One of my favourite books from childhood is The Wonderful Isle of Ulla-Gapoo by F. Dubrez Fawcett. I don’t expect anyone will have heard of it. I read it when I was 8, at Christmas 1946. It was a hardback and a first edition. I’ve still got it. I almost gave it away recently on one of my de-cluttering days but I couldn’t bring myself to part with it. The book is beautifully illustrated by H E Harman.
The story is about a maid and a baker’s boy, Mollie and Bernie, both aged 17 or so, who become firm friends. There is a touch of romance and you imagine that they will eventually marry. They have exciting adventures on an island which they come across when rowing on the Serpentine, which is the lake in Hyde Park. This is Ulla-Gapoo.
At first they though it was a sort of amusement park and were worried they couldn’t afford the sixpence entrance fee. It wasn’t like that at all, of course, though there is much amusement and peculiar people and places. Mollie and Bernie spend what seems like many hours meeting these characters, who include Mr and Mrs Gapoo, the Mayoress, the Constable and the Welcomer. There is panic and distress as Bernie goes missing and is accused of stealing and amazement at the crazy upside down houses where they had to climb up and down the walls. Eventually the pair run away to escape the policeman. They find their rowing boat and realise they have only been away for three hours.
They settle back into their daily routines. However, three months later, they longed to see the village on the island again and went to find it, though a wee bit frightened… They found the island but there was no village, to their disappointment – and relief.
There is such a mixture of intriguing emotions throughout the book. At the end, though, I was left with good feelings and, like Bernie and Mollie, wanted to return to Ulla-Gapoo!
Fawcett , F. Dubrez (1946) The Wonderful Isle of Ulla-Gapoo
Modern Fiction, London