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The last four gnomes in Britain live by a Warwickshire brook. But when one of them decides to go and explore and doesn't return, it's up to the remaining three to build a boat and set out to find him. This is the story of the gnomes' epic journey in search of Cloudberry and is set against the background of the English countryside, beginning in spring, continuing through su The last four gnomes in Britain live by a Warwickshire brook. But when one of them decides to go and explore and doesn't return, it's up to the remaining three to build a boat and set out to find him. This is the story of the gnomes' epic journey in search of Cloudberry and is set against the background of the English countryside, beginning in spring, continuing through summer, and concluding in autumn, when the first frosts are starting to arrive. First published in 1942, this book is still fondly remembered and well-loved by readers everywhere. This edition includes the original black and white illustrations by the author.


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The last four gnomes in Britain live by a Warwickshire brook. But when one of them decides to go and explore and doesn't return, it's up to the remaining three to build a boat and set out to find him. This is the story of the gnomes' epic journey in search of Cloudberry and is set against the background of the English countryside, beginning in spring, continuing through su The last four gnomes in Britain live by a Warwickshire brook. But when one of them decides to go and explore and doesn't return, it's up to the remaining three to build a boat and set out to find him. This is the story of the gnomes' epic journey in search of Cloudberry and is set against the background of the English countryside, beginning in spring, continuing through summer, and concluding in autumn, when the first frosts are starting to arrive. First published in 1942, this book is still fondly remembered and well-loved by readers everywhere. This edition includes the original black and white illustrations by the author.

30 review for The Little Grey Men

  1. 5 out of 5

    Susan

    First published in 1942 this glorious read won the Carnegie Medal for the most outstanding children’s book of that year and has been reissued several times ; it’s latest incarnation is this kindle version, which will hopefully find it a whole new audience. BB was the pen name of Denys Watkins-Pitchford and he later wrote a sequel called, “Down the Bright Stream,” which has also been published on kindle. Denys Watkins-Pitchford had a great love of the countryside and this is reflected in his writ First published in 1942 this glorious read won the Carnegie Medal for the most outstanding children’s book of that year and has been reissued several times ; it’s latest incarnation is this kindle version, which will hopefully find it a whole new audience. BB was the pen name of Denys Watkins-Pitchford and he later wrote a sequel called, “Down the Bright Stream,” which has also been published on kindle. Denys Watkins-Pitchford had a great love of the countryside and this is reflected in his writing, which describes a realistic portrayal of nature. Although not idealised, it is wonderfully descriptive and he does not shy away from the fact that his central characters live off the countryside. They wear clothes made from mouse or bat skin, they fish and gather fruit and nuts to eat. Sometimes, times are hard and sometimes bountiful, but there it is a place of both beauty and danger. Our central characters are the three last gnomes in Britain – Baldmoney, Sneezewort and Dodder. Their other brother, Cloudberry, went off one day exploring and does not return. So, Baldmoney, Sneezewort and Dodder decide to set out in search of him. This novel tells of their travels, their struggles and the difficulties they face. They have never travelled far before, living happily beside Folly Brook in Warwickshire. Yet, this book will see them travelling through the whole of the spring, summer and autumn in their long search. I loved this book as a child (as well as others by BB such as “Brendon Chase,” and “The Forest of Boland Light Railway”) and I am pleased to say that my seven year old has really enjoyed this book at bedtime. I really think it will appeal to readers, both adult and children, who enjoy novels such as, “The Hobbit,” as this shares those themes of an epic journey and a quest. This is not as plot driven as most of the books written nowadays. Like the brook which the gnomes follow, it meanders and detours along the way. Undoubtedly now, editors would prune the passages of detailed description, but I think the writing is simply stunning, as are the illustrations. The author created a world which you see clearly, characters you care about and an exciting adventure which you will have to read yourself to see whether or not it has a happy ending…

  2. 5 out of 5

    Rachel Brown

    The last gnomes in Britain, three tiny brothers, decide to go looking for their missing brother Cloudberry, who sailed up the river two years ago and never returned. This book ought to be on the same list of British countryside classics as Watership Down and The Wind In The Willows, which it somewhat resembles. It was a favorite of mine as a child, and it holds up when I read it as an adult. “BB” balances sweetness with the harsh realities both of nature and of encroaching civilization to create The last gnomes in Britain, three tiny brothers, decide to go looking for their missing brother Cloudberry, who sailed up the river two years ago and never returned. This book ought to be on the same list of British countryside classics as Watership Down and The Wind In The Willows, which it somewhat resembles. It was a favorite of mine as a child, and it holds up when I read it as an adult. “BB” balances sweetness with the harsh realities both of nature and of encroaching civilization to create a book that is enchanting but unsentimental. While there is enough adventure, danger, and charming tiny details like the gnomes’ name for rabbits (Bub’ms) or the delicious-sounding meals the gnomes create from smoked minnows, blackberries, and peppermint creams to delight the child that I was, I found myself now responding most to the sad and lovely evocation of the vanishing English countryside, and of time passing by. In 1942, according to the author, there were only four gnomes left in Britain; now, one supposes, there are none.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Mir

