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Book Review: The School at Chalet by Elinor M. Brent Dyer

In the early twentieth century a lot of serialized fiction for children came under publishing. Some of the famous writers then were Nesbit, Enid Blyton, Kipling, Frank Richards, and many more. Their books were instant success, probably for two reasons: it was a new kind of literature aimed at young readers, and most of the children’s books were based on or had boys as a central character. Male chauvinism worked everywhere. Well, but if you talk about children’s fiction with girls as a main character, then probably you would rely only on Enid Blyton’s Saint Clare and Malory Tower series.

Well, today many might not know that for girls there was a very famous serialized fiction series that ran almost for twenty five years i.e. from 1925 to 1950s. It was written by Elinor M. Brent Dyer. She was born in England, and herself was a teacher when she began writing story books based on school life, characters like Joey, their family, homes, holidays, etc. She wrote Chalet Series. The School at Chalet was her first book published in 1925.

This story is of 24 year-old Madge from Britain. She starts a school in the Alps, at chalet, and her younger sister Joey is her first student and she is very naughty. The book was a huge success and went on over fifty sequels with Joey as a main character along with other girls. Since the book’s background is of the Alps, so here we see another kind of world of students. You would find games like skiing, skating, and snowball fights over regular games like hockey, soccer or cricket. The backdrop itself is a refreshing aspect for readers.

Since this series has seen two world wars, details of it are evident in the work. Especially the writer has mentioned that during the rule of ‘Hitty’ schools were forced to shut down in Austria and the pupil and their parents and teachers moved to other counties like Welsh or England. At one instance it has been also mentioned that there were difference between Nazis and Germans. Both were not the same. Thus, while reading this book that also covers the war events, you would find this book as an act of happy moments to balance out the grim and sad reality of the world, especially in Europe.

Another chief aspect about this series is that the stories were never limited to school terms. Often in other books, stories start as the term starts and ends when the term ends. These stories go quite far with the characters in their families, holidays, homes, career aspiration of girls, etc. The main character has been shown growing with the stories, at the start Joey was twelve but by the last book she was around thirty.


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