February 2021 round up

Two months of 2021 are now done and dusted and the light at the end of the tunnel is slowly growing along with the length of the days.


What I have read

I haven’t read an awful lot this month though I have gotten through quite a few audiobooks. I put this down to me trying to get through The Book Thief for my new book group, not doing very well and not picking up anything else in case it distracted me from not reading The Book Thief.

I did read:

Mind Your Own Business, Kristy! (Babysitter’s Club #107) – Ann M. Martin
L is for Lawless (Kinsey Millhone #12) – Sue Grafton
Five Go to Mystery Moor – reviewed in three parts, here, here and here
Midnight Crossroad (Midnight, Texas #1) – Charlaine Harris
M is for Malice (Kinsey Millhone #13) – Sue Grafton
The Secret Garden – Frances Hodgson Burnett
Real Murders (Aurora Teagarden #1) – Charlaine Harris
No-One Ever Has Sex on a Tuesday (No-One Ever Has Sex #1) – Tracy Bloom

Five of those were audiobooks. The only ones that weren’t, are the Babysitter’s book, Midnight Crossroad and the Famous Five.

And I’m currently reading:

The Book Thief – Marcus Zusak
The Home Edit: Conquer the Clutter with Style – Clea Shearer and Joanna Teplin


What I have watched

  • Hollyoaks, as usual.
  • More Mythbusters and Only Connect, plus we returned to Richard Osmond’s House of Games and QI XL.
  • Brodie’s films included Peter Pan, The Incredibles 2, Shrek, Shrek 2 and Shrek the Third, and Despicable Me 2
  • I also watched more Outlander, I’m now on the fifth season which is the most recent one, and Wandavision, which I think has only one more episode to go.

What I have done

  • Another jigsaw, this time a bookshop one I borrowed from my mum, as well as helping Ewan with a very difficult one of a Jaws movie poster.
  • A little bit of colouring in
  • Many more wet and cold – and snowy – walks and trips to various parks, including taking Brodie sledging for the first time.
  • More home-baking, Brodie and I have made pancakes for Pancake Day, heart-shaped biscuits for Valentine’s Day and lemonade scones and tiffin just for fun.
  • Had a special afternoon tea – on the living room floor – for Valentine’s day
  • Broke my laptop and had it repaired but lost a lot of files in the process
  • Returned to the boot camp portion of The Organised Mum Method to get the house back under control now Brodie is back at nursery (which involved emptying every last book from the bookshelves so I could move them out and clean behind them)

 


What has your month looked like?

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Monday #413

I can hardly believe that it is March already. If all goes well restrictions will slowly start to lift over the next two months, though it all seems quite far away still.

In other good news – I got my laptop back in a working condition. The bad news is that the hard drive was damaged in such a way that no data could be recovered from it. I did have a partial back up from November 2020 which had the important stuff – photos, all the fics we’ve written and all my blogging stuff, more recent photos are safe between my Amazon cloud storage and my phone. It’ll take some time to redownload and organise them, though. Unfortunately I didn’t back up much else (my priorities are clearly a bit off, I didn’t back up anything important like copies of my CV etc), so I’ve had to go back to an old save on a different device from 2016 and so most of it is very out of date, including my very important catalogue of all my Enid Blyton books!

I have managed to recreate 7 chapters of the latest fic we are working on by trawling through the chat archives from the start of the year to pick out all the bits we wrote in amongst general chatter, but it has delayed progress on the story bit.

Anyway, at least I can write properly again.

February round up

and

If you like Blyton: The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

Boy! A boy here! There’s no boy here at all! You must be mad. I shall complain to your mother about you. You are never to come here again. As for there being a boy here, you are quite mistaken. Whoever told you that has not told you the truth. There is no child here at all.

The Dragon tells a very curious lie to Robin, Lucy and Betty who have just been tied up in the summer-house by a boy who apparently doesn’t exist, in The Boy Next Door.

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Five Go to Mystery Moor part 3

Here we are for part three of what should have been a two part post. Part one was a general review of the plot, and part two was entirely taken over by George and Henry.

So, part three is all the rest of my nitpicks and comments.


Unusual phrases and words I noticed

First up is skewbald, as used to describe Sniffer’s horse. I’ve read this book dozens of times and yet I had no idea what that word meant until I Googled it right now. It means irregular patterns of white and another colour (but not black). It’s one of those words that it’s not essential to understand to understand the book. Similarly, piebald. In The Circus of Adventure the children despair at Gus for not being able to identify piebald horses. Nope, me neither. You can tell I wasn’t into horse stories as a girl. As it turns out, piebald is black and white. So a bit of a pedantic difference and totally not worth arguing over.

Then we have patrin. I took it at face value that these are real things and it seems to be that is the case. I did a little Googling anyway and found other mentions of them online but sadly no pictures or real details.

Two odd phrases were Her face one big beam and They really do get across one another. I get the meaning of both but I don’t think I’ve ever seen those particular combinations of words before.

Ben’s dialect is interesting, but I’ve no idea what area it pins down Mystery Moor to. He uses baint, nigh, worrit, and most interestingly mort to mean a lot.

I also noticed that Dick calls them the Famous Five in this story. It’s fine to be on our own – just the Famous Five together.


Illustration issues

I love Eileen Soper’s illustrations, she’s without a doubt my favourite Blyton Illustrator and probably my favourite illustrator of all. Saying that, she makes errors now and again.

The first is when she depicts the Five talking to Sniffer’s father. There is another child with them who looks like Henry. It’s certainly not Sniffer. And yet Henry is not with the Five in the text.

Later on, when George and Anne are being held prisoner they cut their ropes with a knife brought by Sniffer, and lie down to sleep. George wakes when she hears Henry coming, and thinking it’s one of the gypsies she arranges the ropes around herself again. After Henry and William come in Anne wakes up – but Soper has drawn her asleep sitting up against the post.

I’ve also noticed that Soper has Anne awake while Sniffer’s father is talking to George, but she’s asleep in the text.


Random Rudeness

I noticed a lot of what I would consider rudeness – and a lot of it from our beloved Five!

First Julian and Dick turn up at the stables unannounced, expecting to stay. OK they’re happy to sleep in the stables but still, they turn up with a fair bit of entitlement! Anne and George also just seem to announce that they are staying an extra week, too. Aunt Fanny may have called and arranged it – if so it’s not mentioned. Then there are another four children who are going to arrive early. Poor Mrs Johnson, she seems happy enough to run a fairly casual booking system but I still think it’s a bit rude to just turn up and expect accommodation and meals.

