 2014) Read full article