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Bertram

Bertram was first published in 1959. It is now out of print.


Story | Thoughts | Editions and Availability

Story

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.

Thoughts

(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

UK Editions

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.

US Editions

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.)

 


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