Dick says to Sniffer of his caravan I hope it’s not smelly, and Julian says Why doesn’t he get a haircut behind Sniffer’s father’s back. The second one I get, it wasn’t done for men or boys to have long hair in England in those days. It still sounds rude, though.

They (mostly Julian) presumes that the gypsies are thieves on two occasions. As they are involved in a counterfeit money operation, they are, for all intents and purposes thieves, but that’s not the point. They assume that the gypsies will be stealing ducks and hens just because they’re gypsies.


Food

There isn’t a great deal of food in this book. There are a couple of meal-time scenes where food isn’t even mentioned!

One picnic includes egg and sardine sandwiches, tomato and lettuce sandwiches and cherry cake. Can’t say I think much of those combinations!

The only typical Famous Five feast is the breakfast at the end – and that’s simply described as huge platefuls of bacon and eggs.


The Five’s failures

One thing that is more prevalent than food is the Five’s failures. The Five aren’t perfect and do make mistakes now and again but they seem surprisingly incompetent in this book!

Firstly, Julian manages to get them lost on the moors twice. The first time it’s daylight and he is using a compass. The second time they don’t think ahead to avoid losing the railway tracks in the mist, and then only remember they have a compass at 5am.

The girls manage to go up the tracks in the wrong direction, which is somewhat understandable in the mist, but are then stupid enough to think that the quarry, a mere quarter mile from the gypsy camp is a safe place to stay.

Julian and Dick are also unbelievably dense when it comes to Henry. They mistake her for a boy which is not an issue, but then George talks about HENRY who is really HENRIETTA and they just don’t twig that the HENRY they met could possibly be a girl?

They are also very slow to consider that the money might be counterfeit. As they say, there’s no rule against bringing (legal) money into the country.


The moor

I always picture the moor starting right outside the stables, and so wonder why George and Anne only hear about it so much later. Clearly it’s a bit further away than my mind lets me picture. I can’t help but think that pap endpapers would be great for all the Five books.

What is intriguing, distance aside, is that Captain Johnson has never heard the story of Mystery Moor. He explains it by saying he’s only lived there for 15 years! Old Ben says it happened some 70 years ago (which by my rough count makes it the 1880s, farther back than I think I’d imagined) but still, if your local area had a tale like that, wouldn’t you know about it?

Which leads me to wondering about the name of the moor. Old Ben tells the Five that, when he was young, it was Misty Moor. Sometime after the Bartle’s disappearance it became Mystery Moor. What I want to know is what is it called on a map? Is Misty/Mystery just a colloquial, local name? If the mist comes off the sea, as they say it does, isn’t it a haar anyway (or hare, hoar, har, harl etc)?

Regardless of the name, the stories of the moor are quite dark for Blyton. We get the stories of the Bartles, Mrs Banks who was berry-picking, and a boy called Victor who was playing truant, who all disappear in the mist. Are there a load of dead bodies lying in shallow graves on the moor? Did they fall into the sea? Did the gypsies get them all and toss them over the cliffs?


And all the rest

This story is set in April, with the previous adventure being the summer of the year before. I’m not going to try to work out their respective ages based on that, but there’s a website which has done just that… Julian would be 18, Dick and George 17 and Anne 16. I think you have to ignore that sort of maths, though, as it puts the Five far too old by book 21. I did notice that the police call Julian sir, suggesting that in this book at least he is around 17 or 18, or at least looks it. Any younger and I can’t see them calling him sir.

Anne and George were set to stay at the stables for one week, while the boys camped, then they were all to return to Kirrin. However they stay at the stables so I wonder if they saw their parents at all. Julian’s parents are away abroad and their house is being decorated (I think it gets decorated a couple of times through the series but I don’t have the evidence to hand).

Julian (I think) tells Old Ben to get himself more tobacco, as a thanks for telling them the story of the moor, as Ben is smoking a pipe. I wonder if this is left alone in modern editions, or turned to sweets like in Demon’s Rocks.

Strangely both George and Anne sleep though the aeroplane the first night it flies over, and even stranger George isn’t annoyed that Julian and Dick went off in the night to investigate without her (after her outburst in Off to Camp in particular). Anne seem capable of sleeping through anything as she also sleeps through George’s conversation with Sniffer’s father and the arrival of Henry and William.

I find that I don’t really like Sniffer, but I’m not sure why. I feel sorry for him but I don’t like him the way I like Nobby, for example.

Maths isn’t my strongest suit but I think that Mrs Johnson is in a bit of bother when it comes to visitor numbers. She says she’s at full capacity with George and Anne staying on. Thus the boys sleeping in the stables. She has four to arrive after three depart, which would have her one over, but the four are to arrive early…. making her four over, but George and Anne go camping, making the stables two over capacity… and that’s assuming that it’s an appropriate mix of boys and girls to share the rooms! She definitely has a casual approach to organisation.


I’m surprised I had so much to say (again!) but there you are. I’ll try not to leave it so long before I review Five Have Plenty of Fun.

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Corfe Castle – A first hand look

Hi everyone, it’s been a while. I’m sorry for that, and I’m largely sorry for leaving everything to do with the blog to Fiona. She’s done a smashing job though, hasn’t she?
I wanted you guys to know, before I really got into my adventure to Corfe Castle, that just because I stopped writing for the blog, doesn’t mean I still don’t love Enid Blyton, but that my depression and anxiety were giving me writers block, and I was finding it harder and harder to write and keep to schedule. Fiona was a saint, even though she was ever so frustrated with me, but she’s really understanding which has been a life line!

So I just wanted to let you know this before I get going that I may not be returning on to blogging full time, but I’m going to try and be around. Now let’s get started!

Pandemic Holiday

In October 2020, in-between the lockdowns in the UK, I managed to get away for a few days, which was very nice and I was lucky with the weather, on my Corfe day at least. I chose to go down to the South West of England to Swanage.

Swanage is somewhere where you have probably heard about in conjunction with Enid. We’re aware that she was fond of that area of the country and used to holiday there with her daughters, Gillian and Imogen, and her second husband Kenneth Waters. In fact, its believed that the Famous Five novels setting of Kirrin is based around Swanage, Studland and all the different places around there, which is partly why I’ve always wanted to visit.

October 2020, I was on the edge of burning out again, and I needed a few days away. So, I booked a very nice Air B’n’B with a friend of mine (unfortunately because of travel restrictions and small persons Fiona was unable to come with me – one day I will get her there!) I also hadn’t seen the sea in over a year and I didn’t want to go somewhere I’d been before. Cue Swanage.

