Jane Nissen specialises in reprints of both much-loved and forgotten classics from earlier decades and is gradually developing a list of quiet quality. ‘Bunchy’ is effectively the younger sister of the more famous ‘Milly-Molly-Mandy’ by the same author and was first published in 1937.
The ten chapters depict a story of extreme simplicity, each a variation on the theme of make-believe. Bunchy, who might be anywhere between five and seven (she is old enough to be left briefly while Grandmother visits a friend, but too young to walk to the village school a mile away) lives alone with her grandmother in a country cottage.
In the pre-television, pre-video era of the book, Bunchy relies for entertainment on the everyday objects Grandmother gives her or that she finds for herself in the house and garden. Pastry dough, buttons, an old scrap work screen – each in their turn allows her to fashion a complete imaginative world with friends to play with and gentle adventures.
As in the ‘Teddy Robinson’ stories from a slightly later era, which also deal with toys coming alive, the line between fantasy and reality is agreeably blurred. These stories do not have quite the wit and mischief that Teddy Robinson reliably provided as a form of alter ego for the child reader, acting out nursery emotions. He regularly sulks and shows off gloriously in the face of rivals, while Bunchy is an altogether more decorous character.
However, the tales will still have a quiet appeal for unsophisticated young readers, at the lower end of this age range, perhaps particularly for only children like Bunchy. This title would be perfect for bedtime reading and might well reinforce creative play.