“ Genre: Junior Books / Author: Anthony Buckeridge / Hardcover „
I recently read an article in the Sunday papers in which well-known authors told how their careers had been influenced by reading certain books as a child. There were a variety of choices, ranging from Enid Blyton’s ‘Famous Five’ books and Richmal Crompton’s ‘William’ series, to more recent books by authors such as Roald Dahl. The selection of science fiction and fantasy writer Tom Arden struck a chord with me as his choice of Anthony Buckeridge’s ‘Jennings’ books were also a firm favourite of mine. I can remember when I was in the top class of primary school in 1960 and my life revolved around football, Radio Luxembourg and the Jennings books. Practically every weekday winter’s night was spent in the village library reading the five ‘Jennings’ books they had in stock. My two favourites ‘Jennings follows a Clue’ and ‘Jennings Diary’ were read and re-read so many times that even today I can practically recite sections of the text. When I went to secondary school the following year there was a private library called the Lexicon in the town where my school was, and I well remember paying 3d (old money) of my pocket money to borrow each one of their comprehensive collection of Jennings books. They were so hilariously funny, that they made me laugh out loud and I’m sure they have been a strong influence on J.K.Rowling, a sort of Harry Potter without the magic, but with a great deal more humour. I still have tremendous affection for Anthony Buckeridge's hilarious and charming stories of his eleven-year old hero and his absurd misadventures at Linbury Court Preparatory School and I read the stories to both of my children when they were very young. They used to really enjoy the books too, and I’m sure their introduction to books in this way is what has given them both a love of books, which helped their education tremendou sly and helped to develop their keen sense of humour. The Jennings books are similar to the Harry Potter stories in that they follow the ‘school term’ life of a schoolboy hero, in this case Jennings and his best friend Darbyshire and all the other pupils and teachers of their boarding school. They inhabit a timeless world and a happy world, which is probably why the books have lasted so well. The author is incredibly inventive and really brings out the exuberance of the children depicted and the care lavished on the structure of each book is clear for all to see. Even today, rereading them conjours up a tremendous feeling of nostalgia which makes me recall my childhood in the 1950s and 60s, even though I went to a ‘bog standard’ state school. The books remind me of a gentler and simpler age, before ‘life became complicated and the certainties of the world as we knew them were swept away’. In my opinion the books have four main attributes: The Characters are really well drawn and as with all good books the reader will immediately sympathise with them. Jennings and Darbyshire are either the sort of friends you had at school or the sort of friends you longed for. The teachers are larger than life and even the minor characters have their place in the mini-world of Linbury Court. From Binns Minor and Blotwell, the youngest of the 79 boys in the school, to Old Nighty (the night caretaker) the author manages to make them all contribute in a safe world where even the outsiders like irate policeman or incompetent thieves and confused firemen, present a largely benevolent face. All the books have plots, which dovetail into each other, rely on a remorseless sense of schoolboy logic and build to a climax of fiascos and excitement as the end of the term draws near. This is a major strength of the author, who is able to move seamlessly from the sublime to the ridiculous in a very short space o f time. The dialogue is superb.Jennings and Darbishire live in a world of gross exaggeration. Nobody merely loses their temper – they go off into a ‘supersonic bate’ and mistakes made are ‘frantic bishes’ which cause Mr. Wilkins, their teacher to go in for ‘roof-level’ attacks. The exclamations of dismay have an unrivalled colour to them, e.g. ‘Petrified Paintpots !’ or ‘Fossilised fish-hooks !’ Each book is riddled with familiar “catch-phrases” that the reader awaits with eager anticipation. Put the plots, the sympathetic characters and excellent dialogue together and they make one of the funniest series of books I have ever read. You may well think that the setting of a boy’s boarding school in the 1950’s is no longer relevant to today’s youngsters, but that doesn’t really matter, the books are pure escapism, which is probably why the Harry Potter books are doing so well. When the books were written, the vast majority of the readers were not pupils at an English boarding school, so their appeal clearly has a broader base and the fact that a huge number of books have been translated into other languages reflects this. What is really relevant about the stories is their humour. The comedy contains genuine poetry, a timelessness which will stand through the ages and which children can relate to in a way that many modern books, which follow publishing fashions and trends will never be able to match. Read the books yourselves or read them to your children, it will make them ask questions about a life and time very different from their own, and yet the friendships will be the same, the lack of understanding from adults hasn’t changed, and there will always be the same confusion between authority and innocent and impetuous youth. The Jennings books will remain a classic in my eyes, and I’m sure t hat 50 years from now, when most of the current crop of titles and authors are forgotten children will still be reading them – probably alongside Harry Potter! Here’s a list of the them for you to choose from, they’re all good but the more recent ones don’t quite have the same feel about them: Jennings Goes To School 1950 Jennings Follows A Clue 1951 Jennings Little Hut 1951 Jennings and Darbishire 1952 Jennings Diary 1953 According to Jennings 1954 Our Friend Jennings 1955 Thanks to Jennings 1957 Take Jennings For Instance 1958 Jennings As Usual 1959 The Trouble With Jennings 1960 Just Like Jennings 1961 Leave It To Jennings 1963 Jennings of Course 1964 Especially Jennings 1965 Jennings Abounding 1967 Jennings In Particular 1968 Trust Jennings 1969 The Jennings Report 1970 Typically Jennings 1971 Speaking Of Jennings 1973 Jennings At Large 1977 Jennings Again 1991 That's Jennings 1994 Jennings Sounds The Alarm 1999 Jennings Breaks The Record 2000
I am sure for all of you reading this opinion, there are certain things which evoke childhood memories. These books do it for me. Even now, aged 26, I would love my daughter to enjoy these books, but she is still a little young to worry about that yet. I loved and still love The Jennings books because they were so innocent. Jennings would inadvertently get into trouble with an off the cuff remark. I can remember laughing out loud at some of his capers. I so badly wanted to share the tales with my friends, but they could not understand why I would want to read about boys school, when shock horror...I was a girl! As I grew up, I really began to appreciate just how innocent the books were, and how refreshing it was to still get a laugh from material like this. The series of books were written by Anthony Buckeridge, an English author, who was never really seen the true success he deserved. My personal favourite is "Jennings Diary". It is looking a bit battered now, but I cannot bear to part with it. As I write now, the characters are coming back into my head as clear as day, and the vision of Linbury Court Preparatory School. It seemed like a prison when I was younger. When I was younger, I pitied Jennings and his best friend Darbishire for having a teacher like Mr. Wilkins, who seemed to fly off the handle at the simplest of things. We all had a teacher like that, but then we all had a teacher like Mr Carter. The teacher who became your confidante. Even as a girl, I could relate to Jennings. He kept a diary, so did I. Then I read how he decided to write his diary in code, and I thought that was the best idea ever. In no time, my diary was in code too. It was simple too, you just reversed the words, especially names. I was ALOCHIN NOTLIMAH. I never have to pause to think what my code name was. Obviously not everyone's was as easy as mine to reverse. My best friend was ENNOAJ SIWEL. I could quote many more i nstances like this, but then it would onyl spoil it for the new readers, who have not yet discovered the joys of these books. All of the books have plots which lead to and from the previous books, so when you get to the end of one, you are eager to start the next. I know now that if I start to read, the old magic will return, and the pictures will be vivid in my head, because Buckeridge wrote in such an imaginative and interactive way, you could not fail to have visions in your mind of the places and people you were reading about. No matter what age you are, look for as many of these books as you can find. They were initially published in the 1950's, and some parts are dated, but it does not take away the enjoyment.
