Frank celebrates one of the finest children’s stories ever written…
Fossicking in a cupboard the other day, I came upon a set of a dozen issues of Puffin Post from the late 1960s. This was the quarterly magazine of the Puffin Club, an association for bookish tinies run by Puffin Books editrix Kaye Webb. I was a keen member of the club, though as far as I recall my activities did not extend much beyond poring over the magazine and badgering my parents to buy me some of the books it brought to my attention.
Among the interviews with authors and book extracts and other features, Puffin Post encouraged contributions from readers. I am sorry (and, in retrospect, rather surprised) that I never submitted anything myself. One child who did, though, was a certain ‘Janet Aichison’ (sic), aged five and a half. Her story The Pirate’s Tale, published in Vol. 2 No. 2 from 1968, is so glorious that I feel compelled to transcribe it for Dabblers. Bertolt Brecht wrote a few rambunctious early stories on a piratical theme, and this seems to me as good as his work, if not better.
Janet Aitchison will be middle-aged by now. Who knows, she may even be a Dabbler reader. We can only hope she gets in touch if she sees this.
The Pirate’s Tale
By Janet Aitchison (age five and a half)
Once upon a time there were some bad pirates. They sailed to a mountain. They dug in the mountain and found gold and silver. The mountain was a volcano.
They saw a bit of volcano then they ran back to their ship and they sailed away to their mountain and hid the gold and silver in their cave and guarded the treasure. A dwarf stole the gold and silver. The pirates woke up and killed the dwarf. The pirates got the gold and silver and the dwarf’s gold and silver.
The king dwarf sent an army to fight the pirates and to hurt the pirates. Who knows which side won the battle? The pirates! The pirates caught the king dwarf and they killed him and they threw him into the sea. A whale threw him up again and the pirates threw him down again. A shark came along and ate him up. The pirates laughed to see the dwarf being eaten up by the shark.
One day the pirates found a crab. It pinched a pirate. The pirates screamed to see the crab. The pirates ran away to the ship and sailed to the mountain and got the guns and killed the crab and the pirates laughed.
One day the pirates found a rat and killed it. The pirates had a cat and the cat ate the rat and the cat died. The pirates looked sad. A pirate found a house and opened the door and went in. It was dusty. He tidied it and dusted it. The pirate found a mouse and gave the mouse a piece of cheese. The cheese was magic.
The pirate said “Oh dear. The cheese is magic. I shouldn’t have given the mouse the cheese.” The mouse died.
One day the pirates found a forest. The forest was bewitched. The pirates went in the forest. The pirates turned into frogs and leapt about all over the place and croaked, trying to talk.
One day the pirates found some children. The pirates kept the children for their wives to cook for them. The wives cook nice things for the pirates. The pirates liked the food and ate it all up. The pirates liked the fish best. They caught the fish themselves from the sea.
One day the pirates weren’t very well. The pirates had mumps. They were very ill. One day the pirates got better and sailed away to the mountain and saw a shark and killed it and the pirates’ new cat said, “meow meow”. The pirates said, “Be quiet, new cat.”
One day the pirates found a ship. The ship had some gold and silver. The pirates stole the gold and silver. The gold and silver is magic.
The pirates died. The cat died.
Editor’s note – unbeknownst to Frank at the time of writing this post, Puffin actually made Janet Aitchison’s (for her surname has a ‘t’, which she herself obviously didn’t realise at age five and a half) into a lovely book, illustrated by Jill McDonald. Brit did know this because by coincidence he happens to have a copy, and very good it is too.