It was beautiful. The beach, the scenery, even the town was fairly thriving so late in the season for a UK beach town, but it wasn’t packed, so we weren’t fighting crowds or anything like that. For those of you who know your traditional run down UK beach towns, they’re kind of sad and a but gaudy, but Swanage wasn’t like that, it was quaint. Enid Blyton could have met me strolling down the street and I wouldn’t have even been surprised. You can find out more about Enid in Dorset here.

I’m largely just going to show you the pictures now, but, I’m so glad I went, it was beautiful, the views were stunning and when it is safe to do so, I really encourage you to go and check it out for yourself!

From The National Trust car park, just past the village, and almost past Corfe Castle, you take a foot path around the back of the castle, down by the river – the Corfe River – and follow the path around to this point where you can look up the hill and see the castle as you walk around to the village and entrance to the castle.

This picture is standing within the walls of the castle, looking up at the remains of the structure. It really is impressive and awe inspiring even today. When you get to know the history behind it – an English queen fought off invaders solidly for a long time here, and find out how far you can actually see, its a pretty impressive view and building for it to even have been built on this hill.

What is left of the castle walls and defences is really impressive and there is a feeling about Corfe Castle that made me feel like even now, if you had to, you could defend it successfully there. I enjoyed imaging the Famous Five running around the castle, finding the secret passages, the cellars and just exploring the ruins. You could even imagine that the castle was on an island, the hill is so tall. If you looked to the North East from the castle ruins (not the courtyard) you can actually see Poole Harbour where Brownsea Island is based – another of Blyton’s places of inspiration.

The view from one of the castle windows. My camera doesn’t do it justice at how far you can see from the hill, as well as being strangely misty and hazy – maybe we’d had a haar come in early in the morning which hadn’t lifted yet. However you get a sense of how far you and see, and the layout of the village in the shadow of the castle. On the left hand of the picture, you can just about see the railway line. I would assume that there were time when Blyton and her family arrived for a day trip to the castle via the train.

Here is a shot of the railway from the castle. We didn’t get chance to go down to the station, as I needed to do some shopping for Fiona’s birthday and Christmas gifts but I did make sure I took some pictures. Unfortunately the day we were at the castle the diesel train was running, and not the steam train. Had the steam train been running, my friend and I possibly would have forked out the £25 for a ride on the train. The diesel train didn’t quite feel worth the sum for the trip!

For now, that’s all I’ve got for you! I hope you have enjoyed my photos and maybe Fiona’ll let me back to tell you about Brownsea Island and Swanage itself.

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Monday #412

Unfortunately my laptop has gone and died on me this week. I think it’s the harddrive as it’s making funny noises and won’t boot up properly. I’ve booked it in for a repair today, so I will hopefully have it back by next week, if not I hope they can recover all my files and I will have to buy a new one.

In the mean time I am typing this on my partner’s work laptop. It seems to work fine with WordPress so I am going to try to still blog this week. Of course I’ll only discover that some crucial feature doesn’t work as I go to work on a post, so this week’s proposed posts may or may not materialise. We will just have to see!

Already I’m being driven nuts by the keyboard layout – the = is exactly where my fingers think the backspace should be, so every time I make a mistake (which is often) I add a few =s for good measure then have to delete the lot. Still, beggars can’t be choosers, and a badly placed = key is better than no keys at all.

Stef has kindly offered to make a brief return to blogging to share her Corfe Castle photos on Wednesday so that’s one less thing for me to worry about.

The Famous Five are so lucky they never had to deal with these sorts of modern problems…

A visit to Corfe Castle

and

Five Go to Mystery Moor part 3

It’s that fool of an Antoinette! She’s cleaned my shoes with my best face-cream! Oh, the idiot! All that lovely cream gone – gone on my shoes too!

Angela discovers one of Antoinette’s tricks in Fifth Formers of St Clare’s.

 

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Five Go to Mystery Moor part 2 – George and Henry

Last week I reviewed the main story of Five Go to Mystery Moor, and now it’s time for the comments, nitpicks, questions and so on that I always seem to have these days.

I have an awful lot which relates to a subheading I often use – George as a boy, so after writing 1,300 words on that alone I decided to leave this as a single topic post, the rest of my critiquing can follow next week. (I also forgot this was due to go up on Friday until 9.30pm, which is quite late to turn nothing but jotted notes into a whole post, but that’s another story.)


Girly stereotypes

Everyone apart from George seems to be painting girls as weak and silly.

Right at the start Anne explains why they couldn’t have gone camping with her brothers. Because they’re girls –

Anne – We couldn’t do the things they do.

George – I can do anything that Dick and Julian do. I can climb, and bike for miles, can walk as far as they can, I can swim – I can beat a whole lot of boys at most things.

Has Anne forgotten all the times they’ve camped and hiked and had adventures together?

Mrs Johnson expects the girls – George, Anne and Henry to do the washing up. Anne knows the other two hate that so says she’ll do it alone. At least Dick redeems himself by saying they’ll all do it together.

George says she and Anne would like to sleep in the stables but Captain Johnson says

You’ve got beds that you’re paying for. Anyway, girls can’t do that sort of thing – not even girls who try to be boys, George.

Henry replies that she’s often slept in the stables when there’s been a lot of visitors at home.


George vs Henry

On the surface Henry’s just like George. She wears her hair short, goes about in boys’ clothing and calls herself Henry. You’d think she and George would get along famously, well, maybe not as we know she didn’t get along with Jo.

Even Julian says

I should have thought she’d like someone like Henry who has exactly the same ideas as she has.

But instead of bonding over how stupid being a girl is they snipe at each other, making catty comments and competing over who’s the most boyish.

Apparently Henry wins as she has straight hair while George’s is curly. Henry says this to George, Dick repeats it, even Blyton herself says it! I don’t get it, lots of boys/men have naturally curly hair! Blyton’s words are that George’s hair suited wearing a blouse and skirt but Henry’s didn’t (the girls have to wear girls’ clothes when they sit down to dinner. I understand they have to change out of their grubby jodhpurs, as do the boys, but I don’t see why George and Henry couldn’t wear clean shorts and a shirt like the boys – in fact I’m surprised that neither of the emptied their suitcases of skirts and blouses before they left for their holiday! Henrietta also has to wear a dress when her great aunts come to see her).

Blyton’s attitude to curly hair has me wondering. It doesn’t just appear in this book, either, the idea the curly hair is girly is repeated in Five Have Plenty of Fun when Berta is being disguised as a boy.

