Monday, 26 April 2010

Fidra Books

I promised the other week to write about Fidra Books, an Edinburgh based imprint, run by a team of people who also run a specialist children's bookshop in the city. Their focus is on republishing children's books which have gone out of print and which they feel are unfairly neglected. So, as regular readers will know, since I like Girls Gone By books (out of print neglected school and girls stories), Virago Modern Classics (the rediscovery and reprinting of women writers), Greyladies books (old adult books by children's authors), and Persephone books it is not surprising that I am a fan of theirs!

Somehow I find children's literature, particularly that of an older Vintage, extremely comforting - it doesn't require too much effort, and it is nice to reread familiar books. Having said that, I enjoy exploring new children's literature too, and this imprint is wonderful in that respect.

Fidra's list covers a wide range of authors, many of whom I encountered as a child - Anne Digby and her Trebizon books, KM Peyton, Pamela Whitlock (who wrote The far distant Oxus - an absolutely wonderful read), Ruby Ferguson (author of the Jill pony books), and as I mentioned the other week, Josephine Pullein Thompson.

I have also introduced myself to some new children's authors through the list. Last summer I treated myself to a couple of Mabel Esther Allen's to read while I was on holiday, which I greatly enjoyed, and this year I took Joanna Cannan's We met our cousins away with me. I'd read her book Princes in the land, which was published by Persephone, so it was rather nice to be able to read one of her children's books. She was the mother of the Pullein-Thompson sisters and credited with creating the Pony-book genre! I am also keen to investigate Elinor Lyon as her books look rather appealing.

The website has fascinating biographies and bibliographies of the authors in the list and it is well worth a persual if you are interested in children's literature. It is fantastic to see so many of these books coming back into print and hopefully being made available to a new generation of children. My only quibble is that the books are somewhat pricey at £12, which means they are unlikely to be bought by children, more likely by collectors such as myself, but perhaps collectors will be inspired to give them to the children in their life.


  1. What a great thing to do! I love all these presses that are putting books back in print, and I know it's churlish to complain but I really, really wish the US was doing it too. I wish I could go to a bookshop and browse through these collections. The Book Depository and sites like it are great but the internet browsing experience is just not the same. *sigh*

  2. Oooh, Greyladies is new to me *clicks*

    The Fidra website is wonderful indeed. I'm excited to know they have published books by Ruby Ferguson. If I enjoy her Persephone title as much as I anticipate, I'll be sure to check it out.

  3. Hmm. I have one of those childhood 'lost books' that I would like to find - quite hard as I don't know the title or author - perhaps I'll go and check the books on their list. Thanks for the link!

  4. I love the idea of all these reprint houses. I've found so many treasures through Persephone. I need a niece as an excuse to buy some of these Fidra books!

  5. Thanks for introducing me to Fidra books... and Greyladies, too!

  6. Jenny - to be honest I mostly buy these books from their websites - I rarely see them in the shops.

    Rachel - I am hoping that my small cousin will like some of these in due course.

    JoAnn - Greyladies are fantastic!

    Cath - did you find the book? Give me some clues and I'll try to help...

    Nymeth - I'm glad you found the Greyladies - I think you might enjoy them - they're like a chicklit Persephone!

  7. Verity, yes, all of these publishers are wonderful for giving us the opportunity to read and re-read some great books.

    Cath, tell us more about the "lost children's book" you never know, Verity and or one of her readers may be able to identify it for you.

    Today I got a letter from one of my sisters. Seems that I have correctly identified a book that one of her friends had been trying to remember - it was The Harvester by Gene Stratton Porter.

  8. Verity and Geraldine: Well there was one possibility - The Far Island by M. Pardoe.

    The plot sounds similar but I was pretty sure there was only one child in it - a girl. And the Scottish island in the book was one she went to from the mainland where she was staying, rather than where she was actually sent to to live. Plus, it was a ghost story. The book was wonderfully atmospheric and I fell in love with the Scottish islands. Sadly I've never been sble to go and see for myself. The book itself must be at least 50 years old... it's not helpful is it? I'm assuming there must be scores of books that old that have disappeared into obscurity. Very sad. It was a library book, btw, and how I wish I could remember a title or author.

  9. Cath - how very frustrating! It doesn't sound like anything I've come across, but maybe you will stumble on it again one day - here's hoping.

  10. Sorry Cath, nothing springs to mind, but I'll have a ponder.

  11. Do you know if Fidra still exists and if they have reissued the three "Oxus" books by Hull & Whitlock? I heard that they would, but an inquiry I set them went unanswered. The books are unavailable in the U.S. (except in the rare and costly originals).

    Alan Contreras
    Eugene, Oregon USA

  12. Hi Alan,

    I certainly think they do exist - I emailed them about this post when I wrote it and they wrote back. It's a shame that the rest of the Oxus books haven't been republished; I had them from the library.


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