Posts Tagged ‘children’

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Lady Noggs

October 23, 2015

For whatever reason, I’m having trouble reading anything that’s not by Edgar Jepson. So let’s follow up the two Tinker books with the two Lady Noggs books. (There may be a third, but I think it’s another case of different titles for different markets.)

So far I have observed that Jepson’s books always include the word “truculent,” someone calling someone else a sweep, and someone’s appearance — usually the main character’s — is described with reference to the history of Western art. Lady Felicia Grandison is about ten, and she looks like a painting by Sir Joshua Reynolds, which is somehow all the description you really need.

Lady Felicia (a contemporary reviewer points out that Jepson is clueless about titles — he sometimes refers to her as Lady Felicia and sometimes as Lady Grandison) is, like Tinker and Pollyooly, very precocious, but somehow a little more childlike. Also she prefers to be known as Noggs.

Noggs lives with her uncle, the Prime Minister, on his country estate. He’s a nice man, and very erudite, but no match for Noggs in a practical sense. She’s a prankster, but all her pranks come from righteous indignation; she has a very well-developed sense of justice, and the will and ingenuity to enforce it.

Her exploits include getting rid of an adventuress with designs on her uncle, touring the slums with a poor girl she’s taken under her wing, and removing the obstacles that stand in the way of her governess marrying her uncle’s secretary. She isn’t as much of a tiny adult as Tinker, though. Sometimes she doesn’t get the results she intends. Sometimes she doesn’t know how she does get the results she intends. And when she meets Tinker and Elsie, she lets Tinker take the lead.

I like Noggs a lot. When I started Lady Noggs, Peeress I was constantly coming up with unfavorable comparisons to Tinker and Pollyooly, but I’ve come to feel that all of them have their points. One of Noggs’ is that she weathers the transition into adulthood better than the other two.

The first book resolves the governess/secretary situation, and the second, The Intervening Lady, picks up pretty soon afterwards, with Noggs trying to adopt a child her own age. It doesn’t work as well for her as it does for Tinker. In fact, the first half of this book feels geared towards very slightly reducing our expectations of Noggs–not in a condescending way so much as to give her room to grow into someone with even greater strength of character. Which is exactly what happens next. The rest of the book takes place when Noggs is an 18-year-old debutante.

I was worried, because my other experience with a Jepson character growing up is Pollyooly Dances, in which Pollyooly is almost unrecognizable. He does a much better job here. Noggs is recognizably herself, even after acquiring all the trappings of young ladyhood. She saves a friend from a blackmailer, makes and unmakes matches, and is reintroduced to her two childhood protégés: the girl from the slums and the attempted adoptee. She doesn’t short-sheet anyone’s bed, but you get the impression that she would if she thought it would be helpful.

Tinker and Elsie also appear, Tinker in a way that makes me think of Lord Peter Wimsey’s cameo in one of Laurie R. King’s Mary Russell books, and Elsie not as often as I’d like. They are, of course, paired off romantically, as are Noggs and her adoptee, Michael Broome. The romance was probably my least favorite part of The Intervening Lady — I expect Edgar Jepson thought he knew how to write romance, but nothing I’ve read would lead me to agree. For me, the best moments are Noggs’ interactions with other women. I would have especially liked to see more of Susie, who would make a far more plausible grown-up Pollyooly than the one in Pollyooly Dances.

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The Triumph of Tinker/Tinker Two

October 7, 2015

I still don’t like Tinker as much as Pollyooly, but he’s grown on me, mostly thanks to the second Tinker book, variously known as The Triumph of Tinker and Tinker Two. It feels a lot less episodic than the first one–the initial section basically sets the rest of the book in motion, so there’s no more than a couple of chapters that could stand alone as short stories.

Tinker and his dad are no longer bumming around Europe, as they did for most of the first book. They’re now established in London with Sir Tancred’s new wife Dorothy and Tinker’s adoptive sister Elsie. Elsie was abandoned in Monte Carlo by her gross uncle in the last book, but now her gross uncle is back and hoping that Elsie’s association with millionairess Lady Dorothy Beauleigh means he can make something off her. He and his associate, the equally beery and vulgar Mr. Oliver Brown, concoct a plan to regain custody of Elsie and then mistreat her until the Beauleighs will pay to get her back, but they fail to take Tinker into account. He and Elsie escape to Germany, picking up a beautiful young Russian revolutionary on the way.