    Do gnomes with names like "Cloudberry" sound too twee for your taste? Never fear, you can still enjoy this book for its endless description of vegetation and scenery. Do gnomes with names like "Cloudberry" sound too twee for your taste? Never fear, you can still enjoy this book for its endless description of vegetation and scenery.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Adam Nevill

    I've read just over 90 books this year, most of them having remained unread on my shelves for a few years - 2017 was a catch-up year. And if I was to choose my favourite book of the year, it would be 'The Little Grey Men' by BB (Denys Watkins-Pitchford). A children's book (nothing to do with aliens) and the epic story of the last gnomes in England, who explore upstream in search of their missing brother. My Dad read it to us when we were young and I’ve been waiting for my daughter to become old en I've read just over 90 books this year, most of them having remained unread on my shelves for a few years - 2017 was a catch-up year. And if I was to choose my favourite book of the year, it would be 'The Little Grey Men' by BB (Denys Watkins-Pitchford). A children's book (nothing to do with aliens) and the epic story of the last gnomes in England, who explore upstream in search of their missing brother. My Dad read it to us when we were young and I’ve been waiting for my daughter to become old enough to appreciate it too (she was six when I read it to her). It’s a masterpiece of enchantment and adventure, and features some of the best lyrical writing about the British landscape, and its flora and fauna, that I’ve encountered in literature. It's inspired by the countryside near where I was born (Warwickshire), and to my eye now seems to have found a sad second life as a naturalist's eulogy to what has been lost in Britain's countryside. It's also an adventure story to rival 'The Hobbit'. The language is sublime, but it’s not a book for children alone; as with the great works of fantasy associated with younger readers, mature readers may also find the books transporting. The Folio Society edition I have is filled with the author's wonderful illustrations and head and tail pieces. For a story packed with wonder, adventure, warmth, and dread, that'll appeal to young and old, you can't really go wrong with this story. It's magical. I'll be surprised if you don't believe in the existence of gnomes by the end of it too.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Christopher Newton

    I started read The Little Grey Men when I was 10 or 11. I liked it very much but, for some forgotten reason, had to return it to the library before I finished it. It must have stuck in my mind though, because when I saw a reference to it the other week, I remembered it and decided to get it out and try again, this time from a library on the far side of the continent. Here's what I found. It's glorious writing, beyond writing really, more of a window into a lost world, lost to me anyway -- how it I started read The Little Grey Men when I was 10 or 11. I liked it very much but, for some forgotten reason, had to return it to the library before I finished it. It must have stuck in my mind though, because when I saw a reference to it the other week, I remembered it and decided to get it out and try again, this time from a library on the far side of the continent. Here's what I found. It's glorious writing, beyond writing really, more of a window into a lost world, lost to me anyway -- how it would be to live in a hollow of an oak tree on the side of a creek in a woodland of the English Midlands in a long ago pre-suburbanized countryside. He doesn't really give a child reader a break with his vocabulary and sentence structure, you got to stay with it, kids. He's just trying to get his vision out and at the same time tell a ripping story. BB has illustrated the book with his own woodcuts and they are Arthur Rackham masterful. Oh yeah, storyline: after living on the side of Folly Brook for several thousand years, three gnomes decide to venture upstream to find their lost brother Cloudberry, and what happened to them on the way. This is not your ordinary kid's adventure fantasy. More like a hymn to nature that happens to include great gnome characters having ripping adventures. Recommended.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance

    There are only four gnomes left in the world, and one of them, Cloudberry, set off a year earlier to find the source of the Folly and never returned. Two of the three remaining gnomes decide to go in search of Cloudberry, leaving behind the one-legged elderly Dodder. But even Dodder can't resist the lure of adventure, and he, too, takes off after the others. The gnomes have all sorts of fun and scary adventures, including a lost boat and a skirmish with a giant. It's an adventure of the old-fashio There are only four gnomes left in the world, and one of them, Cloudberry, set off a year earlier to find the source of the Folly and never returned. Two of the three remaining gnomes decide to go in search of Cloudberry, leaving behind the one-legged elderly Dodder. But even Dodder can't resist the lure of adventure, and he, too, takes off after the others. The gnomes have all sorts of fun and scary adventures, including a lost boat and a skirmish with a giant. It's an adventure of the old-fashioned sort, with gnomes as your guides.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Abigail Bok

