Slightly Foxed Cubs is a series of handsome clothbound hardback reissues of classic children’s books which will, we feel, strike a nostalgic chord with many older readers and introduce a younger generation to writers whose marvellous books have, unaccountably, been allowed to slip out of print. The Starter Library set includes all available titles in the Cubs series.
No. 6, Captain of Dragoons
Charles Carey is a Captain in the Duke of Marlborough’s army during the early years of the War of the Spanish Succession – a moody, quick-tempered and charismatic figure who is also one of its most brilliant swordsmen. Having discovered that there is a traitor in the camp, Charles is sent to spy in France on a mission that ends with his imprisonment in the Bastille . . .
No. 7, Mohawk Valley
In 1755 young Alan Carey is sent to the colony of New York by his father the Earl to look into his estates in Mohawk Valley. Alan grows in moral stature as he deals with a dishonest bailiff, learns the ways of the virgin forest, overcomes hostile Indians and renders invaluable service to General Wolfe during the capture of Quebec.
No. 8, Escape from France
With news of the revolution in France, the Careys are anxious about the fate of their relatives, the aristocratic d’Assailly family. Young Richard Carey, still a Cambridge student, is sent secretly by his father Lord Aubigny on a mercy mission to bring them back to England. A complex tale of daring and disguise, and a vivid picture of revolutionary Paris.
No. 10, Nicholas Carey
It is 1853, and on holiday in Italy, Captain Nicholas Carey is persuaded by his cousin Andrew to help three Italian revolutionaries escape the Papal States. After returning to England, Nicholas runs his cousin to earth in Paris, and the two foil an assassination attempt on the Emperor Napoleon III.
No. 11, Ensign Carey
In the seedy mid-nineteenth century London underworld, William Carey has a frightening encounter with George Hampton, a violent and unprincipled young man on the make. Banished from Cambridge as a result, in 1856 William travels to India, where his father has obtained a commission for him in the 84th Bengal Native Infantry, and his path again crosses that of Hampton.
No. 13, Sun of York
Ronald Welch’s Sun of York is set during the final years of the Wars of the Roses, the long struggle between the houses of York and Lancaster for the English throne.
No. 14, The Road to Waterloo
The manuscript of The Road to Waterloo lay unread among Ronald Welch’s papers for more than thirty years after his death and is published here, with specially commissioned illustrations, for the first time.
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. So begins a heroic quest to find their missing brother.
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. Now they set out in search of a new home, sailing downstream towards the big river and the sea. Will the remaining gnomes finally find an unspoilt home?
Faced with the end of the holidays and the prospect of school, who hasn’t dreamt of running away to the woods to live wild as a badger, to hunt and forage like a woodsman, to tread as softly and cautiously as a fox through the undergrowth? In Brendon Chase, this is precisely what three boys do. At the end of the Easter holidays, Robin, John and Harold Hensman escape their aunt’s house and go to live in an eleven-thousand-acre forest.
There’s a wonderful cast of pre-war English village characters: a fussy maiden aunt, a butterfly-collecting vicar and a rather hapless policeman and his bicycle, among others. None of the grown-ups believe the boys will make it past teatime, or nightfall, or the end of the week. Needless to say, the brothers outwit them all. With remarkable resourcefulness, they last till just after Christmas, living in a hollow oak tree and spending their days hunting for their supper, swimming in the Blind Pool and playing tricks on all who come searching for them.
The Eagle of the Ninth
Sutcliff’s most famous book is a gripping adventure and a touching coming-of-age story, based on the real disappearance of the Ninth Legion around the year AD 117. As Marcus the young centurion arrives in Britain to take up his first command, he is haunted by the memory of his father and the 6,000 men of the Ninth Hispana Legion, who twelve years earlier had marched north of Hadrian’s Wall to quell an uprising and were never seen again. Seriously wounded soon after in an attack by hostile tribesmen, invalided out of the Roman Army and wondering what to do with his life, Marcus determines to make the hazardous journey north in a bid to discover the fate of the Ninth Legion, and in particular of the Roman eagle, the Legion’s standard and a possible rallying point for the northern tribes in their war against Rome.
The Silver Branch
Roman influence in Britain is waning. The Empire is increasingly threatened by hostile tribes along its borders and divided by political struggles at home. Two distant cousins who have met by chance in Britain – Justin, a shy, newly qualified army surgeon and Flavius, a young centurion – are caught up in the power struggles between Carausius, the charismatic Emperor of Britain, his cruel and ruthless treasurer, and the Emperor in Rome. Disgraced after their attempt to warn Carausius about a plot against him fails, the two go underground, rallying support for the legitimate Emperor and finally taking refuge at the farm of their formidable great-aunt Honoria. Here they make an astonishing discovery which affects their future and links directly back to their ancestor Marcus and the disappearance of the Ninth Legion.
