The Poacher's Son
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Our cover this issue was created from the endpapers of the Blue Book and the Yellow Book of Hob Stories to be published by Walker Books later this year. Hob made his first appearance last year in the Red and Green Books of Stories about him by William Mayne. Patrick Benson who did the illustrations has just won the Mother Goose Award. For more details see Ed's Page (opposite) and the report of the Mother Goose Award (page 10). We are most grateful to Walker Books for help in using these illustrations.
This is another of those novels which adults rave over but which does not have such an immediately enthusiastic reaction from pupils. I found it hauntingly depressing. The carefully drawn, crushing poverty of the Betts family at the turn of the century makes very sad reading and the cruel condemnation of Arthur, the son of the title, to a Reform School for truancy and for poaching to feed his fatherless family underlines basic injustices, which by and large are still current. Even joining up and fighting World War I provided no solutions; risking death did not provide any answers or release; still Arthur asks 'What am I left with? What have I go out of it all?' It's a novel for today about yesterday and its bleak subject echoes around the mind as it rightly should. It's worth persuading your readers to try it, or going out of your way to share it.