Dawn Finch is a children’s writer and librarian and is Vice President of CILIP (Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals), so we expected something good, and we were right, she has chosen...
Back in the Jug Agane by Geoffrey Willans and Ronald Searle
As a small child I was lucky enuff to have a librarian with a sense of humour. He was large and hirsute man with breath that could fell an ox at a hundred paces, but he loved books and loved sharing his favourites. Once, towards the close of a particularly long and hot summer school holiday, I was getting my books stamped and he leant his vast bulk over the desk and said “here, you’re a smart kid, I think you’ll like this,” and he stamped an extra book and gave it over to me.
I didn’t argue (small piece of advice – never argue with a librarian, they always win) and in any case I was thrilled to have an extra book on my meagre six books allowance. I tucked the thin paperback in the pile and shuffled out of the library like a freshly informed spy.
The book in question was the final volume in Willans’ and Searle’s superb Molesworth quartet, but it was my first meeting with the erstwhile Custardian, Nigel Molesworth. On the surface I had absolutely nothing in common with Nigel socially; he was the boy at the cripplingly posh St Custards prep school, and I was the poor kid at the crammed and noisy primary on the edge of the council estate – but underneath we had everything in common.
I wasn’t really the kind of gurl who read those “what ho, jolly japes” boarding school books, but I larffed and larffed at Nigel’s superbly phonetic tales of his exploits at St Custards. Geoffrey Willans’ writing has peppered my speech with Molesworth-isms (it shall forever be “peotry” and “luvley” and I’m prone to a little “hullo clouds, hullo sky” now and then) but the hilarious addition of Ronald Searle’s brilliantly funny illustrations really made the books.
As the summer holidays whizz by like atoms I have chosen Back in the Jug Agane, in which N Molesworth (“goriller of 3B”) returns to St Custards to complete his “50000000 years hard laber sentence.” So it’s back to skool with swots, snekes, masters, kanes, lessons, wizard wheezes* and various other chizzes.
I have since managed to collect first editions of the original books, and I still have my jumble sale copy of Back In The Jug Agane, but Puffin has helpfully reprinted all four books in one volume with all of the original illustrations. Now, if only I could remember who has borrowed my first edition of How To Be Topp (chiz chiz)
*It’s worth a mention that in the volume How To Be Topp, we are introduced to Marcus Plautus Molesworth as he pens his Latin (ahem) masterpiece entitled “The Hogwarts” – it seems I’m not the only writer who is a fan….