Books by Philippa Pearce

AMY'S THREE BEST THINGS by Philippa Pearce
Released: Nov. 12, 2013

"Tender and reassuring and just right for bedtime. (Picture book. 4-7)"
Although she's never before been away from home by herself, Amy bravely declares her intention of spending three nights at Grandma's house. Read full book review >
THE SQUIRREL WIFE by Philippa Pearce
Released: Nov. 1, 2007

A folkloric tale of the deep woods, written years ago for a radio broadcast and outfitted here with elaborate, richly textured illustrations. In exchange for venturing into the forest on a stormy night to rescue one of the magical green folk who dwell there, young pig-keeper Jack receives a gold ring that transforms a squirrel into a loving, woods-wise wife. Though she sacrifices her double nature after temporarily turning back into a squirrel to rescue him when his evil brother has him imprisoned, the two go on to a long, happy life together. Adding an air of mystery to his pictures by lighting them with a green glow, Anderson gives his figures otherworldly expressions, and poses them in formal groups among thick groves of tall, stately trees. Atmospheric in art and writing both, Pearce's posthumous offering is equally suited to reading alone or aloud. (Picture book. 7-9)Read full book review >
Released: Sept. 1, 2004

When the invalided Mr. Franklin engages Bet, his housekeeper's young granddaughter, to read aloud to no one in particular in the meadow outside his house, she soon discovers that she is, in fact, reading aloud to a mole—no ordinary mole, but a magicked mole, who has been cursed with eternal life and the capacity for human intelligence and speech. What ensues is a deliberate tale of friendship and belonging, as the mole confides his desire to lose his magic and become "wholly mole" and Bet responds in kind, revealing her essential loneliness and her anxiety over returning to the mother who left her at birth. Best known for her 1958 classic, Tom's Midnight Garden, Pearce here delivers another small gem, in which what is told takes back seat to the telling. The give-and-take of the relationship between girl and mole is beautifully rendered, their growing affection and need for each other presented with precise understatement. When they resolve to reverse the magic and return the mole to his natural state, Bet's agony of decision is entirely believable, and very nearly tragic. Perfectly unusual, perfectly lovely. (Fiction. 8-12)Read full book review >
HERE COMES TOD! by Philippa Pearce
Released: March 1, 1994

From the author of a landmark in children's fantasy (Tom's Midnight Garden, 1958), six cozy episodes in the life of a small boy. After Granny promises not to knit Tod any more sweaters until he outgrows the two she's just given him, she surprises him with one for his teddy bear; the next-door cat disappears and Tod finds it; he's unwelcoming to a classmate his mother has agreed to care for (not his "enemy," he agrees, but "at school we don't do things together, so she's not my friend"), until, believably, the two enjoy some minor mischief together; etc. Quiet, almost uneventful, but nicely childlike and honed with unusual care, an inviting first chapter book enhanced with cheery, informal b&w sketches. (Fiction/Young reader. 5-8)Read full book review >
EMILY'S OWN ELEPHANT by Philippa Pearce
Released: Aug. 1, 1988

From a well-loved British author (Tom's Midnight Garden), a not-quite-believable story: Emily's father talks about cutting down the big trees around their country home, or tearing down the old shed, but Emily and her mother tell him that he just doesn't have enough to do; besides, they may come in handy. Sure enough, when Emily visits the zoo there is a baby elephant, Jumbo, that the keeper is trying to give away; it is a miniature and the zoo wants only "elephantine" elephants. So when Emily's family gets Jumbo, they not only have everything he needs, but he'll give Dad something to do with his spare time. Beautifully told—though Pearce doesn't suggest much beyond the fantasy made real here. The vigorous, precise drawings, washed with soft hues, evoke an almost idyllic landscape while echoing the story's warmth and humor. Offbeat and engaging. Read full book review >
Released: April 20, 1987

Short stories can be hard to sell to children, but this collection is worth pushing. Pearce is a master at adding a soupcon of the supernatural to an ordinary setting. Most of the 11 stories are about a child fending off spite or evil, but some are just tales of wonder. In "A Christmas Pudding Improves with Keeping," a modern boy keeps wanting to make a Christmas pudding, without understanding why, until he sees a ghost and finds the remains of an old pudding that had been poisoned. In "Black Eyes," an unhappy child tries to spoil a happy cousin's contentment by convincing her that a teddy bear has the power to bring disaster into her family. "The Road It Went By" is a wonderfully odd tale of an old gardener who falls in love with a weed root that he could feel "singing" through the dirt. These stories require some sophistication in language as well as in understanding, but their brevity and strong emotional appeal would make them very suitable for reluctant readers who want a good story but haven't much reading stamina. They should also be good for book-talking or reading aloud. Read full book review >
Released: April 14, 1986

