A collective of bibliophiles talking about books. Book Fox (vulpes libris): small bibliovorous mammal of overactive imagination and uncommonly large bookshop expenses. Habitat: anywhere the rustle of pages can be heard.
On the 26th of February 2008, Lisa wrote this charmingly nostalgic piece about Angela Rippon’s “Victoria Plum” books, and to her – and our – amazement, it shot straight into our Top Ten, where it’s been ever since …
From left to right: Victoria Plum on Sports Day, Victoria Plum and the Magic Spell and Victoria Plum and her Woodland Friends. All by Angela Rippon.
Webstats can be very revealing. People keep searching for the Victorian Plum books and finding our picture books feature, where I briefly mentioned Victoria Plum. Twenty-five years after Victoria’s heyday, and people are still seeking her out. Yet there’s almost nothing on the internet relating to our Victoria. Vulpes must rectify that.
Victoria Plum and her Woodland Friends: This is a ‘getting to know Victoria Plum’ type affair. Victoria is a tree fairy without wings. She lives in the Great Wood with her school-friend, Ben, and various talking woodland animals – there’s a strong ‘be kind to animals’ ethic in these books, which still impresses me.
In Victoria Plum and her Woodland Friends, Mrs Rabbit invites Victoria to tea and serves her delicious carrot jam sandwiches. Victoria goes boating with the water rats on a hot summer day (she’s evidently quite lazy as they seem to be towing her along). Mrs Spider weaves Victoria a spangly shawl and Mr Rabbit brings cabbage plants for Victoria’s garden. But woodland fairy life is not without its chores: Victoria looks after the baby hedgehogs when Mrs Hedgehog goes shopping (possibly for Hedgehog heels).
Victoria Plum on Sports Day: Flora Fieldmouse is surprised when a chick jumps out of her egg, during the egg and spoon race. The woodland animals go head-to-head in a sack race and Victoria runs with the foxes in a relay race, while Ben runs in the three-legged race with Harry Hare. The ‘slow race’ is won by a speedy snail, while the poor tortoise comes last. The worm and ladybird are also quite slow, judging by the picture. Victoria gives out the prizes and then she and Ben carry the sleepy young mice home.
Victoria Plum and the Magic Spell: Victoria and Ben are having magic lessons, which consist of making things disappear and reappear. All goes well until the teacher leaves and Ben decides to make Victoria’s grandfather clock disappear. Ben cannot bring it back. The magic teacher (who looks a little like a balding version of Gandalf – cloaked, white moustachioed, half-moon glasses – is very cross and tells Ben ‘never to use magic for fun’ (one wonders how one should use magic, if not for fun). All ends well when Ben manages to get the clock back and they all have a lovely tea. Presumably with carrot jam sandwiches.
Okay, I admit it, I adore Victoria Plum, I want to be her, in fact: living in the Great Wood with magical woodland friends? What could be better? For several years my parents played on my adoration and convinced me that Victoria lived in our local wood. I looked for her every time we went there. I’m pretty sure I even saw her once. Although maybe I dreamed that last bit.
Victoria Plum was a phenomenon – it even had ‘must-have’ merchandise: I treasured my Victoria Plum curtains, umbrella and bedspread. Thinking back, I’m not sure I realised Victoria was a fairy – to my three-year-old brain, she was just a lucky girl who got to live in the woods with talking animals, in a world where magic was totally normal, and in which high tea was enjoyed after every adventure.
So yes, these books might have fifteen cardboard pages, but they are certainly not to be scoffed at. More than any other fictional character, Victoria Plum woke up my imagination.
Angela Rippon. Purnell, 1983. 50p. Pagination: 15. ISBN 0 361 05724 5 (same ISBN for all three books)
LISA GLASS is the author of several novels and short stories, including SNAKE BEACH, a summer beach read for teens, just released in e-book form for the Kindle (and other e-readers via Smashwords), priced at a princely 98p.