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Stella & Rose's Books

Specialists in Rare & collectable books

Blue Peter Memories

My sister and I were avid Blue Peter fans in our childhoods and everything stopped on a Monday and a Thursday evening for half an hour as we sat glued to the television. Blue Peter was first broadcast on the 16th October 1958 but it would be the late 1960s before we started to tune in. At that time the presenters were Valerie Singleton, Peter Purves and John Noakes and even though we watched various other excellent presenters over the years these three were always our favourites. To date there have been 35 presenters and, due to it's continuing popularity, Blue Peter is still broadcast every week. I don't suppose there are many, if any, other children's programmes that have had such a long run. A mix of guests in the studio, outside broadcasts, daredevil stunts and things to make filled each programme - as I'm sure you will remember if you were also a fan.

Bird Watching in The Algarve

A reminder for the geographically challenged, the Algarve is in Portugal and forms the extreme South West tip of Europe. Its position, climate and geology make it a superb area for the birdwatcher and it's important to state up front that Chris and I are great birdwatchers but poor bird identifiers and often rely on our “oracle”, a friend back in the UK for positive identifications so any mistakes in this article... we would love to be educated!

There are four main habitats in the Algarve:

-the salt marshes -the inland orchards and orange groves -areas of maquis type scrub -the coast itself

However, from the end of September to early November, it's difficult to say whether there are more “birders” than birds in this area. A veritable plague or should that be flock of birders descend to witness the stunning North to South migration of hundreds of birds of prey and tens of thousands of passerines as they head out over Cape St. Vincent. Sometimes we felt like putting up a sign to warn the birds – don't stop here!!!

Beneath the Big Top

The circus – you either love it or you hate it, don’t you? Me, I love it. I always have done. I was born a josser; one not directly connected to the circus world so why this fascination? It all started when I was taken as a small child to see Bertram Mills Circus in Gloucester way back in the 1950s. I remember the smell of the earth and sawdust; the hard seats; but most of all I remember Coco the Clown. In his garish checked coat, his oversized boots and his bright orange hair that seemed to stand on end of its own accord he was both a frightening and fascinating being. It was when he plucked me from the audience to take part in his ‘tricks’ that I became hooked. I left the circus that day with sawdust in my shoes.

Banned Books

Governments through the ages have expended great energy in fighting wars with and against real live human soldiers. Perhaps what has not always been so apparent is the equal, and sometimes greater war that some of those governments have waged against the 'twenty six lead soldiers 'of the printing press.

Benjamin Franklin and Karl Marx both understood how the power of the printed word could issue a challenge more potent than any number of guns and bayonets. If we accept that writing, in some form, is at least 6000 years old then it may actually predate anything that we might regard as a sword. The pen might possibly be older than the sword, but the big debate has always been about which of them wields the greater power.


'Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness', the first line of a poem by John Keats which, in my opinion, captures the essence of autumn. If I am honest, autumn isn't my favourite season - spring is - but like all the seasons it has its good points and not so good points.

One aspect of autumn that I do enjoy is the autumn colour. The amount and intensity of colour in any particular year is affected by the weather conditions before and during the time when the chlorophyll in the leaves is decreasing. Ideally we need a succession of warm and sunny days followed by cool but not freezing nights to produce the best display. The sugars in the leaves combined with lots of sunshine produce the pigments but the amount of moisture in the soil also has an effect, so with our unpredictable British weather no two autumns are alike. Stella Books is in an area surrounded by deciduous woodlands so if the conditions are right there could be some spectacular colours this autumn. Why not visit the shop this autumn and see for yourself.

The Armchair Time-Traveller

Hands up all of you who read the title and thought that this was going to be about H.G. Wells and The Time Machine... Isn't it amazing how a few words can so powerfully create an image in the mind of the reader? Although a scientist with too much time on his hands may yet create a time-travelling armchair, we can all achieve personal transportation with alternative, but perhaps no less sophisticated, equipment: a book and the human mind.

Butterflies Or Bust

Towards the end of summer last year I reached a decision. After several years of miserable summer seasons, we had actually had some decent weather but something seemed to be missing... there were hardly any butterflies or bees around the garden. Steps would have to be taken!

As we've all seen in the news during recent years, the populations of bees and butterflies have been in decline for some time and I realized that it had become something of a novelty to see a butterfly in the garden. What had happened to those endless summer days of childhood when the gardens were full of multi-coloured butterflies and one used to collect pupa cases in match-boxes?!


