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Books set in Mid 20th C


The Amazing Story of Adolphus Tipps

Style: Average → Good

Attitude: Unobjectionable → Fairly Positive

Lily and her family and friends are told that they have just a few weeks to leave their village which is to be used as a training ground for the D-Day Landings.

A quiet and readable story about the changes wartime brings. Loyalty and friendship. Breaking a serious promise.

Growing-Up, Historical, War

Back Home

Style: Good

Attitude: Some Care Needed → Positive

Rusty is a 12-year-old English girl returning home after spending the war years with a family in the USA.

Honest efforts by a returning young evacuee to fit into now unfamiliar surroundings. Contrast between pre- and post-war expectations of conventional roles. Casting in a good light a more bohemian style of upbringing, less concerned with conventional taboos and more with children's freedom. Family tension and break-up.

Coping with, Family, Girls, Growing-Up, Historical, War

Blitzcat

Style: Good

Attitude: Take Care → Unobjectionable

Lord Gort, a cat is trying to find her owner, an RAF pilot.

A pleasant read for the most part; the action is seen either through the eyes of the cat, always couched in such terms as a cat would be expected to understand, or through those of the person to whom she's presently attached. The story is marred by the section concerning Sergeant Smith, who keeps a collection of pin-up girls, and the married woman who makes love to him on a hilltop.

Animal, Historical, War

Carrie's War

Style: Good

Attitude: Positive

Carrie and Nick Willow are evacuated to Wales.

Classic, Friendship, Growing-Up, War

Charlotte Sometimes

Style: Average

Attitude: Positive

Charlotte goes to sleep in a boarding school and wakes up to find herself in the same place in 1918, and mistaken for Clare who has taken her place 40 years in the future.

Gentle time-shift story put across thoughtfully in terms of the relations between Emily and Charlotte and the acceptance by Charlotte and Clare of their situation, less disturbing than it might have been, since they are both new to boarding school life.

Classic, Magic, School

The Children of Green Knowe

Style: Good

Attitude: Positive

Tolly, a shy 8-year-old, goes to visit his great-grandmother at her house, Green Knowe, and discovers that there are other children playing there.

Classic, Magic

The Chimneys of Green Knowe

Style: Good

Attitude: Positive

Granny Oldknow is making patchwork quilts out of materials from the inhabitants of GK in the 19th century: blind Susan, Jacob her black servant, Sefton, Caxton, Maria, Captain Oldknow and the Grandmother.

Classic, Magic

The Chronicles of Narnia

Style: Classic

Attitude: Positive

Eight children witness the history of the world of Narnia, from its creation out of inchoate blackness to the extinction of its stars and the return of darkness.

Simple adventure stories, with a clear Christian basis. Heroic valour and virtue among straightforward characters who must each face individual challenges, overcome their own shortcomings, and decide where they place their trust.

Animal, Classic, Fantasy, Growing-Up, Magic

Cuckoo in the Nest

Style: Good

Attitude: Edifying

16-year-old Ralph Hollis is yearning for a career in the theatre, while his father is furious that he won't find real work.

A young man trying to do what he wants in life without going against his family. The support the family offers even with its spats and storms. The joy and companionship of working in a theatre.

Family, Growing-Up, Romantic, War

The Daughter of Time

Style: Outstanding

Attitude: Positive

Grant, a policeman, is confined to a hospital bed with a concussed spine.

Detective, Historical

An Enemy at Green Knowe

Style: Good

Attitude: Positive

Ping and Tolly are both staying at Green Knowe when the dislikeable Dr Melanie Powers comes, looking for books of magic left behind by the 16th-century Dr Vogel.

Classic, Magic

Fair Stood the Wind for France

Style: Good

Attitude: Unobjectionable

John Franklin is forced to crash land in wartime Occupied France.

Historical, Romantic, War

The Horse and His Boy

Style: Classic

Attitude: Positive

Shasta, a Narnian living among Calormenes, escapes on Bree, a Narnian horse.

Criticised for its black-and-white portrayal of the Narnians and Calormenes. Straightforward adventure journey tale demonstrating overcoming prejudice and pride, pushing oneself to ones limits to help friends, and trusting even when you can't see the outcome.

Animal, Classic, Fantasy, Growing-Up, Magic

I am the King of the Castle

Style: Average

Attitude: Unobjectionable

Warings, which is an isolated & "entirely graceless" country house belonging to a widower, Mr Hooper, provides the main setting for "I'm the King of the Castle".

