Secret Series covers through the years

I recently looked at the different covers used for the Famous Five books and The Adventure Series.

One series. Five books. Four cover artists.

The Secret Series is perhaps unusual due to how many different cover artists the series had. While the Famous Five’s first editions all had Soper covers, and The Adventure Series had ones by Stuart Tresilian, the Secret Series had four different cover artists – for just five books!

It’s not unheard of for a series to have different artists doing the covers, for example the Find-Outer books had three artists across fifteen books, but for only one artist to return must surely be an anomaly?

The artists in question were: EH Davie (Island external and internal and Spiggy Holes internal), Harry Rountree (Spiggy Holes external and Mountain internal and external) Eileen Soper (Killimooin internal and external) and Dorothy Hall (Moon Castle internal and external). This variety perhaps makes it harder for us to get a good mental image of the characters as they change from cover to cover cover, cover to insides, and insides to insides.

Anyway, let’s see how they all look.

Basil Blackwell 1938 / Basil Blackwell 1940 / Basil Blackwell 1941 / Basil Blackwell 1943 / Basil Blackwell 1953

I think the first and last are reasonably similar in style and colour palette, and the remaining three are somewhat alike too. Spiggy Holes probably stands out a bit with it’s very bold colours and I’ve seen several people mention the incongruity of the moonlit background and the sunny foreground!

Armada strikes again

As I said in a previous post (link) Armada published a lot of the first paperback editions of Enid Blyton books. In The Secret Series case, Armada did four runs of paperbacks, all in very different styles.

The first ones had covers by Mary Gernat and are what I think of as typical Armada covers. They tend to have the title in the top right or left corner, with one or two words per line so rather than all in a row. They also generally have a fairly solid background colour. Even though there are several different artists on these covers they still feel like they all belong together.

Armada 1965  / Armada 1965 / Armada 1965 / Armada 1965 / Armada 1966

Peter Archer then did two different runs of paperback covers.

The first ones are of a style also used for the Adventurous Four, Six Cousins, The Naughtiest Girl and probably many more besides. They have the book’s title in the middle, taking up two lines, Enid Blyton’s signature below and the Armada logo above.

All Armada 1971

I have no idea where the fancy ship comes from on Killimooin!

The second set remind me of the 1993 Award Famous Fives, though each one has a different colour border and only one is yellow.

All Armada 1978

The last Armada set is by an uncredited artist. These make me think of jigsaw puzzles or board game boxes, perhaps due to all the Secrets, or rather S ⋅ E ⋅ C ⋅ R ⋅ E ⋅ Ts that runs around the edge of the cover. These have a mode modern and cartoony look with the scenes being viewed from some unusual angles.

All Armada 1986

Award covers

Not covers that have won awards (that I know of) but rather covers on books by Award Publications.

After four lots of Armada paperbacks, there are four lots of Award ones. A nice neat split!

The first Award set have covers by Dudley Wynne (and internal illustrations too). These have a boxed illustration, and a coloured border which extends up behind the title.

All Award 1992

Spiggy Holes is red and Mountain yellow, so it strikes me as odd to have the three others so similar in colour. They also suffer from a lack of continuity with the titles. Secret should be small on them all (in my opinion!) as of is such a small word it doesn’t have a huge impact on the layout of the titles.

The next two have uncredited covers by the same artist. These are interesting as it is clearly the same illustrations used for both sets, but most have one or two small differences as well as being a close up. The book titles obviously change too, the first set being inconsistent with colour and layout, the second having added purple banners and a logo.

Top row all Award 2002
Bottom row all Award 2007

Take a look at the girl in pink on the cover of The Secret Island. The first time she has bare arms and the later cover her top has long sleeves. On the Spiggy Holes cover both the boys’ backpacks change colour. Mountain has Ranni’s (or is it Pilescu’s?) gun change into a walking stick. I can’t see any changes to Killimooin, but the moon has been moved on Moon Castle.

And the last Armada lot have covers by Val Biro, the author and illustrator of the Gumdrop the Vintage Car series. I used a copy of The Secret Island from this set to do the comparison against the original.

All Award 2009

These are quite nice covers, I think. They are not too modern or cartoony. The only flaw is this is when they renamed The Secret of Killimooin to The Secret Forest!

When five become four

The latest versions for the series are from 2016. They are by Hodder and have covers by Sarah Warburton. The obvious thing about this set is that there is one book missing! The Secret Mountain has not been republished, and probably won’t be again until Blyton’s work enters the public domain in 2038.

All Hodder 2016

While these are quite striking with their greyscale textured backgrounds I’m not sure they’re a great fit for the series. They make the books seem quite dark and depressing, which they are not. In addition, The Secret Island looks like an epic about children lost at sea, while Spiggy Holes could be mistaken for a sci-fi adventure about a wormhole.

Choice of scene

What I think is always interesting is looking to see if the covers feature the same scenes. On the whole, these do.

The Secret Series has 8/9 books with children in a boat, Spiggy Holes sees 6/9 covers of children shining torches up cave-stairs (and two of boys climbing ropes), and 8/9 Moon Castle books have the children outside with torches.

Mountain has a bit more variety, but 5/8 covers still have the children walking/climbing towards/up the mountain. Killimooin/Forest has 5/8 covers of the children on horses though on different parts of their journey so they look more unique.

So, what covers do you like? My favourites are, of course, the originals, (though it’s a pity there is such a variety of looks in just five books), yet I have a certain fondness for the first Armada set too.

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Happy Valentine’s Day

Romance is rare in Enid Blyton’s books. I can’t think of many scenes or plots that lend themselves to romance or love. There are lots of married parents, of course, but few weddings.

Bill and Aunt Allie get married, of course, between The Ship of Adventure and The Circus of Adventure. Although seeing as Bill’s idea of a proposal is saying so what about it, Allie? when Lucy-Ann suggests they wed, I’m not sure we can call it a true romance. They are very fond of each other, though.

Mary Mouse has a brief courtship with a gardener mouse in Hallo, Little Mary Mouse.

Melisande and Jane appear to have a bit of a crush on a well-to-do local boy with a beautiful horse and Jane even goes to the bother of washing and dressing more neatly to impress him.

We’ve injected a bit of romance into our fan fiction covering what Julian Kirrin, Sally Hope and Darrell Rivers got up to after the events of the Famous Five and Malory Towers.

You can find part one here, and part two here.

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Noddy loses his clothes, artwork by Gina Parr

While searching for information on who steals Noddy’s clothes in one of the books (for the latest search terms post) I stumbled upon something a bit random and surprising. Now that’s not that uncommon with the amount of stuff on the internet, but I thought this was worth a post.

Noddy loses his clothes

Noddy loses his clothes is a painting by an abstract artist called Gina Parr.

The piece is from a series called Major New Dramas, and according to the Riseart website where I found it listed for sale, the series is partly inspired by Parr’s previous work as a designer for TV.

Noddy loses his clothes in particular is based on the a childhood memory of a Noddy story where he is left vulnerable and alone in the woods, having had his clothes stolen. Parr has said that those are feelings that commonly return to us all as adults, at some point in our lives.

The information above is only available on a cached version of the site found here (for how long, I don’t know.) The current Riseart page doesn’t explain the inspiration for the piece.

The specifics

The painting is acrylic on canvas and is 1.2 metres by 1.2 metres, so quite large. It’s actually from 2007 so it’s not even new, just a little bit obscure perhaps!

Here’s what it looks like:

What do I think?

It’s not what I expected from the title. I can see a tree in the middle, a great dark one with branches reaching up, and trees in the background. Beyond that, though, I’m not great at interpreting abstract works. It’s certainly dark and scary. It’s not a sunny warm woodland scene with flowers and cute animals. There are may be shadowy figures and faces hiding amongst the branches. The orange and white stripes sort of suggest a lot of movement? Like blurry creatures rushing around. On a second look maybe the orange is actually sunlight filtering through the trees? (This is why I’m not the biggest fan of abstract art – I like to know what I’m looking at!)

I can sort of see the inspiration from the Noddy scene (from Here Come Noddy Again), but it isn’t the sort of piece that has an instantly recognisable connection to Noddy let alone a specific book. If someone was asked to guess what the painting was of I wouldn’t be surprised if they said a nightmare in the woods, but I doubt they would ever get Noddy. There’s no (that I can see) suggestion of clothing, Noddy’s colours of red and blue, Toyland, Blyton…

Related link⇒ Here Comes Noddy Again – How has Blyton’s text fared in a modern edition?

But then art isn’t always about showing us what we recognise. This piece is clearly about an individual’s memory of that story and much more about the emotions of the story than what it actually looked like.

Below: the original artwork for the story, and the modern version with the gollies changed to goblins. Both feature dark trees in the background.

here comes noddy again

I love seeing anything inspired by Blyton because it shows how big an impact she had on the children that read her books.

One last thing

The price of the painting is £4,550. Ouch. Or you can rent it for £342 a month if you’d prefer.

What do you think of it?

Apologies for the brevity of the post but Brodie is full of the cold and gaining about six new teeth at the moment. Sleep is rather lacking, and with a new bathroom going in time is short.