It’s often suggested that Blyton based George on herself. I don’t think there’s any evidence that Blyton went around wearing boys’ clothes and asking to be called master, but I get the feeling she didn’t want to be tied down to typically feminine roles. Anyway, as an adult she always seems to have curly hair – at least in all the photos I’ve seen. As a younger woman it was short, and not particularly curly, though perhaps wavy. The older Blyton may have permed her hair, I don’t know. I just wonder if she felt that her curly hair was feminine, if it made her feel attractive in a feminine way, and so she places that onto George? Or was it just common ‘knowledge’ in the 1940s and 50s that curly hair was for girls? Long hair certainly was, but even short curls?

George and Henry both fool a few people into thinking they’re boys. I kept a little tally to see who ‘won’.

George –
Sniffer calls her Master George,
Old Ben the blacksmith refers to her as a boy,
Sniffer’s father assumes George is a boy when he captures her and Anne

Henry –
Both Julian and Dick believe she is a boy when she picks them up from the bus stop.

George convinces three people, Henry only two, at least those are the ones who outwardly show a conviction either way. Ben might have thought Henry was a boy too, but never ‘said’ it. Plus Dick and Julian should have been harder to fool, knowing George, so I’d say the score is about even.

Regarding Sniffer, it’s interesting that although he calls her Master George, and to all outward appearances seems to just assume she is a boy, his internal thoughts contradict that.

Sniffer was pleased. He liked this girl who had presented him with such a magnificent handkerchief. He took it carefully out of his pocket, hoping to please her.

Ok so it’s not exactly an inner monologue from him, it’s Blyton’s words and she knows George is a girl, I just thought it was interesting.

It’s possible that Sniffer has called George a boy in front of his father, and so Mr Sniffer (for lack of a better name) just assumes that’s the case in the dark. George is angry when Anne says they’re both girls. Anne’s thinking is that they might get treated better if they’re just two girls.


Is Henry ‘as good as a boy’?

Henry’s a bit of a strange one. On the surface she’s just like George, only she brags a bit more about all the things she’s done. (She’s a bit like Bill from Malory Towers, both have brothers and do everything they do, though Bill’s not a bragger). And yet, when it comes down to it, she doesn’t exactly strike a blow for feminism!

When Timmy brings her the note to say that George and Anne being held prisoner she practically falls to pieces. Her first instinct is a sensible one – get Captain Johnson, after all he’s a grown up. But he’s away. She can’t tell Mrs Johnson as she would have the fright of her life if I fetched her. #

She goes on to say I’m not brave like you are. I pretend I am, Timmy – but I’m not really. I’m afraid of following you! I’m afraid of going to find the others.

That’s fair enough – lots of people fake bravery and boast more than they should. Being woken in the middle of the night and being asked to ride across the moors to rescue kidnap victims from a gypsy camp is pretty scary. It’s what she says after that that’s a real shame.

I’m going to dress and get William. He’s only eleven, I know, but he’s very sensible – and he’s a boy. He’ll know what to do. I only pretend to be a boy.

I mean – gah! Fine, ask for help. William’s only eleven, he’s sensible, two heads are better than one, I don’t want to deal with this alone. But for a girl who pretends to be a boy – who to all intents and purposes insists she is as good as a boy – to say she’s just a weak hopeless thing because really she’s a girl, it makes me mad. I guess that Blyton wanted us to cheer and think Yes, our George is the better character, we knew that all along, and I do feel that, it’s just a shame that Henry couldn’t be a close second.

It makes me wonder how much of Henry’s bragging was false. George always said Henry was making it all up, and maybe she was. Dick says that  “She [Henry] ought to have been a boy. Like you, George,” he added hastily. “Both of you are real sports – plucky as anything.” And of course she does ride off into the night, so she’s not a coward at all, it’s just a shame that she blames any fears she has on being a girl – she actually seems to believe that girls are inferior creatures. George on the other hand always says she’s as good as a boy and tries to prove that by showing that she can do all the things boys do, even if she’s a girl.

At least Mrs Johnson proves herself not entirely useless when she does realise something’s going on. OK her first instinct is to call her husband, but she then calls the police and deals with everything reasonably calmly. And she provides a cracking breakfast after!


 

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The Five Find-Outers covers through the years

Having previously looked at the Famous Five (parts one and two), The Adventure Series (parts one and two) St Clare’s (parts one and two), Malory Towers, (parts one and two) Mr Galliano’s Circus, The Secret Series, The Naughtiest Girl and the Barney Mysteries I thought it time I did the Five Find-Outers as well. I’m not sure why I missed such a major series before.


The first editions

The Five Find-Outers (or FFO as I will probably call them a lot, as it’s so much shorter!) is one of those series with multiple illustrators across their first editions. It had four different cover artists – Joseph Abbey (books 1-7), Jean Main (book 8), Treyer Evans (books 9-12, and also the internal illustrations for book 8), and then Lilian Buchanan (books 13-15).

To me it looks like Treyer Evans at least tried to mimic Joseph Abbey’s style, while Jean Main and Lilian Buchanan went very much in their own directions.

Joseph Abbey, 1945 / Joseph Abbey, 1949 / Jean Main, 1950 / Treyer Evans, 1951 / Treyer Evans, 1952 / Lilian Buchanan, 1957 / Lilian Buchanan, 1961.

While the first editions are in my opinion the best covers for the series, they are not amongst the best of all Blyton’s book covers. Jean Main’s cover struggles with perspective, while Joseph Abbey’s Goon is a strange looking creature indeed. Several other covers suffer from looking rather ‘muddy’ and indistinct too.


The confusing part of the 1960s and 1970s

Mary Gernat is a well-known Blyton cover illustrator, mostly linked with the Armada books of the 1960s, her covers includes titles from the St Clare’s, Malory Towers and Barney Mystery series. However she rarely did the covers for all books in a series; each Armada run had a mix of illustrators and The Five Find-Outers books are no different. Other illustrators who were published alongside her include Charles Stewart and Dorothy Brook.

Armada frequently published the first paperback editions of Blyton’s books; they did all 15 FFO books between 1963 and 1966. The illustrators were Dorothy Brook (book 1), Charles Stewart ( books 2-9), Peter Archer (books 10-11) and Mary Gernat (books 12-15).

Dorothy Brook, 1963 / Charles Stewart, 1963 / Charles Stewart, 1963 / Peter Archer, 1965  / Peter Archer, 1965 / Mary Gernat, 1965 / Mary Gernat 1965.

So different artists, different colour schemes, similar but not identical art style and different fonts, yet they all scream Armada to me! It’s probably the solid-coloured backgrounds that does it?

