Friday, 14 July 2017

A Bevy of B's by Lynne Benton

As I mentioned in my previous blog, on thinking of writers whose surnames began with successive letters, I realised how very many of them there were beginning with B!  So, rather than make this an extremely long blog, I’ve decided to share them between two blogs – so if your favourite doesn’t appear this time, it may well feature next month.

I have to start with the late, great MICHAEL BOND, who, sadly, has just died.  His Paddington Bear books have entertained children for years, as books, as a television series and more recently as a film.  Who doesn’t recognise the bear in a floppy hat and blue duffel coat carrying a suitcase?  Or know of his penchant for marmalade sandwiches and getting into mischief?  Truly this bear is something of a national treasure – and so is his author.

Next comes ENID BLYTON.  During the forties and fifties, as well as the early sixties, she too was counted as a national treasure, so prolific an author was she, and so well-loved by children.  But later in the sixties the powers-that-be decided she was not a good writer, and furthermore her books were sexist and racist, so for many years they were banned from schools and libraries, and she was much reviled.  Children, however, begged to differ, and continued to enjoy reading about the Famous Five, Noddy, The Faraway Tree and so on.  Now she is once again (almost) back in favour, and her Famous Five books are so well-known that there are many spoof versions on the market, (eg “Five go to Brexit Island”) though these are not for children.  Few authors have come close to her enormous output, and children still love her books.

J. M. Barrie invented Peter Pan, the boy who never grew up.  His story of Peter, who visited the Darling children one night and flew with them to Neverland, where they met the jealous fairy Tinkerbell, the Lost Boys and the villainous Captain Hook has enthralled many children since it was first written.  He first wrote it as a play in 1904 (which is still performed) and then in 1911 as a book, and now the name of Peter Pan is famous all over the world, through the books, the play and various different films, not least the Disney version from 1953.

Bringing us up-to-date again is Malorie Blackman, who writes for teenagers and whose books are extremely popular.  Her first book, “Pig-Heart Boy” deals with the problems as well as the wonders of heart transplants, and her ground-breaking “Noughts and Crosses” series deals with racial prejudice from a different perspective.  She was Children’s Laureate from 2013-15.

Frances Hodgson Burnett wrote many books in the early 1900’s, her three most famous being “Little Lord Fauntleroy” (now rarely read, though his name is legendary), “A Little Princess” and “The Secret Garden”.  In the latter the heroine, a lonely and rather unlikeable girl, discovers a wonderful secret garden and two new friends.

Anthony Buckeridge is perhaps not so well-known these days, but his very funny “Jennings” series first appeared on radio Children’s Hour in the fifties and became instantly popular.  Set in a boys’ preparatory school, despite being a world unfamiliar to most children listening the stories dealt with universal themes of school and friendship, and the often unintentional havoc wrought by Jennings and his friend Darbishire.  Anthony Buckeridge subsequently wrote several more books about the pair. 

Another classic – Charlotte Bronte, although not specifically a children’s author, is nevertheless often introduced to children in their early teens via her most famous book, “Jane Eyre”.  The orphaned Jane’s childhood is miserable, but she grows up to become a governess to the young niece of Mr Rochester at Thornfield Hall, and for a while her future looks more promising.  However, there are many bumps in the road before Jane finds her destiny.

Nina Bawden’s most famous book is probably “Carrie’s War”, set during WW2 when Carrie and her young brother are evacuated to Wales.  This book has been dramatized several times for television and theatre and is perennially popular.

Frank Baum is the author of the unforgettable “Wizard of Oz”.  Although it is the film which is best-known, Baum wrote 14 books in all in the Oz series.  He was born in America in 1856, where the books are rather more famous than they are in the UK, but the film, and the story, will never be forgotten.

The last of my Bevy of B's for this blog is Raymond Briggs, author/illustrator of “The Snowman,”  “Father Christmas”, “Fungus the Bogeyman” and many others.  The film of “The Snowman”, with music by Howard Blake, is now a part of every Christmas television viewing, and is a deceptively simple tale of a small boy who builds a snowman which comes to life and takes him on a magical journey.

However, before I close, since my surname also begins with B, I’d just like to add a small puff for my latest book, “The Centurion’s Son”, which is now available on Amazon.  In Roman Britain a boy’s search for his missing father reveals corruption and murder affecting the whole Legion. 

More B’s next time…


Helen Larder said...

Great stuff! Thanks, Lynne. Those brought back a lot of memories and I loved your book xxxx

Sue Purkiss said...

A very succinct round-up! Thanks, Lynne.

Sue Purkiss said...

A very succinct round-up! Thanks, Lynne.

Lynne Benton said...

Thanks, both - glad you enjoyed my list!