    Once in a blue moon, if a reader is particularly lucky, she comes across a book that makes her wail, "Why didn't I discover this when I was young?" This is one of those books, and although I rue all those wasted years I can only be grateful that my participation in Goodreads groups has led me to it now. The Little Grey Men is strongly reminiscent of The Wind in the Willows but, to my mind, a better book. The Wind in the Willows is episodic and inconsistent in its focus, feeling more like a collec Once in a blue moon, if a reader is particularly lucky, she comes across a book that makes her wail, "Why didn't I discover this when I was young?" This is one of those books, and although I rue all those wasted years I can only be grateful that my participation in Goodreads groups has led me to it now. The Little Grey Men is strongly reminiscent of The Wind in the Willows but, to my mind, a better book. The Wind in the Willows is episodic and inconsistent in its focus, feeling more like a collection of short stories than a coherent narrative. The Little Grey Men is a hero's quest tale, following the adventures of the last gnomes living in England. That arc gives it a coherent focus lacking in its more famous counterpart. Although the gnomes may be imaginary beings (I'm not entirely prepared to cede that point), the world they inhabit is very real and described in straightforward but eloquent language. The author is intimately connected to the countryside in a way most of us have lost--not just as observed beauty but as an intimate companion. Such narratives overwhelm me with longing to "return" to something that lives deep in our imaginations, something close to us but always just out of reach--in a word, Arcadia. This author's Arcadia is not so very long ago nor so very far away. It is a very British sort of place, one that may be inhabited by yeoman humans but in which the gentry are destructive intruders. The focus is on the animals and other creatures who live around the humans, their joys and sorrows. They face very real dangers, and, warning to sensitive readers: this is a darker story than The Wind in the Willows, a place where very bad things can happen and sometimes do. There is a certain amount of improbable serendipity, as befits a children's book, but the overall impression is of a story well grounded in reality. If one accepts the proposition that gnomes exist, all the rest is believable. My favorite god, Pan, figures in this story just as he does in The Wind in the Willows, though Kenneth Grahame looks at him sidelong and this author brings him right into the picture. I'd give Grahame the edge in this regard, but overall this story works so much better for me. I loved this tale of the gnomes and their companions and expect to turn back to it when the longing for Arcadia overtakes me again.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Adam

    The three gnome characters of The Little Grey Men have lived for, as far as we know, a couple of thousand years in pretty much the same spot on a stream they call Folly Brook. However, civilization is crowding in on them, and they are not sure whether any others of their kind remain in Britain. When their brother--a fourth gnome, named Cloudberry--has been absent for a year on a lone adventure up the Folly, the other three decide, after much debate, to go looking for him. The Little Grey Men is o The three gnome characters of The Little Grey Men have lived for, as far as we know, a couple of thousand years in pretty much the same spot on a stream they call Folly Brook. However, civilization is crowding in on them, and they are not sure whether any others of their kind remain in Britain. When their brother--a fourth gnome, named Cloudberry--has been absent for a year on a lone adventure up the Folly, the other three decide, after much debate, to go looking for him. The Little Grey Men is one of the early, and best-remembered, novels of prolific naturalist writer Denys Watkins-Pitchford, who wrote under the pseudonym B.B. The book is a wonderful portrait of the vanishing English countryside and, thematically, leans more toward the author’s naturalist interests than toward wee-folk fantasy stuff. However, the gnomes are worshipers of an ancient wilderness deity, and one of the book’s most memorable scenes features the appearance of this weird entity. A few murky, frightening scenes like this one may be too much for especially sensitive, younger children. Still, the book is a modern classic of English childrens books, nearly on par with Watership Down and The Wind in the Willows.