Hello boys and girls. Are you sitting comfortably? Then I'll begin. Once upon a time, there lived a man named Anthony Buckeridge who worked as a teacher in a preparatory school for boys. Every night, before lights out, his pupils clamoured for a bedtime story - and so J.C.T. Jennings was born. Jennings made his public debut back in the olden days - in 1948, to be precise, on radio's Children's Hour. He proved so popular that his exploits were soon being published in book form. Come with me. Let's step back in time to an age where computers, televisions and video's didn't exist and 11 year old boys were forced to use their imaginations in order to have fun. Let's open the front door of Linbury Court School and see who we might meet... Well, there's Jennings. He's a good boy really, always tells the truth even if he suspects that it might get him into a lot of trouble. And it invariably does, since Jennings has an amazing talent for getting into scrapes - or adventures as he would no doubt prefer us to call them. Sometimes these adventures spring from his own vivid imagination, such as the time he is convinced that there is a tramp sleeping rough in the school sanatorium ("Jennings Follows a Clue"). Often, they are the consequence of him following orders too literally such as the time he gets stranded on an empty train ("Just like Jennings"). All too often his predicaments arise because he has applied his own unique brand of schoolboy logic to a problem, as when he decides to become a stamp collector. ("Our friend Jennings"). But, rest assured, this being children's literature, things always turn out right in the end, even when the means of reaching that end have been convoluted by the thought processes of an 11 year old schoolboy. If we've met Jennings, then we're bound to have met his best friend Darbishire, since the two are literally inseparab le. Meek, bespectacled Darbishire sees the world as a confusing place, and his confusion is not helped by his willingness to follow Jennings into predicament after predicament. Darbishire constantly tries to rationalise life by prefacing almost every sentence with "My father says...". Yet the reader very rarely gets to learn more about the unboubted wisdom of the Reverend Percival Darbishire, since Jennings and his fellow pupils are beginning to find him somewhat irksome. These fellow pupils - Venables, Templeton, Atkinson and co. - appear mainly as bystanders to Jenning's escapades, spending their time, as 11 year old boys frequently do, hurtling round the school in imitation of airoplanes and machine guns. The author chooses not to 'flesh out' their characters, allowing centre stage to be taken by the irrepressible Jennings. Overseeing the inevitable mayhem are teachers Mr. Carter and Mr. Wilkins. Mr. Carter is everyone's ideal teacher - calm, understanding and with a seemingly inate understanding of the workings of the minds of small boys. Mr. Wilkins is his complete opposite. Peppery and prone to explosions of volcanic proportions, he stamps and splutters his way through school on the point of apoplexy. His strident "Corwumph!" is, however, his most vehement expresion of fury and the reader is left in no doubt that his blustering rages mask a kind heart and a genuine concern for his young charges. Buckeridge writes in the language of an 11 year old boy,albeit a somewhat dated interpretation. He writes of "wizard wheezes", "ozard prangs" and "frightful bishes". Good things are "lobsterous". Bad things are "oiksome" and "blottish".If you're picky enough, you can spot some 'deliberate' errors - for instance, the Headmaster Mr. W.B. Pemberton - Oakes Esq. MA is either (Oxon) or (Cantab) depending on which book you read. Yet despite w hat must seem to them to be truly ancient language, children nowadays seem to love Jennings as much as I did when I was a child - and still do. My nephews and nieces like nothing better than a trip to Linbury Court at bedtime, particularly if it is read aloud. I have struggled to find a complete list of the Jennings chronicles, since (sadly) I don't own them all. However, a few to be going on with are: Jennings Goes to School. (the first in the series) Jennings' Little Hut. Jennings and Darbishire. Jennigs' Diary. According to Jennings. Our Friend Jennings. Thanks to Jennings. Take Jennings For Instance. Jennings as Usual. The Trouble with Jennings. Just Like Jennings. Most are still readily available today, either as books or audiobooks. But, I'll let you into a secret. These books are far too good for wasting on children. The proper way to read them is to scour the second hand bookshops, looking for illustrated hardback copies, which can be purchased for between £3 and £10. Then, send the kids off to Grandma's for the day, sit back in a comfy chair and enjoy. Just in case I haven't managed to convince you, I'll leave you with a letter written by Jennings to a firm who supply specialised spy cameras. "Dear Sir, I would like to buy one so how much are they and please send one at once but not if they are more than eleven and eight if so just a catalog. We beat Bracebridge School in the end.There was Sports practics last Wedednesday,only there was not any owing to the wet it was scratched.Hopping you are quit all rit. Yours truly, J.C.T Jennings
Tales of life in a boys school.