Sunday, November 29, 2020

Bookshelf Traveling - November 29

Time for another round of Bookshelf Traveling in Insane Times which was created by Judith at Reader in the Wilderness and is currently hosted by Katrina at Pining for the West. This is a shelf in my guest room where most of the children’s books live and contains three favorite British authors: Ruth M. Arthur, Elfrida Vipont, and Joan Aiken.

Ruth M. Arthur (1905-79) was the pen name of Ruth Mabel Arthur Huggins, a Scottish born author best known for the unnerving A Candle in Her Room. Many of Arthur's books reflected her interest in old houses, ghosts, and in the forces that give places as well as people individuality, and were illustrated by the talented Margery Gill (familiar to Puffin readers).  Arthur is mostly ignored in my Children’s Literature reference books but The Encyclopedia of Fantasy states:
Most of her early work, like the Brownie sequence – The Crooked Brownie (1936), The Crooked Brownie in Town (1942) and The Crooked Brownie at the Seaside (1942) – is for younger children, but with Dragon Summer (1962) and A Candle in her Room (1966) she began to produce the Timeslip romances for which she became best-known. They typically feature a teenage girl on the verge of adolescence, a crisis dramatically resolved through her absorption in an earlier, exemplary life-situation. In Requiem for a Princess (1967) an adopted girl timeslips to 16th-century Spain and into the Soul of a girl destined to drown: a fate similar to but instructively more severe than being adopted. On the Wasteland (1975) sends an orphan back to Viking times, where she becomes the betrothed daughter of an important chief. RMA also wrote some Ghost Stories, like The Autumn People (1973; vt The Autumn Ghosts 1976) and Miss Ghost (1979), in which the process is reversed: Ghosts visit girls in trouble and offer solutions.
My favorite books by Ruth Arthur are probably The Saracen Lamp, The Autumn People, and Requiem for a Princess (set in Cornwall). In the US, she was published by Margaret McElderry at Atheneum, and it was such a treat when a new book appeared at the library.

Elfrida Vipont (1902-92) was a noted Quaker writer of adult and children’s books. She is best known for the first two books of five about the Haverard family, The Lark in the Morn and The Lark on the Wing; the latter won the Carnegie Medal as outstanding new English-language book for children or young adults in 1951. During the initial lockdown, I read all five in order for the first time, planning to review all her books. I only did three before I got distracted by some other author but I see the two about young Laura Haverard haven’t made it back to their shelf yet. Don’t you hate when there is no one to blame but yourself when books are out of order?
Joan Aiken (1924-2004) likely needs no introduction to readers. The Wolves of Willoughby Chase (my review of The Whispering Mountain has a picture showing the Aiken paperbacks on the shelf above) is a classic gothic, about intrepid Bonnie and her cousin Sylvia’s misadventures when Bonnie’s parents disappear unexpectedly. The Wolves series then takes a surprising turn in Black Hearts in Battersea with a brilliant alternate-history backdrop in which James II was never deposed and it is the Hanoverians always plotting for the throne. I will admit this went over my head during my first read before I’d learned any British History but my mother greatly appreciated it. Aiken’s books were varied and include short stories, adult suspense, and Jane Austen homages. She won an Edgar Allan Poe Award (1972) for Night Fall, and I actually remember splurging on a postcard so the library would tell me when it came in, although I suspected it would be too scary for me. I was thrilled to meet her at a book signing in New York.
Night Fall was really not a children's book, although my elementary school library eventually got a copy (oddly enough, that very copy is upstairs; I blame Andrea).  The Kirkus review captures this book well:  
First, falling from a cliff. . . then a face moving back and forth in the dark, suddenly appearing in another spot. . . the frozen certainty that something unbearable is about to happen: this dream has haunted nineteen-year-old Meg for ten years, ever since she went to live with her unfeeling English father after her mother's death. Now engaged and determined to exorcise the dream before her marriage, Meg drives to the remote Cornwall village of Penleggen where, at five, she actually did fall from a cliff. 


Katrina said...

I'm ashamed to say that I've never read anything by Ruth M Arthur and don't recall her being mentioned in any of the books about children's literature I have either, but I know the name, perhaps she appeared in Lucy Mangan's book Bookworm. I loved Black Hearts in Battersea though.

CLM said...

Ruth Arthur was from Glasgow but lived in England as an adult so perhaps Scotland lost its proprietary feelings towards her. Keep your eyes open for her books as they are always in great demand.

I bought that Lucy Mangan book at the beginning of the shutdown but have not read it yet. That might be nice for Christmas Day. I am also saving the new Louise Penny.

TracyK said...

Both of these authors are new to me, although Joan Aiken sounds familiar. I am going to a book sale that may have chidren's books so I will look around for them.

My books are never in any order. But I do catalog them, so most of the time I can find them.

LyzzyBee said...

I love Joan Aiken's books, esp the Black Hearts in Battersea, etc. ones.