I turned one in 1971 and while I like to think I was enjoying some pretty great books (who can tell, they’ve all been eaten by me, my siblings, and time) I know of one good book that came out that year that I didn’t read: Peter Dickinson’s Emma Tupper’s Diary.
I don’t think I even read this book growing up*, which is a shame, as from the age of 9 or 10 on up it would have been a scarily good fit: I lived in the West Coast of Scotland among beautiful hills and lochs and would have eaten up a novel about an odd family (cough) whose cousin comes to visit from Botswana (we had cousins come from South Africa . . .). The only parts that are missing are
- the family business — teaching vs. their McAndrew’s Infallible Liniment
- the family minisubmarine — my family’s lack, that is, as far as I know . . .
- my father (sadly) did not go off abroad leaving us nominally looked after by a beautiful kleptomaniacal governess while we gallivanted about, pulled the wool over the eyes of the BBC, etc. (Also, my mother, unlike in many books for kids, is still alive. And still a great reader!)
- and, lastly, despite our searching, no proof of any monsters in any of the local lochs.
I am still sometimes confused by the way that time only seems to move in one way. I certainly feel different ages a lot of the time (although happily not 1-year-old) but I don’t seem to be able to go back in time and hand me this book. Shame! But at least since we reprinted it, it has been finding new readers:
Gayle Surette at SFRevu writes: “a great adventure story with characters that seem very real and as relatable today as there were then. It’s got a great location, adventure, great by-play and witty conversations, as well as an ecological and humanitarian conundrum with real implications for the future of the area and its denizens.”
and the Midwest Book Review notes that it is “Updated with a new cover and illustrations, this remains a great, now classic, summer read.”
Kathleen Jennings provided us with that new great cover of Emma writing her diary with a certain something in the background and we also got to use her sketches throughout the book.
Emma Tupper’s Diary is full of prickly people who rub each other the wrong way. Oh how I do wish I’d read it when I was a kid! But at least Kelly had it when I met her and eventually I got to read it and at some point we realized it would be a whole lot of fun to re-release this book back into the world. It’s a book that’s paced differently from many books for kids (aka readers of all ages!) and as noted by the Midwest Book Review, it also hearkens back to summer holidays when kids (of a certain class and in certain places) got bored and sometimes ran around and did stuff. In that way it is mildly, mildly reminiscent of another classic children’s book that will whisk you away on a summer’s day: Arthur Ransome’s Swallows and Amazons, which, happily, the fine folk at Godine always have in print.
More suggestions of mucking around in summer books welcome. Especially as we woke up to snow and a reminder from Mother Nature that she’s the one who decides when spring comes, ok? Ok!
* I’m not one of those people who can remember every book they’re read. I know (barely**) what I’m reading now and the last two books I read. But, before that? Erm. And what was I reading in 1980? Um. All I can say is lots and lots. Anything, everything. I was often the kid who got to pick the books from the mobile library for the school library refresh. You know, one of those. Inject your own tales of biblioscarcity and scavenging here!
** I was asked this morning and could not remember the title. Um.