Saturday, 15 June 2013

Read in 2013 - 16: Mister Teacher

Yes, I know; I said in my previous review that my next read was going to be non-fiction. And it was - I have finished reading it and already written my review, but because I am corresponding with the author and have invited him to add his own thoughts and comments to my review, that post will have to wait until I have his reply.

In the meantime, I've read the continuation of "Teacher, Teacher!", the review for which you can find here.

Again, Jack Sheffield has managed to recreate a world that does not exist any longer, even though it is not in a very distant past, but actually still quite fresh in my - and probably many other people's - memory: the years 1978 and 1979.

In "Mister Teacher", we accompany Jack Sheffield (and many of the characters we already met in the first book of the series) through his second year as headmaster of a small school in a Yorkshire village. There are new children at the school, and we get to know some of the people from the village a bit better.
Jack's relationship with Beth evolves and undergoes several changes; he now meets her sister for the first time, and she provides some interesting scenes in the book.

Just as before, the story is sprinkled with bits and bobs typical for the time in which it is set, making no doubt for some nostalgic moments for British readers, and giving some formerly unknown information to anyone who did not grow up in England.
One such example is about money:
"I can't get used to these new smaller pound notes, Mr. Sheffield; they're like Monopoly money," said Vera. "The way things are going, they'll have pound coins next." She chuckled to herself at the absurdity of the idea.
A newspaper headline "Bearded Bobbies" is mentioned; in the article, which the staff of the village school share during a break in the staff room, a Police Superintendent complains about 8 per cent of all policemen now wearing beards:
"What was his name again, Vera?" asked Anne.
"Harry Potter", said Vera.
"Well, that's a name we won't hear again, said Sally defiantly.
Here is one last quote for this review, to show you how well the author manages - in my opinion, that is - to convey the general atmosphere of the place without being lengthy:
The journey along the narrow lanes to Ragley was always a joy in summer. The cow parsley stood tall over the wild grasses, while the magenta bells of foxgloves competed for attention in the midst of unfurling bracken. Red Admiral butterflies danced among the nettles and the young tendrils of ivy invaded the dense quickthorn hedges.
Throughout this series, the author shows a remarkable eye for detail; he has obviously done thorough research to get the facts right even about things that do not promote the story line as such. For instance, he mentions that a girl brings her Tressy doll to school and shows it to the other girls at play time. Of course I went and had a look at what Tressy dolls were like, and found this page. Other things I did not have to look up, because I remember them well enough from 1978 and 1979, when I was 10 and 11 years old.

The third instalment of the "Teacher"-series is waiting on my shelf. After that, I will have read them all; I know the 7th book has just come out (you can read about it here), and maybe I'll get it from my mother-in-law when I'll be in Yorkshire in July.

12 comments:

  1. Read these years ago. Schools have indeed changed! but a good storyteller always keeps you hooked. Haha, I remember Tressy dolls! but had forgotten them till I read your blog.

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    1. My sister and I had Sindy and Barbie dolls. My Sindy had brown hair and my sister's was blonde. My favourite was my Hawaii Barbie, I thought she had the most beautiful face ever!
      I never went to a village school myself, so my school experience is quite different, but I can relate to a lot of what is described in these books nonetheless.

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  2. Did you ever read "Miss Read's" Village School, Meike? These books sound very similar.

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    1. Yes, Frances, I have three of Miss Read's book, Village School being one of them. They are, if I am not very much mistaken, set in the 1950s or so, but apart from that, there are similarities where the pupils and the village characters are concerned.
      Jack Sheffield tells us more about his own feelings and how he gets on with people, and about his relationship with Beth, though.

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  3. How have I missed reading until you had two new posts up! I have enjoyed the two books by this author which I read. I remember when we visited my bil's family in '84, my nephew was beginning school. It could not have been a smaller little school, and looked very charming, in Meckenbeuren Schwarzenbach, near Tetnang. He could walk there in about six minutes. Later they moved to Gruenkraut near Ravensburg, but that was not a big city school, either, I think.

    I attended a small suburban school in the 50s and there were only 5 classrooms for six years. My class was split and I was with 12 students in the year above us. I have very fond memories of those years, but as a young student you are very unaware of many of the things Jack Sheffield writes about.

    I'm a little sad that the world of my grade school years no longer exists, but the new world has much good in it which was missing then.

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    1. Gr√ľnkraut is certainly not a big city, as you remember correctly. When I was still working for the publisher of weekly newspapers, I was responsible for the adverts pages for Meckenbeuren and Gr√ľnkraut (among 60 such papers for smaller communities).

      You are so right - the new world has much good in it, too! In about 20 years, we'll look back with nostalgic sighs just as we do now when we think of the 1970s and 80s :-)

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  4. One of Amazon's used book places offers six of the books for about $40 which includes shipping. Sounds like a good deal. I'm very tempted to buy them!

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    1. If you do, I'd love to hear your opinion of them, Nan!
      I hope to find the lastest one when I'll be in England in two weeks' time.

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  5. I know that we've discussed this before Meike. I bought the 6 books as a set in January for under £10 from Amazon. They, and lots of other books that I bought or have been given over the last while since I returned to this country are all sitting in the living room waiting for me to do something with them. I suppose I could even try reading them!

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    1. Yes, you could, Graham :-)
      But of course they can still sit there without trouble for another year, if you don't get round to them this time.

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  6. This book and series sound charming.

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    1. It definitely is, Terra, and to me even more so because I can picture the places mentioned so well and know what the dialect of the locals sounds like.

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