  9. 5 out of 5

    N.K. Wright

    I can honestly say "The Little Grey Men" remains my favorite book from grade school. For a boy who grew up in the wild, wild west, this book--with its view of nature, its penchant for adventure, characters who remain true to themselves, and enough tinkering to keep Santa happy--was a happy, magical escape from school and chores. Some years back I found a 1949 version on eBay just so I could have a copy close to the one I read in 5th grade. I also have new paperbacks of this and the sequel. I'm s I can honestly say "The Little Grey Men" remains my favorite book from grade school. For a boy who grew up in the wild, wild west, this book--with its view of nature, its penchant for adventure, characters who remain true to themselves, and enough tinkering to keep Santa happy--was a happy, magical escape from school and chores. Some years back I found a 1949 version on eBay just so I could have a copy close to the one I read in 5th grade. I also have new paperbacks of this and the sequel. I'm sure it was B.B. (Watkins-Pitchford) who prepared me for other great tales from places like Middle-Earth and Earthsea.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Tania

    Still a favourite on re-reading. The story of the last Gnomes in England. This was read to me as a child and all I remembered of it was that I loved it. It was just as enjoyable re-read as an adult.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Chris

    "This is a story about the last gnomes in Britain," begins the author's introduction to this story, winner of the Carnegie Medal in the dark days of the second world war. The author, long the art master at Rugby School in Warwickshire, clearly based his tale on a countryside he knew well for not only is this an affectionate piece of nature writing set on and around a brook, 'BB' himself illustrated the text, and included a handful of songs with piano accompaniment credited to, perhaps, his fathe "This is a story about the last gnomes in Britain," begins the author's introduction to this story, winner of the Carnegie Medal in the dark days of the second world war. The author, long the art master at Rugby School in Warwickshire, clearly based his tale on a countryside he knew well for not only is this an affectionate piece of nature writing set on and around a brook, 'BB' himself illustrated the text, and included a handful of songs with piano accompaniment credited to, perhaps, his father. Two gnomes, Baldmoney and Sneezewort, set off one spring morning up the Folly Brook in search of the long-lost Cloudberry who, a year before, had himself gone in quest of the stream's source. They leave behind the older, rather grumpy, Dodder who'd lost a leg to a fox many years ago; thus begins a voyage upriver, full of delights but also fraught with danger and mortal perils. The Little Grey Men is charming and old-fashioned (with all that implies), a mini-adventure for us but a hardy expedition for the gnomes that undertake the journey. Will they achieve their goal or will it all end in disaster, not least from the prying eyes of Giants? As it happens -- this being a classic children's book -- some things at least turn out well, as can be gauged by the fact that 'BB' followed this up with Down the Bright Stream, heading in the opposite direction. This odyssey hinges on the archetypal plot Voyage and Return but mostly seen (except for a couple or so instances) from the gnomes' point of view, as interpreted by the omniscient narrator. Strictly speaking gnomes (the word was coined by Paracelsus during the Renaissance) were earth-dwellers, and these three did indeed live under a tree bole, but they are equally at ease in the water and, curiously, in the air. You may have also noticed that their names are taken from the common names of native plants. So, the tale. The travellers, familiar with coracles, decide instead on a clinker-built boat for their journey, one which will take them past a mill, up rapids, through a wood patrolled by a wicked gamekeeper, under a bridge and through an ocean-like lake on an estate. They are variously cast away, carried aloft on a heron and a goose, and find themselves in dire straits from a fox. For, despite being creatures who have lived for more than two millennia, they are still susceptible to death's sting. A few literary analogies suggest themselves. First, we are introduced to a model boat called the Jeanie Deans, named after a steadfast character in a Walter Scott novel. In truth several vessels were named after her, including a paddle steamer which saw action as a minesweeper during the war, with which 'BB' might have been familiar from the news; the model in this book, commandeered at one stage by the gnomes, is not in fact a paddle steamer, however. The Little Grey Men immediately reminded me of Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness novel, in which a boat travels up the Congo in search of an ivory-trader called Kurtz, just as the gnomes quest for Cloudberry. There is also an episode which put me in mind of 'The Piper at the Gates of Dawn' chapter in The Wind in the Willows (1908) and a scene in E Nesbit's The Enchanted Castle (1907). But the more I read on the more the parallels with The Hobbit (1937) struck me: diminutive creatures living in holes in the ground undertake a perilous journey in which other creatures, both friendly and inimical, are encountered and obstacles overcome, before safely returning home. Unlike The Hobbit, which was nominated for but didn't win the Carnegie Medal, The Little Grey Men did receive the accolade, though it is now considerably less known. Like Tolkien’s work, Watkins-Pitchford's suffers terribly from a patronising tone, its avuncularism matched by the contemporary condescension towards women. Other aspects grated too, such as an acceptance of blood sports like foxhunting, though this was mitigated by his repulsion against the wanton killing of birds and animals by gamekeepers, though I was not at all convinced that the manslaughter of one individual could be justified. What, however, will remain with me will be the author's lyrical reflections on nature, on the changing seasons (the book goes from spring to the onset of winter) and on the variety of delights that the countryside offers; through pastoral idyll, frost and tempest alike we are allowed to share vicariously the joys of a corner of the West Midlands that may still just be clinging on to a near pristine state.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Margie

