Return of the Jedi Annual by Archie Goodwin (Marvel, 1983) A 62-page graphic novelisation, drawn with moody backgrounds and an occasionally lurid palette. The story is a bit rushed once it reaches Endor, but for the most part this is an exciting, faithful retelling and a boon prior to home media release.
The Famous 5 and the Golden Galleon by Serge Rosenzweig & Bernard Dufossé (Hodder and Stoughton, 1983) A dirty drawing style in which Julian and Anne look rather too similar, as do Dick and George, and all four children have been modelled on Mick Jagger. The adventure is a typical Famous Five romp, only with frequent bouts of fisticuffs.
Wilberforce and the Blue Cave by Leslie Coleman; ill. John Laing (Blackie and Son, 1974 / Hamlyn, 1977) An innocent chapter book adventure weakened by several allusions far above the reading level, and by the rampant proliferation of stereotypes. The humorous appeal seems predicated on the fact that Wilberforce and friends perform everyday acts (unfolding maps, etc.) while living underwater.
The Summer of the Swans by Betsy Byars; ill. Ted CoConis (Viking, 1970 / Puffin, 1981) A simple, almost innocuous story, lent narrative power by its non-pandering depiction of character. Charlie, who is mentally disabled, appears likely to be the focus, yet it is his 14-year-old sister Sara whose adolescent problems are lent perspective when Charlie goes missing.
Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator by Roald Dahl (Alfred A. Knopf, 1972); audiobook read by Douglas Hodge (Random House Audio, 2013) A protracted example of Dahl’s rollicking lunacy, though in this instance lacking a greater storyline to lend substance beyond the jovial alien invasion, American caricaturing, silly rhymes, and terrible comeuppances visited upon cantankerous adults. Douglas Hodge narrates a…
The Cinema Swindle by Terrance Dicks (Blackie, 1980) Again, a somewhat underwhelming mystery. Mickey, the most rambunctious but least interesting of the Irregulars, sees some action, but the others do very little. The book is most noteworthy for its frank, even nostalgic depiction of the seedier side of 1970s London.
The Haunting by Margaret Mahy (Atheneum, 1982); audiobook read by Richard Mitchley (Bolinda, 2015) A surprising, decidedly non-formulaic play on genre expectations. The speculative element remains secondary to what Mahy does best—which is to depict relatable child characters (usually of the unheralded variety) surviving and even flourishing in unromanticised, often broken or ‘found’ family settings.
Hot Water by P G Wodehouse (Herbert Jenkins, 1932); audiobook read by Jonathan Cecil (Blackstone, 2012) Not from one of Wodehouse’s famous series, but ably representative of his work. There are facetious conversations and flippant undertakings aplenty—ill-fated engagements; romantic entanglements and misunderstandings; comedowns and comeuppances—all steaming towards each other like ocean liners converging on an iceberg.
The Franchise Affair by Josephine Tey (Peter Davies, 1948); audiobook read by Carole Boyd (Audible Studios, 2011) An Inspector Alan Grant mystery where Grant is, at best, a subsidiary character. There is also very little mystery or investigation! The novel is more a character study and a depiction of (and social commentary on) village life post- Second World War.
Agaton Sax and the Max Brothers by Nils-Olof Franzén; ill. Quentin Blake (Andre Deutsch, 1970) [also published as “Agaton Sax and the Bank Robbers”] Assured and often droll (especially the conversations) but lacking the madcap joie de vivre of other Agaton Sax capers. The great detective’s secretive master-plan lacks the usual proactiveness—he and Lispington mostly trail after the crooks, indulging…