One of my most treasured childhood books, Jennifer and the Flower Fairies, is all in pieces. The pages have come away from the buckram spine. Pages 41/42 have fled altogether. In an historic raid, one of my younger siblings tore page 49 in half and defaced many of the delicate line illustrations with crayoned scrawls. Fortunately untouched is the flyleaf inscription in my mother’s small, neat hand: “To Wendy on her fifth birthday, with love and best wishes.”
The book’s cover is also still exactly as I keep it in memory, a deep blue border embellished with buttercup yellow drawings of the characters one will meet inside: Alfie the gnome with his teasel duster, the handsome Bluebell Prince in his billowing cape, the silly, arrogant high-hatted Lords and Ladies who fancies himself a fairy knight, and of course Jennifer herself, soaring on her newly acquired wings. Inset in this blue border is a photo portrait of the teenage Jennifer Gay, the host of BBC’s Television Children’s Hour. She has a lovely open face and smile, and a smooth pageboy hairdo secured by a red Alice band. She wears a flocked print dress of yellow-green with an immaculate white collar.