Dorothy Neal White
Newsletter 36
October 2006

Number 36 October 2006



The 2005 FDNW Scholarship was presented to Andrew Francis. We now have the opportunity to hear the results of his research. At the Friends end-of-the-year event in November Andrew will present Making Britons of Them’ British and Imperial Juvenile Literature, 1905-1914.This chapter from his thesis draws significantly on the work he has done using the Dorothy Neal White Collection.

The event will be held on 14 November 2006. Drinks & nibbles (with lashings of Ginger Beer!) will begin at 5.30pm in the National Library Auditorium foyer & will be followed by Andrew’s talk at 6pm.

Friends, & their friends, very welcome – a gold coin donation from non-members would be appreciated.


The Annual General Meeting in May was preceeded by Tales for the perfect child, an illustrated talk presented by Lynne Jackett, Research Librarian for the Dorothy Neal White & National Children’s Collections, with additional readings from cautionary tales by Tania Connelly and Joan McCracken.

The talk was based on a display of cautionary tales that Lynne had prepared for the DNW display case in the National Library Reference area.She began by outlining the characteristics of a cautionary tale. Originally they were tales with a serious intent, to warn the hearer of danger. However, the best-known cautionary tales today are satirical and provide the reader with (often gory) amusement. Nearly all cautionary tales, whether didactic or comic, follow a set pattern:

1.The prohibition or taboo is stated.

2.The forbidden act is performed, the taboo disregarded.

3.The violator meets a disproportionately ghastly fate, often related in graphic, grisly detail.

Lynne then talked about some of the best-known books of this genre starting withHeinrich Hoffmann’s Der Struwwelpeter (in English, Shockheaded Peter or Slovenly Peter), first published in 1845 in response to the author’s feeling that the books then available to buy his son were “long tales, stupid collections of pictures, moralising stories.” The audience were not convinced that his alternative writing was an improvement!

In 1941 Robert and Philip Spence, under the pseudonym “Doktor Schrecklichkeit” wrote and illustrated a version of Struwwelpeter they called Struwwelhitler. It cleverly adapts Dr Hoffman’s stories to a twentieth-century wartime setting. It was published by The Daily Sketch to raise money for the War Relief Fund which provided comforts to the armed forces and to air raid victims.


By the end of the 19th century the insistent moralizing of Victorian fiction for children had become an obvious target for parody. Hilaire Belloc was more than equal to the challenge. Joan read Matilda who told tales and was burned to death accompanied by illustrations from the book by three different artists – the original pictures by Basil Blackwell (illustrated), British political cartoonist Posy Simmonds, and a few by American illustrator Steven Kellogg.

Although Belloc is perhaps the best-known English language teller of cautionary tales he is by no means the last, nor the most bizarre. For example, Helen Bannerman, of Little Black Sambo fame, wrote the extremely weird tale Little kettle head.

To conclude Lynne read Gertrude & Gloria by author Florence Parry Heide and illustrator Victoria Chess, who maintain the cautionary tale tradition in inverted form – their young protagonists usually turn the tables on the disciplinarian adult and no “good” behaviour goes unpunished. In this story good daughter Gertrude is very helpful to Mummy and does the dishes without fuss – while Gloria “put the cups where the plates should be, and the plates where the pans should be, and she broke her mother’s very best teacup”. And Gertrude’s reward for her good behaviour?


“Since Gertrude had been so extremely careful and helpful, and had done such a very good job, she got to help with the dishes next day and every day after that.”

What fun! The audience were highly entertained and called for more…


The Annual General Meeting of the Friends was held on Monday 29 May 2006 in the National Library lower ground floor Conference Room. Twenty-eight members and five guests were present.

The President, Emma MacDonald, presented her Report for the year 2005/2006, outlining the activities of both the Friends and the research librarian. In conclusion, Emma thanked the National Library for continuing to allow the Society to hold meetings free-of-charge in the building. She thanked the members of the Society for their continuing interest in the Collection and the various meetings and performances; and all the Committee members for their continuing energy and enthusiasm, catering skills and support for the Research Librarian.

At the AGM the committee for 2006-2007 was elected. Most of the existing office holders and committee members agreed to remain on the committee and were elected unopposed. President, Emma MacDonald, accepted the resignation of Kerry Fryer, the correspondence secretary, with regret. On behalf of the members and the committee she thanked Kerry for her contribution and wished her well for her overseas travel.

The 2006-2007 Committee:

Patron: Margaret Mahy
President: Emma MacDonald
Treasurer: Trevor Mowbray
Correspondence Secretary: Barbara Robertson
Notetaker: Lynne Jackett
Newsletter: Joan McCracken
Committee: Tania Connelly, Audrey Cooper, Alison Grant, Mary Hutton.

Copies of the full minutes will be sent out with the notification of the 2007 Annual General Meeting, and are available now on this, the Society’s website.


