The Magic Faraway Tree by Enid Blyton (George Newnes, 1943); audiobook read by Kate Winslet (ABC Audio, 2014) Younger children will still thrill to the imagination of the Faraway Tree and the many lands that cycle into place above it. Adults may be less impressed, but at least must credit Kate Winslet for her composure in reading about toffee shocks.…
Ian Fleming’s story of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang! the Magical Car adapted by Al Perkins; ill. B Tobey (Collins and Harvill, 1969) Lurking irresponsibly in the otherwise excellent Beginner Readers series, this gobsmacking tripe features a domestically lobotomised housewife and Fleming-modelled gung-ho husband. “Let’s blow up all this stuff,” said Jeremy. “That’s a fine idea,” said Mrs. Pott. “Then we…
The Eighteenth Emergency by Betsy Byars (Viking, 1973) Benjie is running scared from the school Goliath, an emergency that offers no blithe, fanciful solutions such as have been devised for escaping shark attacks and the like. Betsy Byars’ well-rounded social survival tale both takes seriously yet contextualises Benjie’s all-consuming dread.
The Super-Roo of Mungalongaloo by Osmar White, ill. Jeff Hook (Wren, 1973) There is something delightfully enthralling — and quintessentially Australian — in Osmar White’s tale of Scotsman Angus McGurk’s intrepid expedition into the perilous heart of the Dreaded Deadibone Desert, this fanciful undertaking gaining impetus through the punchy illustrations of acclaimed newspaper cartoonist Jeff Hook.
The Demon Headmaster by Gillian Cross (Oxford University Press, 1982) The first in an award-winning series of children’s books featuring schoolkids Dinah, Lloyd and Harvey, who must fight back against the eponymous demon headmaster — a sinister man/creature who uses his hypnotic powers to take over the school… while eyeing even bigger conquests!
The Fox Busters by Dick King-Smith (1978) Endemic to an era when it was de rigueur for children’s authors themselves to be literate, this story remains a high-spirited classic: skills honed by natural selection, farmyard fowls fight to outwit then turn the tables on the foxes who hunt them.
The Great Piratical Rumbustification (& The Librarian and the Robbers) by Margaret Mahy (J. M. Dent, 1978) Two stories by New Zealand’s doyen of children’s books: the second, a quietly subversive extolment of libraries; the first, a droll yet puckishly young-at-heart parable on quality of life, with bonhomous pictures by Quentin Blake and an endearingly rumtiddlyumptious neologism to boot!