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ABOVE, left to right: Figures 40 - 43

Figure 40 - Five Run Away Together 1st ed. 1944  

Figure 41 - Five Go To Smuggler's Top 1st ed. 1945

Figure 42 - Five Run Away Together 1st ed. 1944   

Figure 43 -Five Go To Smuggler's Top 1st ed. 1945

When all 11 SB dustwrappers were examined in detail, only 3 inconsistencies were found. These are as follows:

The word Anne is correctly spelled on the front flap of the 1st edition of Five Go To Smuggler's Top but is incorrectly spelled on the other dustwrapper.


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When all 23 dustwrappers were examined in detail, it soon became evident that a significant number of inconsistencies were present. To reproduce this research here would be too long and detailed for the purposes of this article so, as a compromise, only selected examples will be described. Note that with some examples, the first edition dustwrappers are included to provide a complete picture of the DB era.

ABOVE, left to right: Figures 32 - 35

Example 1:

Figures 32: Five Go Adventuring Again 3rd imp. 1948Figure 33 - Five Go Adventuring Again 4th imp.1949

Many A Tale To tell

Once upon a time there lived a very, very poor family. The father was a cobbler when he could get work and the mother was an illiterate washer woman. When the son was only eight, the father died after serving as a soldier in the wars and the mother was forced to spend nearly all her days working away from home so that they could survive. Often the son would be given a loaf and told that was his week’s food.

But, like all very poor people, the family believed in education even if all they could do was ensure the son could read and write; and when he was left all alone he did read whatever he could and he peopled his lonely world with the fruits of his imagination. He would play with one of the only gifts his father had left him; a puppet theatre that his father had built, and he would act out the myths and tales his mother told him.

A Crazy Love for Reading and Books

My name is Ella-Roisin. I am nine years old and for the first two days of my summer holidays I worked at Stella Books bookshop with my grandma Theresa who works at the desk. You might know her if you’ve been for a little visit to Stella Books. Working in a bookshop sounds boring but if you have a crazy love for reading and books it is the most fun work experience you can get.

While I am there, I don’t just sit behind the desk having a cup of tea and biscuits although I do when I’m having a break. I’m actually up on my feet most of the time. I scan books, send emails and deal with people buying and selling books.

Who's Tess?

We sadly lost our cat a few months ago, I cannot say I am a great cat lover, that seems to be Debbie’s role in our home, but Purdy as she was known was fat, lazy and knocking on a bit, so we had lots in common and got on reasonably well. Debbie was devastated by her death, and subsequent chats indicated there could be no quick replacement. If and when the time came to think about another cat in the house, it was said that it would be mature, male and tabby.

So the scene was set for me to return from work at Stella Books last Sunday evening, looking forward to a leisurely supper, only to be greeted upon opening the front door, by shouts of “quick, close the front door, I don’t want Tess to get out!” My immediate thought was “who’s Tess?”


One of the greatest pleasures of my childhood was receiving an annual at Christmas. This usually came from a maiden aunt who always managed to choose one that was just right. I can still recall the hours of fun playing "Black Jake's Treasure" even though I can not remember the name of the annual that contained it. However I am sure that someone can enlighten me!

The point is that the annual was a surprise, and that it delighted. However, it was only recently that I found out a little of the history of the Annual. They seem to have appeared in the early 1800's, or at least that is when the word started to appear in the title. The contents were generally bound volumes of the weekly or monthly issues, occasionally with some extra material thrown in. It was possible for readers to choose the type of binding they could afford, which probably accounts for all the differing bindings that are found with "The Strand Magazine" for example. Luckily it soon became the practise to bind most of the magazines, which is why so many are still available now.

Illustrators of Alice

Since Alice In Wonderland was first published in 1865, followed by Through The Looking-Glass and What Alice Saw There in 1871 (1st editions are dated 1872), hundreds of artists have illustrated these wonderful books with their fantastic characters. Many have depicted Alice in traditional style, while others have used their own style with these ranging from cute to outlandish. While not able to cover them all in the scope of this article, I hope to introduce you to a few which may be unfamiliar to you.

Alfa Romeo Day

My husband Steve (who is a bit of a petrol head) is currently restoring an Alfa Romeo Giulia Sprint GT. He is a member of the Alfa Romeo Owners Club and each year the club have a National Alfa Day. This year we went along...