Then it all gets a wee bit confusing, as Dragon and Methuen did alternating runs, some only doing parts of the series, some with artwork repeated…

After staring at lists of publishers, dates, artists as well as the covers themselves, I think I’ve more or less sorted it all out. I have grouped these covers into “sets” based on the design (rather than artist or year…) In reality it may be that publishers switched design and consider their sets different from mine, but I’ve got to organise it somehow.

So, the second ‘set’ are from Dragon, who reprinted the whole series between 1966 and 1969. These were the instantly recognisable upside-down polaroid covers (as I call them).

Peter Archer provided the covers for the first eight books, and Mary Gernat the rest.

Peter Archer, 1966 / Peter Archer, 1967 / Mary Gernet, 1969 / Mary Gernet, 1969.

Methuen then did a set of books 1-8, 11, 12 and 14, using the full versions of the previous dragon covers with text straight on the background.

Peter Archer, 1972 / Peter Archer, 1970 / Peter Archer, 1970 / Mary Gernat, 1970.

Most of these have a solid background colour which echoes the earlier Armadas, but for covers like Disappearing Cat, it makes a bit of a strange scene. That’s not a missing cat, that’s a huge disembodied cat head floating above a strange alien landscape…

Then we have a 1973 set of Dragons, with covers by Paul Wright – another upside-down Polaroid design but with only covers for books 2, 3, 4, 7 and 8.

Paul Wright, 1973 / Paul Wright, 1973 / Paul Wright, 1972 / Paul Wright, 1972.

These are quite skilful, especially Strange Bundle, though the window being off-centre on Pantomime Cat bothers me a little!

And last in this confusing lot are four covers by Methuen, some dated 1970 and others 1973. These have a bright block of colour at the top and use previous artwork by Paul Wright and Mary Gernat – Wright’s for books 9 10 come from the Dragon polaroids, while Gernat’s are for books 13 and 15 and are from the earlier Methuen polaroids.

Paul Wright, 1973 / Paul Wright, 1973 / Mary Gernat, 1970 / Mary Gernat, 1973.

The illustrations are fine on these, but the coloured banners look a bit cheap and garish – they don’t compliment the other colours on the cover at all!


The straight-forward 1970s, 80s and 90s.

You’ll be glad to know that the next thirty years had nice, straight-forward sets where the whole series was printed with one artists and one design!

First up, another Methuen lot, this time from 1979. These covers are by Reginald Grey and I always associate them with Malory Towers as that’s where I saw the ‘arched label’ design first.

All Reginald Grey, 1979

What’s interesting about these as although they have a solid colour background like other covers they manage to look as if the foreground has been cut out and stuck down on top like scraps. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, though.

Then we have two sets by Dragon. The first are dated 1983, and have covers by Bruno Elettori – the third and final set of upside-down polaroids (the most of these I’ve seen for any one series!)

All Bruno Elettori, 1983

These are probably the least attractive of the polaroid covers, being quite dull-coloured.

The second Dragons are from 1987, artwork by Mick Austin. These use the notion that mysteries are denoted by question marks and so have bordered the title with lots of little question marks.

These are fairly uninspiring, if I’m honest. From these only Strange Bundle really gives an insight into the plot of the story, the others could be from any story more or less.

Into the 90s we start with Dean, in 1990 with Liz Roberts covers.

All Liz Roberts, 1990

You might think I’d class these as upside-down polaroids, but no, they’re not white so they don’t give me that vibe. They do give me a very 90s vibe, however, particularly Banshee Towers! I do associate these covers with Blyton as I’ve seen other series/titles in this style, and the artwork is actually inoffensive – the children look like actual humans, the colours are fairy nice and they’re just nice drawings (even if the clothes are awful) in general.

The FFOs must have been popular as Armada released another set in 1991 (these I think were paperbacks, while the Deans were hardbacks, different publishers could hold the license to publish the books at the same time if they were in different formats), with artwork by an uncredited artist (the only one for the series). These are also the only photo-covers, and I find them really odd. The only TV adaptation of this series is the Japanese Gonin to Ippiki (Five Children and Dog) from 1969-1971 – and that is definitely not what is on these covers).

All uncredited, 1991

So, if it’s not from a TV series then these are just some random 90s children that we’ve never met, who are hanging around in fields or riding bikes or writing letters and not doing anything we might recognise as a scene from the books. What a great marketing strategy!

Mammoth used Button Design co (a name that’s popped up for several 90s editions on other series already) for their 1996 paperback covers, and Dean then used the same artwork for their 1997 hardbacks. Mammoth and Dean are both owned by Egmont, which helps explain this.

 

Button Design co 1996 / 1997.

As you can see the Deans have stretched the image from a square to fill the whole cover, resulting in a lot of cropping. Some books appear to have Four Find-Outers, or sometimes Four-and-a-bit.


The almost entirely straight-forward 2000s to present day

There is only one set from 2000 on which doesn’t do all 15 books, and those are the second Dean set in a line up that goes Egmont, Dean, Egmont, Dean, Egmont.

So, the first Egmonts are from 2003, with Jason Ford covers.

All Jason Ford, 2003.

I actually don’t hate these. They don’t suit the FFOs at all, but if they were for another author I’d not mind them. They at least make a good attempt to convey some elements of the story – Fatty’s walk in the night when he speaks to the night watchman, Fatty out at night again (a little vaguer but at least he’s not just lounging around), the Lorenzos and their dog Poppet, Eunice having a pop at Fatty.

Then in 2004 Dean used the same Button Design Co. art as previously.

All Button Design co, 2004.

These look pretty cheap and nasty but at least they haven’t cropped 1/5th of the gang out.

In 2009/10 Egmont had covers by Martin Usborne and Shutterstock. I’m not sure what part Shutterstock are responsible for – they are generally stock photos, so it’s probably the magnifying glass.

Martin Usborne and Shutterstock, 2010 / Martin Usborne and Shutterstock, 2010 / Martin Usborne and Shutterstock, 2009 /Martin Usborne and Shutterstock, 2009.

Again, I don’t hate these. They’re not what I’d pick for Blyton but a lot of thought has actually gone into them. The scene in the magnifying glass is at least related to the story and shoe the children actually doing something, and then the motif in the background is cleverly related to the story too (well, one or two books they obviously struggled with which is a shame, but the rest are clever). Smoke to signify the fire in Burnt Cottage, paw prints for the missing cat in Disappearing Cat, post marks for Strange Messages, painting frames for Banshee Towers, and so on. They’re the kind of detail you might not pay much attention to until you’ve read the book, then you realise their significance.

And then we have our partial Dean set in 2009, with books 1-6 having new Mary Gernat covers.

All Mary Gernat, 2009.

