DWJ ReRead · Fantasy · Short Story

“Aunt Bea’s Day Out” by Diana Wynne Jones

freakyfamilies“Aunt Bea’s Day Out” is another short story, first published in The Cat Flap and the Apple Pie and Other Funny Storiesย in 1979. I read the reprint in Freaky Families, which includes illustrations – which perhaps is a good thing, because I think it might have been a little confusing for me without them. In this story, three children (Nancy, Debbie and Simon) had to go on a day trip to the beach with their Aunt Bea. Aunt Bea was established early on as a horrid, overbearing person (although she really wasn’t as bad as some of DWJ’s other villains), and the children’s parents were happy to send them off with her for a day. Like the parents in Who Got Rid of Angus Flint?, the parents seemed like the type to let the children deal with situations/people they would rather avoid.

Aunt Bea and the children bring large bundles of “necessary” items, all properly labelled with their names and address just in case. She made the children carry most of these bundles, and when they found that the beach was crowded, she ignored the many warning signs and decided to picnic on an island. Except, of course, the island wasn’t just any island. Unhappy with the trespassers, it shuddered, and then they weren’t at the beach, but in the middle of a gun-range. With each shudder, the island turned into an iceberg, a monkey island in a zoo, and many other islands until it finally became the roundabout near their home, and the children escaped. Aunt Bea remained missing, and for weeks to come their family receive phone call after phone call about their missing items from all over the world.

Unlike in Angus Flint, Wilkin’s Tooth, and “Carruthers”, the other short(er) stories I’ve read so far, I didn’t sense a distinct voice/personality from the children in “Aunt Bea’s Day Out”. Instead, it’s Island Island that stood out the most, and that I found most interesting. That, and the wondering of what happened to Aunt Bea in the end, which led to a satisfying ending!


DWJ RE-READ no.11 | “Aunt Bea’s Day Out” (1979)
previous story: “Carruthers”
next story: “The Fluffy Pink Toadstool”

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