A Kid For Two Farthings – Wolf Mankowitz

And so it was time for me to try my third of The Bloomsbury Group. I don’t know what the deal with these has been outside of the UK but last year Bloomsbury re-issued some books from the early twentieth century partially on the advice of bloggers, though not this one as it’s an era I am only just getting to know better. So far though I have thoroughly enjoyed getting to know these books would it be the case with Wolf Mankowitz’s ‘A Kid For Two Farthings’ a book that was even made into a film, neither of which I had heard of before this release.

We are introduced with ‘A Kid For Two Farthings’ to the hustle and bustle of the East End in London at some point in the 1950’s. Six year old Joe’s father has gone to Africa and is soon to send for Joe and his mother. In the meantime life must go on for them. In the case of Joe, like many a six year old, his life is a mixture of the real and the imagination. After unsuccessfully trying to raise a chick each week Joe decides to buy something bigger, so when he see’s a man in the market selling a unicorn how can he not buy one?

You might be wondering how a young boy would know what a unicorn looked like and the answer is Joe’s neighbour Mr Kandinsky. Mr Kandinsky is a wonderful character, knowing Joe is missing his father he almost takes on a Grandfatherly role for the young man, also filling his head with magic and adventure. So when Joe brings home a goat he believes is a unicorn how can Mr Kandinsky tell him its not, well he doesn’t. But then strange things start to happen, could it be the belief of a young boy in his unicorn bring luck to these people and those around them?

I couldn’t work out whether it was originally a children’s book or not as it had that sort of tone about it which confused me a little. Actually with some of the wrestling scenes involved maybe not. I also thought the ending was a bit sudden, but I don’t want to give anything away, it just felt a little unfinished. Having said those small gripes with the book I did enjoy this book.

I think I was possibly expecting a little bit more but then that might be because I have overhyped this series in my head, and also because Henrietta’s War was just so brilliant. It’s a quirky short novel/novella that I would recommend people give a go if you like things that celebrate London, give you a delightful tale from a child’s eyes and are a little different from everything else out there. This is a wonderful series and if you haven’t tried on of the titles then I really recommend you do. Either pop to their website and see the whole series or you can see my thoughts on two of the other titles I have read so far here. Have I told you how amazing I thought Henrietta’s War was at all ha, ha, ha!

Have you read this book, if so what did you think? Has anyone seen the movie? Which of the other Bloomsbury Group titles have you tried and which would you recommend I read next?


Filed under Bloomsbury Group, Bloomsbury Publishing, Review, Wolf Mankowitz

25 responses to “A Kid For Two Farthings – Wolf Mankowitz

  1. I liked this, and think it was the one that I enjoyed most out of all of the Bloomsbury Group books – it was different and quirky and held my attention. I didn’t especially enjoy Love’s Shadow much.

  2. Deb

    I remember seeing the movie years ago (not in the theater, probably on PBS). I was born and raised in the East End in the 1960s (although I’ve lived in the States for decades) and I remember thinking the movie was a little too “glossy” based on my recollections. I’ll have to seek out the book, though.

    • I would love to see the movie, I havent actually looked and seen if it is on Lovefilm, I simply must! I can’t imagine the East End ever being ‘glossy’ it has to be said. I lived there six years ago and it certainly wasnt then, maybe the Olympics will make it sparkle?

  3. Loved Henrietta’s War so much that I have been hesitant to pick up another title from this collection. There is not a lot of buzz in the US, and I think that most bloggers picked up the excitement from the likes of you and other UK friends. How many are there in the collection? Maybe I should buy them at once from The Book Depository and just read straight through? Always so many reading possibilities …

    Hope you are feeling better now!

    • I am feeling better Frances thank you for asking (bar of course my rage with a certain TV show here lol).

      There are six titles, this one, Henrietta’s War, The Bronte’s Went To Woolworths which I have read and I still have to read Love’s Shadow, Miss Hargreaves and Mrs Tim of the Regiment.

