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The book I'd like to see reprinted

Creative WritingPosted by Barbara Sun, April 15, 2018 15:10:56

*This post was originally published on the Author Allsorts blog under the theme of the book I would like to see reprinted.*

Satchkin Patchkin, will you lift the latchkin? Satchkin Patchkin, will you lift the latch?

When I read stories to my eldest daughter, one of her absolute favourites was this book: Satchkin Patchkin, by Helen Morgan. Written in 1966, it’s the story of a little green magic man who lives ‘like a leaf’ in an apple tree.

It was the most comforting of bedtime stories. The apple tree in question belongs to a poor old lady who’s always being bullied and exploited by her landlord, who is ‘a lean man, a mean man, a man without a smile’.

In true fairy story fashion, in spite of her dire straits, the old lady shows kindness to the little hobgoblin Satchkin Patchkin. And in return, over a series of short and satisfying tales, Satchkin Patchkin pays her back, by thwarting and foiling the rotten old landlord until, in the end, the lovely old lady is well-off and comfortable.

(OK, I admit it: it’s the sort of story that has political appeal too, in the same way as Martin Waddell's Farmer Duck. I love it when a mean old capitalist gets taught a lesson by a hardworking commoner. You can’t start ’em too young and we need the moral of the story today more than ever).

As blogger Nick Campbell points out on the A Pile of Puffins site, the book was written at a time when there was a renewed interest in ‘earth magic’ and the hobgoblin character featured in a few children’s stories at the time. Perhaps another reason why it feels very evocative to anyone from the the ‘Watch with Mother’ generation.

One of the other real charms about the book is the way it lends itself so well to being read aloud to a young child. The author uses language like a song: some favourite lines are repeated, so the reader and listener know what’s coming.

Not too long ago, my daughter (now all grown up) was reminiscing about it, so I went to fetch it from the bookshelf, only to discover it had somehow disappeared. (Is there a book hobgoblin that pinches stories, I wonder? I never throw books away, and yet they somehow are often missing when I go to look for them).

And then I was heartbroken to discover it had gone out of print. A certain international online bookstore had a couple of buying options – one of them cost £10,000, so I had to pass, but in the end I did manage to find a pre-loved copy online that wasn’t in too poor a condition. So Satchkin Patchkin graces my library once more.

It made me wonder too about the author. Helen Morgan wrote some stories that are apparently more famous – the Mary Kate series (1960s) and The Witch Doll (1991, I think). Because Helen Morgan is not an unusual name, there are several authors who share it and I am struggling to find any verifiable biographical details for her.

But I’d campaign for a reprint of this old favourite any day. And I’d like her to know that those sing-song lines from Satchkin Patchkin still make me and my daughter smile.

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