Classic

If Only They Could Talk

Style: Good

Attitude: Positive

First of the autobiographical series about a Yorkshire vet's day-to- day happenings, ups and downs.

Animal, Biographical, Humorous

I Was There

Style: Good

Attitude: Positive

Hans, Heinz and Gunter are three German boys at the time of Hitler's rise to power.

Historical, War

The Jacaranda Tree

Style: Good

Attitude: Objectionable

Patterson, manager of a plantation in Burma, organises the evacuation of the small English community there as the Japanese advance.

Historical, War

Just Henry

Style: Average

Attitude: Some Care Needed → Positive

Henry, believing himself loyal to his dead father, initially despises certain other people and their ideals, but later learns that his father is less of a hero than he had thought and that the others deserve better from him.

Positive story about post-war attitudes and opportunities. A slightly tolerant attitude towards divorce and illegitimacy. Generosity and cheerfulness in difficult circumstances.

Family, Growing-Up, Moral Issue

The Last Battle

Style: Classic

Attitude: Positive

Tirian is king of Narnia in a time of peace when a plot involving the Calormenes and a false Aslan threaten the country.

Night falls on Narnia. Good and bad in creatures are not as obvious to us as might be expected. The need to stand and fight for what you see is right. Different Gods. Life in glory after death.

Animal, Classic, Fantasy, Growing-Up, Magic

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

Style: Classic

Attitude: Positive

The Pevensie children find a mysterious winterbound land when they step through a wardrobe in a forgotten room of the house they're evacuated to.

First-written and most famous of the Narnia stories, whimsical, moving, human and ultimately Christian without that detracting from its readability.

Animal, Classic, Fantasy, Growing-Up, Magic

A Little Love Song

Style: Average

Attitude: Take Care

Rose & Diana are left unchaperoned after their aunt is taken ill, but decide to hide the fact from their actor mother, off on a tour, as they feel old enough to look after themselves.

A sexual encounter between a young unmarried couple. Scorn for society's treatment of unmarried mothers.

Growing-Up, War

Out of the Silent Planet

Style: Outstanding

Attitude: Positive

Elwin Ransome, a Cambridge don on a walking holiday, is looking for shelter for the night and chances upon two men, one of whom he knew at school, who drug him and take him with them to Mars in their spaceship.

SciFi, Thought-provoking

Paper Faces

Style: Good

Attitude: Positive

8-year-old Dot lives with her mother Gloria in a East End boarding house just after the end of the war.

War

Prince Caspian

Style: Classic

Attitude: Positive

The Pevensies return to Narnia to discover that 1,000 years have passed and that they are the stuff of legends, as are the talking animals of Narnia and Aslan himself.

Conventional adventure story with young heroes and natural forces overcoming adult humans who are clearly in the wrong.

Animal, Classic, Fantasy, Growing-Up, Magic

Room at the Top

Style: Good

Attitude: Objectionable

Joe Lampton starts work as a clerk in a town hall just after the war.

The Ship That Flew

Style: Good

Attitude: Positive

Peter buys a model ship and discovers it to be magical, having the power to grow and shrink and to travel to distant places and times.

Magic

The Silver Chair

Style: Classic

Attitude: Positive

Eustace returns with Jill to Narnia where they must travel across little-explored areas of the land to find a prince lost for years.

A Quest tale, taking Eustace and Jill through hardships, trials of friendship and faith in their guide, and near-despair as they have to rescue a lost prince from his captor, a witch. Death as a return to life.

Animal, Classic, Fantasy, Growing-Up, Magic

Something Wicked This Way Comes

Style: Good

Attitude: Unobjectionable

A funfair comes to a small town and a couple of boys, Jim & Will, discover some rather sinister attributes of the fairground owners and crew, notably a carousel which can make you older or younger.

Classic, Macabre

A Spoonful of Jam

Style: Good

Attitude: Positive

Elsie Hollis is terrified of the gang in the next street, and auditions for a part with the local repertory company simply to stay out of the way; she is astonished when she is actually given the part.

Growing-Up, War

The Stones of Green Knowe

Style: Good

Attitude: Positive

A mediaeval boy living at Green Knowe discovers that by going to the stones behind the house, he can meet the people who have lived and will live in the house.

Classic, Historical, Magic, Spooky

A Stranger at Green Knowe

Style: Good

Attitude: Positive

Ping, the young refugee who stayed with two friends at Green Knowe in "The River.