The writings of Elsie J Oxenham: a New Zealand perspective by Barbara Robertson was launched at a Friends event in March of this year.

image of Author & readers with the midnight feast L-R: Tania, Marianne, Barbara & Joan Photo: Neil Robertson
Author & readers with the midnight feast L-R: Tania, Marianne, Barbara & Joan Photo: Neil Robertson

After celebratory comestibles (including a very special “midnight feast” prepared by Tania Connelly – see picture) Barbara spoke about Elsie J Oxenham and the Abbey books. There were readings from some of EJO’s stories by Barbara and Marianne Dobie, and Tania Connelly and Joan McCracken read excerpts from other popular authors of this genre – Antonia Forest and Clare Mallory.

It was a very entertaining evening and attendees were enthusiastic to go home to read more about EJO in the copies of N-B-A that were distributed that evening. Further copies are available from PO Box 12499, Wellington for $5.00 each.


In the past few months I have been busy with my usual activities: working with researchers and other visitors to the collections, presenting talks, assessing donations and purchasing books for the National Children’s Collection. A Conservation intern created protective boxing for a further 82 of the fragile books in the Dorothy Neal White Collection. The National Library’s new Web site will soon be launched, and I hope that the children’s collections will be easier to find.

Highlights since our last Newsletter have included:


Attending the Children’s Book Council of AustraliaBook now! Conference in Sydney 4-6 May 2006 was a wonderful opportunity to meet other children’s literature librarians. The whole event was high energy and was the best conference for my specialisation I have ever attended. I boosted my knowledge of the current Australian publishing scene and discovered a number of new authors and illustrators to watch out for. The illustrators were, without exception, perceptive and eloquent speakers. I especially enjoyed English illustrator Helen Oxenbury (in witty conversation with her editor, David Lloyd); and Australian illustrators Robert Ingpen, and Emma Quay.

Australian illustrator Robert Ingpen talking at a breakfast aboard the SS South Steyne, a former Sydney Harbour ferry Photo: Lynne Jackett
Australian illustrator Robert Ingpen talking at a breakfast aboard the SS South Steyne, a former Sydney Harbour ferry Photo: Lynne Jackett


Displays have featured prominently in my activities recently. The new display in late March was Matilda, and the house, were burned, or Cautionary tales, featuring Struwwelpeter (and a notable parody, Struwwelhitler), stories by Hilaire Belloc and some recently published books in the genre.

I also created a small display to celebrate Margaret Mahy’s achievement in winning the Hans Christian Andersen Medal. Veronika Meduna included the DNW copy of The boy chemist in the main Gallery exhibition Butterflies, boffins & black smokers: two centuries of science in New Zealand. The Library’s Māori Language Week display included the NCC copy of Crayfishing with grandmother.

By the time you read this, a new display, featuring books illustrated by Edward Ardizzone, should be in the cabinet inside the doors to the ground floor reading room. I am now assisting Gallery staff with displays for next year.

Lynne Jackett, Research Librarian, Dorothy Neal White & National Children’s Collections


There have been no applications for the Friends Scholarship in 2006. This is disappointing, especially in light of the good work that has been done by previous awardees. However, it has been decided, in consultation with the VUW Foundation who administer the award, that the scholarship should be readvertised with the closing date in the first half of 2007. If you know any students doing post-graduate study at Victoria University in appropriate subjects, do encourage them to apply!



In her 16th annual report on the SPC, covering collection-related activities from July 2005-June 2006, Susan Price highlighted:

  • Three speaking engagements: to an all-day seminar in Tauranga, organised by the Bay of Plenty Children’s Literature Association; and to the Ohariu Branch and the Kapiti Coast Branch of the University of the Third Age.
  • The written version of Susan’s talk to the Bay of Plenty Children’s Literature Association, Children’s books, history and the Susan Price Collection, was published in the Storylines Year Book 2005(pp. 53-63). Members interested in receiving a copy of this very interesting article should contact Lynne Jackett. Susan was interviewed by Karolyn Markos (& her soft toy giraffe Ferhad Junior) for the Bay of Plenty Children’s Literature Association and the interview was posted on
  • Gondwanaland Press published a second impression of 500 copies of Books for life by Susan Price in 2005.
  • Seventeen people, including Marion Hobbs, MP for Wellington Central and Minister of the Arts, and nine members of an Upper Hutt Book Group, visited the Susan Price Collection.
  • Forty-two books were received from seventeen donors and Susan also purchased 759 books. The total size of the collection at 31st March 2006 was approximately 19,260 books.

Lynne Jackett
Research Librarian, Dorothy Neal White & National Children’s Collections

New Zealand Winners
Lianza Children’s Book Awards 2006

The winners of the LIANZA Children’s Book Awards are announced Monday evening [9 October 2006] at an awards ceremony held at Wellington’s Michael Fowler Centre. The awards, encompassing New Zealand’s longest running book prize, celebrate excellence in children’s books and the unique contribution New Zealand children’s authors and illustrators have made to building national identity and cultural heritage.

