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Anne Barrett - Caterpillar Hall, etc.

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Anne Barrett - Caterpillar Hall, etc.

Postby Belly » 12 Jan 2013, 00:44

Hi - I have been trying to source this book. A lady called Charlotte who has an excellent blog writes charmingly about it. By the way Charlotte's' blog is utterly brilliant and lists some absolutely wonderful children's books so many miss and so many adults wish they had read as children. She also has a section on it called 'Time Slip Tuesday' which reviews children's time travel books (my favourite genre). Fun and modern as well as older. Well worth checking out.

Anyway, Charlotte writes the below about Anne Barrett's Caterpillar Hall. For some reason this story sounds hauntingly familiar. Did I read it as a child? Was there something on TV about it years ago? Does it strike a chord with anyone else? It sounds like it deserves a far wider readership:

Penelope lives a lonely life in London, cared for by her governess, Miss Pink, and her distant uncle, while her father is off in Persia trying to restore the family fortunes enough so that they can move back to their ancestral home (pause while I look up Persia, to see when it became Iran--1935. The book is set a few years after WW II, so I guess it's ok for a girl of that time to still say "Persia."). One day her father (who seems to be having some success) sends Penelope five whole pounds to spend as she pleases, and Penelope decides on an umbrella. Not a dull black one, but a lovely one, to be used in all the imaginative ways one might need shelter--a tent roof, a palmy oasis, a parachute....

And so Miss Pink, after some protestation, takes Penelope umbrella shopping. And Penelope comes home with a beautiful parrot handled umbrella....

On her first outing with her new friend, a gust of wind hurtles him up and into a walled garden. Penelope of course hurries after....and finds herself in the garden of a bombed house. All that remains is the glass vestibule, that once reached from the door to the street, like a glass caterpillar. But someone is living there in "Caterpillar Hall"--a lovely young lady, who becomes Penelope's dear friend. She tells Penelope that her umbrella is magic, an indeed it is.

The magic takes Penelope as a spectator back in time, watching the moments in the lives of those around her--Miss Pink, her uncle, and the older couple that look after the house--when they too were young, wishing for something as much as Penelope had wished for her own umbrella. It's a very passive type of time travel, but just gorgeously generous in its visual descriptions, and emotionally pleasing, in that Penelope learns to see the adults around her as three dimensional people, with dreams of their own. They want small things, for the most part--a beautiful hat, a ship in a bottle, a copper kettle, but there's one thing that's very large indeed.

And so, with what is left from her five pounds, and the help of her new friend, Penelope sets out to find them what they want.

This is pretty much a perfect Charlotte book. I would have swooned with adoration for it as an eight year old, and managed to love it even as a hardened adult. It has:

--beautiful descriptions of lovely things and places
--an engaging young heroine, with whom I would like to play
--enough time travel magic to be interesting, without being stressful
--a very happy ending

Utterly charming. My only regret is that it is out of print and expensive, so probably you won't be able to read it...


Where can I find this book and has anyone got a copy? Thanks.
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Re: Anne Barrett - Caterpillar Hall

Postby Kate Mary » 06 Mar 2013, 08:41

I have just discovered your post on Anne Barrett, thanks for posting it Belly. I too would love to read "Caterpillar Hall" but in all my years of haunting second-hand bookshops I have never seen a copy, nor have I ever found one on the internet, but I do have another book by Anne Barrett "Stolen Summer". I had the good fortune to read it as a child and it remains one of my favourite books. Brief synopsis as follows:

Jenny's widowed mother loses her job as a live-in "lady help" with Mrs Bradbury-Pugh, so they decide to have one more trip to the countryside they love 'before the poorness starts'. Jenny and her mother miss the last bus back but have the luck to meet Mrs Rusting, caretaker of Stelliscombe Hall who takes pity on them and lets them stay in the old house. Thus begins a 'stolen summer'. Lots of wonderful dreamy things happen; Jenny wakes one night hearing distant music and meets Lucius and his violin; she also finds a tiny ship on a stream in the garden and begins a friendship with James who lives at the vicarage and is obsessed by Nelson and the Battle of Trafalgar; Jenny and James solve a mystery connected with the Battle and the village.

