World Book Day: Girls Gone By

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Celebrate World Book Day with this article from last year’s “Friend” about the joy adults find in re-reading children’s books…

Mention Elinor M. Brent-Dyer’s “Chalet School” series or Malcolm Saville’s “Lone Pine” books and most people over forty-five will be instantly transported to childhood.

Children’s shelves in bookshops and libraries were once well stocked with boarding-school stories, adventure tales and pony books. Popular writers included Brent-Dyer, Saville, Antonia Forest, Monica Edwards and, of course, Enid Blyton.

While Enid Blyton remains in print, her contemporaries have long disappeared from children’s bookshelves. They may no longer be popular with children, but books by “old-fashioned” authors do still have a market.

Hundreds of adults – mainly women – want to complete their childhood collections or replace books that they regret getting rid of when younger. Helping meet that demand is a small publisher that reprints sought-after titles.

Girls Gone By

Girls Gone By Publishers, based in Coleford, Somerset. It’s run by vicar Clarissa Cridland and retired secondary school teacher Ann Mackie-Hunter, celebrates its 20th anniversary this year.

Clarissa had more than 20 years’ experience in mainstream publishing when she and Ann set up Girls Gone By in 2001. But their publishing venture actually began a couple of years before that, when they visited ballet and pony book author Lorna Hill’s daughter, Vicky.

“We were looking at some of Lorna Hill’s original manuscripts and discovered one – ‘Northern Lights’ – that had never been published before,” Clarissa recalls. “We published it so other Lorna Hill enthusiasts could have the opportunity of reading it as well.”

Chalet School

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“Northern Lights” is the only one of their titles to be produced under the Brockleside Press imprint. Clarissa and Ann published a second book in 2000. It was a “Chalet School” continuation story, “New Beginnings At The Chalet School”, by “Chalet School” aficionado Heather Paisley.

That book was published through Friends Of The Chalet School, a society for fans set up by Ann in 1989. Following the success of these early titles, Clarissa and Ann decided it was time to take publishing seriously. Soon after, Girls Gone By was born.

From the start, Girls Gone By’s focus has been on titles that are hard to find, or expensive to buy second-hand. Authors published by Girls Gone By over the past 20 years include Dorita Fairlie Bruce, Monica Edwards, Antonia Forest and Malcolm Saville. Not to mention its top-selling writer, Elinor M. Brent-Dyer.

Clarissa and Ann also publish non-fiction about specific authors or genres, along with the popular “Chalet School” “fill-in” titles. These are additional Chalet School titles written by contemporary authors, which are edited to conform to the author’s style and “feel”.

Asking The Fans

Clarissa says the aim is to publish a balanced list.

“We don’t just make decisions ourselves. Every Friday I send out a newsletter to over 1,800 people, and I consult them about what books we might do.”

Given Girls Gone By has always been run from home, you’d think the lockdowns of the past year would have made little difference to the business.

However, Clarissa says the lockdowns have posed a challenge – a positive one.

“People have read more in lockdown and we have sold more books, and not just in the UK.”

“Our orders from the States, in particular, have increased!”

Find out more about Girls Gone By Publishers.

Read more book reviews from the “Friend” team.

Alex Corlett

Alex is the "Friend's" Features Editor, working with the talented Features Team to bring you everything from cryptic crosswords to financial advice, knitting patterns to international travel and inspirational real life stories. Always on the hunt for a new feature idea, Alex also enjoys cycling and loves a good tea room.