Thursday, 21 April 2011

Friday Five: Boys' Own Classics

As much as I love current YA fiction, growing up in the 80's I read a lot more 'classic' children's tales than contemporary authors. The below five were my very favourite Boys Own authors - let me know if you've ever read any, and what you thought!

Note: I would ALWAYS recommend starting from the first book in each series but have provided my favourite for each one just out of interest.

5. Adventure Series by Willard Price - 19 year old Hal Hunt and his 13 year old brother Roger take a year out from education to collect rare animals for their father. While re-reading these hasn't done them any favours - there are some incredible scenes, including one in Cannibal Adventure when Hal's allies slaughter a rival tribe with Hal barely seeming to care - they were a good read growing up and still have superb descriptions of unusual wildlife.

First book: Amazon Adventure

Favourite book: Underwater Adventure, if only for the ridiculousness of the plot. (Villain SK Inkham is hired by the captain of the ship the boys are travelling on, reveals himself to be a villain early on, threatens to kill them all, and they STILL don't think it would be a good idea to lock him up or anything like that...)

4. The Three Investigators by Robert Arthur - My favourite child detective stories, the trio of the plump former child star Jupiter Jones and his right-hand men Pete and Bob were great heroes, and the junkyard that Jupe's uncle and aunt owned provided a memorable setting for their detective agency, with plenty of hidden ways to get into their offices. The plots are always intriguing and the action is genuinely tense and exciting compared to many similar series. Alfred Hitchcock's cameos in the earlier stories are good fun as well.

First book: The Secret of Terror Castle

Favourite book: The Mystery of the Stuttering Parrot
- The boys try to track down a message from a dead man which has been split into seven parts and given to seven parrots.

3. Billy Bunter by Frank Richards - Incredibly - and probably due to some of the language used by Bunter himself at times, which has been described as "not suitable for a family newspaper" the Bunter novels are now out of print. A sad fate for fantastic boarding school comedy featuring heroes - Remove From Captain Harry Wharton, the perceptive Nabob Hurree Jamset Ram Singh and the rest of their famous five, villains - any number of bullies including prefect Loder and American wannabe entrepeneur Fisher T Fish, and of course, the obese, grasping, forever 'waiting for a postal order' Bunter himself.

First book: Billy Bunter of Greyfriars School

Favourite book: Billy Bunter in Brazil
- Bunter manages to talk himself into an invite to Lord Mauleverer's plantation in Brazil. When Bunter, the schoolboy earl, and Wharton and co. reach the plantation they find Mauleverer's cousin Brian has disappeared leaving only a brief message - but eventually track him down despite run-ins with a bandit. Hugely exciting and very funny.

2. William by Richmal Crompton - Still brilliant nearly 90 years after the first book was published, the perpetual 11 year old who gets into huge amounts of trouble, usually with the best of intentions, is an absolutely superb central character. The other inhabitants of his village are wonderfully portrayed, especially self-made sauce millionaires the Botts and their spoilt daughter Violet Elizabeth, perpetually chasing William and threatening to ''thcream and thcream and thcream 'till I'm thick'', and despite the constant age of the characters the books take in changes in the village and the world as they progress, with the war years being particular favourites of mine.

First book: Just William

Favourite book: William Does His Bit
- perhaps the best of the many wonderful collections, with William The Fire Man - featuring William and his friends the Outlaws setting up their own fire squad in the war years - being particularly brilliantly plotted.

The second book More William is available FREE in the UK on Kindle here and is definitely worth checking out if you haven't come across Crompton before.

1. Jennings by Anthony Buckeridge - Fossilised Fish-hooks, it couldn't be anything else! The stories of the bold, fearless, and always well-meaning JCT Jennings, his mild mannered best friend CEJ Darbishire, and masters such as the benevolent Mr Carter and the rather testier Old Wilkie, whose heart of gold was kept very well hidden for the most part, have enchanted me since I was tiny and my father first read them to me. Despite the language being dated, the 25 books are all wonderful - a brilliant portrayal of boarding school life full of hilarious plots and fantastic characters.

First book: Jennings Goes To School

Favourite book: Jennings at Large
- Despite being the only book NOT set at Linbury, for the most part, I have a real soft spot for this one as a holiday camping expedition is followed by Jennings visiting his absent-minded Aunt Angela - a wonderful recurring character, meets a girl called Emma Sparrow, and becoming enlisted into the fight to save an animal sanctuary.

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