Elizabeth Knox is the winner of The Esther Glen Award for Dreamhunter. The Esther Glen Award recognises a work which is considered to be the most distinguished contribution to literature for children, by an author who is a citizen or resident of New Zealand. Established in 1945, it is the oldest award recognising excellence in New Zealand children’s literature and the longest running award for a book published in New Zealand. “Few writers can make the transition from the extravagances of writing for adults to the conciseness necessary when writing for children and young adults,” comments the judging panel, “yet, Elizabeth Knox has achieved this with Dreamhunter. The plot is brilliantly original and convincing, and the writing is superb.” The judges unanimously decided that this book is a worthy winner of The Esther Glen Award and a benchmark for other writers to aspire to.


Kevin Boon is the winner of The Elsie Locke Award (previously LIANZA Young People’s Non-fiction Award) for his series Developments in New Zealand History. The Elsie Locke Award celebrates a distinguished contribution to non-fiction for young people. “Without the work of Kevin Boon, New Zealand’s non-fiction resources for children would be infinitely poorer,” says the judging panel. “A thematic approach to history, rather than a strictly chronological one, requires careful synthesis of the material, and Boon does this particularly well, moving through each topic in a way that to the reader is convincing and logical. It is an enormously impressive achievement.” The judges debated whether any one volume could be singled out but in the end felt that the series as a whole is a deserved winner.

Gavin Bishop is the winner of The Russell Clark Award for Kiwi Moon, which he both wrote and illustrated. The Russell Clark Award was first presented in 1975 and rewards the most distinguished pictures or illustrations for a children’s book. “Kiwi Moon has all the appeal and promise of a future folktale classic,” say the judging panel, “it is an outstanding example of how text and illustrations can be interwoven to produce a marvellous whole.”

The judging panel for the LIANZA Children’s Book Awards 2006 is: Bob Docherty, (Panel Convenor) National Library, Christchurch; Katherine Chisholm, National Library, Palmerston North; and Annette Williams, Christchurch City Libraries. Each of the LIANZA Children’s Book Award winners receives a medal and cheque for $1,000.
Amy Stubbs
LIANZA Children’s Book Awards Coordinator
Media release 10 October 2006

– from the LIANZA website

In the last Newsletter we highlighted a number of awards made to our Patron Margaret Mahy. Now there is another significant event to celebrate.Margaret Mahy Wins – Hans Christian Andersen Award

Margaret Mahy Wins – Hans Christian Andersen Award

New Zealand author Margaret Mahy has won the world’s premier prize for children’s writing, the Hans Christian Andersen Award. The announcement, made in Bologna this morning [28 March 2006], caps a remarkable year for Mahy, who recently celebrated her 70th birthday. Often called the “Little Nobel”, the award is given biennially by the International Board on Books for Young People (IBBY) to honour an author who has made a lasting contribution to international children’s literature. Previous winners have included English novelist Aidan Chambers (2005), the Irish writer-illustrator Martin Waddell (2004) and a galaxy of writers stretching back to 1956.

Margaret Mahy
Margaret Mahy

Mahy, nominated by the Storylines Children’s Literature Foundation of New Zealand representing the New Zealand branch of IBBY, joins Australian writer Patricia Wrightson as only the second from Australasia to win the award. She will travel to Beijing in September to be honoured at the IBBY World Congress.

“The Storylines organisation is jubilant that Margaret has now achieved her rightful place in world children’s literature,” says chairperson Rosemary Tisdall. “This is a huge achievement and the whole of New Zealand, children and adults like, congratulates its greatest and most beloved writer.”

The award tops off a remarkable period of recognition for Mahy. Already holding New Zealand’s top civil award, the Order of New Zealand, she has in the last two years received the Prime Minister’s Award for Fiction, a second honorary doctorate (University of Waikato) and the Phoenix Award from Canada’s Children’s Literature Association. She became an official New Zealand Arts Icon in 2005 and is twice shortlisted for the 2006 New Zealand Post Children’s Book Awards. [Editor’s note: for a report on the Awards see the following article]. Mahy’s career began in 1961 with the publication of her first story in theSchool Journal. International recognition arrived in 1969, when five of herJournal stories appeared as picture books, and was cemented by an astonishing outpouring of picture books and story collections during the 1970s.

In 1980, aged 44 and mother of two teenage daughters, Mahy left her Christchurch library position to write full-time. Her first two novels,The Haunting andThe Changeover, won the prestigious British Carnegie Medal for 1982 and 1984.

Among her publications for children are picture books, novels for children and young adults, non-fiction, poetry and plays, while for adults, recent publications of essays and speeches have reinforced her reputation as an outstanding essayist, commentator and thinker. She has also written extensively for television (includingMaddigan’s Quest) and adaptedThe Haunting as a feature film.

Many of her children’s books have been translated, into more than 15 languages, and she has regularly appeared at international forums on children’s literature since the early 1970s. Mahy lives in Governor’s Bay, Lyttelton, and has two daughters and seven grandchildren.