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Monday #256

A piece of Noddy artwork


Secret Series covers

The Second Form at St Clare’s is not, as the title suggests, the second book in the St Clare’s series. Rather, it is the fourth. After three books focussing on the first form Pat and Isabel O’Sullivan have finally moved into the second form. There’s a new form mistress and a new drama teacher and, in a plot point that is echoed in Fifth Form at Malory Towers, two girls have been left down from the previous second form. These two, Elsie and Anna, become co-heads of the form and along with new girl Mirabel provide a starting point for arguments and bad feeling. Besides that there’s the usual tricks and jokes from Bobby and Carlotta, midnight feasts, a concert and lacrosse.

Well we’ve had Mr Twiddle, so how about poor old Mrs Twiddle? She’s the one who returns to a disaster in her home most days, and has to pick up the pieces from whatever mess her silly husband has gotten himself into. I feel sorry for her, but then again she’s clearly spent many decades enabling him to be so useless!

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Five Go Off in a Caravan

Five Go Off in a Caravan is the fifth Famous Five book. The Five are a well-established group now and they had their first non-Kirrin adventure in the last book, Five Go to Smuggler’s Top. This time they go off in two caravans, not a caravan as the title suggests, and find themselves embroiled in another adventure (naturally).

Why caravans?

Well, why not caravans? I mean apart from the lack of space, the lack of amenities, the shaking every time someone walks around… (I actually loved [static] caravan holidays as a child – my parents don’t seem to look back so fondly, though).

The Five get the idea for a caravan holiday when a circus goes past – on its way for a short break between performances – and the brightly coloured caravans look an appealing way to travel.

It’s too hot for walking, Anne can’t cycle as fast as the others and a hotel would mean too many adults. George doesn’t want to go to Kirrin as she was home at half-term and Father was just beginning one of his experiments – and you know what that means. If we go there we’d have to walk about on tiptoe, and talk in whispers, and keep out of his way the whole time.

Anne adds that she likes Uncle Quentin but she’s afraid of him when he’s in a temper. This is more like the Uncle Quentin we normally expect, rather than the suddenly interested one we got at the start of Five Go to Smuggler’s Top.

So caravans it is! They are not quaint and brightly coloured circus-style caravans though. They are shiny modern, streamlined, ones which can be pulled by horse or car.

Each van had a little chimney, long, narrow windows down the two sides, and tiny ones in the front by the driver’s seat. There was a broad door at the back and two steps down. Pretty curtains fluttered at the open windows.

There are bunks along the side, a sink with running water, a proper stove and a gadget for heating water. Though, as we would expect, the Five spend most of their time cooking and washing outside anyway!

Their days in the caravans are a typical Blyton idyll, meandering down lanes in glorious weather stopping only to eat and camp for the night. They stop at farms along the way for supplies and to get permission to camp, and it’s after four or five days’ travel that they catch up with the circus.

The circus

Blyton loved her circuses and wrote them into several of her series as well as basing whole books on them.

Related post⇒ The Circus of Adventure

I love Blyton’s circuses as she paints a warm and loving community who all look after each other and live comfortable yet exciting lives. Ok so it’s probably a far cry from the reality of the situation, but not all fiction has to be gritty and realistic.

The caravans were set round in a wide circle. Tents had been put up here and there. The big elephant was tied by a thick rope to a stout tree. Dogs ran about everywhere, and a string of shining horses were being paraded round a large field nearby.

Most of the camp is jolly and friendly. There’s Nobby who they saw when the circus passed, his terriers Barker and Growler and Pongo the chimpanzee. Then there’s Larry and Old Lady the elephant who plays cricket, more terriers that play football and Rossy with his horses including Black Queen and Fury. Not to mention Lucilla and her troupe of monkeys.

But then, of course, there is the darker element of Tiger Dan and Lou.

Tiger Dan and Lou the acrobat

Dan is Nobby’s uncle (well, later Nobby reveals he’s just the man his parents had asked to look after him before they died). We first see him driving his caravan past the children at the start of the book. Nobby points him out and says he’s the chief clown.

The children stared at the chief clown, and thought that they had never seen anyone less like a clown. He was dressed in dirty grey flannel trousers and a dirty red shirt open at an equally dirty neck. He didn’t look as if he could make a single joke, or do anything in the least funny. In fact, he looked really bad tempered, the children thought, and he scowled so fiercely that Anne felt quite scared.

Later Anne says she just can’t imagine Dan as a clown because clowns are always so merry and gay and jolly. Dick points out that it’s just an act, and that a clown needn’t be the same out of the ring as he has to be when he’s in it. If you look at photographs of clowns when they’re just being ordinary men, they’ve got quite sad faces. I love Dick’s insight there. I wonder how Blyton would make of modern-day performers and celebrities who have to be ‘on’ all the time.

Dan is worse than just sad, however, according to Nobby:

He’s worse than a tiger when he’s in a temper. They call him Tiger Dan because of his rages.

Lou the acrobat isn’t much better.

Lou was a long-limbed, loose-jointed fellow with a ugly face, and a crop of black shining hair that curled tightly.

He too is bad-tempered, scowling and unfriendly. He sees the children and comes over to ask what they’re doing messing around. He calls them posh (as an insult!) and tries to kick Timmy before threatening that he has ways of dealing with bad dogs.

Related post⇒My top three baddies

Julian had already made up his mind to have as little to do with this pair as possible but Lou and Dan run into them – literally – that night.

They are chatting in the night (a distance from the circus – that’s a mark of suspicion against them already) and walk straight into the girls’ caravan in the dark.

They are not best pleased to find out the children are so close and tell them to clear out in quite a nasty stand-off.

Those who have read this book before will know that Lou and Dan are up to some illegal doings, which of course the Five get caught up in. They clearly hate anyone ‘snooping’ around their camp and thus want rid of them, but they should have been careful what they wished for…

Are they coming or going?

So Lou and Dan are keen for the children to clear out, and clear out they do. There’s no point in staying where they aren’t wanted and aggravating the situation.

They head up into the hills – though Lou and Dan expect them to be travelling on past the hills – and on the advice of the farmer they set up camp in a shady hollow which is complete with a burbling spring and a lovely view of the lake.

Incidentally, Julian had always planned to camp away from circus in case it was noisy or smelly.

After a hot and lazy day they decide to go down for a swim in the evening and lo and behold, bump into Lou and Dan half-way down the hill. The men enquire whereabouts they are camping and suggest it’s better back down at the bottom of the hill. How curious, considering how keen they were to get rid just the day before.

On their way back up – with Nobby – they discover Lou and Dan are hanging around their caravans. They two men are trying to be amiable – and warn them they want to exercise some animals in the area so the children would be better off moving. In fact, they even say they can come and camp back by the lake! What a change of attitude.

“Yes, you come,” said Tiger Dan to the children’s growing astonishment. “You come, see? You can bathe in the lake every day, then – and Nobby here can show you round the camp, and you can make friends with all the animals, see?”

Nobby has already told the children he was beaten for talking to strangers so he is just as shocked. When he expresses his amazement Dan roars at him to shut up before Lou reminds him with a nudge to be friendly.

Julian sees through this performance though and says You’ve got other reasons for making all those suggestions. George is adamant she’s not moving her caravan for anyone. And so, they stay.

Things start happening

The four children have a lovely day playing around the circus but discover than Tiger Dan often disappears at night (suspicious marker #2) and has a cart which is often full of secret things and is sometimes half-empty (suspicious marker #3).

Timmy, meanwhile, has been left to guard the caravans and is barking madly when they return that evening. Nobby, Barker, Growler and Pongo are with them, and Barker eats some raw meat that’s been left out. When he takes ill they realise the meat has been poisoned, which is why Timmy and Pongo wouldn’t go near it.

But who would try to poison Timmy? Could it be Dan and Lou who clearly want the children out of that hollow and were conveniently missing from the circus camp all day?

Highly suspicious of Dan and Lou, Julian comes up with a plan to find out why they are so interested in their camp. After shouting to Nobby that they’re all off to town for they day they board a bus. Julian gets off at the next stop and doubles back, hiding himself on top of one of the caravans.

After a time Dan and Lou show up and – for some unfathomable reason – go underneath the caravan Julian is on. Then they start pushing the caravan towards the edge of the hill.

Do they push it right over? Does Julian plummet to his tragic death?

Considering this is an Enid Blyton book and there are another seventeen books in the series the answers are most likely to be no, but it’s a tense moment all the same.

Come back next week to read the rest of my review!

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January 2019 round up

What I have read

I have set a new target of 100 books for 2019. I haven’t started out very well, though. I got quite a few books for my Christmas but I haven’t started any of them yet. I’m doing that thing where I suddenly worry I won’t like them after all and so put off reading them. So I’ve read 5 when I should have read 8, putting me 3 books behind schedule!

