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When Learning Doesn't Appear to be Happening...But Is! · Monday November 27, 2006 by Abbie

When I reflected on Monday I felt a little down as I couldn’t really see anything taking place. Sure, we finished up the Christmas puddings, and we finished watching the commentaries on the Nanny McPhee DVD, but then Ram went on and watched some films light on knowledge, such as Spy Kids 2! He was in what he calls default mode, and just watched mindless pap.

Then I remembered that we had started a new book that night in bed. As much as I would like to post a link to this book I am afraid I can’t. It is sadly no longer in print. The author in question is M.E. Atkinson, and the series is the Lockett family books. There were written in the 1930s. There are 13 of them and we have managed to buy on the second hand market 12 of them so far.

Unlike Enid Blyton and others, for instance Arthur Ramsome, M. E. Atkinson’s books seem to have lost all popularity, despite being very popular in their time. We did find a reference on the Country Life website to a review of one of her books that was billed as the best book for Christmas, better than Blyton!

This could be because unlike Blyton et al. Atkinson doesn’t seem to have a society or family members to keep the home fires burning, and her books have never been reprinted. Although according to the book dealer that we bought the most recent ones from, that may be about to change as she is becoming more read by middle age women who are collecting the books of their youth, enjoying rereading them, and pressing for republication!

So what is it about these books that has made me paid way to much for them? They are very educational!

First of all there is the grammar and syntax. After a run of reading some modern books it was nice to get back to proper sentence structure and having all the tenses matching. I can’t help but think that reading correct English to a child can only help them learn correct English. But these books also have dialect where necessary, so that Ram is learning the difference between dialect, and correct usage.

Then there is the historical aspect. This series is a later one, having been written just before and during WW2, but we have read some of her books from earlier than that too, and they give a great picture of how children used to live. Interestingly, she always has a mixture of children. One family is titled, but the father died so it is the child in the story that has the title. But this child is portrayed as a normal well balance child. Then there is the nice middle class family, the Lockett family, and then some poorer children, who are orphans being raised by an elderly grandmother. But all three families are normal! In fact that is one of the reasons why I like these books; there are no really screwed up children, no divorce, drugs, teenage pregnancy, rape, or any other unsavoury things. Just plain normal children that get up to mischief, but even that is accidentally rather than deliberately. I don’t have to leave bits out or change words, I can just read and enjoy them!

The books are also well researched. We have had the description of a long barrow and what it was used for. That is useful for us as we have one in our village! As the children in the book are pretending to be looking for moths and find that another character used to collect moths I have a feeling that we will be learning more about that, and as there is one chapter whose title is in Latin, I think we will be learning a little of that too!

But best of all, this particular book, Mystery Manor, is turning out to be a gripping ghost story! Unlike modern books, it is a long book too, so we can really get into it. Four hundred and seven pages long!

So just when I despaired that Ram learned nothing today, I find that he did learn something! And even if over the next few days he appears to be doing nothing worth while during the day, I know that for a couple of hours in the morning and another hour in the evening he will be learning quite a lot!

  1. As a boy in the late 1940s, ME Atkinson was one of my favorite authors. I looked on the Abebooks and Amazon websites and found there are 2nd hand copies of her (?) book in editions published in the 1950s and even one (apparently a re-publication) published in 1968. The list I put together (dates of available copies, not necessarily first publication dates, some of the apparent joint authors may be illustrators):-

    Castaway Camp (with Charlotte Hough) 1952 ? Amazon ?0.49 + p & p or Dragon, London, 1968 ? Abebooks ?0.49 + ?2.50 p & p
    Riders and Raids – The Children’s Book Club (The Bodley Head) 1956 – Abebooks ?0.49 + ?2.50 p & p [Sheila Rose illustrator].
    Horseshoes and Handlebars – The Children’s Book Club 1958 [Sheila Rose illustrator)].
    Unexpected Adventure – The Children’s Book Club 1955 [Sheila Rose illustrator].
    Mystery Manor
    The Compass Points North
    The House on the Moor
    Day?s Good Cause
    The Thirteenth Adventure (with Charlotte Hough) 1949
    Hunter?s Moon (with Charlotte Hough) 1953
    Crusoe Island (with Harold Jones) 1942
    August Adventure (with Harold Jones) 1948
    Going Gangster (with Harold Jones) 1942
    The Nest of the Scarecrow (with Stuart Tresilian) 1944
    Challenge to Adventure (with Stuart Tresilian) 1942
    Problem Party (with Stuart Tresilian) 1945, 1947 [+1978?]
    The Monster of Widgeon Weir (with Stuart Tresilian) 1945
    Can the Leopard? 1939
    Day?s Good Cause [?] 1935 Best wishes – Ian Goodacre
    PS Pound signs for the prices have come out as question marks.

    — Ian Goodacre    Jul 24, 03:04 PM    #
  2. I’m a great fan of M.E.Atkinson too – have some of her books but would love to read more. Yet nobody has heard of her and I kep thinking she was just a figment of my imagination!

    — Karl Renner    Apr 29, 04:08 PM    #
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