Christine Young Executive Officer,
Storylines Children’s Literature Foundation



The winners of the 10th annual New Zealand Post Book Awards 2006 were announced at a gala event at Parliament, on the evening of Wednesday 17 May. The winning books are the judges’ picks for the very best of those published in 2005. The judges for the 2006 Awards were Julie Harper (Convenor), Graeme Lay and Carol Hirschfeld.

hunter The Book of the Year 2006 is Joy Cowley’s Hunter.

Nobody’s dog by Jennifer Beck & Lindy Fisher won the Children’s Choice Award, and the First Book Award winner was Phil Smith for The unknown zone.

Nobody’s dog by Jennifer Beck & Lindy Fisher won the Children’s Choice Award, and the First Book Award winner was Phil Smith for The unknown zone.The category finalists and winners are listed with the winners in bold and the honour awards marked with asterisks (**).

Picture Books

A booming in the night, by Ben Brown & Helen Taylor (Reed Publishing)
Haere – farewell, Jack, farewell, by Tim Tipene & Huhana Smith (Huia Publishing)**
Nobody’s dog, by Jennifer Beck & Lindy Fisher (Scholastic New Zealand)
The waka / Te waka, by Jean Prior & Gavin Bishop, te reo Katerina Mataira (Scholastic New Zealand)
Where’s the gold?, by Pamela Allen (Penguin Viking)


Blue New Zealand, by Glenys Stace (Puffin)**,
Cameras in Narnia, Ian Brodie (HarperCollins Publishers)**
Frontier of dreams – the weight of world wars 1897 – 1949, by John Parker (Scholastic New Zealand)
Peter Blake sailor, adventurer, by Alan Sefton (Puffin)
Scarecrow army, by Leon Davidson (Black Dog Books)

Junior fiction

Hunter, by Joy Cowley (Puffin)
Maddigan’s Fantasia, by Margaret Mahy(HarperCollins Publishers)**
My story: Chinatown girl by Eva Wong Ng (Scholastic New Zealand)
Sil, by Jill Harris (Longacre Press)**
Super Freak, by Brian Falkner (Mallinson Rendel)

Young Adult Fiction

Deep Fried, by Bernard Beckett & Claire Knighton (Longacre Press)
Kaitangata twitch, by Margaret Mahy(Allen & Unwin)**
Running hot,by David Hill (Mallinson Rendel)
The unknown zone, by Phil Smith (Random House New Zealand)
With lots of love from Georgia, by Brigid Lowry (Allen & Unwin)


The 2006 Annual General Meeting agreed to hold the subscription rate at $20 a year. Members might also like to make a contribution to a special Scholarship fund that will allow us to continue and / or increase the amount we are able to offer a student at Victoria University doing research based on the DNW Collection. A separate line has been included on the form for those Friends who would like to make such a donation.
The form is available from the home page of this site.


In August this year committee member Barbara Robertson and her husband, Neil, travelled to the UK and while away Barbara attended two interesting conferences. She prepared reports of these two events for The Abbey Gatehouse magazine which she edits and has kindly supplied them to us to also include in this newsletter.

Antonia Forest Conference

30 June to 2 July 2006

This Conference was held at The Carrington House Hotel in Bournemouth. There were about 90 participants. Most of the delegates came from UK, but there were three from Australia and two from New Zealand. It was my first experience of a literary conference, and it was a refreshing eye-opener to see that so many people from such different backgrounds not only read and enjoy the works of an author writing for children, but also are able to come together and seriously discuss the works and the ideas introduced.One feature that became apparent quite early on was the wide range of backgrounds of the delegates and the considerable academic qualifications of both speakers and delegates.

In our Conference folder was a quiz consisting of 100 clues where all the answers were works of literature (books, poems, plays) mentioned somewhere in the works of Antonia Forest. We were to work on these in our spare time and the answers were given during the Saturday night Dinner. Below is a taste of the questions which Hilary Clare had devised.

1 The second Mrs Rochester (4,4)
2 Flutes & clarinets, perhaps, among the trees (3,4,2,3,7)
3 Joy & Co to the rescue? (3,5,5,4,2)
13 Not an African ichneumon! (5-5-4)
14 Persian flower – in Devon (3,3-7,4)
32 A very long time ago for some of us! (4,2,4,4,5)
55 The choice is yours! (2,3,4,2)

The first talk, on Friday evening, was given by Diane Purkiss and was titled Shakespeare: Did Antonia Forest Get it Right? This focussed on The Players’ Boy and The Players and the Rebels which are set in Shakespeare’s London. The Players are a company of actors known as The Lord Chamberlain’s Players who perform the plays of Shakespeare and other playwrights. The answer to the question in the title of the talk is, of course, “Yes and no.”, but it was an interesting and informative journey to get to that result.

