You wouldn’t think there could be another child as naughty as my naughty little sister, would you? But there was. There was a thoroughly bad boy who was my naughty little sister’s best boy-friend: Bad Harry.
This Bad Harry and my naughty little sister used to play together quite a lot in Harry’s garden, or in our garden, and got up to dreadful mischief between them, picking all the baby gooseberries, and the green blackcurrants, and throwing sand on the flower-beds, and digging up the runner-bean seeds, and all the naughty sorts of things you never, never do in the garden.
Now, one day this Bad Harry’s birthday was near, and Bad Harry’s mother said he could have a birthday-party and invite lots of children to tea. So Bad Harry came round to our house with a pretty card in an envelope for my naughty little sister, and this card was an invitation asking my naughty little sister to come to the birthday-party.
Bad Harry told my naughty little sister that there would be a lovely tea with jellies and sandwiches and birthday-cake, and my naughty little sister said, “Jolly good.”
“My naughty little sister at the party” is just one episode in this collection of Dorothy Edwards’ classic British children’s stories from the 1950s. Dorothy Edwards was a household name during the 50s and 60s in Britain as she read these and others of her stories on the British Broadcasting Corporation’s “Listen with Mother” radio show — a short, sweet program of stories and poems which aired for about 15 minutes each afternoon.
These stories are narrated by an older sister, who is consistently appalled at the stubborn naughtiness of her little sister, and indeed she does get into a scandalous lot of trouble! For instance, in the birthday party story I’ve quoted from today, she and Bad Harry slip away from the Ring O’Ring O’Roses game that all the good party children are playing, sneak into the kitchen larder, and eat up the entire trifle — mounds of cream, silver balls, jelly-sweets, fruity bits and all — which was being saved for a birthday tea surprise. When Bad Harry’s mother discovers them, the naughty little sister runs home, misses the party, and of course, has a big ol’ stomach ache to boot. Each of the short chapters tells a story like this which stands alone. Each one is deliciously full of mischief. They are a delight to read with quite young children who listen smugly and agree that they would never think of doing such naughty things!
Edwards wrote 5 books of these Naughty Little Sister stories, and Shirley Hughes (winner of my All-Time Favorite Author/Illustrator award; more on her another time) has illustrated them in her delightful style. They are quaint, old-fashioned British tales, so some of the vocabulary is unfamiliar to American children, yet who cannot close their eyes and imagine what a red jelly-sweet might be, or a peppermint humbug?
I’m including a link to an audio version being read in that perfect English accent which is the cherry-on-top to these British treats! Click the link, and then listen via the green “sample” button.