Initially when I saw these I wondered how these could be Mary Gernat. Looking closer, however, I can just about see her style under the dark, heavy lines. I’m not sure if her original work has been digitally edited, or if she was trying a new style… anyway, these were published more than ten years after her death, so they could have been done during the heyday of her career in the 1960s, but not used for whatever reason.

The last Egmonts are from 2014 with Timothy Bank covers. The artwork by Timothy Banks was then reused by Hodder in both 2016 and 2019. Hodder and Egmont are separate publishers, so this time I’m not sure how to explain it.

All Timothy Banks, 2014 / 2016 / 2019.

I don’t know if these particularly suit Blyton or the FFO, but I like the overall design. It’s a pity that the children have silly cartoonish features though.


Do you see any of your favourites amongst these? Or any that make you want to claw your eyes out?

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Monday #411

We ended up with at least a foot of snow falling in the first few days of last week, snow that’s hung around all week due to the low temperatures. It is supposed to be warm today – up to 9 degrees, so no more sledging but at least we might be able to walk on the pavements again!

The Five Find-Outers covers through the years

and

Five Go to Mystery Moor part 2

“You know, it’s a lot better for us when Mr. Johnson makes sandwiches of tomato or lettuce or something like that. We do get them all then – but when we have meat or sardine or egg sandwiches Timmy gets as much as we do!”

Henry (Henrietta) laments Timmy’s appetite in Five Go to Mystery Moor.

 

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Five Go to Mystery Moor

My last Famous Five review came in August last year, and that was Five Have a Wonderful Time. If you’re about to tell me that I have missed Five Go Down to the Sea, I haven’t, I just accidentally reviewed it before Wonderful Time…

Anyway, Five Go to Mystery Moor ranks at #17 in the series for me, which is pretty far down. According to the post where I did my rankings this is because it has a slow build up and the exciting end hasn’t stuck well in my mind.


A story in three parts

As usual, here are the distinct parts of the story as I see them;

  1. Time at the stables
  2. The tale of the Bartles and going camping
  3. Parcels dropping, the mist, kidnap and rescue

You could sub-divide the first part into pre and post boys arriving, and the second into more time at the stables and their time camping.


Where are the boys?

Just like with Five Have a Wonderful Time, we start with only some of the Five. This time it’s George, Anne and Timmy who are at Captain Johnson’s Riding School. Anne chose this as she loves horses, and the boys were going camping with friends. George is sulky (what’s new!) as she just wanted to spend the holidays with her cousins.

George’s sulkiness is compounded by the fact that there’s another girl-who-thinks-she’s-a-boy at the stables – Henrietta aka Henry. Instead of bonding over a love of boy’s attire the two of them can’t stand each other and call each other by their full first names.

But never fear – the machinations of Blyton means that Uncle Quentin succumbs to an unidentified illness, meaning the the Five can’t all meet up at Kirrin as planned. The girls are told to stay at the stables for another week, and Julian and Dick decide to come along too.


The gypsies

Blyton was fond of bringing gypsies and other travelling folk into her stories. We’ve already had Jo’s father and the gypsies they travelled with in Five Fall Into Adventure, the fair folk of Five Have a Wonderful Time (more distant relatives of Jo) and the Barneys from Five Go Down to the Sea.

The Mystery Moor gypsies are not terribly well described. None apart from Sniffer get names, and only his father has any sort of identity.

Sniffer is a skinny young boy who brings his horse to be seen by Captain Johnson as it is lame (for some reason when typing the introduction to this post I wrote Tinker, and I also wrote Tinker in my notebook while reading!). Sniffer’s a bit of a sorry character, much abused and beaten by his nasty father. He does have the comfort of his little dog, Liz, though. Sniffer’s father turns up trying to take the horse before it is recovered and has a bit of a stand-off with Julian, though it’s nowhere near as impressive as the ones with Mr Stick.

This gives us our first mystery: Why are the gypsies so desperate to travel onto the moors by a certain date? What’s waiting for them out there?


The second (and third) mysteries

We find a second mystery when the Five (well, minus George and Timmy and plus Henry) find old train tracks on the moor while riding.

Now, George and Henry are both pretty silly when it comes to fighting and arguing, but  actually think Julian is an ass to invite Henry along for the ride. He barely knows her, and he knows she and George don’t get along. It’s not just that George has taken a dislike to her, Henry goes out of her way to annoy George and vice versa. Who wants to be in the middle of that? OK, so he feels sorry for her being the only older one with a bunch of little kids, but if she felt that way herself she could have made more of an effort to get along with George.

Henry redeems herself somewhat by being insightful enough to know that George doesn’t really have a headache keeping her from going on the ride – she is George’s headache and she offers not to go.

George is quite hard on herself then – she realises she’s shot herself in the foot when they all go off without her, and she blames herself. To be honest, I’d have done the same, but perhaps for different reasons. If my family or friends had invited someone I hated I’d probably have feigned a headache to avoid the pain of spending the day with my enemy. George seems to have done it in the hope of the others disinviting Henry, however, as she is surprised and annoyed that they do go without her. So she is banking on them knowing the headache is fake, and wanting her to go more than they do Henry. Which is a bit manipulative, but I know that if she’d gone to Julian to ask him to disinvite Henry he would have said no and she would have ended up having a row with him.

Anyway – back on topic, they go without George and find train tracks on the moor, all old and overgrown, even broken in places. I couldn’t help but think that Brodie would love finding train tracks on a moor. Any straight lines he finds (tire tracks in snow, white lines on a football pitch) he calls train tracks and runs along shouting ‘chugga chugga choo choo!’ so real tracks would be beyond exciting for him.

The mystery of the tracks is easily solved, as they go to see old Ben the blacksmith who tells them all about it. It’s a straightforward solution – there were sand quarries on the moor and a family set up a little railway to transport the sand instead of using horses and carts.

What happened after that is the third mystery – though it’s not one the Five could solve. Ben’s story is one of the dark and creepy ones that Blyton occasionally uses, like the wreckers in Five Go to Demon’s Rocks and Five Go Down to the Sea, the drowning in The Ring O’ Bells Mystery and the abandoned nursery in The Rockingdown Mystery. Ben himself is reminiscent of the many knowledgeable old men in Blyton’s stories, Grandad from Five On Finniston Farm, Yan’s Grandad from Five Go Down to the Sea, Old Grandad from The Ring O Bells Mystery, Lucas from Five Have a Mystery to Solve, Jeremiah Boogle from Five Go to Demon’s Rocks

The Bartles were the sand quarrying family, who ran afoul of a band of gypsies some 70 years before. The gypsies tore up the train tracks and derailed the train. One day soon after the Bartle brothers (9 or 10 strapping men) went to the quarry, and never returned. A mist had stolen over the moors, and gypsies had been seen going through the village…

Ben thinks that the gypsies murdered the brothers and threw their bodies into the sea – dark stuff for Blyton!