What I have managed to read is:

  • The Drums of Autumn (Outlander #4) – Diana Gabaldon
  • The Undomestic Goddess – Sophie Kinsella
  • No Waste Like Home – Penney Poyzer
  • The Steam-Pump Jump (The Chronicles of St Mary’s #9.6) – Jodi Taylor
  • The Illustrated Mum – Jacqueline Wilson

And I’ve still to finish:

  • The Diary of a Bookseller – Shaun Bythell
  • The Fiery Cross (Outlander #5) – Diana Gabaldon
  • Hetty Feather (Hetty Feather #1) – Jacqueline Wilson

So you can see I have picked up another 1,400+ page Outlander (borrowed from the library) instead of tackling my to-read pile at home. I also borrowed Too Much Information by Dave Gorman as I love his Modern Life is Goodish but haven’t opened it yet. And I’ve been recommended the Thursday Next series by Jasper Fforde, but I’m refusing to even think about borrowing the first one until I’ve made headway on the pile by the sofa.

What I have watched

  • Hollyoaks
  • More Cbeebies
  • Only Connect
  • Call the Midwife‘s latest series
  • Back in Time for School
  • Sinner on Netflix
  • Tidying Up with Marie Kondo also on Netflix

What I have done

  • Finalized the details of my new bathroom
  • Started bullet journaling (we will see how that pans out…)
  • Made our usual visits to the park, our local zoo and rhyme time at the library
  • I’ve not mentioned this before but since November I’ve been following The Organised Mum Method for housework. Honestly, my house has never looked better.
  • Inspired by Marie Kondo I’ve also done a bit of clearing out. I’ve tackled my jewellery so far. I find it so hard though as I hate sending thing to landfill. I will give what I can to charity, but I still struggle with ‘wasting’ anything.

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Monday #255


January round up


Five Go Off in a Caravan

“Who is he, Jack? Who is the prisoner?” cried Nora impatiently.

“Well,” said Jack, turning to them, “he has just spelt out on his fingers that he is Prince Paul!”

Jack gives the others some surprising news in The Secret of Spiggy Holes. 

Five Go Off in a Caravan (which I mean to review this week) is the fourth book in the Famous Five series. This time they leave Kirrin for a caravanning holiday and end up embroiled in a fight with two unpleasant circus-folk who have an bizarre obsession with the ground directly under the boys’ caravan.

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This Is Enid Blyton Magazine

In December 2018 a new magazine came out, all about Enid Blyton. It was a one-off, as part of a This Is series of magazines each of which has a different topic. The series has been published by DC Thomson – home of The Beano, The Broons, Oor Wullie and many more – who have their headquarters in my home town, Dundee.

At £4.99 it’s almost the price of a children’s book, but then I’ve noticed that all magazines are extortionate these days. Children’s ones in particular seem to all be at least £5 – proclaiming they come with free gifts. No, your price includes the piece of plastic tat! Saying that, the free gifts with this magazine are of decent value, and there are four of them!

About the magazine

The exciting adventures of The Famous Five and the mysteries of The Secret Seven feature in this one-off special magazine, celebrating the escapades of Enid Blyton’s best-loved characters.

Aimed at children aged 7-12, the 36-page magazine includes engaging features, quizzes, recipes and puzzles, a Famous Five mini mag with writing tips, stories and a how to draw Timmy section.

The magazine comes with four fantastic free gifts including pencils, stickers, an extra puzzle magazine, and a full Secret Seven book.

– From DC Thomson’s press release

Flip ‘n’ Twist

No, that’s not some sort of new-fangled dance move. This magazine has two parts, and two front covers. One front cover is Famous Five themed. Then if you flip the magazine over, and twist it 180 degrees, there’s another front cover with the Secret Seven on it.

The Famous Five side is the ‘real’ front cover as it has the barcode on it. Inside it explains this is a twist ‘n’ flip (note the swapping of the words) magazine and instructs readers to turn your magazine upside down and flip it over to meet The Secret Seven. So are we turning and flipping? Twisting and turning? Who knows…

The Famous Five half

Well, of course I started there!

For the most part this is quite standard fare – nothing we haven’t seen before in the Famous Five Annuals from 2014, 2015 and 2016 for example.

We have Meet the Famous Five, a simple board game with challenges/questions, and how to draw Timmy. I’m almost tempted to have a go at that last one just to give you all a laugh. There’s a mention of drawing his dainty paws, which doesn’t sound Timmy-like at all.  But actually this version of Timmy does have stupidly tiny feet, I’ve just never noticed before. I was probably too busy looking at the human characters’ never changing clothes.

The 2019 adventure goals were interesting. Some were great, easy and cheap ways to get children active. Some of the others are more problematic. Bike ride? Well, I can’t ride and bikes aren’t cheap. I sense parents are going to be driven mad with requests to camp in the garden, build a raft, visit a circus, go horse riding, ice skating… Only £4.99 for a magazine and potentially hundreds of pounds to tick all the boxes!

There is a competition for story writing, where you can submit any Famous Five based story or use their story prompts. By rolling a dice etc you get a character, their skill, an enemy, a location/mystery and an ending. Mine was:

Dr Pottersworth, the absent-minded professor

He can pick a lock in seconds.

Facing a super-spy, who could be anyone.

The old farmhouse was empty for the holidays. So why is a light signalling from the windows?

You save Christmas, hurrah!

Unfortunately they didn’t quite think it through when setting this up. To follow step 5’s instructions you’d have cut out letters to pick out of a bowl and that would cut up part of the entry form on the other side of the page!

I was a bit baffled by the ‘pull-out’ section at first as it just looked like it was stapled in the wrong way around. It’s been a long time since I’ve read children’s magazines so maybe this is common now but I’m not sure why it’s a ‘selling point’ or even useful to have to pull out the centre pages to read an article. (Different if it formed a poster or wall chart etc).

There are some interesting facts on the pull out nonetheless.

Enid kept a red Moroccan shawl near by as she wrote because she believed the colour red helped her to write – I hadn’t heard that before. Her stay at Seckford Hall with it’s haunted room isn’t often mentioned.

Despite being more Five Find-Outers than Famous Five invisible ink gets a mention. First up is white crayon gone over with a highligher pen (very modern!). Then there’s the more traditional lemon juice and heat, though only with an adult’s assistance (so not at all secret then!)

The Secret Seven half

I may be biased but I feel this half is not as good as the first. Meet the Seven is probably necessary but feels repetitive after meeting the Five. There’s a flow chart game instead of a board game and a guide to make a map. Then there’s some (in my opinion) highly unscientific claptrap about deducing personalities from handwriting.

Perhaps why I feel this part is not as good is there are two recipes which are lifted – illustrations and all – directly from Jolly Good Food by Allegra McEvedy  though no credit is given. Having already seen them, it reduces the ‘new’ content for me.

Then there’s an interview with Pamela Butchart (who is also from Dundee) about writing the new Secret Seven book.


There are plenty of opportunities for the reader to draw and write their own ideas scattered through the magazine. As a child I’m sure I loved that sort of thing but as an adult I have an irrational need to keep the magazine neat and fresh. Plus my drawing is shameful!

There are also quite a few puzzles included which would make the reading last longer.

There are refreshingly few adverts (adult magazines seem 90% adverts these day, maybe children’s ones are generally lighter on the ad-front). One is for other DC Thompson magazines and the other is for the new Favourite Enid Blyton Stories book.

The freebies

The first Secret Seven book, illustrated and all. It’s a cheap one (you can tell it’s a magazine freebie) but still a whole novel. I intend to use mine to compare the text to the original.

Pencils with phrases on, these are nice as they don’t scream ‘modernised and strange-looking Famous Five’.

Stickers – these are OK if you like the latest incarnation.

Secret Seven brain games. This is about the same size as the magazine itself. (It can’t be turned upside down/back to front though). This has all sorts of puzzles in it. There are several codes to learn/crack including Morse. There is spot the difference, fill in the blanks, word searches, mazes and more. On the back is an advert for a Secret Seven Brain Games with 100 fun puzzles available from Amazon so I assume this is an extract intending to drive sales.

Final thoughts

I think it’s unfortunate that the title is confusing. When discussing this with fellow Blyton fans I saw it referred to as Flip N Twist Magazine, This Is Magazine and a few people thought this might be a series of magazines about Enid Blyton.

It is clearly aimed at children who are reasonably new to The Famous Five and Secret Seven. All the way through it has artwork by Laura Ellen Anderson and Tony Ross (plus Mark Beech on the recipes). Anderson first appeared on Famous Five covers in 2017, while Tony Ross has done internal and external work for the Secret Seven since 2013. These children (assuming they’ve been bought new copies and are not reading hand-me-downs from previous eras) will recognise and be familiar with these incarnations of the children.

I would have liked to see more variety, both in illustrations and series/characters. It could have been half mystery/adventure and half school stories for example.

If it was a slimmer magazine and had less freebies I think this would have made a great monthly publication. It packs a lot in but it’s a bit ‘samey’ with the content and style.

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Search terms 8

I like doing posts about our search terms so much here’s the 8th one for you!

Good questions

Can you read Famous Five in any order? > You can, as each story is complete in itself – Blyton says this in several of her notes to readers at the start of each book. In my opinion it’s better to read them in order, though, to appreciate them fully. The children grow up during the series and a few characters appear more than once.

related post ⇒ Putting the Famous Five in order

Where was The Mystery of the Burnt Cottage setting? > It is set in Peterswood which is loosely based on Bourne End.

