Lizzie Dripping by Helen Cresswell is a book I loved as a child. I came to it through the children’s television adaptation of the book, which for some reason I found rather scary. The book however, is not, and never has been scary. In fact, re-reading it as an adult, it is rather strange.
Helen Cresswell was a stalwart of my childhood. Her book, The Piemakers was one that my parents loved too and would read and re-read to me when I was very small. I read it to my own children in much the same way. My absolute favourite of her books however, were the ones that made up The Bagthorpe Saga, which I adored so much that I still use phrases from the books in my day to day life, thirty years after I last read them. Her work was abundant and eclectic, and there is, I believe, a book to please everyone in her works.
Lizzie Dripping is not really called Lizzie Dripping. It’s a nickname for a day dreamer of a girl, what some would call a fibber, and others an embroiderer of the truth. Lizzie lives in a small house with her mum and dad and baby brother who is more of a noise than anything else. She drifts from place to place, always dropping and spilling things, living more in her head than she does in real life. One day, when she passes the local church yard she finds a witch, knitting against a grave stone. The witch is not scary so much as challenging to Lizzie and Lizzie keeps the witch to herself, knowing that nobody will believe her anyway.
The book is more of a collection of stories about Lizzie rather than a straight through narrative, and the witch does not feature in all of them. Even when she does there is not really a great deal of magic in them. It is in fact more a collection of stories of a child’s life growing up in a small village in the early Seventies in rural England. The language is complex because a lot of the dialogue is in dialect and very old fashioned. I thought the book had a real charm, but it’s such a strange thing on re-reading it I’m not sure that modern readers will enjoy it as much as some of Cresswell’s other books.
I’d recommend it for older readers, aged 8-12 who are patient, careful readers with a lot of confidence to tackle tricky words, and who like old fashioned stories, like Milly Molly Mandy or My Naughty Little Sister. This has much the same vibe. It is really a book that will appeal to girls much more than boys too, as the story focuses pretty much on Lizzie, and her adventures, although sweet, are not really very dynamic.