Sunday, October 19, 2014

Anything Can Happen

Alpine Choughs

I've always been curious about the birds that Susan couldn't identify in Susan Interferes. In Chapter 8 of this book, Susan, the Carmichaels and the Gascoignes go to the top of Mount Pilatus, where Susan is intrigued by some strange birds. "Huge black birds with gleaming feathers, red feet and yellow bills hopped tamely about... Susan wondered if they were ravens, but not even the Gascoignes, who usually knew everything, could tell her." Unlike Susan, people today have access to the internet and it doesn't take long to find out more about these birds. They are called Alpine Choughs and they are a type of crow. They are found all over southern Europe, northern Africa, central Asia, India and China. They nest at a higher altitude than any other bird and their eggs are specially adapted for the thinner atmosphere up on the mountains. They are also known as yellow-billed choughs or alpendohles.

Notes on House of the Glimmering Light

While the blog was on hiatus a couple of months ago, I finally found a copy of House of the Glimmering Light and have read it twice. It was a particular favourite of Jane Shaw herself, although it is quite different from anything else she wrote. Here are some notes on the book:

1. Unlike Sara & Caroline, Dizzy & Alison and Susan & Midge, the heroines are not cousins; nor are they sisters like Penny & Jill, or even best friends like Ricky, Julie & Fay. Angela and Noël are not related at all and don't even meet each other until well into Chapter 2;

2. Noël plays imaginary musical instruments when she's thinking. At various points in the story, she plays an imaginary violin, flute and piano;
3. The story is in every respect a war story, with references to Hitler, Ribbentrop, evacuations and a Fifth Column;
4. The story is set entirely in Scotland, beginning with Angela's train approaching Dalmally and the rest of the story taking place at Tighanleys on Loch Etive, the village of Connel Ferry and Oban.

Quote of the Day

They were walking up over the lawn, the four girls and Timothy, when a young man appeared, of such surpassing elegance that they were all struck dumb: his shirt was of silk, his flannels so white, so faultlessly creased, his shoes such elegant creations in brown and white, that they all stopped and gaped at him, except Timothy who carried straight on. The vision came up, removed a fat, rich-smelling Turkish cigarette from his mouth and smiled easily and charmingly. In a rich, beautifully modulated voice, he murmured, "Good afternoon." It was quite obvious that the only thing in the world he was interested in was to find out what they wanted and to get it for them immediately.

From THE CREW OF THE BELINDA, Chapter 14, Treasure on the Waters.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Places in Jane Shaw: Binic

View of the green and blue sea from the Sentier des Douaniers, which features in Susan's Kind Heart.

Quote of the Day

Perhaps it was this threat, perhaps it was just her natural ability, but by half-time Isobel had let no goals through. But neither had Manor scored: the Dragons knew all about Katherine, and were muffling her completely. The Dragons were so far the better side, but thanks to Isobel and dogged defence, the Manors had prevented them from scoring. And in the end it was Isobel who was responsible for the one goal of the match.

From THE MOOCHERS, Chapter 10, The Hoard Again.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Gail and Michael

An illustration from Chapter 11, of Northmead Nuisance. Gail and Michael discuss their plan to get expelled from Northmead and St. Martin's, respectively. Michael has lost all enthusiasm for the idea, but Gail still wants to go ahead - sort of. This scene takes place at Appleacre just before the end of the half-term break.

Quote of the Day

They handed Peregrine over to his doting mother and had much pleasure in telling her that her darling boy had just been rescued from a sort of kidnapper - not that anyone wanted to kidnap Pea-green, sorry, Peregrine, it was Rudi whom the kidnapper was after - Pea-green, sorry, Peregrine, was only a minor accomplice, but that they hadn't time to stop and explain then. "And I hope that thought gives her pleasant dreams!" said Susan.

From SUSAN INTERFERES, Chapter 12, Auf Wiedersehen!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Penny Foolish

An illustration from Chapter 6 of Penny Foolsih, The Man. Miss Cook's accomplice has followed Jill to Arran and mistakes Penny for her sister.

Quote of the Day

"This is nice," said Sara next morning, as they drove through a lovely, undulating, wooded landscape. John's hat, the luggage and the cap on the petrol tank all safe, "but I wish we could come to the Black Forest."
"This is the Black Forest," said John.
"But it's not black," Sara wailed.
"It's not even a forest," sniffed Caroline.