What islands are in Sea of Adventure by Enid Blyton? > The Islands aren’t named (other than by the children who nickname them) but they are in the north of Scotland.

Who stole Noddy’s cothes in the hobgoblin wood? > Well, I’m struggling to find reference to Hobgoblin wood specifically. In Here Comes Noddy Again he goes into the Dark Woodand has his clothes and car stolen. The original text features golliwogs, the modern reprints have changed this to goblins. It could be that a TV episode based on this story named the wood as Hobgoblin Wood, and I would then suspect goblins of being the guilty party.

Why is Big Ears called Mr Squeaks in America? > I don’t know the answer to this, but it’s a good question! Lots of things get renamed for the American market. The Island of Adventure, for example, is Mystery Island over there.

Which Blyton book sees George in bed on Christmas day not being able to eat? and George in the Enid Blyton book says imagine not being able to eat on Christmas day and being in bed which book was this from? > This person was interested enough to ask twice! Five Get Into a Fix has Dick say something about how that Christmas was the worst they’d ever had as they’d spent it in bed not being able to eat. That’s why they get sent off to Magga Glen in the new year, to recover.

Where does Uncle Quentin live? > Mostly in his study at Kirrin Cottage.

What typeface is on the cover of Enid Blyton’s Famous Five books? > There are different fonts on just about every edition.

Advantages and disadvantages of shoe house described in Magic Faraway Tree > This is a hypothetical question, I assume. I think it would depend if it was a waterproof shoe or a holey old trainer! One advantage might be that you could make it walk somewhere else if your neighbours started annoying you. A disadvantage might be if a giant came along and stole your home to keep his foot warm.

What would Peter from the secret seven look like? > I’m not sure Peter (or any of the Seven are described in great detail). I know he would be neat and tidy (unless in the middle of dressing as a guy or crawling around caves) and he would have a bossy and leaderish expression on his face.

Strange Questions

Answer of the story the blue shoes for party by Enid Blyton. What’s the question?

Explain Timmy character in famous five novel. He’s a dog.

Difficult words in the book Claudine at Saint Clare’s. What difficult words? Unfamiliar ones because they are no longer used, such as galoshes or sou’wester? (probably not those but I couldn’t think of better examples that might be in a school book). Or long-and-complicated?

Why is The Mountain of Adventure a good book? Read it and find out!

Summary of The Mystery of Pantomime at Railway Station. Is this an as-yet undiscovered Five Find Outers’ book?

Five Findouters fat shaming. Fat-shaming just wasn’t a thing when Blyton was writing.

A dog in a parishute alown. I assume this is meant to read a dog in a parachute alone. I’m still not sure what that has to do with Enid Blyton, though. That’s not the searcher’s fault, of course. To my knowledge, before today, we have never used parishute (a parish parachute?) or alown on the blog!

Proper book review on Secret Seven first book. What makes a proper review? Or indeed, what makes an improper one?

Famous Five 14 Kirrin Cottage. This looks like a street address, but Kirrin Cottage isn’t a street/block of flats. The 14th book – Five Have Plenty of Fun – is set in Kirrin and Kirrin Cottage, perhaps that’s what they meant?

Milly Molly Mandy books Enid Blyton. The Milly Molly Mandy books are actually by Joyce Lankester Brisley. This search leads to the blog, though, because I’ve suggested that you might like the Milly Molly Mandy books if you like Enid Blyton.

milly molly mandy

The Famous Five Fanfiction Anne injured and The Famous Five Fanfiction Anne hurt. I’m not sure if this person is thinking of a particular story they’ve read or heard of, or just really want to read a story about Anne getting hurt. We’ve previously had searches for Anne being kidnapped in fan fiction.

Famous Five without Timmy. What would the Famous Five be without Timmy?? Well, they wouldn’t be Five, for one. And they probably wouldn’t be famous because they’d have failed to get out of many a sticky situation without Timmy’s fierce protectiveness.

Why did Enid Blyton write firework night? Enid Blyton wrote about lots of different subjects, about anything that took her fancy. Sometimes it was just subjects she was interested in, other times she hoped to reach out to her readers to educate them. She was very devoted to animal welfare so it make sense that she would write this poem to educate children about keeping their pets safe on bonfire night.

Enid Blyton Frederick Arnold Trotter. So close! It still spells FAT… but his middle name is Algernon and his last name is Trotteville. And that leads us neatly to the last section:

That’s not her name

Enid Blyton seems such a difficult name to get right!

Small poem in English Enid Bliyon and their summary. I suppose this sounds similar if you’re someone who doesn’t clearly pronounce their Ts.

Enid Baytown movies and tv shows. I checked, there’s no hits for anyone called Enid Baytown on Google, except for one where the person is clearly also talking about Enid Blyton!

Craggy Tops Enid Bluton. Nope.


Enud Blyton films. Still nope.

This Is Magazine Euid Blyton and This is Euid Blyton Magazine. Putting the title in a different order doesn’t turn a U into an N.

It’s Raining poem by Enid Blighton. Real poem, not a real author.

An obsession with spanking?

There’s almost always a few searches about spanking (or spankijgs which I assume is just a typo!).

Amelia Jane first edition spankijg

Spanking in Blyton’s books

There we go, that’s some of what people wanted to know about recently!

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Monday #254

Enid Blyton search terms part 8


This Is Enid Blyton Magazine

The Rat-a-Tat Mystery is the fifth Barney mystery. This one has the children staying at Rat-a-Tat house in the middle of the country. It is even more isolated at the time of the book due to prolonged heavy snow. The lion’s head door knocker bangs (or rats) when no-one is there. Strange footprints have been made in the snow. A snowman goes walk-about. A face appears at the window. A mysterious glove, too large for any of the children, is found outside.

This is not one of the best Barney Mysteries – it comes rather late in Blyton’s writing career – but it has some good moments still. Snubby’s bear-fight with some crooks is a particular highlight for me.

the rat a tat mystery

The character of the week does not have to be a nice character, a character we like or look up to. It doesn’t even have to be the sort of character we love to hate. It can be someone we just hate because they are awful. Aunt Margaret from Hollow Tree House is one who can only be hated. She has taken in her husband’s niece and nephew (Peter and Susan Frost) as their parents have died. She does not, however, show them any kindness or sympathy. In a similar situation to the Arnold children, she has Peter and Susan slave around the house whenever they are not at school. They do not have nice things or get to go nice places. They are harangued, accused, slapped, guilt-tripped and scolded whenever Aunt Margaret is within reach. She truly resents the children and the additional ‘work’ they make for her. With a work-shy husband her life cannot be easy but it’s no excuse for the vicious way she treats the orphans in her home.

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The Adventure Series covers through the years part 2

Last week I wrote a great deal about the Stuart Tresilian covers for this series. In my defence there are three different covers for six of the books and two for the other two. That’s twenty-two different designs!

Anyway, after the Tresilians we launch into a wider variety of paperback covers so let’s get stuck in.

A battalion of Armadas

As with quite a few series the first paperback editions of the Adventure Series were published by Armada. (A quick check tells me this applies to the Secret Series, The Five Find-Outers, The Naughtiest Girl, The Adventurous Four, St Clare’s, The Barney Mysteries, Malory Towers… and more.)

First up there are Armada covers for Circus and River (by Mary Gernat and Peter Archer, respectively). These were done six years after the Thames editions, which missed these titles. I assume Armada ‘filled the gap’ with these two editions before they went on to reprint the whole series in 1969/70.

The font for Circus makes me think of old westerns but it’s similar to the font used by Merlin on some of the Galliano’s circus books so it must be a circus-font. The cover for River reminds me of the Armada cover for The Secret Island as it is a similar colour and has a similar scene with a boat.

related post⇒ My childhood books part 3

The full series of Armada covers are actually uncredited I have no idea if they were by the same uncredited or several uncredited artists.

Island’s cover strikes me as pretty similar to the cloth cover on the Macmillan edition, the Castle one is not too dissimilar either. I had Valley and Sea in these editions so I instantly identify with their look and think fondly of the stories within.

Ship and River are rather alike, enough that they could be confused at first glance (in fact I did confuse them when looking at thumbnails!) – Ship could have had the cruise ship more prominent. I think the one for Circus looks more like it should be a Famous Five cover – perhaps for Five Go Off in a Caravan. It doesn’t really suggest ‘circus’ to me at all.

The rare Piccolo examples

I don’t know how rare these editions are, but Piccolo is rare as an Enid Blyton publisher. They did the whole Adventure Series once in 1975, and the only other Blyton books I can even see mention of as having Piccolo editions are The Christmas Book, Birds of Our Gardens, two of the five books about Josie, Click and Bun and The Three Golliwogs.

The Piccolo Adventure Series covers are all by Juliet Stanwell-Smith. I find them a bit pale and wishy-washy both in terms of the colour scheme and the languid poses of the children. What’s strange about the  children as well is how tall and thin they look! Some of the scenes used are quite boring, too. Looking at a map in a cabin on a ship doesn’t give any sense of the adventure they’re embroiled in.

