I haven’t been doing very much reading this week though earlier in the week I finished All-of-a-Kind Family by Sydney Taylor which I absolutely loved (my review: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/1716276635?book_show_action=false), and for the rest am part way through Sophie’s World (which I had started last year but stopped part way in because of reading challenges and things) and Wives and Daughters by Elizabeth Gaskell which I am reading in instalments with a group on goodreads.

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So I thought this week, I’d write about some old picture stories that I really enjoyed reading when I first found them and revisit quite often. Bunty and Judy, Debbie and Mandy were Girls Picture Story Library comics, each carrying one complete picture story, their outer back covers with pictures of pop stars or sports people (at least the ones I have), and upper and back inner covers, each giving a quick glimpse into the story in the parallel issue of its sister magazine (Judy in Bunty, and Debbie in Mandy and vice versa) that month, and its own next issue. I haven’t got very many of these (though I’d like to find more)―only about 10 that I found many years ago second-hand, when I was travelling with my family. But my two favourites which I have read countless times are what I thought of writing about today.

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Fay of the Footlights is Bunty no 235, and tells the story of thirteen-year-old Fay Foster whose parents perform in the Victorian music halls. But her mother has been ill, as a result not performing very well and they end up losing their engagements at the halls, and before long Fay’s mother dies. But Fay and her father must still earn their living, and put together an act where the two of them perform. Luckily for them the audiences love their act but work is still slow in coming. They have had to move to cheaper lodgings which are owned my Mrs King whose daughter, Bella, about Fay’s age, is nursing her own dreams of becoming a famous singer. The Kings convince Mr Foster, who isn’t the strongest financially at the time, to take Bella into their act but Bella, whose talent is mediocre, seems to hurt their performances. The audience however, is keen to hear more of Fay. But spiteful (and very jealous) Bella and her mother seem to be prepared to go to any lengths for Bella to be the star of the show. Fay manages to outsmart them quite a few times but when Bella teams up with another performer who Mr Foster has scorned, Fay falls into a trap that is not as easy to escape. What I enjoy about the story is how Fay with her talent and wits manages to outsmart any ‘enemy’ and overcome any difficulty, bringing her and her father back on the path to fame and fortune.

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Which brings me to my other favourite, Debbie no 91, Selina’s Search which is about another very talented young lady, Selina James, and is also set in Victorian England. Selina and her father are quite poor, and are depending very much on Mr James’ earnings from a painting of the opening of the new Merchant’s Hall which he has been commissioned to make. But Mr James is ill and falls faint in the midst of painting the picture, six figures still missing from the picture, without completing which they will have no money. So it falls to Selina, also a talented artist to track down these six people and sketch them. The six missing people include a page, but also some illustrious persons like a Duchess and the French Ambassador, so how does Selina convince them to sit for her? Through her talent, of course. Her search takes her to various places across the city (and outside), and into many adventures, from tracking a thief to designing ‘Cinderella’ shoes, arranging flowers to entertaining street children. Selina is not only sharp and talented but also very resourceful, and it is great fun to see her use her talents in many different ways to not only get the pictures she so desperately needs but also in the process help out many others and have her own share of adventures. Of course, Mr James completes his picture at the end with the sketches Selina has made, and Selina―she gets a fitting reward for her pains! This is a really enjoyable one, and my favourite of all that I have.
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(Selina with her ‘Cinderella’ shoe design)
(Apologies for the not very good pictures)

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2 thoughts on “Fay the performer, and Selina the artist!

  1. You take me back to my childhood. I always loved picture libraries as they were called. Our local bookshop had a standing order top send me the newest releases- four schoolgirls picture libraries every month. I think I had a collection of 200, which I remember was promoted by the publishers as reaching a height of two feet, piled one on top of the other. I have read Buntys and Mandys later on, but at that time it was the Schoolgirls Picture Library, and the Schoolgirls Own Library without pictures. The stories usually included a mystery, often set in an abbey school with secret societies, the members wearing masks and hoods, a school story, a ballet or ice skating story and one about horses and riding. I just loved them and wouldn’t mind revisiting them if I can lay my hands on any.

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    1. I had one other one too- which I don’t remember very clearly but it had two or three stories one of which was in world war ii where the children help resistance members hide from the nazis.

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