Friday, 1 April 2011

Famous Five Friday

The Mystery of the Disappearing Chalet School

Many of you may have never heard of it. I certainly don't recall reading or seeing these as a kid, and was introduced to The Chalet School series by my mother-in-law. Now I can't get enough of them; particularly as they are exactly the kind of easy, fun-filled, positively-slanted books that fit the bill for my poor tired head at the moment!

I'm lucky that mum-in-law has managed to secure copies of most of the series (which number more than 60!), through 2nd hand sellers and the wonderful Girls Gone By publishers. There are still huge gaps in her collection sadly, and these books are not easy to find, not to mention being pricey when you do happen across them.

What puzzles me is why on earth they were never reprinted by one of the original publishers. Elinor Brent-Dyer was obviously an extremely popular author in her day, and even now has somewhat of a cult following, being a sort of hybrid of Enid Blyton and Louisa May Alcott in both style and content. You couldn't imagine an Enid Blyton series like Famous Five or Mallory Towers going out of print. Nor could you imagine Little Women disappearing from our canon.

Perhaps it's a question of rights: if Girls Gone By have bought up most of the rights to republish the unabridged editions then maybe Chambers (and Armada, who published the paperbacks, though mostly heavily edited) just aren't bothered and see any lost revenue as minimal. To me, it just seems such a shame. Whilst GGB are obviously attempting to keep the series alive and obtainable, as a small independent publisher they cannot ensure supply with demand and inevitably titles are passing out of print again. Moreover, being only able to buy through GGB themselves or one of their select dealers means that fewer people are going to find out about them, and so the readership will also pass into legend.

Although you can seem to get a few titles through Amazon, they are as rare as hen's teeth and don't come in any cheaper than getting them straight from the publisher. If only GGB would (could?) change to on-demand printing for every title, including digital versions for the Kindle etc, then we could secure a positive future for this wonderful part of our literary heritage.

Image courtesy of where you can also read a lovely overview of the books themselves.

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