Friday, February 16, 2018

Update: New children's authors (3 of 3)

My pick for best cover art in this batch

My third and final post about children's authors just added to my British & Irish list contains Scottish settings, witchy "hags", and enticing book covers. But I find myself irrationally attracted to a single WWI-era title by one of the new authors…

WINIFRED PARES was the author of more than a dozen children's books, but the one that has caught my eye is Hen and Chickens: A Story of Girl Life in the Great War (1920). I can find no details about it. Has anyone ever come across it?

Pares published her first two titles—A Pair of Ducks (1898) and Peacocks, or, What Little Hands Can Do (1899)—appeared under her maiden name, Winifred Percy Smith. She married in 1900, which may explain why she apparently didn't publish again until 1919. Other titles include An Everyday Angel (1919), The Grey House Opposite (1924), The Secret of the Dusty House (1925), The Creaking Bough (1926), Miss Lavender (1926), Poor Man's Pepper (1930), The Toymakers of Trev (1939), and Mr Nobody's House (1939).

But now, on to Scotland (and oh I wish I was really bound for Scotland)! ELLEN JANE MACLEOD has almost as good a claim to be on my American list as here, having emigrated to the U.S. with her family at age 9. But she returned to Scotland in the early 1950s, and her work is almost entirely set there, so she fits here better. Reportedly, she began writing after an automobile accident ended early efforts to be a dancer. Her children's books include The Crooked Signpost (1957), Adventures on the Lazy "N" (1957), Mystery Gorge (1959), The Vanishing Light (1961), Stranger in the Glen (1969), and Isle of Shadows (1974). 

MacLeod also published a romantic novel, Orchids for a Rose (1963). The Writer's Directory lists several additional titles not shown in Worldcat—From Aunt Jane, with Love (1974), Wing Home, My Heart (1975), Those Joyful Days (1976), and Another Time, Another Place (1977). These could have been self-published, and information is hard to find, but they could plausibly be memoirs.

Like MacLeod, ISOBEL KNIGHT spent a number of years in the U.S., though her time was spent there as an adult. she was the author of numerous readers and story books for younger children, as well as retellings of works by other authors. The only title I've found that appears to be for older children is The Mystery of the Island (1948), about children exploring a ruined castle on a small Scottish isle. She got married in Calcutta and on the 1930 U.S. census was living in Detroit and working as a stenographer in an auto factory.

Sadly, ELIZABETH LEITCH remains untraced, but she wrote four children's titles—The Raiders' Road (1937), The Two Houses by the Shore (1938), The Saturday Club (1940), and The Family at Kilmory (1955). Some or all of these seem to have Scottish settings, and most were reprinted at least once.

BRENDA G. MACROW wrote mostly non-fiction about Scotland, as well as verse for children, but she also published two works of children's fiction, the fantasy-themed The Amazing Mr. Whisper (1958) and its sequel The Return of Mr. Whisper (1959), about children whose summer tutor has magical powers.

And now we come to the hags, which I admit are intriguing me a bit. I've had a love for witchy kinds of books ever since discovering Lolly Willowes, so a series of books by LORNA M. WOOD about the "hag" Dowsabel appeals to me. Depressingly, it seems like it will be a challenge to get my hands on any of them though. The series includes The People in the Garden (1954), The Hag Calls for Help (1957), Holiday on Hot Bricks (1958), Seven-League Ballet Shoes (1959), Hags on Holiday (1960), Hag in the Castle (1962), Rescue by Broomstick (1963), and Hags by Starlight (1970). Her first published title was The Crumb-Snatchers (1933), a novel which the Spectator called "vivacious." Two subsequent titles, Gilded Sprays (1935) and The Hopeful Travellers (1936), appear to also be for adults. Her childhood, which she described in a Contemporary Authors entry, was clearly unconventional—no formal education, raised in a home without gas or electricity, then discovered as a musical prodigy and giving regular concerts. She and her husband visited Spain during the Spanish Civil War, and she contributed a piece about their experiences, "Correspondent's Wife," to the 1939 anthology Nothing But Danger.

K. WALLIS COALES wrote (and often illustrated) nine works of children's fiction, some with scouting and/or mystery themes. These include The Wharfbury Watch-Dogs (1930), The Pennyfound Puzzle (1931), The Monkey Patrol (1932), The Secret of the Fens (1935), The Mascot at No. 7 (1936), and Patricia at the Wheel (1937). She came by her interest in scouting honestly—her father was Herbert George Coales, who published scouting fiction under the pseudonym Mark Harborough.

Another title that sounds a bit intriguing is MODWENA SEDGWICK's The Children in the Painting (1969), which the Spectator called "a case history, told from the eye-level of a seven year old, about loneliness, unwantedness and the sense of loss." 

Sedgwick also had success with several books about a ragdoll named Galldora and several volumes of tales about a harvest mouse named Jan Perry.

LYDIA S. ELIOTT published a single adult novel, Lake of Destiny (1948), about which I couldn't locate any details. She then progressed to writing more than two dozen works for children, including fiction, non-fiction, and Bible stories, some for younger children. 