From BERNESE ADVENTURE, Chapter 8.

Monday, October 13, 2014

The Gallery at Knole (Claire)

In Chapter 9 of New House at Northmead, Claire Revisited, history enthusiast Lynette is fascinated with the stately home and makes many notes and draws sketches in her notebook to help her with her history essay. After finishing her notes, "she skidded down the highly polished floor to the other two, who, for lack of anything better to do, were studying Van Dyck's portrait of the fourth Earl of Claire that the present Earl had pointed out to them".

The Great Staircase at Knole (Claire)

Today's quote is from Chapter 11 of New House at Northmead when the girls fall down the stairs at Claire. In real life, Claire is actually Knole House near Sevenoaks in Kent. The house is described as being visible from the grounds of Northmead. Nicky, Kay and Lynette are befriended by Lord Claire, who tells them that there are 365 rooms in the house, " for the days of the year, and seven courts for the days of the week and fifty-two staircases forthe weeks of the year." Knole is indeed considered to be a calendar house. The old earl also told the girls that the house is haunted by a ghost that only appears when there is a full moon. Although there are legends of ghosts at Knole, appearing only at a full moon is not one of their characteristics.

Quote of the Day

Suddenly Nicky's foot, as she slid it carefully in front of her, met empty air. "Hi!" she said. "Wait! There's nothing here! It's, it's..." She explored cautiously with her foot. "I do believe it's the stair!"
They heaved great sighs of relief and started a careful descent. All would have been well if they had remembered that the Great Staircase had two bends in it. The first they negotiated successfully, but at the second they tried to go straight on when the stair turned to the left. They lost their balance, stumbled and fell and went clattering and tumbling to the bottom - as Lord Claire unlocked the great door and held aloft a storm lantern.

From NEW HOUSE AT NORTHMEAD, Chapter 11, Rescue.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Jane Shaw Artists (2): R. A. Branton

Most readers who have enjoyed the Susan books will recognize the leading character as she was portrayed in the illustrations by R. A. Branton. Some of his drawings in the books are not credited, but he does get a credit in all the Collins annuals. However, like other artists of his day, very little is known about him. Whereas Gilbert Dunlop's family continue to celebrate their father's work by holding exhibitions, no such tradition holds true for Mr. Branton. But my friend Elizabeth Lindsay set out to discover what she could about him, and I did a little investigating of my own. Elizabeth's inquiries were answered by Steve from Collecting Books and Magazines:

His full name was Robert Arthur Branton (1883-1961). He was originally a shipping clerk but later an artist who illustrated a number of children's books in the 1960s. Leslie Branton, his son, was the prolific comic strip artist from the 1950s to the 1970s, having started his career in advertising studios in the 1930s.

So, at least we know something about him. But Steve's reply reminded me of a message I received about a year ago from a woman called Jill Lamb, who said she was R. A. Branton's granddaughter. She claimed that the colour frontispiece for Susan at School was not drawn by her grandfather. It was actually drawn by her father. The illustrations in this book are not credited to anyone. The front cover is obviously by R. A. Branton, but Susan does look a little different in the frontispiece. I asked Ms. Lamb for more information, but received no reply. I did an internet search and found that she had posted a message about her father and another artist on a website. Her father had employed this other artist in his studio at one point. This led me to ask another question: why would an artist have to employ another artist? Could it be that, given the huge amount of work that some artists are credited for, they actually outsource some of their work or have people to help them in their studios? After all, if you search any database, like Goodreads, or any used book website, like Abe Books, for works illustrated by R. A. Branton, you turn up literally hundreds of results. Would it be possible for one person to produce all this on his own? Once again, I turned to Collecting Books and Magazines, and John Tipper informed me that such a situation is indeed possible and that he knew for certain of at least one case. Artists have assistants called stringers. He explained how it all worked:

Eagle comic used a team in the 1950s and it was commonplace among the bigger publishers, so no doubt it applied to children's book illustrators as well. The top man or woman would do the coloured DJ plus frontispiece and a 2nd stringer would do the line ilos.

So there we have it. As well as the Susan stories, R. A. Branton provided the illustrations for other stories of Jane Shaw that were published in the Collins annuals, including Family Trouble and Crooks Limited. That's two of the Jane Shaw artists taken care of. Now I have to find out more about Robert Hodgson, who illustrated the Northmead Books, and Thelma Lambert, who provided the illustrations for Anything Can Happen.

