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Old Chairs to Mend

Old Chairs to Mend was first published in 1966. It is now out of print.

Story | Thoughts | Editions and Availability


Emma and Paul know that there will soon be a new baby in the family, although their mother and father will not promise an exact date.

One day, their father wakes them, and says that the baby is probably coming today, but it might be very late, so they are to stay the night with their Gran. They are to be taken to Gran's place by a neighbour, Mrs Jones, who is a bus conductress and whose bus goes right past Gran's place on the other side of London.

The children get off the bus at the right stop, but when they ring Gran's doorbell, nobody answers! Just as the children are starting to get worried, a boy comes through the gate. He tells them that Gran has had an accident and gone to hospital, but there didn't seem to be much wrong with her. The boy has a key to Gran's house, and he lets them in. He explains that his father is a chair caner - he repairs cane chairs - and Gran lets him keep his work tools in her back room.

The boy's father - Bert Boakes - soon returns, and says that Gran will be fine and should be home in a couple of days. The children spend an exciting day with him, seeing what the life of a chair caner is like. They also meet his brother Syd, who is a street acrobat, and his niece Connie who is a singer (but not a very good one!)

When the children go home the next day, it seems "as if miles of time had passed since ... yesterday morning. It was as if between then and now they had been in a different world" (Old Chairs to Mend, 1966:92).


Old Chairs to Mend is one of Noel's books for younger readers. Like Bertram, it was published in the Hamish Hamilton "Antelope" series. Noel's other books for Hamish Hamilton were Let's Go Coaching (in the "Gazelle" series for very young readers) and The Grey Family (in the "Reindeer" series for a slightly older age group, though still younger than Noel's usual readership).

The characters in Old Chairs to Mend are aged eight and six, and there is nothing much in the way of characterisation. The book gives a very simplistic picture of a way of life that is likely to be unfamiliar, but interesting, to the readers.

Editions and Availability

UK Editions

Old Chairs to Mend was first published by Hamish Hamilton in 1966, with illustrations by Barry Wilkinson.

US Editions

There does not seem to have been a US edition of Old Chairs to Mend.

Out of Print

Old Chairs to Mend is out of print and very rare. In February 2004, the only two second hand copies I can find listed by online booksellers costs 13 and 18. (Source: Addall Used and Out of Print Book Search.).


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