DC Thomson’s weekly nursery comic Twinkle, “the picture paper specially for little girls”, was one of the great survivors of the British comics industry. Beginning with its first issue dated 27th January 1968, it ran for 1638 issues with the last one dated 5th June 1999, plus 34 annuals covered dated from 1970 to 2003, and a regular summer special over a similar period.
Its ‘panel with text’ format strips included Nancy The Little Nurse “the little girl who works at the Dollies Hospital”, My Baby Brother “He’s small, he’s sweet, he’s seldom neat”, Witch Winkle “Wendy Wilson has a very funny friend – a real, live witch called Winkle”, and Sam “a sheepdog owned by Shona MacGregor”.
Artists working on the title included Tom Kerr on The Magic Bus, Sabine Price on My Baby Brother and Dan Dare’s Don Harley on Sam.
Nurse Nancy proved to be a popular character, managing to get at least two summer specials of her own on the 1970s and a regular slot on the annual’s covers during the 1990s – even managing to displace Twinkle herself as the main character on the 1996 annual cover. Yet one place that she didn’t turn up was in the little known Twinkle Books series of twelve softcover storybooks.
These were released as two series of six books each in 1980 and 1981. They were all published in a small 36 page, landscape format of 16.5 x 12.5cm (6 ½ x 4 7/8 inches) formatted with most page spreads having text on the left hand page and a colour illustration on the right hand page telling the story over 32 pages plus a final page of combined illustration and text.
Each series featured six books with the same set of six characters – Biffo The Bear (cover star of The Beano in 1948), Benny My Baby Brother (apparently named for the story books), The Magic Bus (cover star of Little Star in 1972), Sam The Sheepdog, Bouncy The Ball, and Dandy Lion. The quickest way to differentiate between the two series, which are the same size, thickness and price, is that the first series only have the characters’ names as the title whilst the second series includes a location or other addition title.
While the first series have both the copyright and first printed dated as 1980, the second series, oddly, has the copyright as 1981 but the first printing as 1980. The weekly comic, as was standard at the time, used DC Thomson’s London addresses, in Fleet Street for the publishing details and Cathcart Street for the letters page/club details, yet both series of books are addressed as Albert Square, Dundee which is the Courier Building, DCT’s Dundee city centre headquarters.
As poorly known and unusual as they are, they were not the only set of storybooks from Twinkle as The Blobs strip also warranted a series of books around the same time. The Blobs would later go on to become an animated series on ITV featuring the “voices of Jane Horrocks”.
Whilst being poorly known now that does not necessarily suggest that the books were poor sellers at the time or wildly valuable now, it has to be said that in March 1987 to help celebrate the 1000th issue of Twinkle, a Twinkle Book was given away as a free gift to all readers. As some of the surviving Twinkle Books have paper stickers on their front covers with “Free – Your Gift From Twinkle“, not all of which are on the same titles, it would appear that these issue 1000 free gifts could well have been old stock and not ones that were specially printed for the occasion.
Whilst they are never going to be important collectibles for British comics fans, the set of twelve Twinkle Books are an aspect of DC Thomson’s comics empire that deserve to be better known.
Twinkle Books First Series
The Magic Bus
ISBN 0 85116 170 7
ISBN 0 85116 167 7
Biffo The Bear
ISBN 0 85116 171 5
Benny My Baby Brother
ISBN 0 85116 169 3
ISBN 0 85116 166 9
ISBN 0 85116 168 5
Twinkle Books Second Series
The Magic Bus At Jig-Saw Mountain
ISBN 0 85116 227 4
Sam At The Circus
ISBN 0 85116 229 0
Biffo And The Woodcutter
ISBN 0 85116 226 6
Benny Goes To The Zoo
ISBN 0 85116 228 2
Dandy Lion The Diver
ISBN 0 85116 230 4
Bouncy In Trafalgar Square
ISBN 0 85116 225 8
Twinkle (and associated characters featured) © DC Thomson Media