Anthony J Sargeant learning to read in the 1950s

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Extracted from ‘Reflections on my Childhood’ by Anthony J Sargeant

…… when I was in junior school my mother joined my brother and me to ‘The Children’s Book Club’ (an imprint of Foyle’s Book Shop in Charing Cross Road) and we would get monthly cheaply printed but hardback books. Thus I read most of the Malcolm Saville books based in Shropshire around the age of 10 and I was in love with the character of Peta (Petronella) charging around The Long Mynd and The Stipperstones solving mysteries and righting wrongs. (Peta like Georgie in Enid Blyton’s Famous Five books, was the ubiquitous tomboyish and capable girl of much childhood fiction –  in an older incarnation to become John Betjmann’s Miss Joan Hunter Dunn ? – She of the warm-handled tennis racquet). One of the great attractions of the Malcolm Saville series was the inclusion of Maps showing the exotic locations of the children’s adventures in rural Shropshire [advice to all writers  – include annotated maps whenever possible –  children love them].

Years later Anthony Sargeant was to come to live in this countryside created in his imagination by Malcolm Saville

Years later Anthony Sargeant was to come to live in this countryside created in his imagination by Malcolm Saville

The map in Malcom Savilles book ‘The Neglected Mountain’

On joining the Children’s Book Club parents would do so for ‘a boy’ or ‘a girl’. Although there were some common elements they were mostly ‘girls’ books or ‘boys’ books. I read and enjoyed quite a few Biggles books by Captain W.E.Johns (very much ‘boys’ books’).

"Biggles" One of the books for boys from Foyles Children's Book Club in the 1950s

“Biggles” One of the books for boys from Foyles Children’s Book Club in the 1950s

But occasionally the wrong gender books would arrive and so I read some of the ‘The Chalet School for the Lintons’ series  by Elinor Brent-Dyer.

The Chalet School for the Lintons

The Chalet School for the Lintons

I read and greatly enjoyed them fondly imagining myself as a boarder in such a school, thereby escaping from Worsley Bridge Road. Indeed, when I passed the 11+ examination one of the grammar school options seriously considered and discussed was a boarding school run by the LCC (Woolverstone Hall in Ipswich). In the end I went to Haberdashers’ Aske’s Boys’ School, which was a conventional day school. Probably just as well – I doubt that a painfully shy and nervous little boy who was still wetting the bed at age twelve would have done well in a boys’ boarding school of the 1950s.

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