(Ann) Philippa Pearce The Junior Bookshelf - Essay

The Junior Bookshelf

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

[Minnow on the Say] is captivating from the beginning…. There is a neat balance of hopes and disappointments, and the reader's concern for Adam and his aunt causes him to share their feelings for the shabby old house whose future is threatened with their own, and heightens the suspense. At the same time the aunt's outburst when Adam uproots a prize rose in his mania [to find an Elizabethan treasure] is a welcome reminder that some things matter more than treasures, and the same sense of proportion is maintained elsewhere. The boys are a well matched, likable pair, and their conversation rings true, while the adults, who might easily have been only "character" parts, have character instead. Many children will recognise something of their own fathers in David's…. And what a relief to meet a bus-driver who is a person instead of a conscientious exponent of lower-middle class virtues! The other characters are just as clearly seen, the humour is quiet but constant, and there is that ingredient of consciousness of the past working in the present—the past of individuals, families, and the town—which always adds a special dimension. The interest of clue-detection during a first reading is replaced in later readings by an appreciation of the clues themselves and by increased pleasure in the people encountered on the search. The final scenes are all that could be desired…. (pp. 234-35)

"The New Books: 'Minnow on the Say'," in The Junior Bookshelf, Vol. 19, No. 4, October, 1955, pp. 234-35.