‘Don’t you have any fear, Kay. We’re the guards, we are. We hear that the house has gone all to sixes and sevens since we left it, but that’s going to be remedied now’
Young Kay Harker lives in an old house in the country, filled with portraits of his ancestors. His only companions are his unpleasant guardian Sir Theopompus and his governess Sylvia Daisy Pouncer (who, Kay suspects, has stolen all his toys). Life is lonely and dull, until one night Kay’s great-grandpapa Harker, a sea captain, steps out of his portrait to tell him about a stolen treasure that belongs to Kay’s family. The evil Abner Brown is searching for it too, but Kay is helped by the midnight folk: creatures like Nibbins the cat and Rollicum Bitem Lightfoot the fox, and even his lost toys, who will join him on his dangerous quest.
The Midnight Folk is a feast of imaginative story-telling, a glorious cornucopia of pirates and witches, lost treasure and talking animals. Although it was published in 1927, it evokes an older world: houses are lit by oil lamps, and travel is by horse, carriage – or broomstick. Masefield perfectly captures a child’s perspective, from the terrors of tigers under the bed to the horrors of declining a Latin adjective. Yet there is also plenty of humour that adults will appreciate, from Miss Piney Trigger, who swigs champagne in bed and prides herself on having backed a host of Derby winners, to Kay’s lessons: ‘Divinity was easy, as it was about Noah’s Ark. French was fairly easy, as it was about the cats of the daughter of the gardener.’ This mingling of past and present, reality and fantasy, has made this one of the most rewarding and influential children’s books ever written.
Born in 1878, Masefield had an idyllic early childhood in rural Hertfordshire until he was orphaned at the age of six and sent to live with an uncle and aunt. At 13, he was sent to sea as a naval cadet. He deserted in America and ended up working in a carpet factory, before returning to England in 1897, determined to become a writer. By 1930, he was Poet Laureate, and had published the first of his two acclaimed children’s books (The Box of Delights followed in 1935). In her introduction, Alison Lurie explores the inspiration for The Midnight Folk in Masefield’s own childhood. Sara Ogilvie’s enchanting illustrations provide the perfect counterpart to the story.
Review by loryh0907 on 27th May 2013
"In a fantastical series of dreamlike adventures, Masefield transcends the adventure-story genre through his poetic gifts, and creates a true picture of child-consciousness. The illustrations have pass..." [read more]
Review by PAULALOUD on 2nd Mar 2013
"The Midnight Folk is absolutely charming for adults and children alike. The author manages to weave pirates, mystery, portraits coming to life, Arthurian knights, talking animals and toys, hidden tre..." [read more]
Review by RobertoGomez on 6th Feb 2013
"The Midnight Folk is a magical book. The story, full of little adventures and surprises, is a wonderful thing, with touches of mystery, of humour - and sometimes it is rather dream-like. As Alison Lur..." [read more]