After breakfast on Saturday morning the group split, one part listening to Barry Carter on The Navy’s Here, while I listened to Sheena Wilkinson on Friendships in the Novels of Antonia Forest. There is a lot of scope in that topic, and the talk mainly concentrated on the school books, with one conclusion being that the friendships of AF’s characters are more natural with relationships changing over time, unlike many schoolgirl stories where ‘a bosom friend’ is made out to be the norm.

Next Sue Sims, one of the four organisers of the Conference (and the editor of Folly), gave an illustrated talk about Antonia Forest’s Bournemouth; where she worked, where she lived, the church where she was admitted into the Catholic Church, the cemetery where she is buried, and how she came to live in Bournemouth. This was followed by Gillian Ledwick, who had been on Mastermind with one of her specialities being “The Works of Antonia Forest”, telling us about her experiences on the programme.

Saturday afternoon consisted of optional activities. I elected to join Joy Wotton in a ‘Walk around Literary Bournemouth’, which was not exclusively concerned with Antonia Forest. Those of us who went on this walk – with sunhats, sunscreen, sunglasses and sandals – all found it of considerable interest, but this was one of the first days of Britain’s summer heat-wave, and the weather was extremely hot and not as pleasant as the company. Some who had originally chosen to do this walk backed out and stayed in the hotel where informal ‘Character Assassination Confabs’ were taking place.

Like at all book-collectors’ conferences, there was a Book Sale at which both dealers and delegates offered a variety of books for sale – at UK prices!

After the Conference Dinner on Saturday evening, the answers to the Quiz were read out and the highest score was nearly 90 out of 100. This was followed by Entertainment: A Medley of Words and Music of Special Significance to Antonia Forest and her Books, consisting of a variety of songs, poems, skits, etc, which left us alternately laughing or impressed by the talent displayed.

A display of different editions of Antonia Forest’s books Photographs: Barbara Robertson
A display of different editions of Antonia Forest’s books Photographs: Barbara Robertson
A display of different editions of Antonia Forest’s books Photographs: Barbara Robertson
A display of different editions of Antonia Forest’s books Photographs: Barbara Robertson

Sunday began with the second pair of parallel talks; one by Virginia Preston concentrating on Nicola, the Navy and Heroism in the Works of Antonia Forest; and the other by Susan Hall looking at how Antonia Forest uses other works of fiction, with particular reference to the wide range of books which Nicola sets herself to read.

Then we all joined together to listen to Hilary Clare (another one of the conference organisers) talking about Marlows Past, Present and Future. The parts of this that I remember best (because I took notes) were where Hilary (who had often talked to AF about her characters) was telling what AF had in mind for the future of the Marlows. Another comment was that AF felt that she was influenced by the writings of Evelyn Smith, in particular Binky of IIIB and Seven Sisters at Queen Anne’s, and had remarked “How useful a big family is for fiction!”

It was Antonia Forest’s practice to write and rewrite, so that various stages of the manuscript of a book differ quite considerably from the final version. Her final book, Run Away Home, is the only one for which the manuscript and several earlier typescripts have survived. In our Conference folder was a 35 page booklet containing sections which were cut out of the final book for various reasons. The title of this book went through various changes, having been provisionally titled The Snatch, The Helping Hand, and laterAiders and Abettors and Hide-Out at Trennels. The character who ‘runs away’ has a different name in almost every version – Barry, Paul, Andrew, Daniel, only settling on Edward at the end. The final session of the Conference was a discussion of what we thought of these extra sections and their relationship to the printed version of Run Away Home. Unfortunately I had not done my homework so could not contribute, but listened keenly to all that others had to say.

It is a fitting tribute to Antonia Forest that her books attract the literary attention that this conference gave them, and are able to stand up to serious scrutiny.

Girls Gone By Conference

18 to 21 August 2006

The second anchor of our ten-week trip to UK this year was the “Girls Gone By Conference” held at Warwick University in August. It started badly with torrential rain on the Friday afternoon as we were supposed to be registering. But the rain did ease and we only had intermittent showers for the rest of the weekend. There were over 120 delegates, including at least three men.

The venues were widely spread throughout the campus, so we were kept fit and had opportunities to chat with different people as we made the long treks between accommodation, meals, talks and discussions. For those who couldn’t manage long walks, a car shuttle service was organised.

In our Conference folder there was an ‘ice-breaker’, getting to know others competition. We had the name of a character in a book and a number, which signified the number of characters in this group. We were supposed to find the others who belonged with our character, and then claim a prize. I don’t know if anyone did complete this exercise, as nothing more was said about it. I had “Penny Morchard (4)” and Neil had “Bill Melbury (4)” – can anyone tell us who these people are and in which book they feature? [Editor’s note: the Research Librarian & Google have provided the answer – link to answers

Before the Conference all delegates were invited to bring their own name badges. They could be ones used for previous Chalet Conferences, but they had to have the GGB logo on, so that we were identified for meals, etc. So I got onto my computer and came up with a badge showing The Abbey Gatehouse (I am the editor of this magazine), an outline map of New Zealand (so it was clear where I came from), a small photo of myself, and a group of 4 books – the English and Australian editions of Juliet Overseas (because I had written the Introduction to the GGBP edition), Evelyn Finds Herself (Clare Mallory’s favourite story), and The New Abbey Girls (an Abbey book that I had on the computer). I did a similar badge for Neil, with two images of Arthur Ransome (many GGB readers also read Arthur Ransome) and the map of NZ. During Saturday night’s Dinner they announced the winners of the ‘design a name badge’ competition, and my effort to promote New Zealand was announced first as one of the three winners!


