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Jennings by Anthony Buckeridge

To see our current Jennings books, please click here

"Don't quibble. You've made a frightful bish and you're about as much use as a radio-active suet pudding."

It is perhaps the inventive slang vocabulary and wordplay that give the Jennings stories of Anthony Buckeridge (1912 - 2004) their enduring appeal. This example of Jennings' reproach to his long-suffering friend Darbishire helps to transport us into an almost timeless world in which the innocence (and anxieties) of childhood are captured forever.

Typically JenningsThe origins of the Jennings stories can be traced back to the author's time as a schoolmaster at St. Lawrence College in Ramsgate, Kent . As a tutor at this preparatory school, Buckeridge would encourage his young wards with offers of stories if they did as they were told. It was not long before his supply of stories was exhausted and he began to create his own, and gradually the character of Jennings emerged as the recurrent hero of each tale. Since Buckeridge maintained that authors should write about what they know, it is not surprising that the stories he created were about life at a preparatory school. His earlier teaching career in Suffolk and Northamptonshire also provided experiences on which he would draw in the Jennings books.

After the Second World War, Buckeridge submitted a script which was accepted for transmission by Children's Hour and the first Jennings radio play, Jennings Learns the Ropes , was broadcast on 16 October, 1948. It was immediately popular and a further five stories were commissioned at once. Jennings went on to top the Children's Hour polls on several occasions.

Above: Val Biro provided the illustrations for Typically Jennings (1971).
This is one of the most collectable Jennings books.

Jennings Goes to SchoolIn 1949, Buckeridge sent a batch of the radio scripts to publishers William Collins with the suggestion that they be turned into a book. The publishers agreed (not surprising with the prospect of free publicity from the popular radio series) and the first Jennings book, Jennings Goes to School , appeared in 1950. This pattern was to be repeated for subsequent Jennings books: until 1961 Buckeridge wrote the stories as radio scripts and then re-worked them into book form.
Although it is possible to discern the various episodes within each book, Buckeridge's skill as an author means that the joins are almost seamless. Shortly after Jennings Goes to School , Buckeridge gave up his teaching career to concentrate on writing.

Left: The first Jennings book appeared in 1950, with dustjacket
illustrated by the Dutch painter Saloman van Abbe (1883 -1955)

Jennings as UsualOnce the Jennings books began to appear in 1950, Buckeridge added new books at a rate of almost one a year until the early 1970s. After this time Collins decided not to issue any new books, though the author would have been happy to continue writing new stories for his schoolboy hero. In reality, television had hit the market for children's fiction and Collins believed that it was not economic to issue hardback children's stories. After a few years, the publishers relented to some extent and reissued the Jennings books in paperback format under the Armada imprint. In 1977 Jennings at Large was published in paperback, the only Jennings book to be first published in this format, and in 1980 it was reissued by Severn House publishers in a hardback edition which is now hard to find. There followed a long gap before Jennings Again was published in 1994, and That's Jennings in 1996 - the twenty-fourth and last of the Jennings stories.

Right: Jennings As Usual was published in 1959. The dustjacket is illustrated by Douglas Mays

In a controversial move, six of the books were re-issued by John Goodchild publishers in the mid-1980s with 'some very minor emendations'. Buckeridge himself undertook the alterations as he believed that some of the schoolboy slang of the earlier books may cause confusion. For example, 'gym shoes' became 'trainers' and 'ginger pop' became 'fizzy drinks'. Although these changes were made by the author himself, many thought that the changes diminished the charm of the stories. In the late 1980s the books were again revised by the author and reprinted as paperbacks by Macmillan.

Trouble With JenningsIt is not only the texts that make the Jennings books collectable - the illustrated dustwrappers also have considerable appeal. The early books had dustwrapppers illustrated by S. van Abbe, although some considered that these drawings appeared rather dated.

