David Severn was the pen name of David Unwin, son of the publisher Stanley Unwin (Tolkien’s publisher). He wrote many novels for children, and this is the first. The early books are holiday adventure stories somewhat in the style of M.E. Atkinson, nothing too heavy or deep, but fun reading for kids. His later books were more thoughtful and imaginative, but I like all of Severn’s work that I’ve found.
Here’s the endpaper map with most of the scenes of the story on it. I always feel I’m in for a good time when I see something like this.
Derek and Diana Longmore are two children from London coming to stay with friends at a small country farm, where the twins, Brian and Pamela live. The four are allowed to roam the nearby countryside, and one of their early explorations into slightly scary Gibbet Wood reveals an odd bearded man camping there. The four decide to investigate him, and eventually they meet Crusoe, a young man from the city who enjoys camping on his own on summer holidays. Before long they are all friends and sharing knowledge of things like a family of young foxes in the Wood. One night a hay rick bursts into flame, causing all the people of the area to gather. The farmers are naturally angry about this, so much of their hard work ruined, and suspicion falls on Crusoe as the culprit. The children go on a quick and dangerous race into Gibbet Wood to tell Crusoe an angry mob of farmers is after him, and rescue their friend. Then all five begin a new investigation to find out who really set the rick afire. That takes them to more adventures and unexpected meetings with some unusual characters.
There are four more books about Crusoe and his friends, all good reading and recommended, if you can find them.