      There is also rumour rife that the sequel to Henrietta’s War is coming out, if its true you may already know my book of 2010 haha.

  4. I am really excited by this new Bloomsbury imprint. The covers themselves excite me! It seems like a lot of publishers now are republishing older, forgotten works. Maybe because they’re cheaper? I don’t know why, but I LOVE the idea 🙂

    • I totally agree with you on all of this Aarti. I think that the books look as aonwderful as the stories inside them and with this series you can definitley judge a book by its cover… well of the three that I have tried.

  5. Charming is good – I’m looking forward to reading this one, but might have to read ‘Henrietta’s war’ first now.

    • Yes charming and quirky would be the word for it. I would save Henrietta’s War till last as I like to save the best till laugh. Or save it for a sad rainy day as you will laugh and laugh. Its an utter delight!

  6. These are going to be published here this spring, though I have yet to see any sort of advertising for them! I’ve only read The Brontes Went to Woolworths, but I borrowed a copy quite a while ago (am glad to have my own copy now). I really loved it, but it is quite whimsical and just a little bit fey. I’ve yet to read the rest, but Henrietta’s War is high up on my list. I have the whole set so will get to them all eventually!

    • Are they not out in America? I hope they are going to get well received like they have been here. I am getting very excited that we are getting another batch released here as of the summer. Whimsical and fey totally sums up The Bronte’s Went To Woolworths. This series I think is genius.

  7. I don’t think this kind of book would work well for me. Hmm… But I see you’ve got The Blasphemer on your sidebar, and I just can’t wait to read your review of it. I haven’t read it myself, but I feel like I already like the book.

    Anyway, hope you’re enjoying your current read, and I do hope you’re feeling better.

    • Michelle you never know, it’s a very short novel so if you did want to dabble with something a bit different then this would be the perfect book. Quirky is the word but definitley sweet and quirky.

  8. Hi, Simon! I’m not at all familiar with this book or its movie adaptation, although the premise is indeed interesting. Imagine buying for yourself a unicorn! I’ll definitely keep an eye out for this one, since it’s a relatively short read too.

    As for the Bloomsbury titles, I’m afraid that our bookstores here in Manila don’t carry these reprinted titles yet. (So there’s another reason for me to drop by in these shops often! I live for the anticipation.)

    • I would never by myself a unicorn (I dont even like horses) but if I could buy a unicirn I know exactly who I would get one for, oneof my best friends is horse obsessed.

      I hope these books do eventually hit your stores in Manila. I think they are taking a country at a time, they have been successful here though I think a lot more people in the UK alone could do with reading them, I also hope they can get a world wide audience.

  9. My mum got this for Christmas, along with two of the other Bloomsbury Group books, and I’m looking forward to reading it. I’ll try not to put my expectations too high though…

    • That is utterly perfect isnt it, when someone gets a book or three for christmas thta you just want to borrow hahaha. The Converted One got a copy of The Lost City of Z for Christmas(from me) which I am desperate to read.

  10. I remember watching the movie years ago and then didn’t realize it was based on a novel. Your mentioning it refreshes my memory and makes me want to read it now.

  11. I have Henrietta’s War in my desk draw at work (I took it to read during my lunch break) but I haven’t got into it yet.

    • Oh definately give it a whirl Karen, I am looking forward to your thoughts, are the books out in Australia? I am keen to see which countries have had the pleasure of these books so far.

  12. I have four of the Bloomsbury Group titles on my TBR, including this one, and this probably appeals the most because of its fairy-tale like premise.

    Of course, deep down you know which one you should read next, Simon, and seeing as the other Simon hasn’t commented so already … Miss Hargreaves!

    • Ha ha, very subtle Claire.

      As you know I am a big fan of fairytales for adults but this one seemed more like a fairytale for kids, I still liked it I just felt that in the now it wouldnt have worked like it might have upon release.

  13. Pingback: A Kid For Two Farthings by Wolf Mankowitz | Iris on Books

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