The Children Who Lived in a Barn
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Remember the days when a children's book could have a chapter entitled 'A Telegram and a Journey by Air' and twins nicknamed 'Jumbo' and 'Sambo'? These - and more in similar vein - are to be found in this attractive (if expensive) reissue of a novel first published in 1938. Its primary appeal today is likely to be to nostalgic adults rather than to younger readers, many of whom will see its central characters, the five Dunnet children, as beings from a strange world where gender roles are rigorously defined. Left to fend totally for themselves when their parents are abroad, they respond with remarkable perseverance, notably in their determination to outface the conformist tendencies of some of their adult fellow villagers. While there is much to enjoy, even in its datedness, in this depiction of youthful assertiveness, its sheer implausibility too often diminishes the possibility of unquestioning surrender to the narrative.