The formal talks were mostly given by people whose names are well-known in the world of collecting GGB types of books. Helen McClelland spoke on Elinor Brent-Dyer’s World, while Mary Cadogan spoke about Angela Brazil as being considered the first writer of schoolgirl stories. Clarissa Cridland told us How Girls Gone By works, while she and Sally Dore talked about the new ‘Fun in the Fourth’ series. Cath Vaughan-Pow (Editor of the Australian Abbey Guardian) gave an illustrated talk on the Edwardian girl’s reading experience, with particular reference to early Girl’s Own Annuals.

Stella Waring and Sheila Ray led a discussion on how they go about researching the sites used by Elsie Oxenham, Dorita Fairlie Bruce and Elinor Brent-Dyer. We were all interested to hear that they begin with a large scale map and then visit places, talk to local people, and do research in local libraries and museums. Of particular interest to Abbey folk was Ann Mackie-Hunter’s talk titled The Idyllic World of the Abbey Girls. Her introductory sentence gives you taste of the content: “Once upon a time, in an England that never quite was, where winter never comes . . . “. Ann’s inimitable style made this talk most entertaining. As an article in The Daily Express (28/8/06) says: (the speaker) “emphasised the fantasy and romance in her [EJO’s] work and also her limitations”.

Margaret Biggs ran two discussion groups for about 20 people at a time. We talked a lot about the Melling books, but she also mentioned the other books she has written and said that she considers The Two Families (1958) is the best of the non-Mellings. But the highlight of the session was when she talked about the new Melling book she has written (to be published by GGB when they have finished publishing the original seven), and read us the first chapter. It is called Kate at Melling, Kate being the daughter of Helen and Matthew. Miss Pickering is considering extending the school to take in younger girls and wants Kate to be one of the first new young ones, but Kate hates the idea. Margaret Biggs has had a lot of short stories published in anthologies, and when The Scar, about a handicapped child adapting to life, was used for GCSE, she knew she had become an accepted author.

The Sunday Evening Quiz was diabolical, but an excellent way of getting to know the other members of your team. Betula O’Neill and her teenage daughter, Alice, had spent months devising the questions, and there were many groans when the answers were given. Just to give you a taste – Round 1 featured 10 excerpts from books which most of us may have read. We had to name the speaker (or the person whose action/experience was being discussed), and the title and author of the book it came from. Our “Antipodean” table (it also included Cath Vaughan-Pow and Jansy Rose from Australia) came a respectable 4th out of the 14 tables (of 7 people apiece).

 Verena Visits New Zealand at £375!)
Verena Visits New Zealand at £375!)
There were two Book Sales, one for dealers (the worst prices were EJO’s Deb of Sea House at £250 and EB-D’s Verena Visits New Zealand at £375!) and one for delegates, the latter including not only books but also craft items. During the weekend, there were various ways to raise money for charity. Each delegate had been asked to bring something that could be used as a raffle prize or for the tombola. We had taken a copy of each of Notes-Books-Authors No. 2 (Clare Mallory) and No. 9 (Elsie Jeanette Oxenham). Unfortunately I did not see who won these booklets, or find out whether they appreciated them.

For the tombola if you chose a ticket that ended in a 5 or a 0, then you had won a prize. We won four prizes but returned them all because they were either too heavy to bring back or we did not want them.

There were two sessions of community singing of well-known songs, as well as a performance by a group of singers and musicians who had been learning new songs at various times during the Conference. An extra slot was made on Sunday afternoon for those who wanted to hear and sing songs written by Fionnuala Kelly. With her permission, I have copied two of the songs that may be of interest to collectors and readers of certain types of children’s books.

The Collector’s Nightmare
(Tune: This Old Man)
What to choose? Can’t pick one!
Now my nightmares just begun!
There are Blyton, Oxenham,Needham and Jane Shaw,
Fairlie Bruce and many more.Can’t afford to buy two,
Children’s Press will have to do!
‘Cause there’s Compton,
Buckeridge, Streatfield and the rest,
Have to settle for second best.

On the shelf I’ve found three,
Which one is the one for me?
I’ve found Bunter, Ballet Shoes,
Biggles and beyond,
Bobbsey Twins and Michael Bond.

Catalogues? I’ve had four,
Can’t stop sending off for more.
They’ve got Ransome, pony books,
Forest and Brazil,
Courtney, Johns and Lorna Hill.