They also feature that odd combo of long sleeves with (very short) shorts. I think they do give a 70s vibe but it’s not over the top.

The Repetition of Adventure

One thing I’ve noticed is how often a cover image is re-used. Sometimes they’re entirely reused but made darker/brighter/more blue, or have a different font for the title. Other times they are cropped and used alongside frames, lines and text.

Macmillan did the next two editions for the series, using the same cover image with different text. These covers are by Pamela Goodchild and the children are dressed in 80s fashion, with jeans and bright t-shirts.

Not long after that, Piper published a paperback edition, with covers by Peter Mannim which Macmillan then used on their hardbacks (I wonder if Piper and Macmillan are linked, somehow, like Hachette and Hodder).

These are very obviously of the 90s with jeans, trainers and big puffy jackets!

In between those two sets of repeating covers were another set by Piper with covers by Lynne Willey.

They all had the logo of Kiki beside the titles, and are generally bold and distinctly 80s.

The super modern

Just like the Famous Five books, the Adventure Series then has some crackingly weird covers. While the Famous Five (Hodder) had the children from the waist up making strange facial expressions, Macmillan have gone with extreme facial close ups for this run of editions. In some cases we don’t even get a whole face. They tell you almost nothing about the book other than there’s one child wearing a hood or in water. They all seem to be set in the dead of night and I assume the black background is meant to be dramatic? The artist is Larry Ronstant and he is a digital artist who has done some impressive covers for famous books. Perhaps unsurprisingly these ones don’t feature on his website gallery!

Sticking with the black-and-dramatic theme (and Macmillan), the next lot have the children looking strained/confused and as if they’re not even all in the same place. This is below the title, which is filled with an image related to the story. The artwork is by Melvyn Grant who has moved from oil paints etc to digital painting. I wish I could see the original work that was then turned into a cover, as I’ve seen that some of the original Famous Five illustrations were much better in their original form.

The top inch or so of the book is entirely blank, yet the children’s legs and feet are cut off at the bottom. They always make me think of Shipwrecked (The reality TV show) – well, Island really does, but the rest have a reality TV likeness too.

I mean The Isle of Gloom is not a tropical island!

The newest full series

At the time of writing the most recent set of covers were by Rebecca Cobb for Macmillan in 2014.

I don’t dislike these exactly, but I do think they are a bit childish both in terms of style/skill and who they look like they are aimed at. This sort of style better suits books for younger children, fantasy/magical books in particular.

These four are probably the best. They are quite brightly coloured and a bit ‘vague’ on detail but they capture the general settings of the books.

And here’s where it gets silly. I don’t remember any part of The Mountain of Adventure featuring a volcano? I mean how is Bill Smugs meant to land his helicopter on top of the flat-topped mountain when it’s suddenly all craggy and spurting lava?

Related post⇒ My top 11 Adventure Series moments

Ship’s not so bad except for the extremely crude smoke coming from the funnel. I actually like the bright colours on Circus as they are entirely fitting, unfortunately the scale is rather off and there’s no way all those tents and vehicles could fit so closely. I also seem to recall horse (and possibly elephant) drawn cages and not modern lorries…

And one last one

Like Five on a Treasure Island, as the first in the series The Island of Adventure got more reprints than the rest. Only two more rather than over a dozen, but still.

The most recent cover of all is the last for The Island of Adventure and it’s a repeating-motif one.

Which is your favourite style of cover? (You can admit it if it’s not a Tresilian one, I understand the power of nostalgia!)

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Five Go to Smuggler’s Top part 3: a focus on Uncle Quentin

Unlike the 70s TV series in the books Uncle Quentin doesn’t turn up at the end of every adventure (only a slight exaggeration) to resolve everything. Normally he is to be found skulking around Kirrin Cottage slamming doors and shouting when other people are noisy. I have reviewed the book in general in two parts, here and here but I wanted to have a look at how Uncle Quentin is portrayed and what we learn about him as he has perhaps his largest role so far in Five Go to Smuggler’s Top.

Uncle Quentin in the first three books

Uncle Quentin will have a big role in Five on Kirrin Island Again but isn’t for another two books yet.

He’s only had a handful of important scenes so far in the series – selling Kirrin Island and putting George in her place about it, catching them throwing the wreck’s box out the window (and sleeping through the retrieval) and promising the children whatever they want at the end of the first book. He is present in Five Go Adventuring Again; mostly arguing with George and even accusing her of damaging and stealing things from his study. He is also briefly in the start and end of Five Run Away Together. This is the first book where he’s really integral to the plot and not just an interfering adult.

related post ⇒Blyton’s Fathers

A new role for Uncle Quentin

I suspect Blyton tries to ‘ingratiate’ Quentin to us from early on in this book, almost priming him for this new role by including him more, and having him be a little kinder now and again.

When the Five first arrive in Kirrin Aunt Fanny informs them that Uncle Quentin plans to do very little work these hols and join the children on walks instead. This is completely the opposite of what we would expect. It does him good to have a bit of young life around him she says. The children are not convinced, and with good reason based on his behaviour in previous books. Julian privately thinks that Uncle Quentin has no sense of humour and they will be bored stiff all round. George says that Father doesn’t mean to, but he does spoil things, somehow and Anne’s opinion is that He’s not very good at laughing. He’s too serious.

Uncle Quentin himself says I’m quite glad your mother and father are away, Anne, because now we shall have you all here once again!  This is rather laughable based on his much he hates the house being full of children, normally, and the fact that that very evening he roars Shut that door, one of you! How can I work with that noise going on! because a door is banging upstairs. His first statement does, however, serve as a way to mention why they can’t go to Anne’s home after the tree disaster.

Similarly he stays in the lounge earlier that evening, though his inability to play card games means that nobody bothers to start a game. His presence gives Blyton a chance to bring Sooty into a conversation and introduce him to the reader, but I do think it’s also a part of including him more in preparation for later.

Continue reading

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Monday #253

Five Go to Smuggler’s Top part 3: A focus on Uncle Quentin


The Adventure Series covers through the years part 2

I tell you Red Tower isn’t a place. Red Tower is a man.

Jo sets Julian right in Five Fall Into Adventure.

The Children at Happy House is a short-but-charming book aimed at younger readers. In a similar vein to The Family at Red-Roofs for example it involves a family upping sticks from dreary urban life and starting afresh in the countryside. Due to its younger readers the biggest trials the Happy House family face are minor illnesses and a dog who likes to run away.


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The Adventure Series covers through the years

I recently looked at the covers of the Famous Five covers through the years. There were so many incarnations of the 21 books that it took two posts. The Adventure Series hasn’t been reprinted nearly so many times, so this should be both shorter and simpler.

The inimitable Stuart Tresilian

As with so many things the original is the best. Stuart Tresilian did beautiful wrap-around dust jackets for the first editions, published by Macmillan.

Macmillan 1952 / Macmillan 1955

He also did wrap-around dust jackets for the first six books when they were published by Thames Publishing in the early sixties.

Slightly contradicting myself now, I will admit that I think that the Thames ones might actually be slightly better than the Macmillan ones. The Thames ones are more vibrant (perhaps due to being less aged, or more modern printing techniques I can’t be sure.)

It’s interesting though to compare the two versions of each. They mostly have very similar layouts, the children often wear the same clothes. They are almost like first drafts and final products of covers.

Macmillan 1944 / Thames 1958

The jackets for Island of Adventure have much the same layout. The children are further up the hill and nearer the mine shaft in the Thames one, making it look like that one was perhaps the same scene just a minute or two later. The children are wearing the same outfits – though as I said before, the Thames jacket is much more vibrant.

The change in positioning of the children seems to be related to the spine of the book. On the Macmillan cover, when closed, only Jack would be on view. The Thames cover would just show a strip of the scenery.

Macmillan 1946 / Thames 1958

Again this is much the same scene, only more vibrant. The way the castle is a bit more prominent and how Lucy-Ann is grabbing Tassie makes the Thames cover just a little more dramatic. This time Lucy-Ann and Philip have been moved, presumably to give a clear spine (at first I thought it was Philip beside Tassie!). The children are in the same clothes in both covers, and they’re the same clothes as the previous book, too.

related post⇒ The Adventure Series on TV: The Castle of Adventure

Macmillan 1947 / Thames 1960

Unusually the Macmillan jacket for Valley isn’t a complete wrap around. The front and back show two parts of a cave scene while the spine has a separate illustration of  Philip. This is one of only two books to have a significantly different design between the Macmillan and Thames covers. This time the children are wearing different colours of clothes; they differ from the previous books and between the two editions of Valley. The colour palette is still the same but Philip is now in yellow instead of turquoise, Jack has changed from red to blue, Dinah is wearing red rather than yellow and initially Lucy-Ann is the one in turquoise (previously she was in blue), but she is then in red on the Thames cover. It’s not always easy to tell which child is which – I’m assuming it’s Philip on the spine due to his tufted hair, and that it’s Jack helping Lucy-Ann up the rocks.

