Bertram was first published in 1959. It is now out of
Story | Thoughts
| Editions and Availability
Peter, Ann, Jane and Timothy are very excited when Father tells
them he has bought a house. They had always lived in a flat in
London, so this will be their first chance to have a garden. They
quickly make friends with their neighbours - Freddie Brown (who
lives with his parents, and Mrs Brown's younger brother, Paul),
and Marlene Smith (who lives with her parents, and Mr Smith's
younger sister Coral).
One day, when the children are in the garden, a puppy appears
- "about two months old, a sad-looking plain little dog,
thin, worried, with straight black rather long fur" (Bertram,
1965 Antelope Omnibus edition:90). As nobody claims the puppy,
the children are allowed to keep him. They name him Bertram, after
Mummy's Uncle Bertram, who had once owned a fox terrier.
The children love Bertram, although he is continually getting
into trouble for digging up people's gardens. Then one day Paul
and Coral announce they are getting married. All three families
are invited to the wedding ... but Bertram isn't.
(This section contains "spoilers" for those who have
not read the book.)
In Bertram, Noel expands on the central idea of her
1950 American "toy book", Osbert
- that of children getting a permanent wave for their dog, so
that he can come to a wedding. However, whereas Osbert
was set in the US (based on the currency used - there are no other
indications of setting), Bertram is firmly placed in
London. In addition, there is more background story in Bertram;
and where Osbert had only
one family of characters, Bertram has three.
Like her other books published through Hamish Hamilton (The
Grey Family, Let's Go
Coaching and Old Chairs
to Mend), Bertram is clearly aimed at a very
much younger readership than most of Noel's works. The characters
range in age from nine down to four, and there is very little
in the way of detailed characterisation. However, there is a great
deal of detail about other things, such as exactly what plants
are in everybody's gardens (and which ones Bertram destroys).
There are also two separate occasions where the children open
their moneyboxes - in each case, we are told what type of moneybox
each child has, how much is in it, and, on the first occasion,
how much they are able to put back afterwards. On the second occasion,
when all of the children are pooling their money, much is made
of how much Peter, Ann, Jane and Timothy have between them, then
what there is after Freddie has added his money, and the final
total when Marlene puts in her share.
Editions and Availability
Bertram was first published by Hamish Hamilton in 1959,
with illustrations by Margery Gill. It was republished in 1965,
and in 1966 there was a Collie Books paperback edition.
In 1965 it was included in an Antelope Omnibus, also published
by Hamish Hamilton and still with Margery Gill's illustrations.
There does not seem to have been a US edition of Bertram.
Out of Print
Bertram is now out of print, and very rare. In February 2004, the only second hand copy listed by an online
bookseller costs £9. (Source: Addall
Used and Out of Print Book Search.)