Children's titles that appear to be fiction for older children include Susan of Red Rock Fjord (1949), The Chief's Secret (1951), Ceva of the Caradoes (1953), The Girl from 'Chinooks' (1954), The Young Explorers (1958), and Found in the Forest (1958). Interestingly, her 1950 title Children of Galilee was illustrated by Mollie M. Kaye, later better known as novelist M. M. KAYE.

WINIFRED FINLAY may not be exactly a household name, but she garnered some good cover art. Finlay wrote more than 20 volumes of adventure and mystery fiction for children, as well as several collections of folktales, many of which she collected from oral sources. Her titles include The Witch of Redesdale (1951), Peril in Lakeland (1953), Cotswold Holiday (1954), The Castle and the Cave (1961), Mystery in the Middle Marches (1965), Summer of the Golden Stag (1969), and Beadbonny Ash (1973). 

Finlay wrote several series for the BBC Children's Hour. In the 1970s, she co-authored, with Gillian Hancock, several collections of themed stories, including ghosts, treasure hunter, and dog stories. She also published several late volumes of fantasy fiction, including Secret Rooms and Hiding Places (1982).

I don't have a lot of detail about the remaining five authors, but of course I have to include them and some of their charming, pretty, ordinary, and/or appalling cover art.

M. E. MATHEWS remains untraced, but there seems to be a consensus that the books are by a woman. She wrote about half a dozen books, including The Featherlight Family (1942), Princess Storm (1943), Runaway Adventure (1944), The Redheads of Windyridge (1950), The Island in the Lake (1951), and Sixpenny Holiday (1953).

Elaine Joan Murray Warde wrote as E. J. WARDE and published nearly a dozen volumes of adventure and mystery fiction for children, including Dangerous Diamonds (1960), Stoneacres (1962), The Riddle of Anchor Farm (1965), Adventures in Anderton (1968), Stowaway Farmer (1973), and The Jigsaw Puzzle (1978).

JEAN VAUGHAN is the untraced author of three children's titles—Lone Star (1940), Star and Company (1947), and Elizabeth's Green Way (1950)—described by one bookseller as girls' adventure stories.

Kathleen Mary Gadd, who published as K. M. GADD, is also unidentified (the full name comes from the British Library catalogue, but we can get no further). She published seven children's titles, some or all of them designed as readers for schools. Her first work, apparently non-fiction, was From Ur to Rome (1936). The others—La Bonté the Trapper (1939), X Bar Y Ranch (1939), White Hawk (1939), Wang Shu-Min: A Chinese Boy (1950), Sally Ann: A Tall Ship (1953), and Summer-Tenting: A Circus Story (1956)—seem to be fiction.

And finally, MARJORIE THORBURN published a single children's title, Edward and Marigold (1933). Her other two published works were Child at Play (1937), apparently based on her observations of her own child, and The Spirit of the Child: A Study of the Moral and Spiritual Development of Small Children (1946). She is described in one source as an educator, but little else is known.

So much for a big finish. But there still remain 32 new additions to the list who wrote primarily for grownups, and there are some intriguing discoveries among those as well. Stay tuned.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Update: New children's authors (2 of 3)

Thirteen more excuses to show book covers in this post, in the form of thirteen more children's authors just added to my British list in its most recent update. But first out of the gate, as promised, is an author who, though she is indeed included on the list because of her children's fiction, is probably more of interest to most readers for her other work, including guides to cooking, homemaking, and entertaining, as well as, most intriguingly, humorous memoirs in various offbeat settings.

ETHELIND FEARON's humorous guide The Reluctant Hostess (1954) was actually reprinted by Penguin in 2015, and I'll bet it, and other of her non-fiction, is entertaining enough. 

But what immediately caught my eye (admittedly in part because of enticing cover art) were her humorous memoirs. The Fig and the Fishbone (1959) tells of her experiences opening a tearoom in a 600-year-old Essex cottage, The Marquis, the Mayonaisse and Me (1961) tells of her life on an Essex farm, and A Privy in the Cactus (1965), deals with her renovations of a decrepit house in Majorca. Others include Most Happy Husbandman (1946, aka The Happiest of Men) and Me and Mr Mountjoy (1951), as well a couple of volumes that seem to be more straightforward humor titles, such as How to Keep Pace with Your Daughter (1958) and Without My Yacht: How to Be at Home in the South of France (1959).

Fearon's children's titles include The Sheep-Dog Adventure (1953), The Young Market Gardeners (1953), The Secret of the Château (1955), and Pluckrose's Horse (1955), and may be completely delightful as well, for all I know, but it's the memoirs I'll be keeping an eye out for. Sadie Stein wrote an enthusiastic article about Fearon for the Paris Review following the Penguin reprint, which can be read here.

Newly added, too, are not one, not two, not three, but four more "horsy" authors, only one of which, strangely, can be definitely identified. CATHERINE ANNE HARRIS, who wrote seven books described in more detail here, may well be the Catherine A. Harris born 1936 in Worcestershire, which fits with reviews of her first book which state she was only 18 at the time, but we can't find anything to definitely prove it and the name is not unique enough to narrow the odds.

