Types of English Children's Literature: Periodicals--Annuals

Figure 1.--One popular type od annual were the Scout annuals. We note many English Cub annuals in the 1970s called "The Sixer Annual". Earlier annuals were called "The Wolf Cub Annual". This one was undated, but was published in the late 1970s. We believe that earlier there were also Scout annuals.

The best known annuals were probably the Boy's Own Annual and the Girl's Own Annual. While these publications are the best known, there were hundreds of other annuals. Most were story and cartoon annuals, but there were also annuals published on a myriad of topics published in Britain. Most of these annuals were published during the first six decades of the 20th century. These annuals, however may have first appeared as early as the 1820s. One literary expert believes that the first English publication with the word 'annual' in the title appears to have been the Child Companion Annual published in 1824. Other 19th century annuals included Children's Prize (1863), Chatterbox (1863), Boy's Own Annual (1878), Girl's Own Annual (1879), Young England (1880), and Chums (1893). Many of the early annuals were simply bound versions of that publications weekly or monthly editions for the year. Publishers by the turn of the 20th century were producing annuals with original material. Large numbers of annuals on a wide range of topics, but mostly containing adventure stories were published after World War I (1914-18). Annuals were a popular item in Britain through the first half of the 20th century. After the 1950s many became associared with televsion tie ins. The changing economics of the publishing industry affected the tradition of children's annuals in the later part of the 20th century and the genre came to be mostly associated with pop stars that could virtually guarantee sales.


Many older HBC readers can remember receiving an annul for Christmas. For smereason they were especially popular Chrismas gifts durin the late 19th and early 20th century. The peak of nnual popularity began after World War I when Amalgamated Press began to produce annuals especially for the Christmas trade.


There were several especially well known annuals published in England. The two best known were the Boy's Own Annual and Chatterbox, both dating from the 19th century and published over several decades provide wonderful insights into clothing and other aspects of British childhood. These both evolved from weekly publications. Some annuals were only published in annual editions. One annual was done in 6 months versions. While much of the writuing was of marginal litterary value, some excellent writers contributed pieces. It was in an annual that Sherlock Holmes first appeared.

Beeton's Christmas Annual

While the English children's annual has little prestige in literay circles, it should be noted that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's great detective, Sherlock Holmes, first appeared in the 1887 edition of Beeton's Christmas Annual.

Blackies Boys Annual

Another annual was Blackies Boys Annual. We know nothing about it, except that it was published in the early 20th century. We note one issue that looks to be from the late 1940s. Hpefully our British readers can tell us more about this annual.

Boy's Own Annual

The Boy's Own Paper was also printed in an annual edition, Boy's Own Annual. There was a comparable girls' publication, the Girl's Own Annual. These publications were so popular for so many yeras that the term "boy's own" ha entered the language as a type of juvenile literature empphasizing old fashioned juvenile adventures stories. The term "girl's own" has no such special connotation, although these books were also very popular.

(The) Captain

The Captain included regular articles by P G Wodehouse. The Captain wasn't precisely an annual. Most are half-yearly editions made up of six monthly issues. The monthly issues of the magazine were bound together for the annuals, minus the ads.


Chatterbox was one of the most popular English publications for children. It was first published December 1, 1866. The last edition was in 1955. Chatterbox was created by the Rev. John Erskine Clarke (1827-1920) of Derby. He also served as the Editor until 1902. Unlike the Boy's Own and Girl's Own, the other best remembered English children's publications, Chatterbox was designed to appeal to boys and girls. Clarke conceived Chatterbox as a weekly paper for children. Given the relative cost of books and magazines in the 19th century, many readers saved the weekly issues and some even had them bound. Chatterbox was primarily a story annual and the content varied over time. There were, however, puzzles, poems, interesting facts, and a variety of interesting activities. Chatterbox was lavisgly illustrated, especially after the turn of the 20th century when the technology for lothographic printing improved.

(The) Children's Friend Annual

We do not know a great deal about this annual. This appears to have been a monthy magazine for children which were bound as annials without original content. At least that wsas done for the 1917 edition. It included numerous stories, poems, articles and color plates as well as superb engravings. Includes serialised novel "A Madcap Family" by Amy Le Feuvre, "The Story of a Pebble" a very short story by Charles Kingsley, and briefly features punch and judy puppets Darkie Jim and Darkie Bill, forerunners of the beloved, and in our politically correct world controversial, Golliwogs.

Dean's Superb Book for Boys

Dean is a major British publisher of children's literature. We note some annuals without the word "annual" in the title. we have a cover of Dean's Superb Book for Boys published in 1964. We do not have ny information what the contents were, but one would assume that sports was a principal topic. The principal illustration appears to show a boy in a soccer football uniform. There are inserts showing other activities, incluing cricket (white flannels), camping (short pants but not Scouts), and canoeing (rolled up denim shorts). The hairstyle's with the classic side part, on the left side. Note the large fringe the one boy has. Brylcreem' was popular at the time and some of these boys apparently used it.

Frolicsome Friends Annual

The 1915 edition was published by Blackie & Son Ltd., illustrated by A. E. Kennedy, verses by Jessie Pope. An annual for young children, with large illustrations on each page (some colour plates, others black-and-white) with a verse of poetry below each one. One edition was inscribed, "To Archie on his second birthday 20th May 1916".

(The) Greyfriars Holiday Annual

The Greyfriars Holiday Annual 1924 edition was published by Amalgamated Press. Written by Frank Richards, and featuring the famous Billy Bunter and his school, Greyfriars, as well as lots of other school stories. With colour plates and lots of black and white drawings.

