The Bagthorpes: A Who's Who

Somehow Trina Schart Hyman managed to include every one of the Bagthorpes on the cover of Ordinary Jack ("Being the First Part of The Bagthorpe Saga") by Helen Cresswell. Why should you care? Because the Bagthorpes are eccentric and brilliant (well, all except Jack; he's ordinary), and the books are like manic 1970s versions of the classic British family story (as well as the inspiration for Wes Anderson's The Royal Tenenbaums, if that helps). Here's a who's who, which may or may not make sense, but should give you a feeling for what the books are like and whether you would like them:

Back row
Aunt Celia, who is not only ravishingly beautiful but can also solve The Times crossword in ten minutes flat without a dictionary and do pottery and poetry.
Uncle Parker. The way he drives his car is the talk of the neighborhood.
Tess. A Black Belt in Judo besides talking like a dictionary.
Mrs. Bagthorpe. Has an Agony Column in a monthly journal under the name of Stella Bright.
Mr. Bagthorpe, a screenwriter for the BBC. He fell over at teatime.
William. A veil of secrecy must be preserved.
Grandpa. S.D. (Selectively Deaf.)
Atlanta, the au pair. Bilingual in Danish and German.

Front row
Daisy. Four-year-old pyromaniac.
Rosie. Second string, portraits.
Grandma. Likes arguments and gets disappointed when nobody else wants them.
Mrs. Fosdyke, the Daily. Moves like a hedgehog, i.e. fast without actually doing much.

Front and center, Jack and his dog Zero (also known as Nero, or rarely Hero). The plot of Ordinary Jack has to do with Jack's search for a way to distinguish himself from among the rest of his relentlessly talented family; his Uncle Parker decides he should become a prophet. To be honest, it didn't immediately appeal. But the plot is incidental (in both senses of the word), and I quite liked the book! I only wish there had been more than three Bagthorpe books at the sale (I also picked up Bagthorpes Unlimited and Bagthorpes V. the World), but at least I get the pleasure of tracking them down. Maybe not all ten of them, though.

[For comparison, here is the poster for The Royal Tenenbaums, which may well have been inspired by the Trina Schart Hyman book covers (she illustrated the covers for the first five books in the series). I haven't seen the movie since it first came out, and now I'm curious about the Bagthorpe connection. I will say that Gene Hackman is a ringer for an older Mr. Bagthorpe. Apparently the role of Royal Tenenbaum was written just for him.]