Quote of the Day

"The old Houses are full of tradition," Kay said coldly.
"Really?" said Lynette. "Is that why they're so dark and dingy?"
Kay and Nicky did not deign to reply to this, mainly because they couldn't think of an answer, and Lynette, who was leaning against the window looking across the school grounds, with the park and the lake and the orchards, to Claire, the great house on the other side of the valley, said, "Doesn't it ever stop raining in this place?"
"Of course it does!" said Nicky indignantly. "It has stopped now." She glanced out of the window. "Well, almost."

From NEW HOUSE AT NORTHMEAD, Chapter 1, The New House.

Fivepenny Mystery Cover

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Quote of the Day

Well, of course, said Gail smugly. "And I've got second sight, don't forget. This is the disaster I saw in your tea-cups!"
"Oh, fiddle," said Kay. "It's easy enough to foretell a disaster when you cause it."

From NORTHMEAD NUISANCE, Chapter 7, A Plan Gone Wrong.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Jane Shaw Artists (1): Gilbert Dunlop

The spine from the first book in the Penny Series, Penny Foolish. My copy is a Britannic edition, lavishly illustrated and with a colour frontispiece. The illustration shows the leading charcter out for a walk in the hills of Arran. All of the Penny stories were illustrated by Gilbert Dunlop, who also illustrated other Nelson titles such as the three Thomas books and Venture to South Africa.

Gilbert Dunlop (1909-1984) was brought up in Alloa, Scotland. At the age of 18, he went to work for D. C. Thomson in Dundee, where he would spend the greater part of his life. He was hired on the strength of his talent alone. Apart from attending a few classes at the Dundee School of Art, he had no formal training. He had a varied career. During World War II, he served in the RAF. After the war, he worked mainly as an illustrator of children's books, but also designed greetings cards and did a great deal of painting. In the 1970s, he worked only as a freelancer. His output was prolific. When he passed away, he left a large collection of his work, which is still displayed in exhibitions today. His daughter Jennifer and granddaughter Jo also became artists and have run an exhibition called Four Artists: A Family Affair, with their own work, paintings by Gilbert Dunlop and his nephew Hamish. But to most people, Gilbert Dunlop will be remembered for his drawings in children's books. In addition to Jane Shaw, he illustrated many books by Enid Blyton and other authors such as Winifred Darch, Mollie Chappel and Buster Brown, to name only a few. His work also appeared in Collins' annuals, in one case (see below) alongside the illustrator of the Susan books, R. A. Branton. Both artists provided drawings for the 1954 Girls' Annual: R. A. Branton illustrated The Wilsons Won't Mind, while Gilbert Dunlop provided the artwork for Beware of Uncles by Anne Barrett.

Quote of the Day

Mrs. Thorne, as usual, seemed pleased to see them. She was delighted with her hot-water bottle cover too, and Susan, hopping from foot to foot, thought that these polite preliminaries would go on all night. "Mrs. Thorne," she burst in when she couldn't stand it any longer, "we're most frightfully interested in your lion's skin and this that's written on it saying that James Martin shot it, and we were wondering very much if you could tell us anything about this James Martin and where you got the lion's skin-"
"I can tell you plenty about James Martin," said Mrs. Thorne, smiling, "because he was my brother!"

From SUSAN RUSHES IN, Chapter 11, Lion's Skin.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Twopence Coloured Colour Frontispiece

The colour frontis of Twopence Coloured from the Britannic Series. My Triumph edition has the same illustration, but in black and white. The entire Penny series was illustrated by Scottish artist Gilbert Dunlop. I would like to thank Naomi for sending me this scan.

Quote of the Day

I was just drifting off when suddenly a hand was digging into my shoulder and someone was breathing in my ear in a very tickly way.
"Whasser marrer?" I murmured sleepily.
"Denny!" It was Prune, all dramatic and agitated. "Denny, wake up!"
I moved my ear out of reach and leant upon my elbow. "Well, I am awake," I whispered. "Who wouldn't be with you yelling right in my ear-hole. "What's up?"
"Denny, there's something in my bed!"
This, I must admit, was a surprise. "What sort of a something?" I asked.
"Denny, I don't quite know! I'm petrified--"

From A GIRL WITH IDEAS, Chapter 2, The Mouse Club.