The opening section, describing Hanno's childhood in the jungle is descriptive and moving. While the book is clearly aimed at the younger reader, the issues involved are not to be dealt with lightly: the author describes the loneliness of the caged animal, tempering this with the friendship of the zookeeper. Ping is forced into stealing to keep the creature fed.

Classic, Magic

The Swallows and Amazons Series

Style: Classic

Attitude: Positive

Three families of children enjoy themselves outdoors in general, and sailing in particular, over several holidays.

Classic set of gentle outdoor adventure stories, often with a sailing theme. Healthy combination of imagination and down-to-earth competence in outdoor pursuits. Nicely-rounded characters inhabiting an inter-war landscape where children are allowed a wide degree of freedom but where politeness and consideration are uppermost. The books' uncomplicated style coupled with their outdoor milieux is like fresh air to a modern reader.

Classic, Friendship, Growing-Up, Seafaring

The Swish of the Curtain

Style: Average → Good

Attitude: Positive → Edifying

As the summer starts, the Halfords move to Fenchester and strike up a friendship with the Fayne & Darwin families, prompting the youngsters to pool their talents and put on a play for their friends and acquaintances.

An undemanding story of youthful ambition and success. Dated but still very readable. Family tensions between children's ambitions and parental plans. Warmhearted generosity and good humour both in public and in private.

Classic, Family, Historical

That Hideous Strength

Style: Outstanding

Attitude: Positive

The NICE, a scientific institute, has bought up Bragdon Wood, the land around a small university, and seems to have unlimited powers and support.

Arthurian, Classic, SciFi

To Kill A Mockingbird

Style: Classic

Attitude: Positive

To Kill a Mockingbird is set in the deep south of America during the 1930s, a time at which racial prejudice was rife.

Racism and how this is fought by one man in the Deep South.

Classic, Growing-Up, Moral Issue

A Town Like Alice

Style: Good

Attitude: Unobjectionable

Jean Paget a young Englishwoman who speaks Malay is caught in Malaysia when the Japanese invade.

Classic, Romantic, War

A Traveller in Time

Style: Good

Attitude: Positive

Penelope visits her aunt and uncle in their farmhouse "Thackers".

A gentle story with the time-travel elements played down, rather as in Penelope Farmer's "Charlotte Sometimes". There is a homely feel about the farmhouse in both eras. Religion does enter into the story since the Tudor peoples are living in a time of religious change where political partisanship is bound up with religious beliefs. Interestingly, although Penelope would seem to be C of E if anything, Catholicism is portrayed positively without any fanatical overtones.

Classic, Historical, Time-Travel

Tug of War

Style: Good

Attitude: Positive

The Petersen family, fleeing wartime Latvia with the Jansons, are separated at Gdynia; 14-year-old Hugo is left behind when his glasses smash in the crowded railway station.

Historical, War

Voyage

Style: Good

Attitude: Positive

The story of the voyage of several hundred Jews fleeing prewar Europe across the Atlantic.

Historical, Romantic, War

The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

Style: Classic

Attitude: Positive

Lucy & Edmund along with Eustace their spoilt and peevish cousin find themselves on board a Narnian ship with King Caspian, travelling to the outer reaches of Narnia, encountering new creatures and strange places.

A voyage-of-discovery story with interesting people and challenges. Each character has to undergo a trial to grow in themselves.

Animal, Classic, Fantasy, Growing-Up, Magic

Voyage to Venus (Perelandra)

Style: Outstanding

Attitude: Positive

Ransome is transported by the power of Malacandra, the oyarsa of Mars, to Venus (Perelandra) where intelligent life is beginning.

Classic, SciFi, Thought-provoking

The Weirdstone of Brisingamen

Style: Good

Attitude: Positive

Colin and Susan, brother and sister, who have grown up in a city go to visit friends of their mother in a rural part of Cheshire not far from Macclesfield.

Adventure, Fantasy, Magic

A Wrinkle in Time

Style: Average → Good

Attitude: Positive → Edifying

Meg crosses dimensions to where The Dark Thing is holding her father captive, taking Charles Wallace and Calvin to help her free him.

Intriguing if slightly dated sci-fi morality tale. Strong bonds of family and friendship. A warning about creating a perfect state if the cost is the loss of individuality and love.

Adventure, Fantasy, Friendship, Growing-Up, Romantic, Thought-provoking