    Hmmm, read reviews, maybe not. Apparently a great adventure tale with beautiful writing, but with elements of racism, xenophobia and sexism.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Catherine Mason

    Positives: This is a beautifully written book. It is a story and a natural history at the same time. The author conveys a great love of the English countryside and its plants and animals. It is a slow and enchanting escape from the modern world, but with the spice of an adventure. It is also delightfully illustrated by the author. Negatives: This book was first published in 1942 and some of its prejudices from that era can jar on occasion. As well as being a nature lover the author was also a hun Positives: This is a beautifully written book. It is a story and a natural history at the same time. The author conveys a great love of the English countryside and its plants and animals. It is a slow and enchanting escape from the modern world, but with the spice of an adventure. It is also delightfully illustrated by the author. Negatives: This book was first published in 1942 and some of its prejudices from that era can jar on occasion. As well as being a nature lover the author was also a hunter so not everyone will like the hunting aspect. The gnomes who are the main characters also steal and commit a murder. There is also the characterization of the pheasants as foreigners and Chinamen who are driven from Crow Wood, although one could argue that they have been liberated from being slaves to mankind. There is also a derogatory and patronizing comment about women, and all the main characters are male. It is J.R.R. Tolkein without the fantasy being predominant, and like Wind In The Willows but with less anthropomorphism. In every book he wrote B. B. included a verse which his father found on an old tombstone: "The wonder of the world, the beauty and the power, the shapes of things, their colours, lights and shades; these I saw. Look ye also while life lasts." This is a good summary of the intent of the book.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Conchita Matson

    Such a magical adventure filled with joy and sorrow but always anchored by the camaraderie of the “little people”. This book made me think about the beauty of nature and how I don’t take enough time to stop and admire and enjoy the beauty that God has created. Wouldn’t it be neat though if gnomes such as these really existed?

  15. 5 out of 5

    Pam

    I'd like to give this book 4.5 stars! It was absolutely charming, and so delightfully, Britishly written - published in 1942! I would love to have someone read this book to me in an English accent! This book included illustrations by the author, and several pieces of music (written out as sheet music!) which I believe the author wrote as well, and which I am happy to be listening to my daughter, C, play right now! Truly well done! I read this book because I saw it on an internet list of books pe I'd like to give this book 4.5 stars! It was absolutely charming, and so delightfully, Britishly written - published in 1942! I would love to have someone read this book to me in an English accent! This book included illustrations by the author, and several pieces of music (written out as sheet music!) which I believe the author wrote as well, and which I am happy to be listening to my daughter, C, play right now! Truly well done! I read this book because I saw it on an internet list of books people loved as children, and stayed with them throughout life. I loved the way the author wove the story around life in the British countryside...the gnomes and other "fairy folk" are well described and interesting. He also used language beautifully to name the animals in the wood: Bub'ms- rabbits wood pigs - hedgehogs wood dog - fox And the names of the gnomes are just magical: Sneezewort Baldmoney Dodder and Cloudberry The story is like something an adult would tell a child over the course of many bedtimes, and outdoor adventure with gnomes...that eventually (and charmingly) find a child's wind up boat that helps them get back to their home! The whole story really takes place in a area a child could clearly walk around exploring...although far distances to the tiny gnomes, the setting would catch a child's imagination perfectly. did find it surprising that the "Giant Grum" caretaker was killed by the gnomes blocking up his gun barrel...after the god Pan arrived and appeared to the woodland creatures...THAT I was not expecting! My favorite sentence in the book illustrates why I loved the language so much, "Wood-pig was rootling for worms up the brook when he was surprised to see Chaffinch, 'spinking' at him from a hazel twig." page 172 I would have loved to see a copy of the gnomes "map" drawn in charcoal on a parchment! And, one other thing, in one instance the illustration was out of place in the book, as it showed accidentally what would happen (ie: the 3 gnomes would be reunited) before it happens in the story!! Apparently there was a 70's cartoon of the Little Grey Men, I can see 9 seconds of it on youtube...but sadly no longer video seems to be around...https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zhaJa...

