Captain W.E. Johns’s short chapter stories, featuring various exciting jobs for Biggles and the Air Police, are ideal for children interested in action and detective plots with potential for individual problem solving and logic.

The Biggles stories shouldn’t be overlooked just because they are old and quaint – they have great vocabulary (eg. “numismatist”) and plots from which children can learn much about history.

In The Case of the Lost Coins, an elderly gentleman named Mr Pelegrinos would like to donate his collection of extremely rare coins to the British Museum, but the coins which are private property have now become difficult to access after Albania went over to the Communist Government. Faced with having to abandon his rare coin collection as he hurriedly escaped with just the shirt on his back, Mr. Pelegrinos buried the coins in metal tins in his extensive backyard, by the sea in a luxury villa settlement. The story weaves within it how being a capitalist is in direct opposition to being a communist. The case for Biggles is to fly in, get the coins, and fly out under the cover of darkness so that the Albanian authorities won’t be able to interfere.

Another intriguing story is The Case of the Old Masters, in which three priceless paintings have disappeared from a private exhibition in London. The theft is considered to be the work of a gang with knowledge of art. Biggle’s Air Commodore Commander tells him that there are numerous possibilities as to where they could be. One possibility is that they were smuggled out to one of the Iron Curtain countries like Poland, Romania, East Germany, Hungary or Bulgaria. These countries have less tourist visitors and therefore when publicly displayed the paintings are less likely to be spotted.

In Mystery on the Moor, Scotland Yard is aware that air transport is being used more and more by the modern criminal to outwit the law. Police Pilot Ginger is flying solo on a regular routing dawn patrol when he spots an unusually occurring plane hidden in a bunch of trees. Read on to discover how the plane is related to a cunning plan with a dastardly cosmetic surgeon, an ex-solicitor who did time for forgery and several other criminals.

Jane Fagan is a children’s librarian with a B.A. (University of Melbourne) and a Grad. Dip. Library and Info Studies (Melbourne).