After a disastrous misjudgement which cost the lives of half his men, Alexios, another young centurion and member of the Aquila family, is sent to take charge of a bleak Roman outpost on Hadrian’s Wall and the savage bunch of men who defend it, the Frontier Wolves of the title. Dealing with this notorious legion is literally a matter of life and death for Alexios, for a commander who alienates them is unlikely to survive. Frontier Wolf tells the story of how this flawed but likeable hero grows in stature, gradually gaining his legion’s respect and the co-operation of the surrounding tribes, and defending Rome as the threat from the north grows.
The Lantern Bearers
The shadow of the approaching Dark Ages hangs over this last of the Roman novels. Rome’s legacy is finally decaying, the regular legions have been withdrawn, and Saxon raiding parties are invading the British countryside. As commander of a cavalry troop, young Aquila has been ordered to leave, but he has grown to love Britain and stays on, only to see his father’s farm torched by the Saxons, his father and the household servants murdered and his sister Flavia abducted. Aquila himself is captured and spends years as slave to a Saxon clan, but as the darkness gathers over Britain, it only strengthens his determination to avenge his family and keep Roman values alive.
In Rosemary Sutcliff’s Dawn Wind Owain, the book’s teenage hero who has both Roman and British blood in his veins, is the sole survivor of a terrible battle with the Saxons. Wounded and hungry, and with only a great fighting dog for company, he makes for the old Roman city of Viroconium where, among the ruins, he meets another survivor, Regina, a young and terrified orphaned girl and together they set off for the coast, planning to leave Britain for a British settlement in Gaul. On the journey Regina falls desperately ill and Owain buys her safety with his own freedom, becoming a thrall in a Saxon household. But in the years that follow he never forgets Regina, and when he regains his freedom the two meet again.
In Rosemary Sutcliff’s Sword Song sixteen-year-old Bjarni Sigurdson, a young Norwegian living in the Viking settlement of Rafnglas, is exiled for five years by the chief, Rafn Cedricson, for the hot-tempered murder of a priest, so breaking an oath Cedricson had sworn to his foster-brother to protect Christians within his lands. Bjarni joins a merchant ship sailing for Dublin from where, robbed of his possessions but with a new companion, a stray hound he calls Hugin, he embarks on a career as a mercenary in the wars between the clan chiefs in Ireland, Wales and the Scottish Isles. On Mull, he falls under the influence of the chief’s devoutly Christian mother Lady Aud, and after a chance meeting on a journey with her to the monastery on Iona, he is able to return and receive absolution from Rafn Cedricson for the breaking of his vow.
The Shield Ring
In Rosemary Sutcliff’s The Shield Ring England is now under Norman rule, but hidden high among the Cumbrian fells is one last Viking stronghold. Into it comes the five-year-old Saxon girl Frytha, saved by her father’s shepherd Grim after her family farm has been torched and her family murdered by the Normans. Here she meets another orphan, Bjorn, and over the years the two become inseparable. When William the Conqueror’s son William II marches north through Lakeland to confront the Scots, the Norsemen send a peace envoy, who is cruelly tortured and murdered by the Normans. It’s clear William is determined to take this final tactical outpost, but Bjorn, disguised as a travelling harper and secretly accompanied by Frytha, enters the enemy camp and after a terrifying ordeal brings back vital information which gives the advantage to the Norsemen.
The Roman Novels by Rosemary Sutcliff
Rosemary Sutcliff (1920‒92) wrote three of her four great historical novels for children set during the last years of the Roman occupation of Britain – The Eagle of the Ninth, The Silver Branch...Read more
It’s the end of the Easter holidays, and Robin, John and Harold Hensman can’t face returning to their boarding-school. Their ‘people’ are in India, and for years they’ve been entrusted to...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
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
Learning from the Wilderness
You should never camp in a ravine. Look for higher ground, and a windbreak – a fallen tree is fine, but rocks are the best. Gather balsam wood for bedding, and use your tomahawk to cut firewood...Read more
‘Knight Crusader is beautifully written . . .’Read more
Wolf Hall for kids: Why Ronald Welch’s novels will help your children fall in love with history
Ronald Welch, a tank commander turned schoolmaster, is one of the 20th century’s most underrated children’s writers. Like Hilary Mantel, he understood that what makes a lost epoch stick in your...Read more
The Eagle of the Ninth | The dark hour before the dawn . . .
Sometime about the year AD 117, the Ninth Legion, which was stationed at Eburacum where York now stands, marched north to deal with a rising among the Caledonian tribes, and was never heard of again.Read more
Escape from France | The news from Paris was brief and startling . . .
The news from Paris was brief and startling. King Louis, the Queen and all the Royal family had escaped from Paris and were believed to be making for the German frontier. Already a petition had been...Read more