  16. 5 out of 5

    KA N Newton

    Read as a borrowed book from local library when I was about 8 - suggested by good librarian. Author name is difficult as he was only named as B.B. I had to ask my busy mother about meanings of some words when I read it. It is about four little gnomes living near a brook called The Holly, which is a stream of water. Dodder, Baldmoney, Cloudberry, and Sneezewort, the last gnomes in England. It is a gentle children's story. A great book to be read chapter by chapter at bedtime yet not too childish for Read as a borrowed book from local library when I was about 8 - suggested by good librarian. Author name is difficult as he was only named as B.B. I had to ask my busy mother about meanings of some words when I read it. It is about four little gnomes living near a brook called The Holly, which is a stream of water. Dodder, Baldmoney, Cloudberry, and Sneezewort, the last gnomes in England. It is a gentle children's story. A great book to be read chapter by chapter at bedtime yet not too childish for an adult to read first to check it out. A older child able to use a dictionary could read this alone as he/she would come across words, nouns usually, being names or countryside descriptions we don't use any more but which an adult would understand. It is available on Kindle but its follow up is not, YET. The Little Grey Men Go Down the Bright Stream but sometimes known as Go Down the Bright Stream. I think these two books would be ideal for children's "readers" with the old fashioned nouns replaced.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Mikayla

    This is a very good children's book and would make very good reading for a child over 8 years old. This is a very good children's book and would make very good reading for a child over 8 years old.

  18. 5 out of 5

    A gin and orange, a lemon squash, and a scotch and water, please!

    I soooo wanted to love this book. I mean, what's not to love? The last gnomes in England who live on a Warwickshire riverbank go in search of their brother who has been missing for a couple of years. These Little People encounter all sorts of adventures, unexpected hazards and new friends before returning home. It's a thrilling ride, with some pretty fine descriptions of nature added in for good measure. The trouble is, it's very much a book of it's time, and it displays a lot of the characterist I soooo wanted to love this book. I mean, what's not to love? The last gnomes in England who live on a Warwickshire riverbank go in search of their brother who has been missing for a couple of years. These Little People encounter all sorts of adventures, unexpected hazards and new friends before returning home. It's a thrilling ride, with some pretty fine descriptions of nature added in for good measure. The trouble is, it's very much a book of it's time, and it displays a lot of the characteristics and views of that time. The benign tolerance of foreigners, who, if they step out of line are ridiculed and castigated for the fact they are foreign and consequently less entitled to respect and tolerance (I refer, of course, not to people but to animals like the red squirrel, who, if you're not aware, adversely impacted the indigenous population of grey squirrels by the anti-social behaviour of being better able to surive - being better able to store food over a wider area, amongst other things); the condescending sexism - women can't be trusted with anything mechanical; and the glorification of animal cruelty (ok, that one's a bit tentative, I admit, but it leaves a bad taste when a seven year old boy is given the brush of a fox as a glorified memento following a fox hunt). Now usually I'm able to put those sort of primitive attitudes into perspective and they don't bother me in the slightest: they were pertinent at the time, they're no longer credible. They may have reflected the opinions of an insular and myopic Little Englander at the time (or they may not). That same author today would likely have different views. But I really didn't expect those sentiments to appear so vividly in a story about gnomes! Or in a story where all the animals, with a few exceptions, live in harmony. Harmony, until you step out of line and are foreign, it appears. It quickly and easily destroyed the whole ethos of the story and consequently the integrity of the story itself. Comparisons with The Hobbit have been made, but if you've read The Hobbit, don't expect anything approaching its quality. The descriptions of nature come close (though always seem to come down to lists of growing things and the way light reacts with them.) And it's a quest story, it's There And Back Again with the charm diluted and the backstory and history virtually non-existant. So no, it stands comparison with The Hobbit in only the most superficial way. Would I recommend it? No. Certainly, for the basic storyline alone, it stands up fairly well despite the main characters being somewhat two-dimensional and twee, and it's nowhere near Salar The Salmon or Tarka The Otter in its narrative, but it has its merits. For example I enjoyed the meandering nature of the storyline which for me reflected the route of the stream they followed; a nice, if not deliberate, touch. The problem is, it's demerits outweigh all the rest of it.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Ginny

    I first read this book in 1984 for a seminar on The Wind in the Willows. The Little Grey Men was included in a list of books related to/influenced by The Wind in the Willows, but I had forgotten about this connection. The first thing I thought as I began to re-read the book for my children's literature book discussion group was its similarity to The Wind in the Willows. One major similarity is an encounter with the god Pan, who is depicted as a protector of small animals. There is also the same I first read this book in 1984 for a seminar on The Wind in the Willows. The Little Grey Men was included in a list of books related to/influenced by The Wind in the Willows, but I had forgotten about this connection. The first thing I thought as I began to re-read the book for my children's literature book discussion group was its similarity to The Wind in the Willows. One major similarity is an encounter with the god Pan, who is depicted as a protector of small animals. There is also the same idea of home vs. the wide world, and a detailed appreciation for the wonders of nature. The action is slow-paced, which I found well-suited to the emphasis on observing nature in great detail. I look forward to reading the sequel for the first time soon.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Darrenml

