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Ronald Searle was one of Britain's best-loved cartoonists, and Geoffrey Willans (if I remember correctly) a former teacher. If there is such a thing as a genius, then Willans and Searle together were one.

The Molesworth books purport to be instructional manuals by an English public schoolboy named Nigel Molesworth, about how to survive the school experience. From the day the first was published in 1953, they became a wild success, especially with schoolchildren. They are still in print and still eminently applicable (which says something both about the quality of the books, and about the nature of the British school system, which even at that point hadn't changed much in 400 years).

The wild misspelling that permeates them caused hysteria among parents, and their removal from many school libraries (the books, not the parents). Nevertheless, many phrases from them have since gone into the English lexicon, particularly "enuff said" and "as any fule kno".

The quartet consists of:

Down with Skool
How to be Topp
Whizz for Atomms
Back in the Jug Agane

and an omnibus edition,

The Compleet Molesworth, reprinted by Penguin as

These are considered absolute classics in the UK along with gems such as 1066 and all that. Whether they're intelligible to anyone but Britons is another matter; but I didn't think Monty Python would be, and I was wrong about that...

P.S. And should you be wondering (during reading) exactly what Treens might be, they're the myrmidons of that most unforgettable villain The Mekon (whose portrait you can see here), from the wonderful contemporary comic-book series Dan Dare.
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on 12 March 2011
Here we have St.Custard's finest, Nigel Molesworth, expounding on how to be top in each and every subject of the school curriculum, as well as how to survive as a new boy at school (including how to write home), and how to handle grown-ups. As ever, the great Molesworth brain is a wonder to behold, his spelling splendidly original, and Ronald Searle's illustrations simply brilliant.
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on 18 August 2013
The central character, Nigel Molesworth, could do bad spelling and grammar 'for England' but this unparallelled work of 1950s whimsy somehow ends up as an educational aid - and almost certainly fired my interest in well-formed English. It takes very little time to get inside Nigel's juvenile mind and view boarding skool (sorry; school) from his very special point of view.
This book - or the quartet of slim volumes that come together in this anthology - has had me hooting with larffter (sorry; laughter) for over 50 years and is endlessly fresh. Author Geoffrey Willans was a genius and cartoonist Ronald Searle embellished that genius as no other could have done.
I believe everyone should read this classic work of comedy and that it should be studied at school.
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on 23 January 2017
I bought this book thinking I would find it hilarious. To my great surprise, I find it mildly funny at best and sometimes a bit tedious. Yet I am exactly the kind of person who should both understand the Molesworth books and find them funny, remembering the days when skools still had kanes. Part of the problem is the deliberate misspellings which I found made it a struggle to understand the book rather than amusing. Another problem is the use of words that even I as an older person does not know, to give just two examples: chiz and gat. Perhaps I should have read Down with Skool first (I had mistakenly though How to be Topp was the first one). And some of the jokes are only funny if (e.g.) you did Latin at school, for example the Kennedy that captured the Gerund is clearly a nod to Kennedy's Latin Primer. I have no idea what present-day school pupils would make of them, total incomprehension I can only think and I suspect the main readership for these books (like myself) are older people.
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on 29 December 2010
I read this as a teenager, and cannot be more delighted that it is back in print. It is just as whacky and hilarious as I remember it around 30 years ago. If you enjoy jokes based around language, and books set in a boarding school with a nice underlying theme of subterfuge, this is for you. Now to re-read all the others (4, I think)
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on 26 February 2014
Old-fashioned now, but for those who read if when they were younger, it's still funny now. And the phrase "As any fule kno'" is a classic, stlll quoted in newspapers to this day. I was sad to read that the author died in his 40s.
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on 11 December 2014
I must confess I enjoyed this more 25 years ago than when I re-read it again now, although I still found it funny.
Maybe times have changed and Molesworth is out of time?
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on 21 October 2013
I read this as a young adult a good few years ago and reread it on Kindle whilst on holiday. I was chuckling out loud.
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on 18 February 2017
Unremitting genius. As any fule kno.
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on 24 February 2017
still not sure who that waa given to
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