BB’s The Little Grey Men and Down the Bright Stream, both including their original black-and-white illustrations, are available as a pair in a new limited (un-numbered) cloth-bound edition of 2,000
The Little Grey Men
The last gnomes in England – Dodder, Baldmoney, Sneezewort and Cloudberry – are living contentedly in Warwickshire, in a burrow beneath the roots of an aged oak tree on the banks of the Folly Brook. Contentedly, that is, until Cloudberry becomes obsessed with the idea of exploring the world beyond the riverbank and sets off alone, ignoring his brothers’ fears and warnings. Two years later he has not returned and Baldmoney and Sneezewort decide they must look for him. But Dodder at first refuses to go with them, and so with heavy hearts the two gnomes set off upstream in their boat the Dragonfly, leaving him behind.
So begins a heroic quest to find their missing brother. Before the four gnomes are finally reunited they confront shipwreck, starvation and their worst enemy – Man – in the form of the terrifying gamekeeper Giant Grum, with his ‘stick that roars’ and his horrifying gibbet on which hang the corpses of some of their animal friends.
Down the Bright Stream
The last gnomes in England are woken from a long winter sleep in their snug burrow beneath the roots of an ancient oak tree, to find their world collapsing. The Folly Brook, beside which they have lived for five hundred years, and on which they and their animal friends depend, is being diverted to supply water for a new reservoir and is drying up. Man is beginning to destroy the idyllic English countryside.
In The Little Grey Men the gnomes made a heroic journey upstream in search of their lost brother Cloudberry. Now they set out once again on the Folly in search of a new home, sailing downstream towards the big river and the sea. It’s a perilous journey as they move from one temporary base to another, taking refuge in a disused mill and in a friendly badger’s sett. Before their journey is done the Jeanie Deans will have been sunk and one of them will have come to a nasty end. Will the remaining gnomes finally find an unspoilt home?
* * *
Denys Watkins-Pitchford (1905–90), who wrote under the pseudonym ‘BB’, was the author of more than sixty books for adults and children, but The Little Grey Men, which won the 1942 Carnegie Medal, and its sequel Down the Bright Stream, published in 1948, are his masterpieces. BB was both a writer and illustrator, and his charming original illustrations decorate this book. But above all he was a countryman, whose intimate and unsentimental knowledge of animals, birds and plants, as well as his gifts as a storyteller, make these books unique.
Growing up in a rural Northamptonshire rectory and thought too delicate to go to school, BB roamed the countryside alone. His nostalgic evocation of the unwrecked England of his childhood, inhabited by the last survivors of an ancient and characterful tribe of small people who live in total harmony with their surroundings, is magical. The Little Grey Men and Down the Bright Stream will be remembered by many adult readers as the best-loved books of their childhood, and they still enchant today.
‘‘There can be few other combinations of text and illustration that work so harmoniously, revealing such a powerful imagination and such an intimate relationship with the minutiae of the natural world’’ Helena Drysdale
This is a story about the last gnomes in Britain . . .
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