    What a lovely tale. I read about this in Countryfile magazine which highly recommended it as suitable for both children and adults. I cannot agree more. The tale takes us back into beautiful olde england, with tales of the adventures of the last 4 gnomes in Britain. Beautiful descriptions of all things nature, animals and creatures (Stream People) come alive. There are wood dogs (foxes), hedgepigs (hedgehogs!), Kingfishers, Otters, Bub,ms (rabbits), Heaven Hounds (Geese), snooty pheasants to nam What a lovely tale. I read about this in Countryfile magazine which highly recommended it as suitable for both children and adults. I cannot agree more. The tale takes us back into beautiful olde england, with tales of the adventures of the last 4 gnomes in Britain. Beautiful descriptions of all things nature, animals and creatures (Stream People) come alive. There are wood dogs (foxes), hedgepigs (hedgehogs!), Kingfishers, Otters, Bub,ms (rabbits), Heaven Hounds (Geese), snooty pheasants to name but a few! Oh and of course there is a "giant" the baddie of the tale! Was sorry that the tale had to end but now I'm looking forward to reading the sequel. So, full 5 stars, wish I could give more!!

  21. 4 out of 5

    Tweedledum

    BB's children's classic introduces the reader to the gnomes eye view of life beside the river. When one of the gnome companions fails to return after going searching for the source of the river, his three friends set off to look for him. Dangers and problems abound as the gnomes journey upstream and as autumn draws on to autumn their journey seems increasingly foolhardy . When the gnomes are tossed up by a storm on an island in the middle of a lake, having lost their boat and fast running out of BB's children's classic introduces the reader to the gnomes eye view of life beside the river. When one of the gnome companions fails to return after going searching for the source of the river, his three friends set off to look for him. Dangers and problems abound as the gnomes journey upstream and as autumn draws on to autumn their journey seems increasingly foolhardy . When the gnomes are tossed up by a storm on an island in the middle of a lake, having lost their boat and fast running out of food the situation turns desperate but salvation comes from a very unexpected and curious source. A great evocation of the natural world and a lovely story.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Alex Ankarr

    A very gentle, sedate fantasy adventure, with just a few moments of high excitement. I give it four stars for the quality of the writing, although I usually like fantasy novels with more of the fantasy equivalent of car chases, explosions and alien invasions. The characterization is good enough that one does suffer along with the gnomes, lots of angst hoping for their safe journey and eventual reunion. If you invest the effort into really getting into the book then I think it pays off, although A very gentle, sedate fantasy adventure, with just a few moments of high excitement. I give it four stars for the quality of the writing, although I usually like fantasy novels with more of the fantasy equivalent of car chases, explosions and alien invasions. The characterization is good enough that one does suffer along with the gnomes, lots of angst hoping for their safe journey and eventual reunion. If you invest the effort into really getting into the book then I think it pays off, although it might take a bit of doing.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Kloud

    The young signatures of my mum, cousin, and myself are scrawled into the front of my old copy, making the book even more evocative to read as an adult. It's a great fantasy story, arousing adventure and nature, and not without its darker moments- giving children a real impression of life and death, and of the impact humans have on the natural world. The young signatures of my mum, cousin, and myself are scrawled into the front of my old copy, making the book even more evocative to read as an adult. It's a great fantasy story, arousing adventure and nature, and not without its darker moments- giving children a real impression of life and death, and of the impact humans have on the natural world.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Louise

    stands the text of time quite nicely this one, telling the story not just of the last four gnomes in england, but of nature, and the countryside as a whole. we felt we learnt a few things about the british wildlife and its habitats,

  25. 5 out of 5

    Emily

    The author also wrote nonfiction titles for adults about the natural world--you can tell in the loving, detailed descriptions of flora and fauna. Adventure, humor, excitement, and rich writing.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Garry

    a rare find

  27. 4 out of 5

    Rachel

    I wanted to read this after discovering it was a favorite childhood book of Julie Andrews. It did not disappoint. Highly recommend for any listener over about age 4, and any reader age 10 or so, who is willing to use a dictionary for unfamiliar words.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Simon Pressinger

