April 18, 2017

boarding school books for kids

Hi! REALLY sorry to be so scarce. Been working on the redesign, and we're so close to being done! Just a few issues to work through. So - before we dive into the books, let's just get this off the table. The Harry Potter set of books and 'A Little Princess'. If you or your kiddos haven't yet tackled these most fabulous examples of boarding school books, why are we even chatting today? Go get on it!

Alright so let's chat about this topic, which is near and dear to my heart, as some of you might recall me mentioning just a few THOUSAND TIMES. For some reason, I've always been obsessed, since the time I was pretty wee, with the British Isles, and with boarding schools. OH HOW I LOVED THE IDEA OF BOARDING SCHOOL. Don't even get me started about my extra special love for East Coast New England-type boarding school. Why? No idea. I have a theory that being stuck on an island in the middle of the Pacific during my childhood years just made the idea So Very Exotic to me, and it seemed so mysterious and out of reach - that it just cemented the notion as utterly interesting and fabulous to a girl growing up across the street from a pineapple field.

A British boarding school, or any type really, just seemed MAGICAL. Then I read 'Jane Eyre' as a teen. Boarding school seemed slightly less magical. But I still loved the idea. And judging by the amount of books, for kids, for teens, for grownups - I think a lot of others have the mystique of boarding school, and especially, BRITISH boarding school, firmly etched into their imaginations.

Let's start with 'And Both Were Young' by grand master Madeleine L'Engle. I can't tell you how many times I read, and re-read this book. I love it with every fiber of my being. Now here's a funny thing - this one is about a SWISS boarding school which seems even more enchanting than a British boarding school. Oh this story. It will make you feel every feel that ever there was. Flip, the heroine of the book, is sent to boarding school while her father is traveling (her mother has died), and hates the whole experience. She doesn't fit in, she doesn't have friends, and she's awkward and not athletic and just miserable. But then she makes friends with a local French boy, and and their friendship, which turns into the sweetest romance you ever did see, gives her the confidence to assert herself at school and OH THIS BOOK. It's so darling and makes you understand the thrill of just holding someone's hand for the first time. For ages 12 and up.

I took a leap of faith and ordered the entire SET of Enid Blyton's St. Clare's School series. These, and her Malory Towers books, are supposed to be THE quintessential British boarding school books. I'll be reading them as soon as they get here, along with Julia. When you think of boarding schools, do you think of midnight feasts, sassy girls jockeying for position in the school hierarchy, field hockey and eccentric teachers? Those are all in these books. Some people have said they like the St. Clare's books better than Malory Towers. I'll report back in a bit on these. Supposed to be perfect for ages 8-12.

'Charlotte Sometimes' by Penelope Farmer is one I've had my eye on for awhile. I'm going to see if my library has it, but honestly, it looks totally like a book that should be in my permanent collection. This one's about time travel! Charlotte, at a new boarding school, suddenly finds herself 40 years in the past in 1918, also at boarding school, only everyone is referring to her as 'Clare'. It turns out that Charlotte has gone into the past and Clare has gone into the future, and the girls communicate via diary. As she spends more and more time in the past, Charlotte finds it harder to remember who she really is. I MUST HAVE THIS ONE.

Alrighty. Moving on to the 'Chalet School' series by Elinor M. Brent-Dyer. And by series, I mean that there are SIXTY BOOKS. Um, I'm not going to be collecting this set. But I will get a few more. I have the first one, just read it recently after stumbling across these online, and realizing that I absolutely positively had to read at least the first one and see what this was all about. It was a ton of fun, and such old timey British language you can't believe. A lot of "I say" and "We'll have a ripping good time!" and "Don't you worry, my chicken!" I'm not making any of this up.

The gist is that a young woman in her twenties decides to open up a school in the Tyrolean Mountains in Austria as a way of earning a living. Her little sister comes along and is one of the students. (their parents have died) The school instantly is a success and attracts an international group of students.

The rest of the book is basically about the friendships and fights among the girls, the day to day running of the school, who gets to be a prefect, who gets scolded by the headmistress, who puts Vaseline all over the blackboards, and the big drama is when one girl runs away and climbs part of the mountain, and another girl comes to find her and then that second girl nearly dies, and oh another drama is when a new student is basically abandoned at the school by her parents. She's dumped off and then the parents write a letter saying 'She's all yours!' and then the parents are killed so the girl really is part and parcel of the school.

As the series goes along, I believe that the school changes location a few times - from Austria (World War II breaks out and hello Nazis) to Wales, to another part of England, and then finally to Switzerland.

The first book was breezy fun to read and I loved it, but the language is so period and something you'd see from 'Downton Abbey' -- I'm curious as to what my daughter would think. Or if it would just be too old fashioned for her. I think a 12-14 year old crowd would be the best audience.

QUESTION - if someone can find a copy of the books that have the amazing covers shown here, please let me know the source! I have the first book, 'The School at the Chalet' and my cover looks nothing like any of the ones shown above. If I could get the first 10 books and they looked like these fabulous art deco style, I totally would. I can't even find now where I saw the covers I've shown here, they seem to have disappeared from Amazon!

(oh and how's this for hilarity - there's one called 'Redheads at the Chalet School'. What??)

OK I HAVE TO STOP NOW. I don't think anybody cares about boarding schools this much! But I had to show you these, in case you have An Obsession like I do. What do you think? Are you way into boarding school books? Will you seek any of these out? Did I totally waste my time here? Or are you intrigued?


  1. I wondered if Madeleine L'Engle would be in there!

    Okay, when I was in middle school, I was obsessed with this YA series called Satin Slippers, about a group of girls attending the fictional San Francisco Ballet Academy - a boarding school. I was jealous a million times over. Dancers, boarding school, you know, everything the opposite of me. (I even went to college locally, and skipped out on the whole dorm thing.)

    1. oh wow, I'd be all over the those books too!!! the ballet world, in a school setting? sign me up!!!

      it's funny. i did do the dorm thing at college, and even went away to the East Coast for my first two years of college, and....it wasn't quite the magical boarding school life I had imagined it would be. It was like PMS camp ha ha ha, I went to an all women's college. and honestly it does seem like there is always a lot of bickering in boarding school books, but i'm still so intrigued by the concept ha.

  2. Why does it seem that every girl dreams of going to boarding school? It seemed so wonderful. But now I am all grown up and I think "What kind of insane parents gives away their child for months at a time?" Still, I continue to enjoy reading about boarding schools - the Enid Blyton series especially caught my attention as my kids have loved some of her other books.

    Oh, and the covers of the Chalet School books - I really hope you find them, because they are gorgeous and deserve to be loved and appreciated!

    1. Oh I agree, 100%. I would NEVER send my kid to boarding school. I can't even comprehend it. And yet, I'm obsessed with those types of books! It's such a funny paradox!

  3. Have you read Daddy Long Legs by Jean Webster? It's my very favorite.

    1. I have not read that one! I'll go seek it out!!

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