Picking up where I left off (a long time ago), the next stop in my bookworm journey (after this post) was one which also featured a fur coat, Flossie Teacake’s Fur Coat by Hunter Davis. I remember this one from school, or at least, I remember really wanting to read it, probably because of the inviting title. Who can resist a teacake?
Nine year old Flossie is fed up with having to watch her older brother and sister do all the things that she can’t, but lucky for her, she finds a fur coat in her sister’s room that turns her into 18 year old Floz whenever she puts it on.
So, an inviting idea for a kid’s book too. Anyone with older siblings will understand the feeling of wishing you were just that little bit older. My older brother was allowed to watch M*A*S*H every week with my parents. I was not. I can remember hearing them all laughing their heads off, and I longed to be included, convinced that I was missing out on the best TV show in the world, ever. To this day the theme tune brings back memories of sitting on the stairs trying to peek through the crack in the door. Of course, I was eventually included, and soon realised that M*A*S*H, whilst it was ok, wasn’t actually my favourite TV show in the world, ever. And I realised I had wanted to be older so that I was included in the ritual, rather than because of the show. Incidentally, I do remember one episode of M*A*S*H where they’re all having terrifying dreams and it totally freaked me out for ages. So perhaps I should be thankful that my parents didn’t let me watch it any sooner.
And that, in a nutshell, is what is wrong with this book. Flossie just spends the whole book complaining about all the things she can’t do, and being very jealous of her older brother and sister, to whom she is utterly obnoxious. She has the opportunity to experience things she isn’t grown up enough for, such as having a job, going on a driving lesson, and attending a disco. But she doesn’t seem to particularly enjoy the experiences, or learn that they are perhaps just things that she isn’t ready for.
It’s hard not to mention films like Big and Freaky Friday here, both of which use the same premise, but do it much better. The characters start out wishing they could be grown up but then they are forced into it and have to muddle through with no choice. They start off having a lot of fun before they realise it isn’t all that easy, and there’s a definite conclusion – they return to being a kid, breathe a sigh of relief and vow to enjoy the rest of their childhood without complaint. Flossie just continues to moan about wanting to be more grown up, stomps and complains through her ‘adventures’, but keeps right on putting on the coat. I’m not saying she needs to be totally traumatised by her experiences, it is a kid’s book after all, but making Flossie a little more likeable and a little more humble at the end would have gone a long way.
Hunter Davis (OBE) is a writer and journalist and has written a wide variety of material, including the only authorised biography of the Beatles (he was also married to Margaret Forster). Looking at the list of his works, it seems strange that he every came to create Flossie Teacake, but he went on to write another four books in the series, so they must have been pretty well received for him to keep going. And perhaps that’s the secret. Maybe you just have to read them as a kid. And don’t we all occasionally wish that we could be kids again?