On My Bookshelf…The Patchwork Cat

A lot of my books are classics, but it’s great to share one that isn’t so well known. This one combines CATS with TEXTILES!

As usual this is/was a fave bedtime story, from 1981. It tells the story of a cat called Tabby.

The illustrations are gorgeous. Soft and delicate yet incredibly detailed. This person loves cats for sure. And Tabby kind of looks like my Bengals Tulu/Mi-Go. In it we learn how Tabby loves her life and LOVES her patchwork quilt.

And loves the Milkman (hope that’s special Cat milk he’s giving her).

The mum in the story takes he patchwork quilt away because it’s dirty and bins in. Fool. Tabby says “I think I should send this family away, I shall have the milkman here to lodge instead.” RESPECT YOUR CAT OVERLORDS.

Unfortunately she goes to retrieve said quilt from the bin and gets trapped.

Poor Tabby has to find her way back home from the dump with her quilt.

Hooray for the milkman!

Tabby is home now and the mother washes the quilt. She could have done that in the first place. ‘Tabby says, “I’ll be tired soon, so wash it now”‘. Foolish mother obeys.

How good is that?

On My Bookshelf…Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

If you follow this blog regularly you might have been thinking ‘when will she do Alice?’

My edition is a facsimile of one printed by The Bodley Head in 1907, illustrated by WH Walker. Not a very well known illustrator, and not the ‘famous’ Alice illustrator, John Tenniel. Charming nonetheless.

I like the wood engravings best.


I think the most interesting thing I can say about Alice book illustrators is how many there have been. Initially Carroll himself illustrated his story, but didn’t believe in his ability so drafted in Tenniel. Apart from an American pirate copy, no other illustrators got a look in until 1907, after Carroll’s death and the copyright had run out. Then multiple editions sprang up (including the original of mine), featuring work from loads of artists, from Arthur Rackham to Mabel Lucie Atwell.


I’m not alone, but Alice in Wonderland has always been one of my most favourite stories. So rich in fantasy and nonsense, a gift for illustrators. As a little girl there’s always this prize at the end where you think maybe it was all a dream, and if so, you can also visit this place whenever you like too.


Love this plate of the Gryphon and the Mock Turtle.

On My Bookshelf…Enid Blyton

On My Bookshelf…Enid Blyton

My Enid Blyton books were some of my bedtime stories, and the first books I had when I was learning to read as a kid. Looking at them now there’s obviously a theme because I enjoyed all the ones with a naughtly little girl at the centre the most.

Before I go on, dear reader, I feel like I ought to insert some sort of disclaimer; When I got these books off the shelf it was the first time in maybe 20 or more years I’d properly looked at them, and seeing the illustrations and skimming through the pictures as an adult is quite a reavealing experience; not only for the nostalgia and memories for me personally, but also for the fact that Enid Blyton stories are so of their time and some of the societal prejudices they reveal are quite shocking.

My Bookshelf posts are all tied together by my own personal experiences of these books, with a main focus on the visual. I am someone who has been very influenced by the ‘picture books’ throughout my life and writing these blog posts has given me the opportunity to revisit childhood and adolescent memories and also research the authors, illustrators and stories behind these titles.

Following on from Mabel Lucie Attwell, Enid Blyton was a good fit, as a nostalgic English female children’s author. But phew! She is a controversial one. I did hesitate and think a bit before sharing these. But this has always been about books that I have loved, have related to or that have influenced me, and my personal reflections on them. And I’m not a racist housewife from the 50s. So there.

Enid Blyton was born in Dulwich in London in 1897. It is estimated she wrote 800 books over 40 years, and is most famous for The Famous Five series, Noddy, and The Secret Seven. I never read these.

Blyton’s books are generally split into three types. One involves ordinary children in extraordinary situations, having adventures, solving crimes, or otherwise finding themselves in unusual circumstances. The second and more conventional type is the boarding school story; the plots of these have more emphasis on the day-to-day life at school. This is the world of the midnight feast, the practical joke, and the social interaction of the various types of character.The third type is the fantastical. Children are typically transported into a magical world in which they meet fairies, goblins, elves, pixies, or other fantasy creatures. Examples of this type are the Wishing-Chair books and The Faraway Tree. In many of her short stories, toys are shown to come alive when humans are not around. I guess the Amelia Jane books I read are a bit of a combination of all three in some ways.

