Books Monthly April 2020 - British Comic Art is celebrated in fine style, and I find Milly Molly Mandy again...
Books Monthly Nostalgia
My find of the month is a mint condition Milly Molly Mandy...


Nostalgia Book of the Month - David Roach: Masters of British Comic Art

 Published by Rebellion 2nd April 2020

This wildly entertaining and educational tome is a journey through the history of British comics - from the birth of the 20th century to the 80s invasion of American comics by the likes of Brian Bolland, Dave Gibbons and Kevin O’Neil (to name but a few), right up to today’s up-and-coming British art stars and the talents of tomorrow.

Revealing the extraordinary history of the UK’s prolific comic book industry from the 19th Century to the 21st, this ground breaking volume celebrates the incredible artists who made a huge impact on British comics and would go on to revolutionize the industry on a global scale. Featuring a Who’s Who of talent, including Brian Bolland, Yvonne Hutton, Dave Gibbons, celebrated greats such as Don Lawrence and lost masters like Reg Bunn and Shirley Bellwood. Author and 2000 AD artist David Roach takes us on a journey through time detailing the surprising and fascinating evolution of the art from its humble beginnings to its current world-conquering status.

Including artwork from a vast number highly-acclaimed artists, carefully scanned from original artwork, Masters of British Comic Art is the definitive study and celebration of a beloved industry.

Like the Art of The Rise of Skywalker, it is unlikely I will receive my receive my review copy of this book until after I've uploaded the April issue, so it will remain in place as my Nostalgia book of the month for this issue and the May issue.

Nostalgia find of the Month - The Big Milly Molly Mandy Storybook

 Published by Macmillan Children's Books July 2008

This gorgeous gift edition, slipcased, includes eight of Milly Molly Mandy's most popular adventures, beautifully illustrated by Clara Vulliamy, whose paintings reflect all the charm and spirit of the original line drawings. Now accompanied by two audio CDs containing all the featured stories, this classic collection will be treasured by the whole family.

My mint copy of this enchanting book came from a charity shop in my home town and unfortunately did not contain the two CDs, however, this in no way detracts from my enjoyment of this book, which was one of my favourites during my years at primary school in the 1950s. Clara Vulliamy's exquisite paintings are absolutely delightful, and capture Milly Molly Mandy to utmost perfection. This is indeed a storybook for the whole family, and I can't think of anyone who would not be entertained by the simple, heartfelt stories. I was lucky enough to review Macmillan's 2018 celebration book, Milly Molly Mandy Stories with the original Joyce Lankester Brisley illustrations - I still have that book and it is a treasured item, now to be joined by this one. This is nostalgia at its very finest!

Narinda Dhami: Malory Towers - Darrell & Friends

Published by Hodder Children's Books 16th April 2020

When Darrell joins Malory Towers, she's thrilled to be at the beautiful boarding school on the Cornish coast. There are new friends to make, lacrosse games to play, midnight feasts to eat and many stories to share. Should Darrell believe lively Alicia's tale of a school ghost? Are there some stories of her own that Darrell would rather keep to herself? As soon as she meets spiky, spoilt new girl Gwendoline, Darrell knows it's going to be a struggle to hide her secret and of her famously hot temper.

This book is a novelisation of the whole of the gripping new CBBC/Family Channel series, produced by King Bert Productions, founded by David Walliams and Jo Sargent.

It's Malory Towers - but not as we know it. Getting hold of a copy of this book is proving difficult in these uncertain times. I've asked for a copy which I will probably get around mid-April. This book is written by children's author Narinder Dhami, who I believe has been involved in previous reboots of Malory Towers, so I'm really looking forward to it. What I can tell you is that the new BBC CBBC series is now available to watch on iPlayer, and it's an absolute hoot! A lot of effort has gone into casting, and creating the look and feel of the 1950s. Ella Bright as Darrell and Danya Griver as Gwendoline are exceptionally good, but the entire cast is excellent and the series is absolutely terrific, capturing the spirit and genius of Enid Blyton to perfection.

Yours Retro Magazine - the March 2020 issue - out now!

