Two Gold Dolphins, by Elisabeth Beresford, for Timeslip Tuesday

This week's timeslip book is an older, somewhat obscure one from England--Two Gold Dolphins, by Elisabeth Beresford (1961).

A brother and sister are packed off to stay with their grandfather in the family's old country home while the parents go off to the US.  They figure out pretty quickly that the grandfather is becoming unable to cope, and might have to sell the house because he can no longer afford the upkeep (why the parents aren't involved in this decision making is beyond me; you'd think they'd have some interest in the old family house, but no.).  So the kids set out to find the family treasure that's supposed to be hidden somewhere around the place, that no other generation of searching kids has ever found.

Help comes their way in the form of a magical clock found in a junk store.  The gold dolphin ornamenting the clock comes to life, and the kids learn that the dolphin and clock can send them back in time.  So they visit the past of their family at various points in time, including a surprising visit to Australia to see their many times great uncle who immigrated there.  They must prove that they have the qualities of character that the dolphin demands of them before they can find the Great Gold Dolphin, on whom the clock dolphin is modeled, and then their wishes will be granted.  They are joined in their quest by another boy, who's father is a lost explorer, who they meet in the village who becomes their new very good friend in about five minutes.

Of course they eventually do find the Great Gold Dolphin, and save the family house, bring their parents home (although this would have happened at some point in any event, so it seems a bit of a waste), and bring the lost explorer father home too.

Basically this is a Nesbit homage; the pattern of how the story unfolds is much like that of the Psammead and House of Arden stories, and the clock dolphin is very much the same sort of grouchy guide that the Psammead and the Mouldiwarp are.  It  lacks the zest of Nesbit's writing, and the characterization and interactions of the children are less interesting.  But though it is a slighter story, it is still a pleasant, if somewhat superficial, time travel.

I don't regret the five dollars I spent on it, and though I won't be actively looking for Beresford' s other books (especially not the Womble books, for which she is best known), I'd happily read them if the came my way (except Wombles.  I just have no interest in Wombles....)


  1. I love stories where kids get sent to live with a grandparent at the old homestead, and I love mysteries. I'll keep my eyes open for this one. Thanks for the post.

  2. After 55 years I do still have wonderful memories of this book. I was given this book as a child in the version that was translated into Dutch. The setting, with two children exploring the mysteries of an old house, captivated my imagination, and kindled a live long interest in old 'undisturbed' houses, which I perceive as time capsules allowing time travel. The book may have been a contributing factor to a later life decision to study architecture with a specialisation of conservation and restauration, as well as the start of a strong interest in, and fascination with, history. One funny thing that stands out in my memory is the name of the horse that pulls the cart with which the children are driven from the station to the house when they arrive in the beginning of the book. The horse is called 'grapefruit' and this name was the same in the Dutch language version. With my total lack of knowledge of the English language when I read the book as a child, I didn't know how to pronounce that word, so I read it phonetically, and thereby never made the connection with the citrus fruit which is called the same in the Dutch language, but pronounced in the proper English way.


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