Why Was Billy Bunter Never Really Expelled?: and another Twenty-Five Mysteries of Children’s Literature

By Dennis Butts and Peter Hunt

A new collection of essays exploring the questions raised by children’s fiction, from textual puzzles to historical and cultural conundrums.

ISBN: 9780718895440


After the success of How Did Long John Silver Lose His Leg?, Dennis Butts and Peter Hunt take their forensic lenses to more mysteries that have troubled readers of children’s books over the centuries. Their questions range from the historical to the philosophical, some of which are puzzling, some of which are controversial:

  • Why does it seem there are no Nursery Rhymes before 1744?
  • Why did God start to die in children’s books long before Nietzsche noticed it?
  • Why are the schoolgirls at Enid Blyton’s St Clare’s so horrible?
  • Why are there so many dead parents littering children’s books?
  • Why does C.S. Lewis annoy so many people?

Why Was Billy Bunter Never Really Expelled? also reveals how an elephant captures Adolph Hitler, who was Biggles’s great love, and whose side G.A. Henty was on in the American Civil War, and delivers a plethora of erudite, entertaining answers to questions that you may not have thought of asking. And notably, of course, it explains why William George Bunter, the Fat Owl of the Remove, was never permanently removed from Greyfriars School.

Additional information

Dimensions 234 × 156 mm
Pages 180

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Trade Information LGENPOD

About the Author

Dennis Butts taught children’s literature at Reading University and is a former Chairman of the Children’s Books History Society. He has written widely about children’s books, including From the Dairyman’s Daughter to Worrals of the WAAF (Lutterworth Press, 2006) and How Did Long John Silver Lose His Leg? (Lutterworth Press, 2013).

Peter Hunt was the first Professor of Children’s Literature in a British university (Cardiff), has produced nearly forty books on the subject, and has lectured on it at well over 100 universities in twenty-two countries. His most recent books are The Making of The Wind in the Willows (The Bodleian Library, 2018) and The Fabulous Journeys of Alice and Pinocchio, with Laura Tosi (McFarland, 2018).


List of Illustrations

1. Should Children Read Fairy Tales? / Dennis Butts
2. What Makes a Children’s Classic? / Peter Hunt
3. Why Were there no Nursery Rhymes before 1744? / Dennis Butts
4. Who Wrote Little Goody Two-Shoes? / Dennis Butts
5. What (and Where) Are the Secret, Lost Books of Childhood – and Why Do They Matter? / Peter Hunt
6. The Curious History of Three Bears … and a Lamb / Dennis Butts
7. Charles Kingsley: Christian Socialist, Evangelical Storyteller, or Sexual Sadist? / Dennis Butts
8. Who Was the Real William Brighty Rands? / Dennis Butts
9. Why Are there so many Dead Parents in Children’s Books? / Peter Hunt
10. Was Lorna Doone really Married? / Dennis Butts
11. Whatever Happened to God in Children’s Books? / Peter Hunt
12. Whose Side Was Henty really on in the American Civil War? / Dennis Butts
13. What Do Children’s Books Do about Christmas? / Peter Hunt
14. Is Little Lord Fauntleroy a Children’s Story – and Does the Subplot Work? / Dennis Butts
15. Why Was Billy Bunter never really Expelled from Greyfriars School? / Dennis Butts
16. Why on Earth Are there Children’s Books about War? / Peter Hunt
17. Biggles: Tough Guy or Romantic Hero? / Dennis Butts
18. Why Is there Nobody Nice at St Clare’s? / Peter Hunt
19. Were there Two Flutes? Time Present and Time Past at Green Knowe / Dennis Butts
20. Why Does C.S. Lewis Annoy so many People? / Peter Hunt
21. What Happened Next? The Problem of Sequels / Dennis Butts
22. To See Ourselves … What Image of the British Do Children’s Books Give the World? / Peter Hunt
23. Why Is there no such Thing as Children’s Poetry? / Peter Hunt
24. Which Are the Best 100 Children’s Books? / Dennis Butts
25. And Which Is the Best? The Carnegie Medal and other Awards / Peter Hunt
26. A Mystery Solved: How Adults Read Children’s Books / Peter Hunt



Endorsements and Reviews

Once again Dennis and Peter take us on an often unexpected but entertaining journey through the world of children’s authors, books, stories, and rhymes that we all know and love, but with their unique line of questioning and analysis. This long-awaited sequel is an essential gem of a publication for anyone with an interest in children’s literature or who, like me, had a bookish childhood.
Nigel Gossop, founder of The Westerman Yarns

This book is a provocative and fun way to think about children’s books.
@MichaelRosen, Twitter, 11 December 2019

There is much to enjoy in this varied and stimulating little book, much to ponder, and much to argue about.
Robert Kirkpatrick, in Children’s Books History Society Newsletter, No 1235, December 2019

Butts and Hunt provide succinct and entertaining responses to a series of questions related to children’s literature.
Mark I. West, in Children’s Literature Association Quarterly, 2020

The authors’ wit and passion for the play of thought in these extemporaneous essays do not compromise their scholarly merit. They are captivaing to read, a true firework of erudition – instruction and delight at their best.
Jutta Reusch, in BookBird Journal, Vol 28, No 2, 2020

Why Was Bill Bunter Never Really Expelled? is a readable, thought-provoking, enlightening, valuable and learned collection without a whiff of theory.
Jean Webb, International Research Society for Children’s Literature