Posted by: billpurdue | May 26, 2012

Another favourite from the 1950s

Last time I promised to write about another of my childhood favourites. Who remembers “BB”, or to give him his proper name Denys Watkins-Pitchford (1905 – 1990)? BB wrote for children and adults and also illustrated his own books as well as those by other authors.

Amongst his many children’s books, the one that possibly stands out above all the others is The Little Grey Men [OUP £6.99 978-0192719461], described by the BB Society website as “the greatest book about gnomes in the English language”. It’s said that it was inspired by the sighting, when BB was a child, of one of the little people in his bedroom. It is illustrated with BB’s own scraperboard and colour pictures. The story of Dodder, Baldmoney, Cloudberry, and Sneezewort continues in Down the Bright Stream [OUP £6.99 978-0192792044]

I can’t remember whether or not I actually read those two books, but the one I do remember is BB’s The Forest of Boland Light Railway, sadly no longer in print, but obtainable from second hand booksellers online. It’s about a colony of gnomes who make their living quarrying for precious metals and transporting them on the light railway, but a band of leprechauns threatens to destroy their way of life. I suppose I remember it well as I have been a railway fan for as long as I can remember, so a good story that involves railways was always a sure fire hit with me.

The other series of books written for children by BB were the Bill Badger books – I can’t remember these though I expect I may have come across them.

Anyone interested in BB might like to look at the BB Society website, where there is, amongst other things, a detailed biography and a list of all his books for both children and adults. By the way, apparently the pseudonym “BB” is derived from the size of lead shot Watkins-Pitchford used to shoot geese.

I’ll write more about children’s books of the 1950s in the next posting as my cousin in Canada has sent me a very interesting list of the books he read in 1952.

More recommendations

As I said last time, it’s always good to find out what friends have enjoyed reading.

The first in this category this time is 100 Years of Railways [Ammonite Press £14.99 978-1906672522], a photographic album, all the photos having been chosen from the archives of the Press Association covering just about every aspect of railways in the UK that you can think of. It’s not just a series of photos of steam locomotives, so it’s not just for railway enthusiasts, but enthusiasts will probably enjoy it!

The photos date from the first decade of the 20th Century to 2009. It’s one of a series of books (“Twentieth Century in Pictures”) covering such topics as Aviation, The Seaside, Britain at War and various sports.

The second is a book which a friend has read as a member of a reading group. The Behaviour of Moths by Poppy Adams [Virago £7.99 978-1844084883] seems to have had a mixed reception from reviewers – and not just those that have posted comments on Amazon. Seventy year old Virginia or “Ginny” awaits the return of her sister after 50 years and reminisces about times gone by. Possibly the best review of this book which I’ve found is on the blog “Booksnob”. The reviewer was far from impressed, but then it might all be a matter of taste.

Next time – I have just read my first “Wilt” book.

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