Much of Blytons work has been edited in reprints to change or remove passages that are deemed racist or sexist. There are lots out there on the web about the controversies surrounding some of her titles and I don’t see my blog as the place to wade in to the debate, but needless to say you can probably tell from some of the cover illustrations, we are talking about a writer from a quite different era in her attitudes. There has been many bans of her books due to the strong gender stereotypes, class-system snobbery and in some cases horribly racist content too.

For me it’s just really fascinating to look at these now and reflect on how differently we speak to children through books today. Reading some of these is like watching a comedy sketch – they are so stuck in the 50s. I’m not going to be all politically correct for the sake of it and be dishonest – I loved these stories at the time, for all the school-age drama, jolly japes and high jinx. Charming. But I can now also recognise all the dark, xenophobic, discriminatory attitudes running through them too.

Read more on Wikipedia

On My Bookshelf…Lucie Attwell’s Goodnight Stories

On My Bookshelf…Lucie Attwell’s Goodnight Stories

Get ready for a toothache – it’s Mabel Lucie Attwell.

It’s a lovely side effect that, until I started blogging this series of posts I never really realised what a lovely collection of works I have, of some of the great classic children’s book illustrators. When I picked this week’s book and started to look through it I realised I probably haven’t done that for maybe 20 years or more, and following on from last week’s post, it’s a rare and precious thing to rediscover lost childhood memories through the pages of a beloved book. That said, this isn’t the usual fare you might expect from what Mother Eagle usually brings you. I’m afraid the pixies don’t get posioned with their picnic sandwiches here.

Although this book was published in 1984, it is an anthology of the work by Attwell that was published in annuals between 1965 and 1974. She was born in London in 1879, the daughter of a butcher. Formerly trained, but disliking the emphasis on still life and classical subjects she left art school to develop her own interest in the imaginary. She had a long successful career, but is most famous for her trademark  ‘sentimentalized rotund cuddly infants’ which were based on her daughter, Peggy.

The sweetness and nostalgia is just so England; the stories all Rock buns and blue striped Cornishware and seaside postcards. Obviously this particular book was aimed at the bedtime story-reading market, and I remember it was the whole combination of stories and illustrations that captured my imagination, and looking through the book now I recall the pages that I would look at over and over.

“[Atwell] also produced a tea set; the teapot was in the shape of a mushroom house, the sugar bowl was a mushroom with the top cut off and the milk jug was a green Boo Boo (small green elves in green suits apparently) in a coy saluting pose.”


Thanks to Wikipedia

On My Bookshelf…Mrs Babcary’s Diving Machine

On My Bookshelf…Mrs Babcary’s Diving Machine

I am being a lazy blogger. Not a lazy person though, but a very busy one. But a lazy blogger because, forgive me, I am recycling this post from September 2011, because a) it’s a book, so relevent, b) because I am too tired to write something new today, soz, and b) because it is lovely and only 16 people have viewed it. Enjoy!

Sometimes you get a little glimpse back into your childhood and rediscover something that makes you understand your grown-up self a bit more. This made me very happy.

I used to love this book, and this page was my fave. You can even see the lines around the shark where I tried to trace round it. I remember I didn’t really care about the story even all that much because I was so captivated by this picture. But the story is rather wonderful. And you know how I feel about Octopi:

“Down and down, deeper and deeper, went Captain and Mrs Babcary, into a wonderful green world of waving seaweed and wandering shoals of fish.

And there on the sea-bed was a glint of gold, a flash of jewels!

‘Treasure!’ cried the Captain. ‘Golden nobles and pieces of eight! We’re rich, we’re rich!’

They were so excited that they did not see a large, round and very angry eye gazing at them furiously.”

“It was an octopus, a huge octopus with terrible, thrashing tentacles that twisted and twined round the diving-machine.

‘I am the Guardian of the Treasure!’ roared the octopus. ‘The treasure belongs to the sea and the sea shall keep it.'”

It all gets a bit dark and scary for a children’s book. But all the best ones are, in my opinion.

At risk of giving the end away (I have no idea if this book is still in print or not), what is so especially lovely about this story is the last page. The Captain grumbles that they lost the treasure, but Mrs Babcary says:

“‘We are rich. We have a beautiful cello to live in and a beautiful boat to sail in. We have the wind and the sun and the countryside and hundreds and hundreds of friends.'”