My letter from Helen Cresswell

Today I was looking at one of my piles of books when I saw the corner of an airmail envelope sticking out of a book. Eureka! It was my long lost letter from Helen Cresswell!


It was right there in “Absolute Zero” so I’m not sure why I haven’t been able to find it in years, but it was pleasing to find it today since I had just answered a letter from my “#1 Fan” in Oregon. And here at last was Helen Cresswell’s reply to me, her #1 fan in 1986.

It’s an wonderful two-page letter. Very detailed and friendly. She teases me about my handwriting and then admits that her own is awful, too.) Of course, I don’t have a copy of my own letter, but I have the feeling is was a doozy. I was at the age of obsessions and the Bagthorpes were a big one. (And one which no one I knew shared.)

I was 15 at the time, which is a little old since the books are supposed to mid-grade. But I had started them around 12 or so and had gone bonkers for the Bagthorpe Family.

“Fancy you, all those thousands of miles across the Atlantic, being up to your ears in Bagthorpes. I even wonder whether you know them better than I do myself…” (I had drawn her a floor plan of the Bagthorpes House.)

Now here’s an exciting bit. Her response to some “helpful” suggestions I made…

“I like your part about Grandpa [I don’t remember what that was] and also think it a very good idea that Grandma Bag and Rosie should go to visit the Knoll.”

Well, Grandma Bag and Rosie DO go to visit the knoll eventually. I’m not sure if I can really take credit for that or not.

Also, for you serious fans out there. Mrs. Cresswell does clarify a certain point I had inquired about: “That wretched Luke did win the Great Brain Contest, I’m sorry to have to tell you.” Pooh!

As you may know, I dedicated Qwikpick to Helen Cresswell and a few other of my very favorite writers. Sadly, she passed away before I had a chance to write and tell her so. But at least I wrote this fan letter way back when…


3 Responses

  1. Cool! I got three Bagthorpes books for Christmas when I was twelve (I must have read one from the school library and raved about it). When I pulled the wrapping paper off I cried, “Bagthorpes!” and gave such an excited start that they nearly flew out of my hand. My dad looked on with complete bemusement and said something like, “Well, I guess different people like different things.”

    So sweet that you hung on to a shred of hope that maybe Luke hadn’t looked up absolute zero after all.

  2. Wow, that is such a great treasure. I, too, was a lone Bagthorpe fan growing up. Maybe we should start a club. And I LOVE that you drew her a house plan! How many cans in your pantry had labels?

    I am still really peeved the books were reissued with non-Trina Schart Hyman covers. Maybe that could be the Bagthorpe Club’s first cause to champion…

  3. re: Luke – yes, rereading it, the outcome is very clear. But I guess I didn’t want to believe…

    re: Covers. Oh those covers were glorious. Absolutely amazing. Wouldn’t it be great to get them all republished with the right covers.

    By the way, have you guys read the final Bagthorpe books. Bagthorpe Triangle, et al?

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