18 January 2022, published with 32 full colour illustrations by Bernard Bowerman from the first edition.
At last she reached the brow of the hill … now the country opened out below her and she looked down into a wide and lovely valley … Still patched with snow the little fields spread like a carpet below her and here and there a farmhouse with barns and golden ricks was clearly seen. Across the plain ran, straight as a ruler, a railway line and she saw a toy train puffing and crawling across the picture.
Malcolm Saville’s classic novel from 1946 is about eleven-year old Jane’s discovery of nature and country life during a year spent convalescing on her uncle’s farm, after having been dangerously ill in post-war London. The novel is also a record of rural England eighty years ago, written by one of the great twentieth-century English nature writers.
The Introduction is written by Hazel Sheeky Bird of the University of Newcastle.
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This novel was written while Saville was extending his range as a writer, alongside his very successful Lone Pine adventure series, and nature anthologies for children. Moor End Farm, where Jane spends a year discovering the birds and animals living around her, is based on a farm in Wheathamstead, Hertfordshire, where Saville had lived. Inspired by the experiences of Saville’s own god-daughter, this marvellous novel is full of the wonder of discovery, as well the happiness of regaining health, making friends, and learning to love the natural world.
We sent a copy to Mya-Rose Craig, aka Birdgirl, the prominent UK environmentalist and ornithologist, and she loved it. ‘A beautifully illustrated story of an eleven year old London girl’s year of convalescing in Hertfordshire in 1946. Her experiences are delightful. A traditional story but easily relatable for modern young people.’
‘A heartwarming read with Saville’s descriptive talent for natural things shining through from the beginning to the end of Jane’s recuperation in the country. I love the way the seasons unfold as, with each chapter, we move through the year a month at a time, becoming more and more aware of the sounds and smells of the farm and growing familiar with the surrounding fields and countryside.’ – Kim Spencer, The Shropshire Magazine
‘Malcolm Saville’s new-to-me authorial voice is here guiding and instructive, but never patronising in its tone; his writing as crisp and sweet as an old-fashioned apple — childlike in its wonder, but never childish, filled with details that elevate his simple story into something gentle and wise. The full-colour reproductions of Bernard Bowerman’s beautiful illustrations from the first edition are refreshingly nostalgic in their simplicity, each built around a limited, austerity palette. (After the original publication in 1946, later editions were black & white throughout.) Together, words and images bring into sharp, loving focus the landscape and wildlife, livestock and farming rhythms of a rural twelvemonth, as seen through the eyes of eleven-year-old town child Jane. ‘ – The Unhurried Reader
‘Jane’s Country Year will appeal to anyone interested in rural life in the 1940s, the countryside or the natural world. It also ties in with present days concerns about the environment, sustainability and the preservation of the countryside. As Uncle William remarks at one point, ‘And so you see Janey how ’tis that everything that came from the soil goes back into it at last’. I thought it was utterly charming.’ – What Cathy Read Next
‘As a person who lives increasingly seasonally as I get older I really appreciated the microcosm of a life lived really in tune with the seasons that is portrayed in this book. It’s a quiet book, and is Handheld Press’s first colour illustrated novel, with beautiful illustrations by Bernard Bowerman. I’ve taken my time with it just because it’s worth savouring each creature and plant discovered, and each new experience that Jane has. Because the world of the farm and the countryside is so different to the one that she’s used to at home, everything is new to her and is described in such detail and with such care that it’s really easy to get swept up in paying really close attention to what’s going on.’ – Indie Book Network
‘Jane’s Country Year is a little like a novel version of the wonderful What to Look for in… series from Ladybird … I loved this book, especially with the fascinating introduction. I wish I’d had the resolve to read along just one chapter a month but it was soooooo good I couldn’t help myself and just had to read it all in one go!’ – Norfolk Bookworm
‘This is a book of gentle proportions. A book that calms frayed nerves and soothes the soul. It is a book without edges; a book with rounded corners and the most beautiful soul. The story of Jane and her year of discovery, is the balm I needed in this dark end of the year. Each chapter spans a month. Each chapter is like peeling back a window on nature, each turning page a new discovery. This book might be written for children but it’s appeal is universal. It takes the reader by the hand, throws you your wellies and says come with me. It is a feast for the senses and a gentle rest for the brain. It’s think therapy on the page.’ – Bookbound
‘If Malcolm Saville is remembered at all these days, it’s probably because of his Lone Pine adventure stories – I have a vague memory of reading one of them myself. But among his more than 90 books there are a number that are specifically aimed at introducing children to the English countryside. All but one of these are non-fiction: ‘Country Scrapbooks’, quizzes, ‘Wonder Why’ books and more. The exception is obviously Jane’s Country Year, which manages superbly to combine teaching its young readers to recognise the various elements of the natural world from insects to animals to flowers and trees with an engrossing story of a young girl’s daily life, her friendships and her adventures. ‘ – Shiny New Books