Janie Steps In by Elinor M. Brent-Dyer

Published 1953: First Edition / Hardcover / Good Condition

Original green cloth no jacket. 255 tanned age-toned pages, previous owners signature on first free page. Fading and rubbing on boards consistent with age and frayed along the spine edges. Text block is firm. A scarce publication.

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It's hard to know where to begin with this delightful little box of tricks, so perhaps we shall be like Fraulein Maria and start at the beginning for that is a very good place to start. And beginnings, really, are a strange thing to find in this book because it is the end of the La Rochelle series and many of the characters face the fate of being interwoven into that series. This is not a problem, if we are precise about it, for Janie Steps In holds approximately 303048 individuals who are destined to be head girls and prefects within its pages. But, it also holds a chapter called The Apple Riot, shines a spotlight on the epitome of dysfunction that is the Chester family, and, what's more, throws in a little lesson on 'don't marry the first hottie you meet'. To be frank, this is Brent-Dyer at her chaotic best.

Elinor M. Brent-Dyer was born as Gladys Eleanor May Dyer on 6th April 1894, in South Shields in the industrial northeast of England, and grew up in a terraced house which had no garden or inside toilet. She was the only daughter of Eleanor Watson Rutherford and Charles Morris Brent Dyer. Her father, who had been married before, left home when she was three years old. In 1912, her brother Henzell died at age 17 of cerebro-spinal fever. After her father died, her mother remarried in 1913.

Elinor was educated at a small local private school in South Shields and returned there to teach when she was eighteen after spending two years at the City of Leeds Training College. Her teaching career spanned 36 years, during which she taught in a wide variety of state and private schools in the northeast, in Middlesex, Bedfordshire, Hampshire, and finally in Hereford.

In the early 1920s she adopted the name Elinor Mary Brent-Dyer. A holiday she spent in the Austrian Tyrol at Pertisau-am-Achensee gave her the inspiration for the first location in the Chalet School series. However, her first book, 'Gerry Goes to School', was published in 1922 and was written for the child actress Hazel Bainbridge. Her first 'Chalet' story, 'The School at the Chalet', was originally published in 1925.

In 1930, the same year that 'Jean of Storms' was serialised, she converted to Roman Catholicism.

In 1933 the Brent-Dyer household (she lived with her mother and stepfather until her mother's death in 1957) moved to Hereford. She travelled daily to Peterchurch as a governess.

When her stepfather died she started her own school in Hereford, The Margaret Roper School. It was non-denominational but with a strong religious tradition. Many Chalet School customs were followed, the girls even wore a similar uniform made in the Chalet School's colours of brown and flame. Elinor was rather untidy, erratic and flamboyant and not really suited to being a headmistress. After her school closed in 1948 she devoted most of her time to writing.

Elinor's mother died in 1957 and in 1964 she moved to Redhill, where she lived in a joint establishment with fellow school story author Phyllis Matthewman and her husband, until her death on 20th September 1969.

During her lifetime Elinor M. Brent-Dyer published 101 books but she is remembered mainly for her Chalet School series. The series numbers 58 books and is the longest-surviving series of girls' school-stories ever known, having been continuously in print for more than 70 years. One hundred thousand paperback copies are still being sold each year.

Among her published books are other school stories; family, historical, adventure and animal stories; a cookery book, and four educational geography-readers. She also wrote plays and numerous unpublished poems and was a keen musician.

In 1994, the year of the centenary of her Elinor Brent-Dyer's birth, Friends of the Chalet School put up plaques in Pertisau, South Shields and Hereford, and a headstone was erected on her grave in Redstone Cemetery, since there was not one previously. They also put flowers on her grave on the anniversaries of her birth and death and on other special occasions.

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