Not even a tentative ID of VERONICA WESTLAKE, possibly a pseudonym for an unknown author, who wrote four books with pony content—The Ten-Pound Pony (1953), The Intruders (1954), The Unwilling Adventurers (1955), and The Mug's Game (1956). Jane Badger Books wrote about them here, and Pony Mad Book Lovers discussed them here.

And nothing to identify SYLVIA SCOTT WHITE, whose two pony stories—Ten-Week Stables (1960) and its sequel, Pony Pageant (1965)—are discussed here. Too-common names and limited output have so far made it impossible to trace her.

But there's plenty of information about PAT SMYTHE, author of a dozen or so children's titles but better known as a champion showjumper herself. 

Smythe began her writing career with memoirs of her showjumping adventures, Jump for Joy (1954) and One Jump Ahead (1956), the latter of which includes her experiences in the 1956 Stockholm Olympics. 

In 1957, Jacqueline Rides for a Fall initiated her "Three Jays" series of children's horse stories, in which she portrayed a semi-autobiographical version of herself alongside fictional characters and in fictional adventures. Six more titles in that series followed. She later published three more children's books—A Swiss Adventure (1970), A Spanish Adventure (1971), and A Cotswold Adventure (1973)—and published her autobiography, Leaping Life's Fences (1992).

JOYCE LAURIE RALLINGS, better known as J. L. Rallings, published three children's adventure stories—Brown Valley Adventure (1959), Smuggler's Creek (1960), and The Secret Tarn (1962). Details about her are sparse, but we did happen to learn that, as of 1947, she was working as a midwife.

We could trace even less about CATHERINE SCALES, but the cover art of her two children's books—Gay Company (1938), about a cat and his friend, and Nugger Nonsense (1939), about dachsunds travelling in Europe—is charming enough.

Three new additions to the list particularly utilized their times spent living in foreign locales when writing their books. EDITH E. CUTHELL lived for many years in India, and frequently set her books there. Most of her fiction appeared in the 1890s, including the children's books Indian Pets and Playmates (1891), Only a Guard-Room Dog (1892), and In the Mutiny Days (1893) and her novels A Baireuth Pilgrimage (1894), Caught by a Cook (1895), and Sweet Irish Eyes (1897). Two additional children's titles, however—Reggy, Queenie and Blot and The Skipper—appeared in 1920, qualifying her for this list. She also published several biographies in the 1910s.

JANE H. SPETTIGUE was born in Cornwall, but she apparently spent much of her later life in South Africa, as reflected in her fiction. Titles include The Gregors: A Cornish Story (1878), Jephthah's Daughter (1885), An Africander Trio (1897), An Unappreciative Aunt (1898), A Pair of Them (1899), A Trek and a Laager: A Borderland Story (1900), A Housekeeping Start in Johannesburg (1904), and Nero, an African Mongrel (1920).

And MARION PERCY WILLIAMS, who wrote as M. P. Williams, only began publishing after her return to England, but her first book, Nigerian Holiday (1959), reveals where she had lived for a number of years. A 1954 passenger list shows her arriving in the U.K. from a previous home in Nigeria, planning to settle in Belfast with her missionary husband. She later lived in Swansea.

ETHEL LOUISA WESTMARLAND wrote around 20 children's books under her two pseudonyms, Christine Courtney and Ellen Elliott. Titles include Quartette at Barnham Corners (1951), Gordons at Gullcliff (1953), The Dresden Shepherdess (1960), and Jane and the Pink Flamingo (1963), as well as three books about a heroine named Susan. Presumably (but not certainly) she was the same Ellen Elliott who published several romance novels in the late 1960s and early 1970s, including Hong Kong Nurse (1968) and High Flight Nurse (1970).

According to the British Library catalogue, GLYNN MILLS is the pseudonym of one Myra Illingworth. This seems to be the only source for that name, and if it's correct she might be the Myra Illingworth born 25 July 1914, died 9 Oct 1981, but there's nothing to definitely link that person to the author. 11 volume of fiction appeared under the Mills name. Her debut, Never Alone (1954), seems to have been marketed to adults, though I can't find any details about it, but her other books all seem to be for younger readers. Titles include Alison of Noggarth Hall (1956), They Came to Camp (1956), Christmas at Lynton Hall (1958), Danger at Calham Cove (1959), Marilyn Investigates (1961), and According to Plan (1963).

Although the name K. N. Nelson on a single book—The Camp at Sea View Meadow (1929), subtitled "A Girl Guide Story"—wasn't a lot to go on, John Herrington was able to identify her as KATE NELSON ABBOTT, who in 1911 was working as an insurance clerk. Sadly, the reason for her limited output seems to have been that she died in Surrey, aged 56, not long after her book appeared.

That's it for this post. The third and final post about new children's author will be coming soon, and will include several authors who focused on Scotland, a tempting WWI girls' story, and the author of a series about a "hag"…
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