The March 2020 edition of Yours Retro is out now! This is the second of the new monthly editions, and it is crammed with fascinating stories and facts from times past. The cover story features Elvis Presley and how he turned his singing career into a Hollywood career. Also in issue 24, a look at the longest-lasting Hollywood marriages, featuring people such as Paul Newman and Lloyd Bridges, Top Cat cartoon series, Murder on the Orient Express (The Albert Finney version), Frankie Howerd, Peter Sellers, and the Beatles vs The Rolling Stones. It's packed with features and superb photographs... In my opinion it's the very best magazine on the market (in the UK) and it's going from strength to strength! Absolutely marvellous entertainment!

Going Back in time - to the Fifties...

I watched the first two episodes of BACK IN TIME FOR THE CORNER SHOP, a couple of weeks ago, which showed the Ardern family experiencing life in the 1950s, and it had me wanting to share some of my own memories from that period, just to compare, really. I'm well qualified to remember the 1950s, having been born in September 1946 and rapidly approaching my 74th birthday this year. In fact, although I remember a few things from the 1940s (my earliest memory of all is as at just a few months old, standing up in my cot and bawling my eyes out at the monkeys that were climbing up the ropes in my bedroom - this turned out to be some kind of wall frieze that my parents thought I would find soothing and kind of cool...), it's the 1950s I remember best. At the start of that momentous decade (for me), Mum didn't work; she was a full-time Mum to me and my older sister, Jean, who was older then me. School was a bus ride away, in Shurdington, a one-class establishment with one teacher, a school that finally closed in 1980, and to which I went at the age of four and a half years for just a few months. The bus ride was actually terrifying - a double decker bus that climbed a steep gradient as me and my sister clung to each other as we tried to dodge being thrown off as we went around the bends, sitting on the sideways-facing seats... but before that, there were a few months in 1950 (and before) when I remember sitting on the floor listening to "Listen With Mother" and enjoying the delightful exploits of Larry The Lamb and Denis The Dachsund on the radio. I was probably reading Robin comic or Jack and Jill comic at the same time... I don't remember anyone teaching me to read - it must have happened, obviously, but it now seems, looking back, that I could always read, it was something that simply happened. There were, of course, no such things as pre-school, or nursery classes - when you reached the age of five you went to school, and that was that. Or, in my case, four-and-a-half.


As I said, Mum didn't work until around 1952 or 1953, when she suddenly announced that she was going to be a dinner lady at the newly opened Brockworth New County Primary School, to which most of the Shurdington pupils had graduated, as it was nearer, just a hundred yards up the road, in fact. For me, this constituted the end of the world (as I knew it), for it meant that I would no longer be able to walk home at lunchtime for a snack with Mum - it meant that I would have to stay for school dinner - and that brings me to the incident with the school custard. I love custard. But the custard we were given in the school canteen - well, the school hall, really - was lumpy, and I couldn't bring myself to eat it, so I refused, and was duly taken before the headmaster, Mr Gillow, a very stern, unforgiving man who must have seemed like a giant to me, aged five. When he asked me why I hadn't eaten my custard, I could only tell him that it was lumpy... and horrible. I don't remember what punishment was meted out to me for the grave misdemeanour of refusing to eat my school custard, but the point was this: you were given a school dinner, and you were expected to eat it - every scrap. Because, in 1952, when it came to food, memories of rationing were still uppermost in people's minds. There was still rationing of certain items, though I don't personally remember ever going without anything. I probably forgave Mum for abandoning me to school dinners, but for a short while I was branded a rebel by the headmaster, though not by the teachers, and as a hero by my fellow pupils, for refusing to eat that horrific, glutinous pale yellow mass.


