The Hubbles' Treasure Hunt, by Elaine Horseman, for Timeslip Tuesday

One of the fun bonuses of getting your hands on a new to you vintage children's book is at the end of the book where, if you are lucky, you get a list of other books you've never heard of, sometimes with blurbs.  This luck happened to me last month, and as a result I treated myself to a few book purchases, including The Hubbles' Treasure Hunt, by Elaine Horseman (1965).  This is the second of a series about a group of English kids living in an old house in a cathedral town who have found a spell book, that includes a spell for travelling in time, which is the focus of the plot.

It begins when the kids (two sets of siblings, 3 boys, 2 girls; one set living with grandfather, the others the children the housekeeper) discover a clue to a treasure hunt hidden in a doll carved during the English Civil War.  With the encouragement, even collusion, of the grandfather, the magical recipe given in the spell book acquired in book 1 (Hubbles' Bubble) is concocted and an expedition is sent into the past, hoping that it will be the past of the English Civil War so they can find the treasure.  Instead, the grandfather and one of the older boys ends up in far off prehistory, and when they return home, they inadvertently bring with them a baby prehistoric hippo.

A trip to take the hippo home ends up landing the kids in the middle of a Civil War scrimmage, where by happy coincidence they do make contact with the author of the treasure hunt clue, but they come home nott much wiser about where it's hidden.  They do gain interesting backstory for people involved, though, which I liked.  The young man who hid the treasure went down in history as a traitor to both sides, but his story is not at all black and white....

But then it's more hippo wrangling.  The hippo, back in the present, escapes and must be found...another spell is used, so the kids can breath underwater and travel down the river looking for the hippo.

At which point, I'm, like, enough already with the hippo!  I want English Civil War time travel and treasure hunt with tragic people of the past in distress!

But no.  More hippo chasing ensues.  Sigh.

Then finally two of the kids figure out the clue, and find the treasure (with help from the hippo. sigh again), and it is lovely treasure from the cathedral, hidden from the Round-heads, in a beautiful carved chest (one of the most lovely fictional chests I've ever read).  So that is nice.

I almost really liked this one, but too much hippo, not enough good time travel, though  I realize that for many readers, the fun of prehistoric hippos causing consternation amongst the townsfolk might be wonderful.  The kids were a nice lot though, and it was good that there weren't intrusions of class distinction.  If the other books (there are three in total) come my way, I'll be happy, but I won't seek them out.

Kirkus reviewed the book when it came out in the US in 1966, and I don't think the reviewer was at all conversant with mid 20th century UK books, saying that the characters "keep up a steady banter often pleasantly silly, frequently affected, and always very British."  I, who have read hundreds of mid 20th century books, found the dialogue none of the above and I really wonder what is meant by "affected."  I am also baffled by this sentence:  "The transition to fantasy is always smoothly made, although the course of events often seems illogical or incidental."  I myself think that when you are making your own spells out a Victorian spell book, the course of events is de facto not going to be logical...I had not trouble following what was going on, for what that's worth.  Also for what it's worth, I've never once criticized a book for transitioning to fantasy too abruptly....so perhaps I'm just not as keenly sensitive as the Kirkus reviewer of yesteryear.


  1. Baby prehistoric hippo? Seriously? That's pretty amazing. Thanks for telling me about this. I think I will pass.

  2. I remembered the Civil War sections and the labyrinth and the carved chest for years and eventually found my very own copy. The hippo didn't make the memory, although I don't object to his presence, either.

    Elaine T. (visiting from Rachel Neumeier's site.)

    1. have you read any of her other books? I found this one interesting enough to want to read more about the Hubbles, but I'm not sure I want to make the investment....


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