Nine short stories focusing on real childhood concerns. In the title story, a little girl is afraid of a bully and imagines how wonderful it would be to have a lion friend to take her to school for support. The "Runaway" finds a better answer after knocking a freshly hung wash into the dirt. In "The Executioner," Andy knows he must save his new mouse friend from his father's mousetrap, but how? Although the stories are short, Pearce conveys a good deal of character and imagination in a few words and understands how a young child's mind works in puzzling out how to cope with life. Good read-alouds, but also accessible to new readers. Several of the stories were originally written for the BBC. Read full book review >
THE WAY TO SATTIN SHORE by Philippa Pearce
Released: April 9, 1984

Here is Kate Tranter coming home from school in the January dusk—the first to come, because she is the youngest of her family." With that plain, brisk, insinuating opening—the introduction, also, to the occupied house "with no lit window"—there begins a child's searing initiation into adult secrets, cruelty, shame: Philippa Pearce's most ambitious book since the unforgettable Tom's Midnight Garden. Kate, an inward child (about ten) attached to her cat Syrup, believes her father to have drowned the night she was born and to be buried in the churchyard. Then the headstone disappears, and Kate learns that unknown "Uncle Bob" was the Alfred on the headstone—and her own father, Frederick, has just recently died: the message in dour Granny Randall's mysterious letter. From oldest brother Ran—once fond, now secretive too—she has heard of "something awful" that happened, about the time Dad supposedly died, on also-unknown "Sattin Shore." A bicycle trip there—a spot on the estuary, next-older brother Lenny knows—is exhausting, unnerving. (What about the cryptic old woman, looking at Kate so curiously, mumbling about drowning? What was the man with the binoculars doing?) At home, mystery crowds upon mystery, distress upon distress. "The eyes of a stranger"—with a face like Ran's—"looked at her from over her shoulder, from the dim depths of the mirror." Syrup disappears, then reappears in the loft under the roof. (Could feeble Granny Randall really have gone up there? Why?) The resolution will not only Explain All, it will (as you'll have guessed) restore Kate's Dad to the family, much chastened (he disappeared after circumstantial implication in Bob's drowning), and leave Kate, who has been fierce beyond pluck or spunk, content to look forward—"to her birthday in July, and the great good changes that were promised." The mystery is a cover, of sorts, for emotional and psychological baring that would otherwise be too much. Read full book review >
Released: April 16, 1979

That perennial source of child-misery—an uptight mother who's not sympathetic to pets, especially the ratty sort—is deftly and unblinkingly examined by Philippa Pearce, though the situation is too familiar, and the outcome too predictable, to yield one of her more memorable fictions. The two gerbils, Bubble and Squeak (after the English beef-and-cabbage dish), are really Sid's—bestowed upon him by an Australia-bound acquaintance—but it's doting Peggy who can tell them apart, and little Amy who squeals. As for unassertive stepfather Bill, well, he once had white mice as a boy. . . . So there's a rush of resentment when Mrs. S., unbeknownst, gives the gerbils away (Sid runs off to the town's glummest woods) and despair when—after their return and the ensuing "gerbil festival"-she puts out their cage for the garbage man. But: "Missus," he says devastatingly, "you can't do this. There's something alive in here." To comfort the horrified Amy, Mrs. S. promises not to send the gerbils away again. And Sid, who's been equally intransigent, reluctantly agrees to let them stay with Peggy's accommodating friend for a cooling-off period. The final pair of crises thus finds the family more or less united: Bubble is mauled by a cat, Mrs. S. helps administer medication, and on the former owner's reappearance (Australia "didn't suit"), everyone talks him over to acquiring replacements. An active story, intensely felt, discerningly put, and irresistibly pictured. Read full book review >
Released: Aug. 24, 1973

Eight lovely, low-keyed, insightful stories, set in a quiet English village where children and grownups have room for solitary stretching and time for subtly modulated feelings and relationships. In the funny, moving, sharply realized title story a small boy becomes unwillingly involved with two neighbors, Dirty Dick the feckless junk man and henpecked Mr. Macy who steals Dick's sock full of pound notes; in "The Tree in the Meadow" a child ends up bewildered and in tears after he wins membership in a gang by leading the other boys in the triumphant toppling of a large oak tree that workmen have been preparing to fell. A boy's devotion and his grandfather's crotchety resolution are perfectly aligned in "Still Jim and Silent Jim" ("the old 'un's deaf and the child can't be got to talk much") when the two sneak off via wheelchair to a graveyard miles away, so that the old man can measure his grandfather's grave and prove that he was seven feet tall. . . "Aye, they were giants in those days." Together the stories form a richly imagined childhood world. Read full book review >
BEAUTY AND THE BEAST by Philippa Pearce
Released: Oct. 20, 1972

