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 these books. 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
‘It brought back to me all the magical delight that my mother and I shared . . .’
‘I have just opened my newly delivered Slightly Foxed and gone straight to the article about The Little Grey Men and Down the Bright Stream. It has brought back to me all the magical delight that...Read more
This is a story about the last gnomes in Britain . . .
This is a story about the last gnomes in Britain. They are honest-to-goodness gnomes, none of your baby, fairy-book tinsel stuff, and they live by hunting and fishing, like the animals and birds,...Read more
If you have read The Little Grey Men you will know all about Oak Tree House and the Stream People . . .
If you have read The Little Grey Men you will know all about Oak Tree House and the Stream People, and how three gnomes – Dodder (a lame gnome), Baldmoney and Sneezewort – went up the Folly...Read more
‘Thanks for all the delights . . .’
‘I have just read your newsletter with pleasure as always, and was particularly pleased to read again the article about Tom’s Midnight Garden; it has been one of my favourite books since I...Read more
‘I have been hugely impressed with you and all your enterprises . . . ’
‘I have been hugely impressed with you and all your enterprises ever since I first came across you many years ago. I am even more impressed to receive this morning beautifully bound copies of The...Read more
Beside the Folly Brook
In 1970 I told BB how much I loved his books. I wrote the letter sitting at the window in a house tucked into a Devon cliff, with pine woods behind and the sea in front. I’m sitting there now....Read more
Thanks to The Little Grey Men, I grew up in love with a vision of England I couldn’t find anywhere . . . A fantasy story about the last gnomes in Warwickshire, it’s a richly detailed, luminous love letter to the English countryside . . . Watkins-Pitchford was an accomplished naturalist and packed a huge amount of natural history into his story, alongside some wonderfully descriptive place-writing that doesn’t pander to its young readership (as many modern kids’ books do) but trusts them to build up a detailed imaginative picture of a landscape through the seasons. It’s funny, too, and full of camaraderie and kindness
By a whisker, the top of my tot reading was The Little Grey Men, BB’s tale of the last gnomes in England as they odyssey through the countryside. The tale was enthralling enough, but the really enthralling quality was BB’s ability to make England’s natural history come alive. He made me see what was really there.
‘A book my father bought me when I was eight or nine. It’s called The Little Grey Men, by Denys Watkins-Pitchford, under the nom de plume BB. It opened my eyes to the wonder of nature. I eventually acquired the US book rights and was proud to publish it for a while.’ Dame Julie Andrews on the book that changed her life in the Guardian
Just heard from the BB Society about your publication of these most excellent books. I will advertise the fact widely as am a great fan of your publications!
Well done – they look excellent – thank you.
p.s. The Wyken Hall Vinyard shop (www.wykenvineyards.co.uk) sell your books and would surely sell these two books for you!