Tolkein, Famous Five,
Won’t come out of this alive!
All my shelves are full, but I cannot
seem to stop,
I keep buying out the shop!

Boarding School Song
(Tune: Polly-Wolly-Doodle)
Now the fees are paid and the plans are made
For the story girls that go to boarding school,
So the packing’s done and the fun’s begun
For the story girls that go to boarding school,
They’re all game for a laugh,
They’re the story girls that go to boarding school;
For they sing and play, practise sports all day,
They’re the story girls that go to boarding school.Well, the girls have names that all sound the same,
They’re the story girls that go to boarding school,
‘Cos there’s Darryl, Cheryl, Merrill, Beryl, Polly, Molly, Dolly,
They’re the story girls that go to boarding school,
They’re all game . . .

If your music’s smart or you’re good at art,
Then you’re sure to win a prize at boarding school,
To the Sorbonne or the Conservatoire,
For the story girls that go to boarding school,
They’re all game . . .

When the time has come and the girls move on,
They’re all very sad to leave their boarding school,
But they’ll meet nice men and they’ll marry them,
And they’ll send their daughters off to boarding school!
They’re all game . . .

At the first session we were introduced to a young man, Leo Robson, who is a reporter for the Daily Express, and was going to be sitting in on many of the sessions in order to write about the Conference for his newspaper. Most of the time he sat at the back of the main lecture theatre and was not noticed, but for a discussion group titled “Why I still Read these Books at my age”, he had to sit on the floor near the front of the smaller room. As we were bringing forth all the benefits we gain by reading ‘these books’, I was wondering what a young male person must be making of all this. His article was due to be published on Wednesday 23rd August – while we were still in UK – but did not appear until Monday 28th, which was the day we arrived back in Wellington, but luckily a friend in UK has sent me a copy. I am here quoting from the end of the article.

Throughout the weekend, something nagged me. What brought these women here? Many of them repeated how “sad” it was to be so obsessed, but here they were. The final event was a discussion group entitled: “Why I still read these books at my age.” I was keen to find out. Were the women there because they were in the grip of obsession? No. They were here out of love.

Love of nostalgia. None of the women had experienced a childhood similar to that depicted in the books, but then few of today’s children attend boarding schools specialising in witchcraft and wizardry, and that doesn’t stop J K Rowling. So it was nostalgia for the childhood in which they first read the books.

And love of escapism – friendship, larks, adventure. One of the women at the weekend summed it up perfectly. She said that the books conjured up “the childhood that I wanted but didn’t have… and I’m still dreaming about it.

Barbara Robertson
FDNW Committee & Editor of The Abbey Gatehouse


Girls Gone By Publishers is a publishing venture run by Clarissa Cridland and Ann Mackie-Hunter. They re-publish some of the most popular girls’ fiction from the twentieth century, concentrating on those titles that are most sought after, and difficult to find on the second-hand market. They aim is to make these books available at affordable prices, and to make ownership possible not only for existing collectors but also for new collectors so that the survival of the books is continued. They also publish some new titles that fit into this genre.

New titles recently announced

Jo to the Rescue by Elinor M. Brent-Dyer
Joey and Co. in Tirol by Elinor M. Brent-Dyer
The School on the Moor by Dorita Fairlie Bruce
Evelyn Finds Herself by Josephine Elder (Fun in the Fourth title)
The House of the Paladin by Violet Needham
Jen of the Abbey School by Elsie J Oxenham
Juliet of the Chalet School by Caroline German
The Nightbird by Monica Edwards
Seven White Gates by Malcolm Saville
Black Banner Abroad by Geoffrey Trease


Authors whose books have been published include:
Elinor M. Brent-Dyer (and fill-in titles), Margaret Briggs, Angela Brazil, Dorita Fairlie Bruce, Julia Cotter, Gwendoline Courtney, Monica Edwards, Antonia Forest, Lorna Hill, Helen McClelland, Clare Mallory, Viiolet Needham, Elsie Jeanette Oxenham, Malcolm Saville, Geoffrey Trease and non-fiction titles.

Further information is available from the publisher’s website


New on the FDNW Website

  • the 2006 newsletters
  • the AGM minutes
  • the text of the The Susan Price Collection of 20th Century children’s books from the 1930s to the present day
  • the texts of the Notes-Books-Authors 5 & 6:

Number 5:Charles Hamilton & the ” All Blacks”,by R V Moss (September 1995)
Number 6:J H Ewing and the self-determined child,by Julie K Eberly(June 1996)

Having Notes-Books-Authors on the website has generated some interest from both researchers and those wishing to purchase copies. Further editions will be added as time allows.

Further photographs have been added to the picture gallery and an “ask for information” electronic query form has been developed.

