Harry Secombe whose talents and infectious giggle have earned him a special place in all British hearts is this year’s Children’s Book Week personality.
He’s an ideal choice. Singer, actor and all-round entertainer, Harry is also reader, writer, President of the Junior Puffin Club and all-round book person.
He’s always been an avid reader. As a child with Scarlet fever he read all Scott’s Waverley novels which left him he says `with a yearning for adventure – and very short-sighted’.
Nowadays his tastes run to `the latest adventure novel, biography or history’. The Secombe family home in Cheam is overflowing with books and a visitor is quite likely to leave laden with volumes to make room for the latest titles.
Harry (like his fellow goon Spike Milligan) has turned his talents to writing. The appearance of his first novel Twice Brightly (Robson Books/Sphere Books) in 1974 would have pleased his old English master in Swansea. He spotted Harry as a promising writer and was disappointed when he gave up his early ambition to become a journalist for a stage career. Years later, famous and well-established, Harry returned to Swansea and paid a visit to his old teacher. He drew up outside the house, in his Rolls Royce and went in to see the old man who greeted him with `What went wrong then, boy?.’
After Twice Brightly came a collection of short stories, Goon for Lunch (Michael Joseph/Star Books), and in 1977 his first book for children Katy and the Nurgla (Robson Books) dedicated to his youngest daughter Katy, who was ten at the time.
For CBW Harry and his family have made a personal selection of books – all published this year.
From books submitted by publishers, Beverley Mathias at the NBL created a ‘short list’ of family books. Harry, son David (just finishing A Levels and an aspiring photographer), daughters Katy, and Jennifer (also representing granddaughters Harriet (2) and newly arrived Emily) set about choosing twelve.
`We asked them to include paperbacks and hardbacks, fiction and non-fiction,’ said Margaret Turfrey. `They took it very seriously and knew exactly why they had chosen each one.’
Hound in the Highlands
Brenda Sivers, Abelard-Schuman, 0 200 72718 4, £3.95
Seven Years and a Day
Colette O’Hare and Beryl Cook, Collins, 0 00 195745 7, £4 50
David NicKee. Dobson Books, 0 234 77607 2, £3.50
Grange Hill Rules – OK?
Robert Leeson, Fontana, 0 00 671658 X. 75p
Raymond Briggs, Hamish Hamilton, 0 241 10281 2, £3.25
A Walk in Wolf Wood
Mary Stewart, Hodder & Stoughton, 0 340 25291 X, £3.50
The Mother Goose Book
Ill. Alice and Martin Provensen, Julia MacRae Books, 0 86203 001 3, £4.95
Just Look… A Book About Paintings
Robert Cumming, Kestrel Books, 0 7226 5676 9, £4.95
A Day in the Zoo
Anon, Kestrel Books, 0 7226 5706 4, £4.25
The Guinness Book of Animal Marvels
Ed. Shirley Greenway, Piccolo, 0 330 26030 8, 75p
The Battle of Bubble and Squeak
Philippa Pearce, Puffin, 0 14 03.1183 1, 65p
The Enormous Crocodile
Roald Dahl, Puffin, 0 14 050.342 0. £1.00
Readers of Books for Keeps will recognise a number of these titles from past issues. We liked them too.
Why not use Secombe’s Selection as your CBW display? There is a full-colour poster. A limited number of these are available for Books for Keeps readers. First come, first served. Send large s.a.e. to the SBA in Lee by 30th September.
Katy and the Nurgla is available in Puffin this month. See Reviews, page 8.