Welcome to the book blog of writer and creative writing tutor, Diane Paul.

Thanks to the publishers and kind PR people who send me books and releases about their clients' books for review. Press releases and review copies of fiction and non-fiction are always welcome. (No sci-fi, fantasy or erotica please.)

Due to the barrage of requests from self-published authors for reviews, I'm unable to deal with them all, although I'm sometimes drawn to non-fiction for the subject matter. And because I love print books, the smell, the touch of the paper and the sight of the words, I don't have an electronic reader or review e-books.

E-mail to: bookblogforbookworms@keywordeditorial.com for the postal address.

My writing website: http://www.keywordeditorial.com/

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Mabel Lucie Attwell's story

Mabel Lucie Attwell (1879-1964)

Rummaging round a second-hand book sale, I found an old quarto size Lucie Attwell's Annual, gifted to Nancy Brindle by her aunt for Christmas 1934. So, if you're wondering what happened to that chunky children's tome, Nancy, wherever you are, I've got it. These children's books were published by Dean & Son, Ltd of 6 La Belle Sauvage, Ludgate Hill, London EC4 and they were beautifully illustrated with colour plates mounted on the pages and glossy coloured prints of cherub-cheeked children, pixies and elves.

Attwell was a book illustrator in the early part of the 20th century, having studied at the Regent School of Art and Heatherley's School of Art but failed to complete her courses because she liked to have free rein over what she drew. The chubby-cheeked children with the chunky legs were modelled on her little daughter, Peggy Wickham who became an illustrator herself. Attwell also illustrated a Hodder & Stoughton edition of Peter Pan and Wendy by J M Barrie, among many that she drew for books, magazines, advertisements, postcards and greeting cards.

She was born in Mile End, London in 1879 and she rose to popularity during the 1930s and 40s. She married the artist Harold Earnshaw in 1908. They met at the St Martin's School of Art and both contributed to the ILN Group of magazines, such as Britannia & Eve. She moved to Cornwall to live with her son, Peter in 1945 and died there on 5 November 1964.

I remember these annuals well, if only for the large black typography on the lovely thick pages that I used to tear into pieces, screw up into balls and chew as a toddler, just to annoy The Sister, who thought I was mad.

The characters in them had names like Bertie Bunnie, Babs and Bunty (she seems to have favoured the 'B's). Bunty goes for a visit to London Town with her imaginary elves, the Boo Boos, smartening them up first with baths and new suits. Bunty has an argument at the station as the clerk doesn't know how many Boo Boos go to one ticket. Nothing changed there then...It contains lots of twee poems about going to jolly parties or gathering flowers gay and various activity pages for cutting out, like Billum B Boo who couldn't make up his mind whether to be a bobbie or a sailor. Readers are urged to help 'this queer Billy B Boo' by painting him a suit in blue. It all seems so innocent compared to what kids get up to these days.

But I doubt if the story, Betty's Black Brother would pass muster these days and rightly so. Betty, aged five receives a letter from Africa. Her parents live there apparently and they're on their way home with a baby brother for her. Betty loves her little black doll, Yao Yao best, so she's looking forward to a brother who looks just like him. When her parents arrive with the new bundle, Betty is very upset to find he is white. Mother gives her a paint box to calm her down. Seems she didn't want a little white brother...'He did look rather a pet although he was white...', but she thinks he would be 'prettier' if he were black. So she takes her paintbox and sets to work on him with the black paint. Mum, after the initial shock, understands how she feels but explains genteelly that when baby grows up, 'he would just hate to be different to other English boys.' She illustrates this by a bed of roses of various hues and compares them to children, saying they are all beautiful but every tree 'has its own special shade...' and that each country has 'its own special colour too,' white for England, black for Africa and brown for India. She explains that it wouldn't be right to 'rob another country's colour for our Baby...' My goodness, words fail me. I wasn't expecting to find such blinkered thinking among the pixies and elves. I'll stick to Pop and Mop, the twin Weemen who live on the borders of Goosey Glen. Heaven knows what they're going to get up to...

There's a Mabel Lucie Attwell club anyone can join on http://www.mabellucieattwellclub.com/

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