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Books set in Early 20th C


Blood Red Snow White

Style: Good

Attitude: Some Care Needed → Unobjectionable

Arthur Ransome is a young English journalist based in Russia during the Great War who is used by both sides to carry information and messages to and fro.

Well-crafted semi-biography of Arthur Ransome's life in Russia around the time of the Revolution. Accepted marital infidelity. Some description of the sexual excesses of Rasputin and others. Love for a country not one's own. Courage in crossing war-torn countries in difficult conditions.

Biographical, Historical, Romantic, War

The Borrowers Afloat

Style: Good

Attitude: Positive

Pod, Homily and Arriety are forced to leave the house they share with their relatives because the humans who live there are going.

Classic, Family, Fantasy

The Borrowers

Style: Good

Attitude: Positive

Pod, Homily and Arriety Clock live under the floorboards of a house, borrowing from the humans to clothe, furnish and feed themselves.

Classic, Family, Fantasy

The Box of Delights

Style: Classic

Attitude: Positive

Kay Harker comes home for the Christmas holidays and finds himself helping Cole Hawlings, a slightly unusual Punch and Judy showman, to keep his Box of Delights from falling into the hands of the Wolves, led by Abner Brown.

A magical and exhilarating scramble, full of innocent enjoyment, adventure and friendship.

Classic, Humorous, Magic

The Butterfly Lion

Style: Good

Attitude: Positive

Bertie grows up in South Africa and befriends a lion cub which must go to a circus when he goes to school in England.

Growing-Up, Spooky, War

The Clockwork Three

Style: Average

Attitude: Some Care Needed → Positive

Three youngsters become involved in each others’ affairs by accident and help each other out in their overlapping problems.

Simple adventure story with slight touches of the supernatural: an apparently serious séance; a clockwork man animated by Golem clay. Supportive friendship between three youngsters. Violent behaviour from a cruel Fagin-like character and others. Positive, if generic, representation of a Christian pastor. Genuine respect and affection between an elderly master and his young apprentice. Some theft by young people.

Adventure, Friendship, Magic

Double Or Die

Style: Average

Attitude: Unobjectionable → Fairly Positive

James Bond becomes entangled in the schemes of a rich gambler when a schoolmaster leaves mysteriously and sends James' friend Pritpal a cryptic letter explaning his departure.

Action-packed detective-cum-adventure story, combining fairly realistic if sometimes sickening action sequence and crossword-style puzzles. One boy is poisoned by being forced to swallow Gin. Several boys deceive their teachers and guardians in order to help James. Fast driving by a young teenager which ends in a crash.

Adventure, Boys

Esperanza Rising

Style: Good

Attitude: Edifying

Esperanza, accustomed to a comfortable life, has to come to terms with poverty when her father is killed, leaving their land to his self-serving brothers.

Dignity in poverty. Generosity of families and individuals, helping others even when it is difficult.

Coping with, Growing-Up, Historical

Five Children and It

Style: Classic

Attitude: Positive

Cyril, Robert, Anthea, Jane and their baby brother find a Psammead (a sand fairy) in a gravel pit and it promises them one wish a day, whose effects will vanish at sunset.

Historical, Magic

Flambards

Style: Good

Attitude: Positive

Set in the years before the Great War.

This is the first of the popular Flambards books (Edge of the Cloud, Flambards in Summer, Flambards Divided et al.) and is aimed at teenagers.

Historical

Fr Brown Stories

Style: Good

Attitude: Edifying

Father Brown is a Catholic priest who uses his intelligence and ingenuity to solve crime in this series of short stories.

Classic, Detective, Short

Hatter's Castle

Style: Good

Attitude: Take Care

A man tyrannises his family, driving them to despair in one form or another.

Family, Gritty

The Haunting of Alaizabel Cray

Style: Average

Attitude: Take Care

The Prussian bombardment of London at the end of the 19th century left it demoralised and easy prey to demons of various sorts, known as wych-kind, leading certain men and women to become wych-hunters.

Fantasy, Magic

His Banner Over Me

Style: Good

Attitude: Positive

At the age of 4 Flora Gould (Gorrie) leaves Taiwan, where she was born to Canadian missionaries, to return with her family to Canada where she stays with her brothers and sisters until she is close to marrying.

Biographical, Family, Historical

Huntingtower

Style: Classic

Attitude: Positive

Dickson McCunn "an incurable romantic" sells his grocery shop and goes walking in the highlands.

Adventure, Boys, Classic, Historical

Jack Black and the Ship of Thieves

Style: Average → Good

Attitude: Unobjectionable → Positive

Jack Black discovers a plot to wreck his father's airship but is swept overboard before he can warn anyone.

An unashamed Boy's Own Yarn. An enthusastic youngster turns hero when he discovers a plot to sabotage his father's airship and is must convince the unwilling captain and motley crew of a boat to help. There's a smarmy baddie, a dashing aviatrix, a capable female octogenarian castaway and a young boy dashing to his father's rescue.

Adventure, Boys

A Likely Lad

Style: Good

Attitude: Positive

Willy Overs is a 12-year-old Manchester boy early this century, whose aspirations to shine academically look like being thwarted by his Father's well- intentioned desire for his son's early employment.

A well-drawn picture of Manchester life at the turn of the century: the contrast between the hard-working Ardwick Overs and their Trafford cousins, the Sowters is amusingly depicted, with the rather scatty figure of Great Aunt Meg in the middle. At all times it is clear which way lies virtue and although Willy's father is to a certain extent the villain of the piece it is clear that his actions are wholly justified according to his way of thinking.