Macmillan 1948 / Thames 1960

With The Sea of Adventure we are back to a full wrap-around jacket. Jack moves off the spine to beside Lucy-Ann for the Thames edition. The colours of their clothes have changed again (except for Dinah who’s still in red) and between these two versions Jack goes from long sleeves to short, and Philip’s shirt changes both sleeve length and colour. (Incidentally I’ve always found long sleeve tops and shorts an incongruous pairing. If I’m warm enough to wear shorts it’s likely too warm for long sleeves, and if it’s cold enough for long sleeves surely its too cold for shorts?) As with previous books the colours are much brighter on the Thames cover. The overall layout is similar, though the rear page altered more than the front, with a large rock brought into the foreground.

Macmillan 1949 / Thames 1962

This is another really similar scene. Philip(?) moves away from the tent opening and off the spine, and it’s him then pointing at the mountain instead of Jack. Clothes-wise Lucy-Ann is wearing a different outfit (short sleeve blue top instead of long sleeve yellow) but it’s the same on both covers and Dinah is in the same as the previous book.

I’m not actually sure which boy is which here. I had thought the boy in the tent was Jack, as Kiki is above him. But if you look at the Thames cover, he has a tufty lock of hair (it’s a different top, mind you though the same colour), and the other boy looks more red-headed. So then it must be Philip in the tent? Yet Jack is then wearing the exact same outfit Philip was on the cover of Sea! Perhaps Jack and Philip swap outfits between the Macmillan and Thames covers?  Or maybe Stuart Tresilian didn’t care very much about clothes. That might explain why Philip’s (Jack’s?) shirt has one long sleeve and one short sleeve!

Macmillan 1950 / Thames 1960

The Ship of Adventure is the second book with a major design change between covers. The rear covers are very similar, the cliff to the left is larger and the smaller boat is more central on the Thames one. The spine and cover are entirely different, however. It is no longer a wrap-around illustration as the spine and front cover are two further separate scenes. The spine shows a vignette of the smaller boat and the front cover has Bill and the children on Thamis.

The children are wearing the same clothes in both versions, but not all are the same from the previous book.

It strikes me now that it’s odd to have Bill on the cover – all of the previous books have had only the children (plus Tassie, but she’s also a child). He doesn’t appear on the last two covers of the series, either, though Tala and Oola are on River and a host of circus-folk are on the Circus cover.

If that wasn’t enough the Macmillan editions also had a pictorial board cover.

For Island, Castle, Sea and Mountain you can find internal illustrations that are close to matching. I don’t know what came first, in fact. I assume the internal illustrations were done and then Tresilian did cover ones. There are enough differences (the backround of Island, the missing stick from Sea, the position of the dog on Mountain etc) to suggest they were all at least partly redrawn.

All Macmillan first editions

Valley’s cloth cover looks like an amalgamation of a few internal illustrations – there are ones showing the waterfall and other with a swooping aeroplane.

All Macmillan 1947

The Ship of Adventure‘s cloth cover is interesting as it has a scene shown from the other side.

All Macmillan 1950

The Circus of Adventure’s cloth cover has as scene that’s not illustrated in the book – Philip in the bear cage though there is one of him with the bears outside. I think it’s this cover (I didn’t have any dust jackets when I was younger) that always made me imagine the bear’s cage as a big round one on the ground rather than a rectangular one on wheels.

All Macmillan 1952

related post⇒ my childhood books part 2

The River of Adventure’s cloth cover is also an amalgamation of a couple of different illustrations. There is one of the silhouetted boat, and a few others with tall palm trees.

Facsimile covers

As with the Famous Five, the original cover artwork has been used again later. This time it has been cropped down to a square with very brightly coloured blocks above and below. It’s a pity so much of Tresillian’s art is chopped off – you can’t even see the castle on the cover of The Castle of Adventure!

All Macmillan 2008

Being the first in the series, Island has the most different editions and is the only one to have a full facsimile edition (for its 50th anniversary). I’m not sure if it has the back of the cover, too, but I doubt it.

Macmillan 1994 / Macmillan 1944

That’s the facsimile on the left and the original on the right, by the way. Funny how the facsimile is paler than the original! The signature has changed as well, it’s now the same as the ones on the other Adventure Series first editions – but it’s not the same as her famous signature as it appears on The Famous Five books (from 1951 on).

I said earlier that this post would be simpler and shorter. I was wrong. I’ve written so much about Stuart Tresilian’s work alone that I will have to look at everything from the Armada paperbacks onwards in another post.

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2018 Birthday and Christmas present round up

As always I got spoiled for my birthday and Christmas. Every year my nearest and dearest manage to come up with something Blyton-y to give me, so here’s what they did this year.

1. Enid Blyton t-shirt

How often do you see an Enid Blyton t-shirt for adults? Almost never! Red Bubble also do one of young Enid. They come in ladies, mens, unisex and children’s sizes. The same print can also be put on most things from their range like notebooks, cushions, tote bags etc. This was my birthday present from Brodie, he has good taste!

related post⇒ How to get Blyton’s Style: Babies

2. Magic Faraway Tree notebook

This is also from Red Bubble, a nice quality lined notebook.

3. Noddy and the Farmyard Muddle

This was written by Sophie Smallwood – Enid Blyton’s granddaughter – in 2009. I’ve never read it before so it will be interesting to see how it compares to the originals. It’s a lot bigger than it looks actually. I thought it would have the same dimensions as the original books but it’s more like one of the Holiday Books (though not as chunky).

4. Magic Faraway Tree cushion

Another one from Red Bubble – you can never have too many cushions on the sofa. It was Brodie who got me this for my Christmas and so he clearly approves too, his favourite game is jumping around all over cushions on and off the sofa.  (That’s not my sofa in the picture, by the way. Mine is a darker colour, if it was that pale it would have been utterly ruined by mucky toddler hands already!)

5. Malory Towers phone skin

Also from Red Bubble this is one of those thin stickers you put on with a clear case. I think it looks better than the real cover it’s based on!

6. By Jove! Entertainment for Kids

This is the game I had asked for, and mentioned in my Christmas gift ideas post. Apart from the box it isn’t particularly Blyton-y if I’m honest. Lots of wholesome ideas for games for kids and so far none of them feature any technology or modern things. It would have been nice if there were some Soper-based images inside or games relating to anything from the Famous Five books.

related link⇒ Five Go Parenting by Bruno Vincent

7, 8 & 9. Postcards

These are also from Red Bubble. They did well out of us this Christmas! These feature The Naughtiest Girl, Corfe Castle and an imaginative scene based on the Noddy books. They are too nice to waste sending to anyone so I will have to find somewhere to display them (along with my set of Famous Five postcards from a previous year).

Did you get any Blyton goodies last year?

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Monday #252

I treated myself to the Enid Blyton edition of This Is Magazine and it arrived this week. It has a lot of freebies with it and I plan to review it all soon.

Christmas and birthday present round up


The Adventure Series covers through the years part 1: Stuart Tresilian

Noddy and His Car is the third book in the Noddy series, and is the first book he works as a taxi driver. Noddy being Noddy, it does not all go smoothly of course. He hasn’t got his pricing sorted, he catapults his first passenger out of his car by mistake and then loses her tail. His second passenger loses his hat and gets stuck in Noddy’s little car. After his first day of work he owes more than he has earned.

It all works out in the end, though, which is fortunate or Noddy would have been looking for another job!

Lucian is a boy the Mannering and Trents meet on board their cruise ship in The Ship of Adventure. He is friendly and well-meaning but is also a bit foolish and awkward. He latches on to the children as there’s nobody else his age around and he is stuck with his aunt and unpleasant Uncle.

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The Famous Five covers through the years, part 2: 1990s-2018

Last time I started at the beginning with Eileen Soper, and on to Betty Maxey and the TV tie-in covers. Now we have the 90s covers and the dreaded modern ones.

My era of Famous Fives

Technically in my era as they were published after I was born, Knight moved on from Maxey and had covers by Andrew Lloyd Jones. I didn’t have any of those but I did have the some of the next Knights with the embossed gold lettering on the front. A few are credited to Graham Reynolds but the rest are uncredited.

Knight 1987 / Knight 1987 / Knight 1991 / Knight 1991

Both series are very of their time with the jeans and baggy jumpers. No pullovers or galoshes in sight.

related post⇒ My childhood books part 1

Likewise, I didn’t have any of the very bright Award paperbacks that started with Five Go to Billycock Hill, or any of the yellow-bordered Award hardbacks but I had some of the Hodders that followed.

Award 1992 / Award 1992 / Award 1993 / Award 1993

I always think the brightly coloured ones looks very tropical, and also very 80s despite coming out in the early 90s.

The next Hodder paperbacks had The Famous Five written down the right hand side of each cover. The children are very 90s with jeans and jumpers. Up to Five on a Hike Together there were two of these for each book – one uncredited (in 1994) and one by David Barnett (in 1995). After that there was just one David Barnett cover per book.

Hodder 1994 / Hodder 1995 / Hodder 1994 / Hodder 1995

I’ve noticed a few errors and anomalies amongst these versions. There’s at least one with the entirely wrong blurb on the back. Even more strangely two consecutive books (Five Go Adventuring Again and Five on a Hike Together) repeat their illustrations in both versions.