Our Darlings Annual

One undaed cloth spine edition (about 1920) was published by John F. Shaw & Co., Ltd. Contains stories by Charles Herbert and many others, but this book is also full of superb illustrations, none of them credited as was the trend at the time. These include many black-and-white drawings, plus eleven tipped-in color plates.

School Boys' Annual

The School Boys' Annual was published in England by Jarrold and & Sons Ltd,Norwch. It was much like other annuals with adventure stories, projects, games, cartoon stories, and other features. We do not know when this series began or ended. We do note a 1972 edition. Like other English annuals, they quite often were also distributed in British Empire countries.

(Herbert) Strang's Annual

We note Herbert Stang's Annual for boys which was first published in 1912. There was also a Mrs Strang's Annual for Girls wjhich was published from 1919-26. Evntually the Oxford University Press replaced Froude/Hodder & Stoughton in 1927 and renamed the publication the Oxford Annuals for Boys and Girls. These were not as popular as some of the other annuals. They were primarily story annuals and had some interesting stories by excellent writers. We also note The Big Book of School Stories for Girls, ed. Mrs Herbert Strang. London: OUP, 1934. We note a variety of editions of children's books under the Herbert Strang name.

Treasure Annual

We note several annual editions of the Treasure Annual from the 1960s-70s. We do not know precisely when they began publishing or have much information about the contents. A HBC reader has forwaded us a copy of the cover from the 1967 edition of the annual. He tells us, "I think the cover epitomises the British aspect of the book."


There were several different types of annuals published in England. The first were general story annuals. These were the most popular. The editions aimed at boys focused on high adventure and were often huighlt patriotic and imperialistic. In addition to the stories there were all kinds of games, poems, puzzlles, activities, and other features. Latter more specuialized types appeared, especially after World War I (1914-18). We note character, cartoon, pop-star, Scout, sport, and other types of annuals.

Character Annuals

There were also annuals devoted to popular literary characters like Just William. William was in fact probably the most popular, but there were many other such annuals. These annuals would have a variety of features. Normally there were be stories and cartoons about the character. The Just William annuals would normally feature at least one run-in with his nemesis--Violet Elizabeth Bott. There would be an articke about the author and if a TV serieswas underway, features about the actors playing the various roles. These annuals were often marketed when such TV series were underway. Other feratures included games, puzzles, costume suggestions, jokes, word plays, lists of historical fifures with the same name, magic tricks, activities, and much more.

Cartoon Annuals

Colonial Annuals

We notice an annual titled Young South Africa Fifth Annual Volume' and distributed by The Central News Agency, Ltd. It is not dated, but looks to be from the 1930s. If it was not for the cover title, it is typically a British "Boys Own" type publication. I should imagine during the grand days of the British Empire, editions like this were made for sale in the various overseas dominions and colonies such as South Africa. Despite the title, the articles appear to be largely from material that was published in Britain for British boys. There were probably similar books published with the names of other colonies published on the cover, although this is the only one in my collection. Looking through the index, it is interesting to note how the book is 'balanced' with articles and stories from other countries i.e. 'Australian Boy Scouts', 'The Black Ants of Tropical Africa', 'Chinese Boy Pets', 'Down a Rhodesian Goldmine', 'Cottage Homes of England', and The Pagent of British Boys'.

Pop-star Annuals

Scout Annuals

There were also a variety of annuals for both Scouts and Cubs. These inexpensive editions were popular with British boys for many years. The annual for Cubs was Sixer Annual. I think "Sixer" referred to a Cub rank. Earlier editions were called The Wolf Cub Annual. These annuals, had a miscelanous collection of stories, articles on interesting topics, comics, activities, puzzles, crosswords, games, and much more. There were many illustrations, but some of the illustrations in early editions were of poor quality and did not have full color photographs and illustrations. Many have the annoying habbit of not being dated--of course meaning that they did not as easily go out of date on book shop shelves.

Sports Annuals

We notice publications dealing with sports.

Other Annuals

Most annuals were story book compilations. There were many different editions of these story annuals. We also noticed annuals focusing on movies. A smaller number on radio programing. I'm not sure about television program in general, although in the 1960s-70s, a number of annuals were based on popular television programs. Hopefully our British readers will provide us some deatails on the publications that they remember as boys.

Reader Comments

A South African reader writes, "These publications are a wonderfil source of information on boys' fashions and hair styles. It's fascinating to see how a style of fashion can date so quickly. 'The Sixer' cover seem here from the 1970s shows short pants and long hair so different from 2002 to be quite remarkable. Have you looked at an episode of 'Dallas' lately? The difference is squite stunning. It makes me feel rather old and dated."

Poem: A British Boys' Annual

A HBC reader has provided us a poem about these annuals.

When as a boy you open a Boys Annual and into the book and out of the book and into an adventure you appear.

Riding on a chestnut horse'the wind in your hair, riding with an heir.

Sizing up the soccer ball 'eyeing the goals' kick the round ball though the air, 'tis a goal 'yeh.

Traveling the ocean blue Trevor, James and you. Fishing, sailing, riding a wave, nearly drowns--a close shave.

Cooking biddles on a roaring camp fire'singing carols in a choir'singing higher and higher.

Prep school boy with blazer, grey short trousers, kneesocks too, school tie, peak cap of red and black polished shoes.

Turning of those pages, big adventures from all the ages: Huckleberry Finn, Rin Tin Tin and baddies on the run.

Spying airplanes, flying daredevils, having fun, swimming in a river in the midday sun.

So get lost in a book or two, become a very Bitish school boy. Get a game of cricket, get your self a wicket or a hundred runs or more.

Boys Own Annual book of dreams'weaving lots of stories'going to the rescue for a friend but all stories come to an end.


Anonymous. Children's Annuals.


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Created: September 12, 2002
Last updated: 3:23 AM 11/27/2004