Historical

A Little Bush Maid

Style: Classic

Attitude: Edifying

Norah can’t wait for Jim to come home for the holidays, and when he does arrive, accompanied by Harry and Wally, every day is full of adventures.

A vivid depiction of the quintessentially Australian; values such as mateship, hard work and bush hospitality to beautiful illustrations of the outback, Australian character and humour. Heart-warming, humorous and highly enjoyable Australian classic!

Adventure, Classic, Friendship, Girls, Growing-Up

Look to the Lady

Style: Good

Attitude: Positive

Val Gyrth, son of a nobleman, is down on his luck when he is rather mysteriously invited to meet Albert Campion, escaping abduction on the way.

Detective, Historical

The Mist in the Mirror

Style: Good

Attitude: Unobjectionable

Sir James Monmouth returns from 35 years abroad to England, the land of his birth, which he left when he was five.

Spooky

Mr Standfast

Style: Classic

Attitude: Some Care Needed → Fairly Positive

To trap a brilliant German agent, Richard Hannay has to pose as a pacifist, assisted by Mary Lamington, Blenkiron, Peter Pienaar and others.

Straightforward plot. Elements of endurance and loyalty. A subtle, if unredeemed, villain. Some demeaning references to native Africans. War as a job to be done.

Adventure, Boys, Classic, Historical, Romantic, War

Operation Red Jericho

Style: Good

Attitude: Unobjectionable → Positive

Becca & Doug McKenzie become involved with the Honourable Guild of Specialists when their parents disappear, leaving them in the care or their uncle, captain of the research boat _Expedient_.

Slightly larger-than-life heroes and villains; a broad cultural sweep to the front and backstories; unremarked equality of men and women; courage and steadfastness among (heroic) allies. Impetuous if well-intentioned disobedience and deception by the children.

Adventure, Friendship, Historical

Picnic at Hanging Rock

Style: Good

Attitude: Take Care

In 1900 Australia, a part of teenage girls from a College for Young Ladies goes on a trip to Hanging Rock.

Classic, Historical, Spooky

The Secret Garden

Style: Classic

Attitude: Positive

Mary Lennox, living in her uncle's lonely house on the Yorkshire Moors, finds the joy of living when she discovers the Secret Garden, locked away ten years before.

Classic, Growing-Up

SilverFin

Style: Average

Attitude: Unobjectionable

James Bond is a new boy at Eton and must learn the ropes quickly, while fending off the bullying tactics of George Hellebore and his cronies.

Boyhood adventure with some slightly frightening genetic experiments.

Adventure, Boys, Historical, War

Skybreaker

Style: Good

Attitude: Unobjectionable

Matt Cruse learns of the location of the lost airship Hyperion, reputed to be carrying vast wealth.

An enjoyable adventure, if a little slow-moving in places. The pseudo-Edwardian setting with its valve-and-steam technology provides the atmosphere for what is a fairly conventional adventure plus romance story with no real issues. The supporting characters are mostly cardboard but the main leads have just enough depth to them, the female characters in particular having strengths and weaknesses without compromising their femininity.

Adventure, Boys, Fantasy, Seafaring

A Song for Summer

Style: Average → Good

Attitude: Take Care → Positive

Ellen, defying her aunts' idea of what a modern young woman should do, takes up the role of Housekeeper at a school in Austria run on alternative lines for children of rich parents.

Marriage as merely a convention. Generosity and maternal care by Ellen for the children and others in her charge. Bravery of those helping Jews escape from Nazi detention. Ironic view of militant spinsters, pretentious playwrights, and alternative lifestyles.

Growing-Up, Romantic, School, Thought-provoking

Standing in the Shadows

Style: Average

Attitude: Unobjectionable

Grace, more tomboy than girl, is finding it hard to work as a kitchenmaid, especially when the male staff are leaving to join the army in France and her father needs help in the stables.

A conventional period story, unoriginal but inoffensive. Horror and uselessness of War. Challenge to traditional work patterns. Family strength even in disagreement. Old story about an illegitimate child.

Family, Historical

Strange Meeting

Style: Good

Attitude: Positive

John Hilliard rejoins his battalion near the front in World War I.

Friendship, Historical, War

The Talent Thief

Style: Average → Good

Attitude: Unobjectionable → Positive

Cressida Bloom's talent for singing is stolen along with those of many other youngsters at a Convention for Young Genius, and she and Adam must chase the thieves.

A parable of putting the needs of others ahead of ones own talents, however great. Adam's persevering affection for his sister despite her attitude, and her later realisation of this fact. The idea that talents can be extracted, stored and passed on.

Adventure

The Thirty-Nine Steps

Style: Classic

Attitude: Unobjectionable

Richard Hannay gives a man shelter for the night, only to find him dead in the morning.

Adventure, Boys, Classic, War

The Three Hostages

Style: Classic

Attitude: Positive

General Sir Richard Hannay, hero of "The 39 Steps" et al.

Adventure, Boys, Classic, Historical

The Willows and Beyond

Style: Good

Attitude: Positive → Edifying

The Water Rat senses that the River is disturbed, just as he receives notice of a delivery for him in the town, at the same time as the Badger hears of plans to tear down the Wild Woods to build new houses.

A quiet story contemplating the autumn of one's life, and highlighting the value of what's gone before without losing sight of the future. Quiet companionship and unspoken generosity. The responsibility of the older generation for the younger, and vice versa.

Friendship