In 1994 Five Fall Into Adventure incorrectly features the Five on a raft (artwork by the uncredited artist) and Hodder just reused the image for the correct book the next year. Then in 1995 David Barnett drew the Five boating in Five Fall Into Adventure, and for some reason Hodder then used it a second time despite it not fitting for Five on a Hike Together. It’s very strange as all the other covers from these two series fit in with the plots and locations of the books.

Hodder 1994 / Hodder 1995 / Hodder 1994 / Hodder 1995

I recognise the 90s series photo covers (as mentioned in my last post) but I must have completed my collection before these came out.

The truly modern

I’m not saying all the covers up to this point were wonderful, but they were mostly reasonably inoffensive. You could definitely tell which were 70s and which were 80s or 90s thanks to the style and fashions but the children looked like human beings at least.

In 2001 we got a series of brightly-coloured covers by Richard Jones featuring children with odd facial expressions. There weren’t any new covers then for nine years, until some more strange faces appeared in 2010, this time by Adrian Chesterman. Both of these sets seem like they were created on computers – I’ve found Adrian Chesterman’s website which indicates he is a digital artist. Looking at the full images he created they look much better than the book covers. At full-scale you can see an incredible amount of detail down to individual hairs, blades of grass and textures on clothing, while shrunk onto the books they look a bit flat and lifeless.

Hodder 2001 / Hodder 2010 / Hodder 2001 / Hodder 2010

After the 70th anniversary series featuring famous artists (more on that below) Laura Ellen Anderson did a new covers for each book in 2017. Her depiction of the Five is strange to say the least. They have skinny, angular limbs, very large eyes and wear the exact same clothes whether it’s day, night, summer or winter. What’s worse is some of the covers have nothing to do with the book’s contents. Five On a Treasure Island has them in shorts and dresses in George’s boat, fine. Five Go Adventuring Again, set during an extremely cold snowy winter has them in the same shorts and dresses in the middle of a lush woodland.

Also in 2017 the first three books got hardbacks with repeated motifs; ships for Five on a Treasure Island (makes sense), anchors for Five Go Adventuring Again (not so much sense) and aeroplanes for Five Run Away Together (would have worked better for Five Go to Billycock Hill). I suspect these are an attempt to cash in on the classics market as I’ve seen lots of books like Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Peter Pan as well as grown-up classics like The Picture of Dorian Gray and so on being published in that style.

All Hodder 2017

Famous illustrators

2012 was 70 years since the first Famous Five book was published so there were, I think, 5 new editions released with covers by famous illustrators. Those were Five on a Treasure Island by Quentin Blake (famous for working with Roald Dahl), Five Go Adventuring Again by Helen Oxenbury (We’re Going on a Bear Hunt), Five Run Away Together by Emma Chichester Clark (Blue Kangaroo), Five Go to Smuggler’s Top by Oliver Jeffers (The Day the Crayons Quit) and Five Go Off in a Caravan by Chris Riddell (Goth Girl).

All Hodder 2012

Three years later, Hodder continued with famous illustrators. There were Five on Kirrin Island Again by Shirley Hughes (Alfie and Annie Rose), Five Go Off to Camp by David Tazzyman (Circus of Thieves), Five Get Into Trouble by Polly Dunbar (Tilly and Friends), Five Fall Into Adventure by Babette Cole (Dr Dog) and Five on a Hike Together by Tony Ross (My Little Princess). All the illustrators so far have their name on the cover.

All Hodder 2015

related post⇒ Books for babies: the lead-up to Blyton

After that the illustrators names are no longer on the cover, instead they say The world’s best-loved storyteller at the bottom and the same font/title style but with a white background. I have also seen one or two of the above books repeated with this style – though only online so I don’t know if they were ever actually published or just mocked up.

Apart from Michael Foreman the rest of this bunch seem less famous. I’ve not heard of any of them, and I’ve had a hard time identifying what they would be ‘known for’. They are Five Have a Wonderful Time by Steve Antony (Mr Panda), Five Go Down to the Sea by Alex T Smith (Claude the Dog), Five Go to Mystery Moor by Peter Bailey (various works including Phillip Pullman and E Nesbit), Five Have Plenty of Fun by Sara Ogilvie (again various bits and pieces including Julia Donaldson) and Five on a Secret Trail by Michael Foreman (War Boy). The other books in the series didn’t get new covers!

All Hodder 2016

I haven’t included these in the modern category because Quentin Blake, Babette Cole and Shirley Hughes amongst others have been around forever and are familiar from my childhood.

I think some of these covers are great and other less so. Some of the show off the artists’ unique style while still being in-keeping with the tone and content of the books.

I like Quentin Blake and Babette Cole normally – I feel strange reading any Roald Dahl books with other illustrators for example – but for me they just don’t suit the Famous Five books. David Tazzyman’s works might look great on a modern, irreverent or humorous kids’ book but again I don’t find it fitting for the Famous Five.

I had a few random thoughts when I looked through these covers, like – It’s a pity Five Go Off in a Caravan doesn’t have a scenic background like the others. Also, I always wonder why Block looks so much like a head waiter. He’s holding people hostage, not serving them dinner! I can’t decide if I like the cover for Five Have a Wonderful Time. It’s very striking and quite different from any of the others, but does it work for the series?

Five on a Treasure Island Specials

Jumping away from the chronology and going back to the start Five on a Treasure Island has had way more covers than any other book. Here are the ones I didn’t include in part one, from a wide variety of publishers some with stranger designs than others!

Longmans 1977 / John Murray 1979 / Fabbri 1992 / Karo 2004 / Paperview 2005

And there you have it; examples of pretty much every style of Famous Five cover from the past 70 years.

Some of them are wonderful and others rather lacking. Don’t just a book by its cover is probably good advice here – the books inside are wonderful no matter what they stick on the cover. The other important thing is that they are still in print and selling well.

What will be next, I wonder? What would you like to see?

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December 2018 round up

We are in 2019 if you can believe it, so this is the last 2018 round up chronicling what I got up to in December.

What I have read

My total number of books was 98 for the year, so I read 18 more than my target of 80.

In December I got through my last 10:

  • My Sweet Valentine (Article Row #3) – Annie Groves
  • Only a Mother Knows (Article Row #4) – Annie Groves
  • Five Go to Smuggler’s Top – reviewed in two parts here and here
  • B is for Burglar (Kinsey Millhone #2) – Sue Grafton
  • And the Rest is History (The Chronicles of St Mary’s #8) – Jodi Taylor
  • A Perfect Storm (The Chronicles of St Mary’s #8.5) – Jodi Taylor
  • Christmas Past (The Chronicles of St Mary’s #8.6) – Jodi Taylor
  • An Argumentation of Historians (The Chronicles of St Mary’s #9) – Jodi Taylor
  • The Battersea Barricades (The Chronicles of St Mary’s #9.5) – Jodi Taylor
  • A Christmas Promise (Article Row #5) – Annie Groves

And I’ve still to finish:

  • Drums of Autumn (Outlander #4) – Diana Gabaldon
  • The Diary of a Bookseller – Shaun Bythell
  • The Undomestic Goddess – Sophie Kinsella

I finally picked up Drums of Autumn again and got really into it – but being over 1,000 pages it’s taking me a while!

I’m almost at the end of the St Mary’s series now, having finally reached the ones I’d not read before. There are only two short stories after Battersea Barricades, and then the next one’s not out until April!

What I have watched

  • Hollyoaks
  • More Cbeebies – I am now familiar with Yakka Dee, Postman Pat’s Special Delivery Service (the song to that gets stuck in my head but at least this is still stop-motion and not CGI) The Twirlywoos, Ra Ra the Noisy Lion (with another earworm song), Bing Bunny, Tee and Mo, Biggleton, Pablo, The Numberblocks and many more
  • Lego Masters series 2 and the celebrity Christmas special
  • Only Connect
  • I finished Outlander season 3, finally
  • Call the Midwife Christmas special

What I have done

  • Put my Christmas tree up in a mostly Brodie-proof spot
  • Finished all my Christmas shopping and wrapping
  • Had a few lunches out
  • Celebrated my birthday with high tea, that’s the first time we’ve been out for our tea together as a family.
  • Went to see The Snow Queen at my local theatre
  • Celebrated Christmas and even hosted my family for Christmas dinner
  • Started planning a new bathroom after yet another leak

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Monday #251

Happy New Year, everyone! I took a longer than anticipated break over Christmas, but I am back now! I had intended to start again on the 31st but being in that strange limbo between Christmas and New Year I lost track of the days and completely forgot!

Anyway, I hope you all had a lovely time over the festive season and are not too dispirited if you are returning to work this week.

You may notice a few changes on the blog starting this week: I finally took the plunge and upgraded to a paid account with WordPress. The blog now has it’s own domain, which should be active soon, and there will be no more adverts! I now have access to more ‘themes’ to change how things look, so I will probably be fiddling around finding a new look as well.

