The Gods Must Be Crazy II dir. Jamie Uys (1989) Although lacking the surprise value and thematic elegance of the original, this sequel manages to be both faster and funnier, committing fully to its slapstick and the humorous situational comedy of non-natives adrift in the Kalahari. Cleverly filmed with many memorable scenes.
The Mystery of the Pantomime Cat by Enid Blyton (Methuen, 1949) One of the weaker Five Find-Outers books. Blyton recycles an earlier plot device and half-explored ethical point (the children manufacture false clues leading to and disrupting a real mystery investigation) while neglecting an obvious line of inquiry, which Bets belatedly tumbles to.
Tom’s Midnight Garden by Philippa Pearce (Oxford University Press, 1958); audiobook read by Jan Francis (AudioGO, 2012) Perhaps due to the time-slip nature of its story, Pearce’s Carnegie Medal–winning MG novel has aged well, unfolding simply and unhurriedly yet with lingering appeal. The wistful allure of Tom’s garden speaks to childhood wonder and the inevitability of growing up.
The Gods Must Be Crazy dir. Jamie Uys (1980) Though of questionable accuracy in depicting African peoples and race relations, this film is cleverly put together and contains masterful flourishes of physical comedy—particularly those sequences where events conspire to render biologist Andrew Steyn’s resourcefulness and bush know-how as hapless bumbling.
The Wolves of Willoughby Chase by Joan Aiken (Jonathan Cape, 1962) Set in an alternative, wolf-plagued 19th-Century England, this first book of Aiken’s Wolves Chronicles captures both the stark, chill beauty of the countryside and the wanton cruelties suffered by orphans of the time. A bleak—almost Dickensian!—yet happily ending quest fantasy.
Doctor Who: The Moonbase by Kit Pedler; dir. Morris Barry (BBC, 1967/2014) An effective story for the first two episodes, which are spent building the tension and establishing the (vital but ludicrously understaffed and without built-in redundancy) moonbase. Then the Cybermen bust out their dance moves and some very, very daft plans. Logic, schmogic.
The Mystery of the Hidden House by Enid Blyton (Methuen, 1948) Fatty and Co. invent a mystery to dupe Goon’s nephew, who then stumbles upon the real thing. Blyton takes the story into more adult territory (corporeal punishment, kidnapping) and hints at a lesson in consequences, though never quite bringing out the moral.
Doctor Sally by P. G. Wodehouse (Methuen, 1932); audiobook read by Paul Shelley (Bolinda, 2015) A short, frivolous bit of fun. As is his wont, Wodehouse construes love as arising from the drop of a hat, but in this instance the cast of dithering males play out their tangled misunderstandings for a woman of independence and discernment.
You’re a Good Scout Snoopy by Charles M. Schulz (Hodder & Stoughton, 1979) A collection of Sunday strips, only four of which feature Snoopy as scout leader (the remaining thirty-nine have a more generic Snoopy focus). This is unfortunate, as the scouting expeditions’ visual nature and last-panel sight gags benefit from the large-format colour presentation.
Day of the Starwind by Douglas Hill (Victor Gollancz, 1980) Book three of the Last Legionary quartet sees Keill Randor edge closer to the shadowy Warlord who masterminded his planet’s destruction. Hill has a knack for upping the stakes, pitting his protagonist against ever more serious threats. Clear, fast-moving middle-grade action SF.