I’m reblogging this here because “The Eagle of the Ninth” is a special book for me. It’s one of my formative influences and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read it, first in a battered copy from the late 1950’s passed down to me by my mum, then later, when that copy fell to bits through over reading, my own modern copy that I might one day pass on to a godchild or niece or nephew. (Or I might just keep it and buy them their own copy 😉 ) It’s one of the books that’s lived with me the longest that I still turn to again and again, a masterclass in story.
And if Lyra had been a boy-daggitt we were going to call her Esca 🙂


Cover of Books for Keeps, March 2010

Brian Alderson founded the Children’s Books History Society; he was once Children’s Books Editor for The Times newspaper. Writing in Books for Keeps in 2010, he  recalled an anecdote once told to librarians by Rosemary Sutcliff in the 1950s: ‘That’s not a sand-castle,’ said the busy child on the beach, ‘I’m building a temple to Mithras.’

In all probability the temple-builder’s enthusiasm for the work came from hearing its famed serialisation on ‘Children’s Hour’ but (perhaps unlike television serials) the wireless version sent listeners straight back to the book to get the author’s full-dress narrative to go with the spoken one.

They were keen readers, those librarians – our first critics, long before the academic brigades were mustered – and for them, at that time, the landing of The Eagle of the Ninth had something of the force of a revelation. True, it did not come from an entirely unknown author.

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