Suggestions and contributions to the site are welcomed by webmaster Jeff Hunt. (phone 04 479 6123 / email /or contact through the website

Small town author took book world by storm

Statue of COLIN THIELE, AC. WRITER 16.11.1920 – 4.9.2006
Statue of COLIN THIELE, AC. WRITER 16.11.1920 – 4.9.2006

COLIN THIELE, AC. WRITER 16.11.1920 – 4.9.2006
A tourist driving northwards from the Barossa Valley might be surprised to find, at the entrance to a township, a bronze statue, not of an explorer or a politician, but, of all things, an Australian writer. “Welcome to Eudunda, the birthplace of Colin Thiele,” says a sign.

For an Australian writer to be so honoured, and in his own lifetime, is highly unusual. But then Colin Thiele, who died last week, was an unusual man.

Thiele is best remembered as the author of the children’s novel Storm boy, and the film that was made of the book, yet Storm boy was just one of more than 100 books across various genres that he had published. Although he is universally esteemed as a children’s author – he won national book prizes in the Netherlands and Austria (twice) – for the first 20 years of his writing life he wrote little but poetry. His output was prodigious.

Colin Milton Thiele was born into South Australia’s dour, phlegmatic, hard-working German-speaking community about which he was to write so affectionately inThe sun on the stubble, Uncle Gustav’s ghosts, The shadow on the hills and The valley between.

He was educated at Kapunda High School and Adelaide University, and served in the RAAF in the Northern Territory and New Guinea during World War II. After the war he taught English for 10 years at Port Lincoln, and was an inspirational teacher with a natural affinity with young people. Some of his pupils were the sons of fishermen, as was Snook, the young hero of Blue Fin. This novel, and others such as The Hammerhead Light, Magpie Island and Seashores and shadows arose from his experiences in and around Port Lincoln. During his time there he started writing what, in time, was to amount to hundreds of ABC radio programs, including plays, talks, verse and children’s features.

In 1958, while at sea en route to the US to take up a Fulbright Scholarship, he wrote his first full-length children’s book, The Sun on the Stubble. He lectured in English at Wattle Park Teachers College, becoming its principal in 1965. He was later principal of Murray Park CAE (1973) and, until his retirement in 1980, director of the Wattle Park Teachers Centre. In 1977 he was made a Companion of the Order of Australia (AC) for his services to literature and education.

Although South Australia’s best-loved son, he spent the last decade of his life in Queensland, partly to be close to his two daughters and his grandchildren, but also for the beneficial climate – he suffered from severe rheumatoid arthritis. Although in constant pain, Thiele never showed it: it was not in his nature to complain. His body was a United Nations of artificial joints (Irish knees, Swiss hips, German elbows etc.), all of which set alarm bells ringing at airports, to the delight of his grandchildren. A pig’s valve kept his heart going. Yet he remained always happy, cheerful, positive and full of fun. There was no room in his make-up for self-pity. Thiele was a great teller of jokes, and responded with his distinctive explosive laugh at the jokes of others. From his hospital bed on the morning of his last day of life, he was chuckling on the telephone to his wife Rhonda. In 1987 an 11-year-old girl wrote to Thiele asking if he would write a novel about a child with juvenile arthritis. “My friends don’t seem to understand why I can’t run or play lots of games they play, and by you writing this book maybe they will understand,” she told him. And so he did. In Jodie’s Journey, a gritty young arthritic says, “You can’t afford to drop your bundle. You have to get on top of it, or it’ll get on top of you.”

Thiele’s hands were so crippled and twisted they resembled clenched claws. To turn on a kitchen tap was excruciating, so he devised a kind of wrench to do the job. How he was able to write with such a shrivelled hand is a mystery. Even harder to understand is how, in a demanding full-time job as an educator and administrator, he found time to write at all, let alone so much – such as his massive biography of the painter Hans Heysen, and a complete history of state education in South Australia.

In fact, he often began writing at midnight, switching off the rest of his life to do so. Again, it’s that single-minded self-discipline, the Teutonic determination to get things done, and done thoroughly and properly, without excuses. He once said,”Writers can’t afford to sit and wait for shafts of divine inspiration to fall upon them like rays of Pentecostal light. They need to rely on their own creative energy. They need, simply, to get on with it.” Which is what he always did.

Thiele, the most amenable, talented, hard-working, modest and versatile of storytellers, and the least egocentric – an editor’s dream – was the most remarkable and inspiring man I have ever met. I was privileged to have known him, and to be his friend.

He is survived by Rhonda, his loving and dynamic wife of more than 60 years, his daughters Sandy and Janne, seven grandchildren and one great-grandchild.

A tribute by Walter McVitty, Colin Thiele’s publisher.

Published in The Age, September 14, 2006

Answers to the Girls Gone By Conference introductory exercise

link back to quiz Penny Morchard and Bill Melbury are both characters in the five Bannermere / Bannerdale books by Geoffrey Trease. Thanks to the amazing Kidlit – The Children’s Literature Character Database at for the answer – and for further information see “The world of Bannermere” by Jim Mackenzie at


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