Investigations begin

To find out more about the gypsies George has Sniffer leave patrins, signs made of twigs and leaves, so they can follow him along to the gypsy camp. The gypsies are sufficiently rude as to make it clear they are hiding something.

Then it all becomes a bit accidental – more children are to arrive at the stables and there isn’t room, so the Five go off to camp on the moors. They follow the tracks to the old quarry and lo and behold, that’s only about a quarter mile from the gypsies’ camp.

That night the boys witness a plane flying low over the moors and a light shining from the gypsy camp. When they wander over to see during the day they find a proper lamp set in a hollow in the ground. Yet the gypsies claim to know nothing about it – or the plane.

The Five can’t work out what a plane could be doing without landing – obviously they’ve never read The Sea of Adventure!

The following night they make sure to watch for the plane and when it comes it drops a load of packets (I wonder if it dropped packets the night before too, and if the boys wouldn’t have seen/heard that). Something’s obviously afoot, even without opening a package to find American dollars.

As the gypsies are obviously up to something dodgy they decide to confiscate the packages and make off with them, back to the village.


The Mist

The phenomenon is called both mist and fog, though they are two different things. The Mist sounds more ominous (if you read Stephen King).

The mist – the first bad one in a few years – comes just as the Five are leaving the quarry with the packets. At first this seems a boon, it prevents the gypsies from following them, and all the Five have to do is follow the tracks back to Milling Green.

But the rugs holding the packets are heavy, and the boys decide to hide them in the old engine they found rusting in the gorse bushes. I’ve read this book a bunch of times and yet couldn’t tell you how this all played out, beyond them getting separated and lost.

The girls stay on the tracks, the boys walk back up, and go off to the side. However they can’t find their way back to the tracks and get lost. The girls decide to walk into the village for help but accidentally walk back to the quarry and get captured by the gypsies – a catalogue of errors, really.


Rescue

George hopes to send Timmy to find Julian and Dick, with Sniffer’s help. Sniffer’s father catches her writing a note and tells her she should write a note, and he will use it to lure the boys back so they can recover the packets. He hasn’t thought of how to deliver the note, though, so George tells him to use Timmy as per her original plan. The jokes on him – she’s sending it to Henry and signing it Georgina (just like she did in Five on a Treasure Island).

It doesn’t go entirely to plan, though, as Captain Johnson is away, leaving Henry and William to ride out to the rescue. Julian and Dick also eventually manage to return to the stables, and after a good breakfast courtesy of Mrs Johnson the whole lot go back out to the engine to recover the packets of money.


So that’s the story… next time I’ll go through my questions, comments and nitpicks.

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Miss Grayling’s Girls 7 – the rest of her teachers

I seem to preface an awful lot of posts with ‘It’s been a while since the last one of these’ lately. I have a terrible habit of enthusiastically starting a series of posts and then running out of steam despite having half-drafted ones remaining. I’m trying to be better at finishing things (hence On my bookshelf part 7 being published recently, a year and a bit after part 6).

If you’ve forgotten what came earlier, or weren’t reading this blog two or three, then here’s the past posts:

Miss Grayling’s Girls – an introduction
Miss Grayling’s Girls – the failures 
Miss Grayling’s Girls – the experiments
Miss Grayling’s Girls – the ones who almost messed it up
Miss Grayling’s Girls – the successes 
Miss Grayling’s Girls – her best teachers

Miss Parker

Miss Parker is the second-form mistress, and has a bit of a contradictory nature. She is often nicknamed Nosy Parker because of her large nose – and because she keeps sticking her nose into things the girls think are no concern of hers.

Certainly she was a most inquisitive person when she suspected any mischief was going on, and did not rest till she had got to the bottom of it.

Despite this she sometimes doesn’t take an interest in some of the things that she probably should.

Miss Parker did not often take any notice of Ellen. She was usually a quiet girl, with a name for bad temper, and Miss Parker was not at all interested in her, though sometimes surprised that her work was not better.

It’s no surprise that the girls leave Ellen to her own devices as she is indeed bad-tempered, but it is a shame that her form teacher simply writes her off and doesn’t wonder why a girl clever enough to get a scholarship is then struggling with the work. At least when she finds out that Ellen has been ill she is kind to her.

“You’re not up even to your ordinary work at the moment, let alone taking extra coaching. I shan’t expect much from you, nor will anyone else. So don’t worry.”

She also is said to worry about Ellen’s continuing poor work but puts it down to her still not being entirely well after her illness, as she notes that Ellen is paying attention in class and trying hard. Of course there is a lot more bothering Ellen and unfortunately Miss Parker doesn’t look any deeper. Then again, if she had, Ellen wouldn’t have tried to cheat and we wouldn’t have had the altercation between her and Darrell.

Miss Parker is described as strict but someone who occasionally has dreamy fits where she
forgets the class and sits gazing into the distance. Unsurprisingly the girls look forward to these rare moments and make the most of them! Yet Darrell says that She can’t stand anything vague or careless. It’s also said that she hates anyone messing with her time-table by being late.

She is sensible enough to know that Irene looking after Belinda isn’t a good idea, and forbids it after her first few days at the school

“That would mean the two of you getting lost. You’d probably be down in the swimming-pool waiting for a diving lesson whilst we were all up here doing maths.”

Miss Parker seems a fan of the outdoors and leads the girls on walks – seeing through Daphne’s attempts to get out of them. When one such walk is cancelled, and they instead have games and a picnic in the games hall she decides not to let Daphne know.

“No, you mustn’t disturb Daphne! She badly wanted to
have this extra coaching, Mam’zelle tells me, and was quite willing to forgo the walk. She would be willing to forgo the games and picnic too, I am sure. We mustn’t disturb her. When a girl shows herself to be as studious as that it would be a pity to spoil it all.”

She also forms part of the search-party when Daphne and Mary-Lou are found to be missing. It is she who walks back with Daphne, half-holding her up.

Miss James

The fifth form mistress, Miss James, is a tall spare woman of about fifty, whose curly grey hair framed a scholarly face with kind but shrewd hazel eyes. Moira describes her as easy-going to a point. Then look out! She changes from sweet to sour in the twinkling of an eye – and it’s bad for you if you don’t notice the change-over immediately. Still, Jimmy’s not a bad sort. She’s known as Jimmy when she’s sweet and James when she’s sour, according to Catherine.

