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'Here are twenty-five stories that have escaped from life - that is, the kind of life that most normal Australian boys and girls lead. In them, everyday life become involved with strange things and happenings. Magic comes creeping in when least expected; fairies and sprites appear; animals and objects indulge in conversations; dreams take the oddest turns. But, though there may be a friendly lion in a story, or a sea maid, or a flame fairy who can only speak in rhyme, in every case the central person is a normal Australian girl or boy.' (Inside dust jacket)
Authors' note: 'The fact is we began to prepare these stories after we had learned the message of 'A Call to the People of Australia' [written by A. S. H. Gifford, and consisting of an affirmation of traditional Christian values], which was issued [in 1951] by six leading churchmen and six leaders of the judiciary... We thought that these stories might convey parts of that message.'
* Contents derived from the Melbourne,Victoria,:Cheshire,1955 version. Please note that other versions/publications may contain different contents. See the Publication Details.
Story about an ill little girl, Jennie, who is given magic talking flowers who take the time and effort to cheer her up. Lesson imparted about the importance of being kind and unselfish to others less fortunate, and the importance of repaying such kindnesses.
Story about a little boy, Tom, who is visited by a talking lion in his dreams after a day at the circus. The lion tells him about various different animals, imparting moral lessons along the way about defending oneself and others who are weaker, helping others unselfishly and being prepared to work in a team for the common good, loyalty and faithfulness, how children should acknowledge and repay the sacrifices parents make for them, and finally, the importance of courage.
Story about a little girl, Anne, who tells a fib about her brother having broken the sugar bowl when in fact she did it herself. After being punished and expressing remorse, she goes to bed and is visited by a good witch in her dreams. The witch tells her that every person has a choice in how they behave, and that in order to be visited by the good witch instead of the bad witch, Anne must be truthful in future. However, the witch emphasises that Anne mustn't be too good, because 'girls who think they are so good that they get stuck-up about it may grow into nasty little prigs', but rather should be her 'natural, good, honest little self'.
James is visited by two fairies in his dreams - good and bad. They tell him they have come to find out what type of person he is, and depending on how James behaves in future, one of the fairies will eventually win a prize. The bad fairy tries to coax him into being selfish and doing the wrong thing to score points while the good fairy talks about the importance of obeying laws and rules, being honest, and helping those in need, including the disabled, elderly, mothers, and non-English speaking migrants. The story ends with James deciding that he will be as good as possible to ensure the good fairy wins the contest.
Story about little Marjorie, who is learning to play the piano. She loses patience with practising and hits the piano, creating a discordant sound. The piano begins to speak, and talks to her about how its notes are like human beings, and will work best when in harmony. It goes on to talk about how Marjorie will one day be able to play the National Anthem ('God Save the Queen'), and the importance of the Queen 'in the Australian way of life'.
James, a generally good little boy who is sometimes naughty, accidentally breaks a window with his football. Instead of waiting for his parents to punish him, he goes to bed without any supper of his own volition. He dreams about a winged horse, Pegasus, who tells James about how the ancient Greek gods were imaginary, unlike James's religion, which is 'true'. Pegasus goes on to say that James should be truthful, work hard at school, be good to his parents, be a team player, and help others, especially migrants, who 'have a difficult time in a strange country with a strange language'.
Frank is dreaming about speeding in a car, when the 'Speed Sprite' appears in his dream, and warns him against doing dangerous things. He tells Frank that because of technology, life is moving faster, and people are living longer, but that he must be careful not to harm himself or others by acting recklessly.
This story begins by relating the Hans Christian Andersen tale of the little mermaid, and then tells a 'modern-day' story about Timmy, who is holidaying at the seaside. Timmy, a boy scout, helps an old lady in a wheelchair across the road, and then spends time every day taking her for walks. The lady then tells Timmy that she is actually a sea maid, who was banished to dry land after refusing to marry the sea prince her parents had chosen for her. By spending his holiday time with her, Timmy has given up 'something precious' for her sake, and thus ended her banishment and allowed her to return to the ocean.
The letters of the alphabet are chatting among themselves about which words they would like to stand for. Each letter chooses a positive moral attribute they would like children to adopt - for example, C chooses 'courage', and K chooses 'kind'. The reader is then invited to try to live up to these values.
Joan is afraid of visiting the dentist, as she has to have four teeth taken out. While she is sleeping under gas, she dreams about the number four, who arrogantly proclaims his importance and worth as the most important number. The story concludes with the sentiment that we should not boast and show off but rather be honest and humble.
Esther falls asleep in front of a fire in winter, and dreams about a fire sprite who tells her to appreciate her parents and be grateful for what she has. The sprite also advises Esther to repay her parents by being a good and helpful daughter.
Robin is about to have a second piece of pie when the pie begins to tell him about the origin of its ingredients (apples, lard, flour and sugar), and how he should remember that many other people work hard to provide him with 'practically everything' he has. The story concludes with the pie telling Robin that in return he should try to provide things for other people and contribute to society.
Rosita is riding her pony in the country when she encounters a galah who has been turned blue by a wicked fairy after a quarrel. The bird must remain blue (in colour and mood) until he finds the cause of true happiness. Rosita tells the bird that helping others makes her happy, and then begins to cheer him up. She makes the bird laugh and he turns back into a galah again. The narrator concludes by saying that 'Rosita's kind action will have its reward.'
Doreen has a tooth taken out, and that night she dreams that her various body parts (mouth, brain, tummy, glands, chest, heart, hands, legs and neck) are having a conversation. Each part claims that it is the most important, but eventually they realise that they each have a unique and equally important job and by working together for the greater good they can achieve their goal of keeping Doreen healthy. The brain then concludes by claiming that humans should follow this good example of team work and 'the world will be all the better for it'.
David and Donald are mischievous identical twins who are given books for their birthday by their Aunt Aggie - Hans Andersen's fairy tales and Grimm's fairy tales. They quarrel over which book should be read to them first, and after Aunt Aggie tells them that they should be kind and love each other they shake hands and toss a coin to decide. The narrator concludes by saying that 'David and Donald found that they got on much better when they acted together than when they did not', and asserts that the reader might apply this thought to their own life.
Dorothy gets pins and needles in her foot after sitting still for too long. The pins and needles feel ashamed that they are bothering Dorothy instead of helping to make things better, but argue that they have been ill-treated by other children. They end up concluding that they should not blame Dorothy.
Sam is a selfish and unhelpful little boy. One day he falls off his bike and hits his head, and begins to dream. In his dream a talking dog tells him that he wouldn't have clothes or food or a bike if other people hadn't worked hard to make them for him. Sam realises that "everybody is dependent on other people for almost everything they have, and that therefore he owes something in return." The story ends with a reference to 'A Call to the People of Australia', which inspired this book of stories.
A boy named Robert loses his collar stud. The stud is "bad-tempered" and jumps into the toe of Robert's slipper where it can't be found. Robert is late for school and gets into trouble. Eventually he kicks his slipper in frustration and finds his stud. The parts of Robert's shirt then have a discussion about their respective roles in serving Robert, and how the collar stud was selfish to neglect its position. The shirt then reflects that their discussion might be a lesson to girls and boys about working together.