The event was held at Newby Hall, Ripon, North Yorkshire and we had booked the tickets months in advance! We spent the night at a campsite not too far away from the venue at a little village called Minskip. It was a pleasant evening and we enjoyed a barbeque along with a fantastic sunset.

Sunday July 4th 2009. It's 10am and the sun is shining - great, looks as though it's going to be a warm day. There are already hundreds of Alfa Romeos on display and many more turning up as the minutes go by. Steve thinks he's died and gone to heaven!

Modern Children's Illustrators

My wife and I have been collecting children's books for over ten years now. It is a love affair that has developed unintentionally, purely due to our shared love of the subject.

We collect on two levels: firstly just books that we fall in love with - often illustrated by artists that we have never heard of, secondly from a commercial point of view, buying books that will appreciate in value.

So I will divide this article into two sections. First I will take a very brief look at current collectable children's illustrators that are rising in value, then a look at some of the very talented, though not yet so collectable illustrators.

Evelyn Everett-Green

Although Evelyn Everett-Green wrote about 350 novels, she is now forgotten and there is very little known about her life.  She did, however, live at that period of great social change from the lateVictorian / Edwardian society before the Great War through to the inter-war years of social reconstruction and the attempt to establish values by which a shattered and disillusioned society could be re-built. 

Like her almost exact contemporary, Henry Rider Haggard (1856-1925), her writing reflects those years of great social change.  Like Rider Haggard, and also her earlier contemporary G. A. Henty (1832-1902), Evelyn's novels inculcate into her young middle-class readers those values of late Victorian and Edwardian England which inspired those who, by 1914, were old enough to volunteer as the subalterns and VADs who entered the Great War in the first flush of the enthusiasm of youth and who saw, if they survived, the end of the society in which they had been brought up. 

a love of board games

Apart from reading and books, one of my other loves is playing games - all games in fact - but Board Games in particular. Many a winter’s night or a rainy afternoon as child was spent playing games with my brothers and sisters .We would play for hours and we would learn how to cooperate but if the arguing over the interpretation of the rules got too loud my mother would always threaten to take the board away and then nobody would be the winner. We invariably quietened down as there was always great kudos in winning and I think there might even have been a league!

As an adult I still love to play Board Games and now I am able to pass this love on to my grandchildren, who like nothing more than coming over for a ’games’ weekend.

Louis Wain - Cat Book Illustrator

Louis Wain was born 5th August 1860, the eldest child of Roman Catholic parents who were employed in the textile industry. He was what was termed a 'sickly child'. He had a hare lip, and in his twentieth year he grew a moustache which he kept for the rest of his life; because of this it was hardly noticeable.

His first ambition was to have a career in music for which he claims he started a career as a violinist. He abandoned this in his mid-teens and signed up for the West London School of Art in 1877. There he studied until 1880 and then stayed on for a further three years as a teacher. Wain then decided to become an artist and left home to earn his own living. Wain's first published drawing was 'Bullfinches on the Laurels' featured in 'Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News' on 10th December 1881 under the erroneous title 'Robin's Breakfast'. He then joined the magazine on a permanent basis reporting on animal and agricultural shows around the country. Over the next few years, the magazine printed numerous black and white drawings by Wain including his first sketch 'Odd Fish' in 1883, and what was probably his earliest published cat picture 'Our Cats: A Domestic History'.

Norman Thelwell

Norman Thelwell is most famous for his humorous cartoons of little girls and their ponies. This however only scratches the surface of his life long passion for cartoons. He has had more that 30 cartoon books published on everything from Sailing to Dogs.

Thelwell was born in Birkenhead on May 3rd 1923, one of two sons of his parents Christopher and Emily Thelwell. The family lived in a terraced house which his mother kept spotless, Thelwell recalled that his mother thought "anyone who didn't move the wardrobes once a week was a bit suspect" When the young Thelwell could afford it he would always take the penny bus rides out to the country.

Thelwell could not remember ever being without his sketch book, even though his school, Rock Ferry High School, did not have an art room. His earliest surviving drawing is a pencil self-portrait done at the age of 10, on which his teacher had written in red ink: "V. good indeed". He left school aged 16 to become a junior clerk in an office. The second world war had already started by this time and he joined the army aged 18 in 1941, where he happily carried the extra weight of his sketch pad and paints.