William Mayne Robert Bell - Essay

Robert Bell

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

In both [A Parcel of Trees and Sand] the author's brilliant story-telling, character drawing, dialogue and perfectly-timed climaxes evoke, as always, the highest admiration.

The 'parcel of trees' is the legal term for a disused orchard, Susan's favourite retreat. When her right to use it is threatened by the railway authorities whose property it apparently is, a friendly lawyer establishes her legal ownership by 'squatter's rights.' The ingenious way in which this is done, and the significance of the intriguing objects in the orchard—a ruined lodge, a horse's skeleton, pieces of aluminum and concrete, and a row of dogs' graves—make a most absorbing story which is outstanding even for this distinguished writer.

Sand is a more hilarious affair, but of comparable excellence. The setting is a coastal town which is being slowly inundated by sand blown from the dunes. The central characters are a group of the most authentic schoolboys imaginable, and their ingenuity in fighting the sand, the uses to which they put the variety of objects they uncover, and the positively sparkling and mirth-provoking dialogue will keep readers absorbed and audibly chuckling from beginning to end.

Both books are 'musts.' (pp. 91-2)

Robert Bell, in The School Librarian and School Library Review, March, 1965.