Saturday, 6 July 2013

Read in 2013 - 22: Dear Teacher

"Dear Teacher" by Jack Sheffield is the third book in the "Teacher" series - and the last one that was left for me to read (I started with books # 4, 5 and 6, because my mother-in-law, who bought the entire series, split them up between the two of us this way, and then we swapped).

But the latest one, book # 7, "School's Out", has recently been published, and I hope to get it when I'll be visiting with my family in Yorkshire the week after next.

"Dear Teacher" covers the school year of 1979/1980, and there is the by now familiar mixture of dramatic and humorous happenings. As from the first book on, Jack's love interest Beth Henderson plays an important role, especially towards the end of the book. I was almost a bit sad that I already knew the outcome, because I have read the second half of the series already, but it didn't really take away from the pleasure of reading. Instead, I decided to see it more as a "ah! now I know how it all came about!" moment.

With my own Yorkshire holiday being so close, I especially appreciated the description of places and landscapes in and around the fictional North Yorkshire village of Ragley-on-the-Forest, such as this one:
I felt that familiar tingle of wonderment as I surveyed this great county. It was my kindgodm of cathedrals, moorlands and mills, my home of beer and brass bands, Ridings and rugby, my land of coastlines and cricket. Beyond the market town of Skipton we drove on towards limestone hills and clear rivers. The purple bulk of the Pennines filled the far distance and memories of forgotten looms, cotton and cloths flickered across my mind.

Remember the time when there was NOT constantly something on TV? The time before breakfast TV, for instance? (I don't watch it myself, but I know many people do.) In once scene in the book, Jack is reading the paper while having a meal at the pub. The landlady asks what he is reading:
"It's about breakfast television."
"How d'you mean, breakfast television?"
"Well... it's television at breakfast time."
"That'll never catch on, Mr. Sheffield."
"You're probably right, Sheila."

It is such little bits of almost-forgotten times that, for me (as much as for many other readers, I guess) makes up large part of the charm of this series.

Do you know what a Jean Allen suit was? I had to look it up; Jean Allen was a London-based fashion house that emerged in the 1950s and lasted until the early 1980s, when the high street boom took over and meant the end to many of the smaller fashion labels. In this book, one of the ladies in Jack Sheffield's life is described as
slim and attractive with her long warm brown hair loose round her shoulders. She looked stunning in her chic little Jean Allen suit that was soft to the touch. The jacket was a flowing black bolero and the skirt was panelled in emerald and she drew admiring glances from everyone around her.
There is not much information about Jean Allen on the internet, but I found this picture apparently showing some of the late 1970s suits:

Robin Hood's Bay is another of the places described so well by the author. I've been there about ten years ago and remember it as uniquely picturesque. Jack, who has a picknick down by the sea,
...felt like a child again as we took off our trainers and socks and paddled in the cooling sea water. Gentle wavelets caressed our feet and pebbles rolled with smooth erosion between our toes. Around us, sunlight played upon the natural beauty of the landscape and the blue-black waves stretched out to meet the awesome sky. In this vast amphitheatre of silence we walked together by the ede of the sea. I felt as though the driftwood of my life had been cast upon this lonely shore but I couldn't recall being happier.

For more about the author and the series, you can visit his website.
Yes, I am sad that I have now read all six books, but I am glad that the 7th is already out!


  1. This series sounds like one I would like to read. Your blog name caught my attention, I am a librarian and surely I have secrets too. Nice to meet you. I live in California and Yorkshire sounds romantic to me.

    1. Hello Terra, thank you for popping over and leaving a comment!
      Yorkshire definitely is romantic in many places, but of course - like everywhere else - it also has parts that are less beautiful. Under the "travelling" header at the top of my blog you can find pictures and more from my Yorkshire holidays, if you are interested.
      Now I'm going to have a look at your blog - always good to be in touch with a fellow librarian :-)

  2. I really must start that series. It's been sitting on my coffee table since I returned.

    1. And it will keep sitting there until you have time for it, Graham - there's no rush.

  3. Another series to add to my 'To be read' list. It would help if GB read it because he knows my taste and could tell me if I'd like it. Certainly your description makes it attractive.

    1. Good idea to wait for GB's comments, so that you really know whether this is for you.