Book Week: Tuppeny, Feefo and The Blue Umbrella

What kind of childhood half-remembered book is it all but impossible to recapture despite the wide and marvellous tool that is Google?

a) the one with the name you are remembering incorrectly
b) the one with the name so common that it appears on many, many different book listings

One of the first things I tried to use the internet to help me reclaim was a beloved Enid Blyton book about three goblins who basically came up with the concept of The Goodies 20 years earlier – any job, anywhere, anytime. Of course they get into dreadful trouble, but all is well at the end.

I craved this book, and searched and searched for it, but this was before Google came along (I know, right? Dark days of the internet) and the fact that I had misremembered the order of the goblins names, and thus was searching for Feefo, Tuppeny and Jinks (which I maintain is the better title).

Then the book fell into my lap one day, courtesy of a second hand bookshop (ohh, second hand bookshops, remember them?) and I realised to my horror and surprise that TUPPENY’s name went first.

[and the final shock revelation: while looking for pics to illustrate this post I found at least one cover design that did put Feefo’s name first. VINDICATED!]

I still love this book. The descriptions of magic and how it goes horribly wrong are told cleverly here, and I enjoy the fact that the characters are not actually children, so there’s less of a moralistic tone than many of the Blyton books, in retrospect, turn out to have.

Another favourite Blyton book I sold when I was ten and recovered as an adult thanks to second hand shops and not the internet was The House on the Corner, which I remembered fondly because of the character Elizabeth, a teenage girl who sells fiction to newspapers and earns Real Money, thus becoming a Professional Writer (wonder why that concept was so appealing) but on rereading it I discovered it was actually a wretched morality tale about thoughtless children who have to step up when their father becomes ill – in particular Pam, the pretty popular girl, who has to give up the idea of a career in order to become an angel of the house, and to be grateful about what she’s got.

Bleh. Cheers for that, suck fairy.

Then there’s the one that got away. Even Google hasn’t been able to help me find my “The Blue Umbrella” book that I read and loved as a child. There are as it turns out, many novels out there with that title, including quite famous and beloved ones, and none of them are mine.

The Blue Umbrella that I remember was a book about a girl who was trying to raise money to buy herself a beautiful blue umbrella, and does so by various ingenious methods, particularly running her own shops and small businesses out of the home. I recall being fascinated by this, and particularly by the process of pricing and selling items.

In retrospect I wonder if this was responsible for my manic delight at the garage sale season that my mother and I went through before leaving the country… which meant of course that I got rid of so many childhood books that I later regretted not keeping.

Ahh, price tags. You are addictive.

I don’t know when The Blue Umbrella was published, or the author name. I’m pretty sure it’s a US book because I think it’s also the one that introduced me to the concept of a pretzel as something larger than a fifty cent coin, which took a long time for me to wrap my head around. I’d love to read it again, but sadly I have so much less to go on than I did with Tuppeny, Feefo and Jinks.


This is my last Book Week post, though I will collate all the links I received by the end of the weekend, so keep sending them to me! I’ve loved reading so many people talking about their childhood reading. We should do this again next year! So many books I meant to talk about, and didn’t…

Raeli’s Book Parade parade went very well, with her as the White Rabbit and her little sister Jem as Alice, though Alice got quite cranky and shy in the middle of the whole production, and thus I have a lot of pictures of her rubbing her face angrily and hiding from the camera. I love watching the kids costumes, and seeing how they change from year to year, with the older grades becoming progressively more emo and self-conscious (though the team of grade six Smurfs this year were greatly entertaining).


Ju shared her memories of The White Brumby by Elyne Mitchell.

Terri talked about the physicality of reading as a child, specifically reading under the covers. Get that kid a torch! (I used to lie near my open door to read by the hall light)

Random Alex wrote about her introduction to detective stories through the ever-awesome Trixie Belden (I had such a crush on Jim too!) and Alfred Hitchcock, upon whom neither of us had a crush. I hope… Alex also writes about reading Ruth Park’s My Sister Sif – this is the second time I’ve heard this book mentioned during Book Week, though I had never heard of it before!

Storyspinner Liz writes about the migrant experience of discovering Australian kids books through her son’s childhood, and combining these new favourites with sharing her own childhood favourites with him.

One reply

  1. Jo says:

    Has it occurred to anyone else that Alisa is marrying Jim from Trixie Belden? Red hair, kind, capable…

    Or is it just me?

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