December round up


The Famous Five covers through the years part 2

I’m going to include The Pole Star as a location, as it’s big enough to live in! The Pole Star is the cruise ship that the Caravan Family take on a trip to Portugal, Spain, Madeira, the Canary Islands and Morocco. Despite these all being interesting and exotic places to visit, the ship is a far more important part of the book – perhaps because it was based on the real-life ship the Stella Polaris which Enid Blyton herself travelled on in the 1930s!


In Puzzle for the Secret Seven, the Seven have to solve a strange mystery. They have already done what they can to help a gypsy woman whose caravan has burnt down, but then are faced with thefts of clothes from a scarecrow and a violin from an antiques shop.


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Inscriptions in books 4: Books given with love

These are some of my favourite types of inscriptions – ones where a book is given as a gift. There are lots of lucky children here, given books by their aunties, uncles, parents and possibly even friends. There are books given for birthdays, Christmases, Easters and other special events.

My previous posts look at prize giving labels, this book belongs to and confused ownership.

Books given for Christmas

The Wonderful Carpet and Other Stories was given  To Gill from Gran, Christmas 1945. It also reads Sally Drinkall and Sally Drinkall Donington, a contender for confused ownership.

Aptly The Christmas Book was From Marlene Xmas 1946. She doesn’t say who it was given to, however.

The Children of Willow Farm was received by what looks like Sudonil Emerson at Xmas 1948. Further down the page is from someone which I can’t make out. I actually missed it altogether the first time I looked.

The Secret Island was given to Pamela for Christmas 1949, from Uncle Wendy. That’s what it looks like anyway!

My Enid Blyton Bedside Book was also given in 1949, it reads; To Peter Xmas 1949 From Auntie Hilda & Uncle Reg.

More Adventures on Willow Farm is dated 1950 TO WENDY MERRY XMAS FROM AUNTY EVELYN + UNCLE GING. Wendy has then added her details: WENDY TURNER LITTLECOATS RD. GRIMSBY LINCS TELEPHONE. NO. 5176. Further to that there is a stamp – C.H. Turner & Co (GY.) LTD. RADIO & ELECTRICAL ENGINEERS  1&3 CORPORATION ROAD GRIMSBY LINCS PHONE NO. 23?1. I wonder why a radio and electrical engineer business would put its stamp in a book? My best guess is that Wendy’s father or other relative worked there and let her play with old stamps.

A non-Blyton now, Mystery at Witchend (The first Lone Pine book by Malcolm Saville) reads P HAMMOND 1951. It also has the inscription To PAT, Wishing you a Happy Xmas 1951 FROM DAD.

My one edition of Every Girl’s Annual (which contains one Blyton story) reads To Patricia With Love and Best Wishes From Christina + Jennifer x x x x Xmas 1951.

Enid Blyton’s Bluebell Story Book was also a gift for Christmas 1951. This time for Bridget, Happy Xmas from Hazel 1951.

A Bridget, (who knows, it could be the same one!) was given The Seventh Holiday Book the next year, it reads Bridget Xmas 1952 with lots of love.

And another one to Pat, this time The Sunny Story Book is inscribed To Pat, with best wishes for Christmas 1953. From Uncle Norman, Auntie Barbara and Alan in very neat writing.

The Ring O’ Bells Mystery was given To Bobby Happy Xmas From Peggy & Bill 1954.

The Happy Story Book has two different handwritings in it. First is Shirley J Price December 25th 1954 and then Off Aunty Masie and Uncle Frank for Christmas

Last Term at Malory Towers reads To Carole From Mam & Dad Xmas 1962

Enid Blyton’s Lucky Story Book has obviously been passed on at some point. First it reads- To Stephen From Lynne xmas 1965 xxxx. Then it says THIS Book now belongs to : – Julie Carole Batty, Mariners Flats Keadby Scunthorpe.

The Folk of the Faraway Tree isn’t dated but reads To Jean Dorothy Lyastin With Happy Christmas Wishes, from Auntie Beaty & Uncle Tim

Likewise Mr Pink-Whistle Interferes reads To Robin, With Best wishes for a very Happy Christmas from :- Margaret.

And lastly, also with no date, The Naughtiest Girl is a Monitor was for JEAN THORNE HAPPY CHRISTMAS FROM :- JOHN LIDSTONE.

Books given for birthdays

The Happy House ChildrenTo Gillian Happy Birthday from John. As with many inscriptions someone’s gone over this one with a pen.

More about Josie Click and BunTo My Dear Christine. Wishing you a Very Happy Birthday With love from Auntie Dora xxx 1948 The frontispiece has been coloured in and I wonder if it was Christine who did it.

Well Done Secret SevenWith Love From Elizabeth x Happy Birthday

Enid Blyton’s Magazine AnnualHappy Birthday Katherine, Love Mother, xxx. This one has an unusual inscription on the ends of  the pages reading Katherine Melling.

I’ll Tell You a Story‘s inscription is really hard to make out. To Miss Aan Keflich Wishing her many Happy returns of her Birthday. Love from Grandad is what I think it says but I’m really not sure about the name!

Books given just because?

Some of these might well be birthdays as they have dates written in them, but they could well be for other reasons too. At least one is for Easter.

From mummies and daddies:

  • Twenty Minute TalesHelen Emms With Love from Mummy, Happy Easter 1955
  • The Children of Cherry Tree FarmTo Patricia from Mummy & Daddy
  • The Secret of Moon CastleTo Christine With love From Daddy
  • The Sixth Holiday BookTo Susan from Mummy and Daddy
  • The Ninth Holiday BookTo Rosemary From Mummy xx 1955
  • Before I Go to SleepTo Karen with lots of love from Daddie + Mummie x x x x x x

From aunties and uncles:

  • The Second Holiday BookTo Jennifer Love Auntie Florrie
  • Enid Blyton’s Nature Lover’s Book – Pamela, with love and best wishes from your Auntie Dorothy & Uncle Leonard. June 27th, 1947.
  • The Buttercup Farm Family To Janice From Uncle George & Auntie Margaret Feb 28 1959. In pencil after it says aged 6 so this might have been for a birthday.
  • The Yellow Story BookTo dear Pauline with love from Auntie Kathleen Jan 1951.
  • A Picnic Party With Enid BlytonTo Christine from Auntie Hela & Uncle Ron June 1959
  • Down At the Farm with Enid BlytonTo Margaret From Auntie Flo & Uncle Arthur

From children to their friends or siblings, perhaps for a birthday. I could just imagine them arriving at a party clutching their gift-wrapped present to give to the birthday child.

  • Five On a Hike TogetherTo Leslie, From Jackie & John
  • Five Go Adventuring Again – To Michael, From Gary & Philip 1950
  • Claudine at St Clare’sTo Edna With best wishes from Rosemary Mar 1950 and also Edna Barton, Moat Farm, Barking, Nr Ipswich, Suffolk
  • The Bad Little MonkeyTo David From Michael
  • Jolly Little JumboTo Ernest from Michael 1944
  • The Pole Star FamilyWith Best Wishes To Pat. From. Michael and Susan Bainbridge
  • Six Cousins at Mistletoe FarmTo Pamela from Victoria and Janet July 11th 1949

Then there are a few I couldn’t quite work out:

  • The O’Sullivan TwinsTo (what looks like) Vallong (but is probably Valery?) from Daddy, Name’s Day 1950. I had no idea what name’s day is so I looked it up.
  • The Mystery of the Missing Necklace – To Dear Ann With much love From Mrs ? 
  • The Secret of Cliff CastleTo Jonnie With love from Auntie Glenys? and Uncle Astin? Xmas 1956
  • The Mystery of the Disappearing CatTo Jenna(? Jeane? Jenae? Jenny?) From Aunty, Uncle and Lynette

And lastly a strange little note inside Trickey the Goblin and Other Stories reads To Teddah.

And a bonus which is not an inscription but I just had to share, there’s a very colourful picture drawn inside the front of Run About’s Holiday. It looks exactly like the sort of thing I would have drawn as a child, though I would never have done it in a book!

So what have I learned from this project?

A lot of people liked to write in books! I’m not sure it’s so prevalent today. I buy plenty of second paperbacks from the 90s onwards and I don’t recall seeing many inscriptions. Perhaps the modern paperback is such a throwaway commodity that nobody bothers claiming ownership?

Of the books that were inscribed it was usually the tattiest ones, the ones missing their dust jackets and so on that were inscribed. I think this signifies how much those books were loved and read.

I enjoyed looking at all the different handwriting though some of it was hard to work out. Handwriting style has changed quite a lot over the years. It was interesting to see so many people write Xmas for Christmas as I’ve seen many people lament it as a ‘modern’ and ‘American’ term which is clearly rubbish. Also interesting is the prevalence of capital A written like a large lowercase a.

So after doing this project would I write in books? Brodie gets so many, they are so much cheaper now than in Blyton’s time, so probably not just because it would be so time consuming and not special like it was when children got a few books a year if they were lucky. He has a few inscribed books as I was given some as gifts from friends and family before they were born – all personal favourites of theirs – so that will be nice to look back on.

Do you write in your books or ones for your loved ones?

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