For Philippa Pearce's graceful retelling of the romantic 18th-century fairy tale, theatrical designer Barrett provides an atmospheric ultra-romantic 18th-century setting that reverberates with mystery. The words appear on mottled, deeply shaded pages that match the elusive facing scene in which background prevails over action and everything — the elegant palace and enchanted garden, the impalpable but gruesome ranged beast — is seen through a mist, in shadow, or in distancing cameo frames. And if the aura is ethereal, the scholarship is solid; the author appends three pages of source notes we would like to see emulated in all adaptations of old tales. A beauty. Read full book review >
Released: Sept. 9, 1968

The children of the house had the nursery and the schoolroom and the great park encircled by three miles of fence and, most important, each other, but never enough food nor proper clothes nor money to spend—raiding the kitchen garden was an escapade and finding a half crown warranted a celebration. The servants were their natural allies against Sir Robert's rigidity and Lady Hatton's acquiescence, and the chief friends that Laura and Tom and Hugh and Margaret had. . . . Once, hard-pressed, Tom spoke out: "We are kept short of all kinds of things just so that Papa can keep all the horses he wants and you can live at Stanford Park like Grandfather." But life on the estate changed only imperceptibly as the children grew older, until the advent of the First World War; then Father, who could have rejoined his regiment, instead closed Stanford to take a munitions post profferred by a rich neighbor: "There are plenty of young men like his son and ours who can do the actual fighting." Framing the story is a visit to the Hall, which has stood empty for the fifty years since Tom and Hugh and Laura were killed in the war, Hugh as a sixteen-year-old midshipman. . . . What starts as a conspiracy against authoritarian parents by youngsters who are refreshingly free of guilt feelings becomes a fight for survival, with this household mirroring aristocratic. Britain on the brink of dissolution. But the poignancy needs no historic perspective—they were gallant and merry and they looked forward so much to good times when the house would be theirs. Read full book review >
Released: April 5, 1965

Sir Harold Scott was the Commissioner of Police — head man at Scotland Yard — who early recognized the value of public relations and established a department to handle it. He's retired now, but it is obvious that the Yard and its image is still important to him. In preparing this book for young police buffs, the value of a good story well told has been recognized. Some of the famous as well as the less well known crimes solved at the Yard are recounted and serve to reveal the functions of whichever department handled the case. The C.I.D., which has acquired the glamor of detective novels and movies, gets its share of attention but the book seeks to spread the image to include such branches as the Flying Squad, the central records division, the laboratories and the uniformed police. The history and the current activities of Scotland Yard are discussed with verve and the book reads with all the pleasure that attaches to an informative entertainment. Read full book review >
TOM'S MIDNIGHT GARDEN by Philippa Pearce
Released: Sept. 28, 1959

The enchantment of a secret garden in which time dissolves like English mist permeates this lyrical story of young Tom's nightly return to Victorian days, to Hatty, and to the house of secrets. For as sure as there was a thirteenth hour there was Hatty, the orphan who nightly beckoned to the twentieth century English boy. A lyrical and poignant fantasy reminiscent of Portrait of Jennie and The Secret Garden, this book which has been selected as the British children's book of 1959 contains a great deal of imagination and grace, rarely encountered in recent children's work. Susan Einzig's sensitive black and white illustrations add another dimension to the intense aesthetic appeal of Tom's delicate flight into fancy. Read full book review >
Released: Feb. 25, 1958

A formula plot in a new locale. The legendary treasure concealed in the old Codling house is sought by David Moss and Adam Codling in Great Barley County, England. The rhymed riddle bequeathed from generation to generation by Jonathon Codling in 1588 as he left to fight the Spanish Armada, was the key which enabled the boys to unearth the jewels and save the old Codling homestead for Aunt Dinah. The characters have a pleasant English solidarity and the pleasures of pastoral Britain unfold with conviction as the boys unravel the mystery in Adam's cano, the Minnow. This plot has kept publishing houses solvent for generations dating back to the Armada. A retread-set in Albion. Read full book review >