    From a writer’s point of view, this book is masterclass in nature writing. The poetry leaps off the page, with lucid imagery and so much charm. BB (real name Denis Watkins-Pitchford) is such a good writer of the natural, his prose vivid and painterly. His unique illustrations throughout really enhance the beauty of his idyllic little backwater world of contrasts. I love adventure stories, especially ones that take you on boat journeys. And now I love those that are piloted by wee little gnomes th From a writer’s point of view, this book is masterclass in nature writing. The poetry leaps off the page, with lucid imagery and so much charm. BB (real name Denis Watkins-Pitchford) is such a good writer of the natural, his prose vivid and painterly. His unique illustrations throughout really enhance the beauty of his idyllic little backwater world of contrasts. I love adventure stories, especially ones that take you on boat journeys. And now I love those that are piloted by wee little gnomes that are thousands of years old. There’s lots of stuff to love about this book; it’s an exploration of wildlife, and a celebration of biodiversity and communality. I felt it a bit of a shame the book could be read as a piece of Conservative propaganda. It was published in 1942, so of course we’re well into the Second World War. The ethnic nationalism, the imperialist language and tropes, the Eurocentrism, the normalisation of blood sports (fox hunting), the sexist asides the narrator feels the need to add within multiple misanthropic criticisms of humans, yet oddly deifying them in the process (a young boy is compared to the nature god Pan).... It’s a bit of a mystifying mixture. Still, I shouldn’t be too surprised to find this this kind of content in early-20th century nature writing. You can see it in the works of other favourites. In ‘H is for Hawk’, for example, Helen Macdonald points out the fascistic ideology in beloved classics like ‘Tarka the Otter’. My favourite example is Melissa Harrison’s treatment of anti-Semitism and nativism in the English countryside in the run up to the Great War, in her truly incredible book ‘All Among the Barley’ (read it, read it now). Sorry to dwell on the point, but I think it’s worth discussing the problems inherent in nature writing, even today where there’s a tendency to greenwash social/cultural/national problems in some orgasmic dreamcloud of language, fetishising ‘Nature’. But anyway it’s a beautiful, beautiful book (complete with actual original songs to site read). I’m not at all put off from reading more BB, though it looks like many of his books are quite tricky to get hold of these days.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Sue

    I didn't read or know of this book as a child, although it was the kind of story I enjoyed. It's all about the world of a small river and the creatures who live there. This includes four gnomes and the author tells us that these are "honest to goodness gnomes, none of your baby, fairy book tinsel stuff". We meet three of the brothers and find out that the fourth brother went off some time ago and has never returned. They set off to search for him, along the river. The descriptions of the river ba I didn't read or know of this book as a child, although it was the kind of story I enjoyed. It's all about the world of a small river and the creatures who live there. This includes four gnomes and the author tells us that these are "honest to goodness gnomes, none of your baby, fairy book tinsel stuff". We meet three of the brothers and find out that the fourth brother went off some time ago and has never returned. They set off to search for him, along the river. The descriptions of the river bank, the flowers, birds and animals are all beautifully done. I loved The Borrowers when I was young, and this story is similar in that the gnomes make use of tiny things in a different way to humans. One of the brothers needs a wooden leg for example, so he uses an acorn cup and a twig to fashion one. I think the author must have spent a long time in the countryside, observing the world around him, because he brings it all to life really well. As he tells us, we could see the gnomes too if we sat very very still and made ourselves very very small. I wasn't able to finish the book this time, but will come back to it again at some point perhaps.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Jo Everett

    I picked this book off my parent's shelf thinking it was an adult novel/ folk tale. It wasn't until I was a way into it Mum revealed it was a children's book she had had read to her at school, because the narrative was written in such a manner that it was enjoyable reading it as an adult. For its dictation on the joys of nature it can be likened to Kenneth Grahame's The Wind in the Willows, but the narrative was deeper and more of an adult level than the lyrical lightness of Grahame's stories of I picked this book off my parent's shelf thinking it was an adult novel/ folk tale. It wasn't until I was a way into it Mum revealed it was a children's book she had had read to her at school, because the narrative was written in such a manner that it was enjoyable reading it as an adult. For its dictation on the joys of nature it can be likened to Kenneth Grahame's The Wind in the Willows, but the narrative was deeper and more of an adult level than the lyrical lightness of Grahame's stories of animal friends. In short I loved B.B's story and devoured it with all the peril and adventure that the gnomes face. This is a great book to read on your own and to read out loud to a child. It is at times old-fashioned in its views, but by no means goes so far as to feel offensive in our current culture. No doubt I will be re-reading The Little Grey Men in the future because it's a little slice of escape and a trip through nature whilst settled in bed.

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