I started writing this to compare my life as a youngster in 1950 with the TV programme, but I became diverted by custard... In 1950, we lived in a semi-detached villa with a huge garden in a road of identical semis which I believe were built during the 1930s. It seems that my entire family on my Mother's side moved to Gloucester from London at roughly the same time - my Gran lived in the next street where she kept house for Uncles John and Ernie. My Great Aunt Grace and her husband Ernie (he was the brother of my maternal grandfather - more about grandparents later, in another issue) lived opposite Gran, and my Uncle Bill and his family lived at the far end of our road, near to the waste ground that separated Boverton Drive from the new Primary School that I attended from age 5. Furthermore, my Dad's half-brother, my Uncle Eddie, lived in Matson, a village halfway between Brockworth and Tuffley, where I eventually went to Grammar School, again of which more in a later issue. All of us who lived in Brockworth lived in identical semi-detached houses. There were older houses down on the main road, Ermin Street, and there was a council estate up beyond the primary school, but Boverton Drive and Avenue were among the poshest roads in the village in 1950. Ours was naturally the best of all our families' houses; here's what I remember of it... bay windows top and bottom; separate living and dining rooms downstairs, along with the kitchen, in which there was a gas cooker, a sink, a draining board, and one of those tall cupboards; at the back of the kitchen was a cold room, a pantry, I suppose you would call it. There were three bedrooms upstairs, Mum and dad's, Jean's, and mine (the smallest), together with the bathroom. From the front of the house we could see Cooper's Hill, where they roll the cheeses down at Whitsuntide, an event we always attended. The back of the house looked out over the remains of a Prisoner of War camp, an estate of Nissen Huts, all still occupied. New houses replaced the Nissen huts at the end of the decade (of which more later). In our front room there were two armchairs and a small settee, along with an upright piano. A square of linoleum and a rug on the floor. An open fire. On one side of the chimney breast, a small table housed a large radio. On the other, some bookshelves housing my Dad's small collection of books. The house was always filled with cigarette smoke - every adult in the family except for Gran and Uncle Ernie smoked. It was a fact of life.


I remember one Christmas Jean and I bought Dad a book about Churchill which he proudly added to his collection, some of which were war books, which he wouldn't let me look at. I discovered later that they contained photos of the liberation of such places as Auschwitz and Belsen, and he was anxious to protect me from them, thinking me too young.

Every morning I would park myself in front of the radio and Mum would tune to "Listen With Mother". The radio was on all the time, with programmes like "Housewives' Choice", "Workers' Playtime", "Have A Go" and the like. In the evenings we would listen to programmes like The Goon Show and the radio plays and serials, like "The Day Of The Triffids", although after the first episode, which featured all those blind people crying and wailing, I listened from my bedroom, pretending I wanted to sit up and read (which was a treat for me) when in fact the programme had terrified me! At the weekend there was "Life With The Lyons", "The Clitheroe Kid", "Educating Archie", "Take It From Here" and "The Navy Lark". Somewhere along the way we listened to "The Billy Cotton Band Show," "Ray's A Laugh" and "Meet the Huggetts". On Sunday afternoons we listened to "Two-Way Family Favourites" with Cliff Michelmore and Jean Metcalf; then we kept up to date with the latest cinema releases by listening to "Movie-Go-Round", whose theme tune was the waltz from Carousel. It was whilst listening to Movie-Go-Round that I met and fell in love with Sandra Dee (see picture, right), and set out to watch all of her films. It didn't matter that they weren't Oscar-winning films, they were special because she was in them. I loved The Reluctant Debutante, I loved Come September, because it also starred Bobby Darin, and I loved A Summer Place. I only found out much later that she was only a couple of years older than I was because her mother had falsified her birth date in order to secure work for her in Hollywood.

There was always music on our radio, including Saturday Skiffle Club, and Dad would often tune in to the Third Programme for Proms broadcasts, Henry Hall's Music Night, Friday Night Is Music Night, Sing Something Simple and the like. I don't believe anyone in our extended family ever had a TV until the 1960s, we certainly didn't. But far more important to me, then as now, were the books. Music is a huge part of my life and always will be - I have an enormous collection of classical music, loads of classic rock music by ELO and the Beatles (of course), and a full collection of Acker Bilk CDs. But from the earliest age I craved books - I don't remember a time when I couldn't read, and I started to collect Regent Classics, abridged versions of classic stories published specifically for children. Any birthday, any Christmas, and my wishlist was composed mainly of books, especially the Annuals, Lion, Tiger, etc., etc., and, of course, those all-important Commander and Coronet books that graced 1956-1959 and which you'll maybe have been reading about on this very page through recent months. We'll return to the world of children's literature in the fifties later on in this series...