Tinker twists the world around his little finger, as usual, with just enough difficulty to keep things interesting. The wicked uncle and his friend are vanquished, Sonia the Russian Countess gets married, and Elsie drives a car. There’s also an episode featuring Lady Felicia Grandison, the heroine of at least two other Jepson books (of whom more later).

Elsie really comes into her own in this book–or maybe she did it in between the two. When she was first introduced, Elsie was delicate and a little weepy, and didn’t really get better defined before the end of the book, but by the time she appeared in Lady Noggs, Peeress she had established an identity: still delicate and frail-looking, but willing to try anything, and casual about Tinker’s plans in a way that even Tinker himself isn’t. Tinker is apt to decide very seriously that something ridiculous must be done. Elsie acquiesces to his plans in a way that suggests she both takes him very seriously and humors him a little. I find myself liking her more and more.

I still feel like Pollyooly has something to offer that the more privileged children in Jepson’s earlier stories don’t, but Tinker is such a well-defined character, predictable but not too predictable. You’re not always sure how Tinker will respond to a situation, but his response always seems inevitable. Tinker is fundamentally the character who, when introduced to a beef-canning millionaire who can estimate by eye how many cans of beef a cow will produce, will a) learn how to do it just as well and b) apply the same methods to human beings. So, if an angelic looking young boy assessing people by how many cans they would fill is entertaining to you, I think you’ll enjoy Edgar Jepson. If not, I’m not entirely sure why you’re reading this blog.

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The Admirable Tinker

July 17, 2013

So, apparently not every seraphic but practical child protagonist Edgar Jepson creates is going to be wonderful. The title character of The Admirable Tinker, like Pollyooly, is repeatedly described as an angel child and has a knack for attracting improbably large sums of money, but the book lacks whatever it was that made Pollyooly so magical.

That said, I enjoyed The Admirable Tinker. Just not as much as I thought I was going to. Read the rest of this entry ?

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Top 10 Underappreciated Children’s Books 1/3

May 6, 2011

Okay, so the thing about this list? It’s going to be incredibly subjective. I’ve limited it to books I own, and to books I first read when I was the appropriate age for them. So, a) there are things that I haven’t included because I haven’t read them since I was in sixth grade, and I’ve never been able to track them down, and b) these are the books I grew up on, and my love for them isn’t always rational. I mean, I’m trying — Patty’s Summer Days isn’t on here because I know that not many people really go for that sort of thing. And there are books I loved as much as these that aren’t under-appreciated by any definition. I would like to note, however, that Little Women is not one of them. It is over-appreciated, and — okay, I can’t say I don’t like it at all. But I don’t like it very much, and I have lots of unpopular opinions about it. My best-loved Louisa May Alcott book is and always will be An Old-Fashioned Girl.

Anyway. Read the rest of this entry ?

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Call for Recommendations

January 22, 2011

I am looking for books in which people get murdered on trains. Also books in which people have to survive in the wilderness. Preferably published before, say, World War II.

Also children’s timeslip novels, any period. Those are the ones where kids sort of unintentionally go back in time. Like, a character gets into the elevator in her apartment building, only instead of it bringing her to her floor, it brings her to the 1880s. Or sometimes, when a character gets up in the middle of the night, there are Native Americans wandering down a trail where the laundry room should be. If anyone can identify either of those, by the way, I’d really appreciate it, because I can’t remember the titles or authors.

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Christmas Stories: Life and Sylvia

December 14, 2010

Life and Sylvia, by Josephine Balestier, wins the award for Most Condescending Christmas Story Ever. It looks like a children’s book, and it sounds like a children’s book, but I haven’t been able to figure out what the appeal is meant to be for kids. All the jokes are aimed at adults. All of them. And they’re all of the “isn’t it cute that kids don’t know anything” variety. Read the rest of this entry ?

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Christmas Stories: Christmas, A Happy Time; A Tale, Calculated for the Amusement and Instruction of Young Persons

December 17, 2009

Christmas, A Happy Time, by Alicia Catherine Mant (or, as the title page says, Miss Mant) is a typical children’s story of the 1830s, which means that nothing happens. Well, a dog dies, principally so that Miss Mant can make it clear just how important it is for children to obey their parents. Not that the children in this story do disobey their parents. It’s just — I really can’t see any point to this story. It’s not amusing, it’s not instructive, and it’s not Christmassy.