However, when Douglas Mays took over the illustrations in the late 1950s the spirit of Jennings and the other inhabitants of Linbury Court Preparatory School was captured with great success. Mays continued to provide the illustrations until 1970 ( The Jennings Report ) and in 1971 the well known illustrator Val Biro provided the drawings for Typically Jennings , now one of the most collectable Jennings books (shown above).

Left: The Trouble with Jennings (1960), also illustrated by Mays.

 

Everybody, of course, will have their own favourite Jennings episodes - Buckeridge felt that Jennings in Particular (1968) was his favourite, although he liked the last six books as he believed that he had 'got into his stride' by that point. Inevitably, Jennings' adventures stem from his tendency to act first and think later - the staff at Linbury Court are often bemused by the 'fantastic manner' in which Jennings mind seems to work:-

"I'm extremely grateful, and I withdraw the remarks I made a few moments ago."
Jennings beamed. "You mean, my head doesn't need seeing to after all, Sir?"
"Well - er... " Mr. Wilkins wasn't prepared to go quite as far as that.

Similarly, Jennings escapades are frequently viewed with alarm by his constant, but cautious, companion Darbishire. As yet another of Jennings '"supersonic" ideas goes spectacularly wrong, Darbishire is wont to lament "Why do these frantic hoo-hahs always pick on us to happen to?"

As an audience, we are surely grateful that they do...

Submitted by Tim.

A selection of Jennings titles in stock...

JUST LIKE JENNINGS
Buckeridge, Anthony. No illustrator listed. Stock no. 2108027
Collins. 1st. 1961. Very good condition in an almost very good dustwrapper. Cream boards, dark title to spine. Colour frontis plus 4 b/w illustrations. Some light bumping and wear to spine and corners. A few foxspots to outer page edges. Wrapper is edge-torn and chipped with fading to spine; creased. [S]
Price: £28.00
TAKE JENNINGS, FOR INSTANCE
Buckeridge, Anthony. Illustrated by Mays, . Stock no. 1603532
Collins. 1965. Very good condition in a good dustwrapper. Red boards, black title to spine. 4 b/w illustrations. 256 pages. Top edge red. Corners, top and tail of spine bumped and rubbed. Mark to front endpaper. Pages browned. Wrapper is scuffed, creased and edge torn with tape repair to verso (at top of spine). Wrapper has some loss at top of rear panel. [S]
Price: £11.00
JENNINGS FOLLOWS A CLUE
Buckeridge, Anthony. No illustrator listed. Stock no. 1603531
Collins. 1963. Very good condition in a very good dustwrapper. Red boards. Top edge red. 255 pages. Pages browned. Wrapper has a little chipping to base of spine but is very bright. [S]
Price: £12.00
JENNINGS AND DARBISHIRE
Buckeridge, Anthony. No illustrator listed. Stock no. 1603530
Collins. 1962. Very good condition in a very good dustwrapper. Jennings receives a printing set! Red boards, black title to spine. 256 pages. Pages browned. Wrapper edge worn with a few tears and 6/- price sticker to front flap. [S]
Price: £11.00
ACCORDING TO JENNINGS
Buckeridge, Anthony. No illustrator listed. Stock no. 1603529
Collins. 1964. Very good condition in a very good dustwrapper. Red boards, black title to spine. 255 pages. Top edge red. 4 b/w illustrations. Inscription in ink to front endpaper. Pages browned. Wrapper lightly edge worn. [S]
Price: £11.00
JUST LIKE JENNINGS
Buckeridge, Anthony. Illustrated by Mays, . Stock no. 1603528
Collins. 1966. Very good condition in a very good dustwrapper. Red boards with black title to spine. Four b/w text illustrations. 256 pages. A couple of bumps to board edges. Owner's initials stamped to half-title page. Pages browned. A frontis plate is listed but was not produced in this edition - only 4 b/w illustrations listed, but 5 present inside the book. Price-cut wrapper has a chip at base of spine and a few tiny edge tears. [S]
Price: £14.00

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