We had a wind-up gramophone, and my Uncle Ernie had a collection of 78rpm records, mainly opera, which introduced me to Puccini's Tosca and Madame Butterfly - I believe there were something like eight or even maybe twelve records making up an entire opera. Great Uncle Ernie had 78rpm records of bands like Jack Hylton ("That was a cute little rhyme, sing us another one, do! There was a young lady from Ealing... who had a peculiar feeling" was my favourite!), Harry Roy and his band (Tiger Rag), Cab Calloway etc., which he gladly donated to me to play on the gramophone - together with my first introduction to the magic of Django Reinhardt and the Quintette Du Hot Club De France and Stephane Grapelli... Then, at age eleven or so, I was walking past Currys in The Oxbode in Gloucester city and spotted a radiogram, and started to nag. Eventually it found its way into the bay window of our front room, and we started to buy the brand new 10 inch long-playing records that ran at 33.3rpm, Embassy records from Woolworths - their own label; the first was a recording of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony, followed by 78rpm singles of Lonnie Donegan, the Kingston Trio, Chris Barber's Jazz Band and Acker Bilk - but I'm getting ahead of myself. This would have been towards the end of the decade... of which more later.


Food... I don't remember rationing of sweets ending, I just remember going down to the shops at the end of our road and buying things like Spangles and Fry's Five Boys Chocolate Bars and being served by Mr Ellis, who for some reason called me Peter-called-Paul. My sister was born above Mr Ellis's shop, that must have been while Mum, Dad and Jean were waiting to move into 72 Boverton Drive, our family home, which I think cost £750 when Mum and Dad eventually took out a mortgage on it in 1956, when I was ten. Across the road from Mr Ellis's shop was Mr Jacomelli's butcher shop - he may have been one of the prisoners of war for all I know. I remember being sent there to buy sausages, always my favourite meal. The weekly (big) shop involved a bus ride to the city of Gloucester, a journey that took around half an hour, through Hucclecote, Barnwood and Longlevens. I was travel-sick for quite a few months before finally getting used to the ride on the massive Bristol Omnibus Company's predominantly green double deckers that came down the road either from Cheltenham or Painswick. Our preferred shopping emporium was the Coop in Southgate Street, just past the bigger of the two Woolworth's stores (there was a smaller one in Northgate Street). My two favourite shops in the City at age five were Woolworths and Bon Marché. There was an indoor market, where you could buy single odd pieces of Meccano to augment the pieces you got in the sets for Christmas and birthdays; and where Gran would buy me a cup of cockles for a snack - something I don't believe I could tackle nowadays. But predominantly, the most important store in Gloucester was the Bon Marché store, four floors and a basement - everything you could possibly want under one roof, including toys. My particular favourites were those metal cars and vans where the drivers and passengers were painted on the windscreen and the side windows...


There may have been two or three cars in Boverton Drive in the early 1950s, but Great Uncle Ernie (Great Aunt Grace's husband round in Boverton Drive) had a big old car that was hidden away in his garage and never saw the light of day. Towards the end of the decade, young Uncle Ernie had a car because he was an insurance agent, and Uncle John could always lay his hands on a car for family outings to Tewkesbury (to pick daffodils). So far, so good, the TV programme was fairly accurate, although in the evenings, after Dad came home from work, we would all sit in the sitting room and listen to the radio... we didn't ever have a television while we lived in Gloucester, and that was right up until 1963... Everyone had a radio and everyone listened to it. All the time.


There is so much more I could tell you about the 1950s, but I think I will have to call it a day for this issue. I'll continue reminiscing about the 1950s in the next issue... see you in April! (Note to self, April/May/June 2016 Archives)

The small print: Books Monthly, now well into its 22nd year on the web, is published on or slightly before the first day of each month by Paul Norman. You can contact me here. If you wish to submit something for publication in the magazine, let me remind you there is no payment as I don't make any money from this publication. If you want to send me something to review, contact me via email at and I'll let you know where to send it.

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As this is the Nostalgia page, and it's all about what happened in the old days, I'm publishing my memories of the 1950s below the book and magazine reviews on this page, it's called GOING BACK IN TIME TO THE FIFTIES and you can start reading it here on this page...