The ending of the story is one of the most lovely and satisfying I have ever read. My copy of "Stolen Summer" is in a very fragile state and held together with glue and magitape but I would never part with it. Sadly this title is as scarce as "Caterpillar Hall". Wouldn't it be great if a publisher like Jane Nissen or Girls Gone By reprinted them? I googled Anne Barrett and found some info which you might find interesting:

http://www.dorsetlife.co.uk/2008/09/wit ... -weymouth/

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Re: Anne Barrett - Caterpillar Hall

Postby Belly » 06 Mar 2013, 09:07

Thank you Kate, I think I would be willing to pay handsomely for either copy - I so want to share books like this with my children Why have they not been immortalised? Why do class teachers read Captain Underpants or Horrid Henry when they could be reading Caterpillar Hall...I could go on... :) Off to read your information, thank you.
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Re: Anne Barrett - Caterpillar Hall

Postby Kate Mary » 18 May 2016, 13:38

It was my wedding anniversary yesterday and my husband bought me "Caterpillar Hall" by Anne Barrett. It was a complete surprise. He knew I had been looking for it on and off for years, and he managed to track down a copy in New South Wales, Australia. He reckons it was the only copy for sale in the world. An unusual wedding anniversary present perhaps but I'm absolutely thrilled.
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Re: Anne Barrett - Caterpillar Hall

Postby Anita Bensoussane » 18 May 2016, 13:54

Wonderful, Kate! :D A really thoughtful present that I'm sure you'll always treasure.
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Re: Anne Barrett - Caterpillar Hall

Postby Kate Mary » 03 Jun 2016, 15:03

I know I'm just talking to myself in this thread, most of Anne Barrett's books are so very rare that they are next to impossible to find, but I've just finished Caterpillar Hall and it is one of the most enchanting stories I've ever read with a gloriously happy ending. What a shame that this and my beloved Stolen Summer have never been reprinted.

I've bought another Anne Barrett book The Journey of Johnny Rew that I found on the Internet and I'm waiting for it to arrive, in the meantime I decided to see what other titles she had written. I've checked COPAC (the online union catalogue of major libraries ) and found four:

The Dark Island 1952
Songberd's Grove 1957
Midway 1967
Sheila Burton -Dental Assistant 1956

I don't think I'll bother with the last one! It's part of The Bodley Head Career Novels series. Midway and Songberd's Grove have been reprinted in both hardback and Puffin, but I can find almost no mention of The Dark Island on the Internet except for the COPAC records and a review in The Children's Newspaper. I've not much hope finding that one. Anne Barrett was a writer of rare quality it's a pity she should be forgotten.
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Re: Anne Barrett - Caterpillar Hall

Postby pete9012S » 03 Jun 2016, 15:13

I have been trying to find the books,but have had no success.. :cry:
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Re: Anne Barrett - Caterpillar Hall

Postby Courtenay » 03 Jun 2016, 15:48

They do sound like wonderful books, Kate Mary — such a pity they're so hard to find.

Has anyone tried persuading Girls Gone By to reprint them? :wink: Otherwise, the best I can think of is to find out when Anne Barrett's copyright expires and wait till then before having them republished in full online...
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Re: Anne Barrett - Caterpillar Hall

Postby Fiona1986 » 03 Jun 2016, 16:18

I was just about to suggest Girls Gone By, though naturally they would have to have a copy of those books in order to reprint them!
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Re: Anne Barrett - Caterpillar Hall

Postby Courtenay » 03 Jun 2016, 16:21

True... Kate Mary, maybe you could lend them yours? :D :wink:
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Re: Anne Barrett - Caterpillar Hall

Postby Kate Mary » 03 Jun 2016, 19:11

Anne Barrett died in 1986 so copyright doesn't expire until 2056. I'll be 102 then!!

I would love Girls Gone By to reprint them but I doubt if they would. I might email Clarissa and see what she says. I might lend them my copy of Caterpillar Hall, which is in fine condition with a dj but my poor old Stolen Summer has been read to death and is in a Boots Library binding and has no jacket, anyway that is one book I would never lend.
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Re: Anne Barrett - Caterpillar Hall

Postby Kate Mary » 11 Sep 2017, 19:49

I've just finished reading Songberd's Grove by Anne Barrett and I'm completely blown away by it. It's one of the best books I've read all year.

Songberd's Grove is a row of once elegant houses, now shabby and run down. When Martin Singer and his parents move into the ground floor flat of No.7 he discovers that a bully 'runs' the street and trouble begins when Martin refuses to join the gang. Mrs Singer has a bully of her own to contend with - the impending visit from Aunt Emmeline. Martin finds an ally in Geneva the Spanish girl from the top floor flat and together they set out to defeat the gang.

Anne Barrett is brilliant at endings. This story even has a happy ending for the bully Lennie and Aunt Emmeline gets her comeuppance too.

I think Songberd's Grove is as good as any modern classic like Tom's Midnight Garden or Carrie's War. Anne Barrett even has an entry in the Oxford Companion to Children's Literature. It is a shame that this book has been out of print for more than 50 years.
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Re: Anne Barrett - Caterpillar Hall, etc.

Postby Courtenay » 11 Sep 2017, 21:20

Gosh, these sound like books I should look out for as well — hard to find though they are! Thanks for your reviews of them, Kate Mary.
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