One comic strip concern St Perpetua; the 22 year old nursing mother who together with her slave girl St Felicity were executed.
New Atheists may consider much of the comic strips and features to be the stuff of religious indoctrination. Not that the this decades old annual was written as some sort of light-hearted girls’ comic to assist Catholic apologetics, but the bravery of the Roman Martyrs was thought good material for a gripping story.
There is also quite an enthralling feature on the Royal Family, with illustrations of the Queen and Prince Philip; the only obvious fault of the piece is that the author overuses obsequious flattery and it becomes a sycophantic hymn to the Royal Family.
Other delights of the annual included a story about a group of friends grooming and training their dogs for a show. There were even tips on grooming the ‘feathers’ on a cocker spaniel's legs. The vocabulary and descriptions are rich; there’s no ‘dumbing-down’ for fear of condescending the child readers, or confusing them with high-brow words.
One excellent feature on the Bronte sisters chronicles where they found their inspiration to write their novels and how they persevered to finish their books. I was tempted to photocopy this and send it round to all my friends who are in love with Mr Rochester.
The 2011 Girl Annual is a very tame, trite, politically correct work, that relies-on-mythology-for-substance: there’s a story on Aphrodite’s Apple, and other bland articles entitled ‘Could it be magic?’ and ‘Dicing with Dares’ and ‘Which Greek Goddess are you?’ There’s also some features on cooking and sewing, thrown in to ensure that some tetchy feminists buy it to use as a dart board.
The one thematic comparison between the old one and the new; is that the 2011 version has a riddle about a poodle parlour. Dogs and dog-grooming still have a place in our culture as it did in 1956. St Francis would be pleased.