05 July, 2012

The Book... by Caroline Everall

In the third post of my 'The Book...' series, Caroline Everall tells us which book has never left her.

The Book I Loved.

Image from amazon.co.uk
As a child of book-loving parents in the 1950s/60s, there was never a shortage of choice, but the one that has stayed with me is ‘A Traveller in Time’ by Alison Uttley. Alison Uttley, who gave us the gentle ‘Little Grey Rabbit’ and ‘Sam Pig’ and ‘Little Red Fox’, wrote what must be one of the very earliest time-travel books. I think I must have been about 10 when I curled up with it one February afternoon. 

Loving history as I did, the story of a child who visits her aunt’s farm one winter, and finds that she travels back now and again into the era of the Tudor owners of the house, was just instant joy. In her 16th century life she is accepted as the housekeeper’s visiting niece, and is able to eavesdrop on the life of the noble owners, the Babbingtons.

The writing is wonderfully descriptive with no attempt to be ‘raw’ or sensational. There is ample dialogue (which I like in a book), beautifully drawn characters and lovely woodcut illustrations. The young heroine has learned enough history to know the outcome of the Babbington plot, and the tension between her knowledge and the family’s lack of it becomes compulsive.

Read now, its style seems dated; but accept it as such and it becomes a slice of magic ~ something warm and still in a hurtling world. It took me only two days to read, most of it under the bedclothes with a torch. Lovely book!

Thanks Caroline (OK... OK, I'll admit... thanks Mum!). Do you remember Alison Uttley's books? I am (literally) a generation away from the books mentioned here, but I have vague recollections of 'Little Grey Rabbit' - the name at least! 

Do you think dated language matters, or are good children's books captivating across the generations?

Caroline Everall is a retired teacher from Berkshire, with a degree in English and History. She currently lives in Bridport, Dorset, where she's involved with just about every society going. She has written highly-acclaimed children's nativities, and still provides plays, productions and assemblies for primary school teachers. She's a great proof-reader and, yup, a pretty cool Mum too.


  1. I don't recall ever hearing of the book before, but it's a wonderful premise. Time travel is fantastic way to bring history to life and view real or imagined events in a different context. Think Dr Who, The Time Machine and even, in its way, the marvellous Blackadder series.

    I think adults can find dated language an integral part of the reading experience because we see it in the context of the piece. Rightly understood, Shakespeare's work (or Marlow's if you follow that line of thought...) still packs a powerful linguistic punch precisely because of how it is written.

  2. Charles Dickens is "dated" too and yet, having just finished The Old Curiosity Shop, I am in love with his work. I remember at school having no idea what most of Shakespeare's plays were about, but loving the language. And one of the funniest writers I've read in Jane Austen (in a subtle way!).

  3. I've never heard of her, but there are authors that all of us have read who, at the sound of their name, others will just stare blankly at us.

    The secret garden is another 'time travel' book when looked at from a certain perspective.

  4. It's a book that will go on my 'must read' list, as for me time travel is one of the most fascinating scenarios in fiction (maybe because it's something I would desperately like to do!) "Tom's Midnight Garden" remains the best for me by some distance.

    Maybe we should start a 'time travel in fiction' thing going. I'll start by adding The House on the Strand by Daphne Du Maurier, which is excellent.

  5. I LOVE Tom's Midnight Garden! Before I read it, I heard it serialised on the radio when Radio 4 used to do a children's story at 6 or 7pm on a Sunday evening. I still think it's one of the most magical books a child can read.

    Love the Secret Garden too. Film and book.

    I want to read The House on the Strand - I think it's on my must-read books page. I'll go and check...

    1. It should be! I keep putting it there! Ceve


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