We see very little of her in In the Fifth, though. Beyond her first lesson with the girls she hardly features! The fifth formers don’t play any tricks and are too busy with their pantomime for much trouble in class. Miss Potts deals with the poison-pen letters, I suspect Miss James has no idea about that.

She does show some sense in not encouraging ‘saint’ Catherine;

Catherine beamed. Yes – yes, she would help all she could. Miss James could depend on her, of course she could. She tried to catch the mistress’s eye, but for some reason Miss James steadfastly looked in the other direction.

She also promotes Darrell to head of fifth-form, though it was probably a joint decision as before.

Miss Oakes

When the girls reach the sixth form they fall under the care of Miss Oakes, who also teaches history. She seems to be liked well enough, despite not having a sense of humour.

I like Old Oakey. But I’ve often wished she had more sense of humour. She never, never, never sees a joke. But she always suspects there may be somebody leading her up the garden path. – Darrell

From what we see she it not very effective at handling Suzanne. Miss Oakes is always suspicious that Suzanne understands more English than she admits, but she doesn’t do anything about it other than think about having words with Mam’zelle Rougier.

She does however ‘deal’ with Gwen via some rather sharp words.

Miss Oakes was not interested in Gwen’s future school any more than she was interested in Gwen.

“You are not up to Higher standard, whatever school you happen to be in,” she said coldly.  “I can only hope that you will work  a little better this term than you have worked for the last two terms, Gwendoline. Would it be too difficult to leave me with a little better impression of your capabilities than I have at present?

She does appear insightful, however, I particularly like this insight into her thoughts from Last Term at Malory Towers.

Privately, Miss Oakes thought that Darrell and Sally would do much better at college than Alicia or Betty, although these to had quicker brains and better memories than either Sally or Darrell.

‘Being grown-up, and feeling free for the first time form bells and strict time-tables and endless classes, will go to Alicia’s head and Betty’s too. They won’t do a scrap of work at college! They’ll be out to dances and parties and meetings the whole time- and in the end sound little Darrell and solid little Sally will come away with the honours that Alicia and Betty should find it easy to get – but won’t!’

I think she has a point – but I’d hope that they’d learn to knuckle down if they found their marks slipping, much like Darrell did in her first form.

The two Mam’zelles

I’m not sure why Malory Towers requires two French mistresses, but two it has.

Mam’zelle Dupont is short, fat and generally genial. She is well-liked as she is reasonably easy-going, and can often be encouraged to chatter on about her nieces and nephews, wasting lesson time. She is generous with offers of extra coaching, but can become snappish and cross quickly if the girls’ work is extremely poor.

Mam’zelle Rougier is the opposite of her colleague, tall, very thin and almost always bad tempered. If she makes a joke is a feeble one about how hard the girls are going to work for her.

The only time she says something truly funny, it is probably quite unintentional;

I see no joke. It is not funny, teeth on the grass. It is time to see the dentist when that happens.

That was after Mam’zelle Dupont has laughed out a set of trick teeth.

The two mam’zelles cause a fair bit of bother in the school, and I’m not sure how helpful Miss Grayling finds them. Mam’zelle Dupont always falls for tricks, allows lessons to be disrupted (both her own and often others in the vicinity) and has ‘favourites’ based on their looks and charming smiles.

[They] both taught the Upper Fourth, but though actually Mam’zelle Rougier was the better teacher, plump little Mam’zelle Dupont got better results because she was friendly and had a great sense of humour. The girls worked better for her.

Then of course there’s the rivalry between the women, which comes to a head in ??? when they are both trying to cast the parts for a French play. Mam’zelle Rougier is sensible and casts the best French speakers, though she makes no regard for acting ability. Mam’zelle Dupont casts her favourites, the pretty girls who would look nice on stage. The poor girls have to swap back and forth each lesson until a rather nasty (but brilliant) set of drawings by Belinda are seen by the mam’zelles and they realise how foolish they have been. They are (probably briefly) best of friends after that, as two French women in a hostile English environment.

Miss Hibbert

A teacher of both English and drama, but only features in the third book.

Miss Hibbert did not look at all like a producer of plays. She was neat, with a well-fitting coat and skirt, and her hair, slightly wavy, was brushed well back. She wore a pair of glasses with rather thick rims. She was very efficient, and knew exactly how to pick the right actor for the right part.

Darrell explains how she does that;

“She tries us all out in almost every part several times. She does that for two reasons—she says that in that way she really does find the right actor for every part—and we all get to know every part of the play and work better as a team.”

Miss Hibbert gets annoyed by girls who don’t taking acting seriously, as evidenced by Gwen who is often ticked her off for being affected and silly in her acting. That does not bode well for Zerelda who we see to be an exceptionally over-dramatic and affected actress.

As soon as Zerelda arrives for the first rehearsal Miss Hibbert tells her off for having her hair back in it’s Lossie Laxton do, but allows her the role of Juliet as she says she has been practicing.

We’ve already been told that Miss Hibbert has her own way of dealing with stagestruck people who thought they could act – and Zerelda gets both barrels of it.

“How dare you behave like that? Sending the class into fits! Do you think that’s the way to behave in a Shakespeare class? They may think it comical but I don’t. Those are lovely lines you have been saying—but you have completely spoilt them. And do you really think it is clever to throw yourself about like that, and toss your head? Don’t you know that Juliet was young and gentle and sweet? You are trying to make her into some horrible affected film-star!”

“And why have you made yourself up like that?” demanded Miss Hibbert, roused to more anger by the giggles of the rest of the form. “I cannot tell you how horrible you look with that stuff on your face. You would not dare to go to Miss Peters’ class like that. I’m not going to put up with it. You may as well make up your mind, Zerelda, that you will never be an actress. You simply haven’t got it in you. All that happens is that you make yourself really vulgar. Now go and wash your face and do your hair properly.”

Well – that was Zerelda told. That may sound very harsh but at this point Miss Hibbert didn’t know that Zerelda was serious about being an actress, and thought that her performance was her playing the fool. When she does find out, she makes sure to talk to Zerelda and gives her some very good advice.

She is honest in saying that Zerelda doesn’t have the gift to be a great actress, and she also lacks one other thing.

“Well, Zerelda, in order to be able to put yourself properly into some other character, you have to forget yourself entirely—forget your looks, your ambitions, your pride in acting, everything! And it takes a strong and understanding character to do that, someone without conceit or weakness of any sort—the finer the character of the actor, the better he can play any part.
You are thinking of yourself too much. You were not Juliet being acted by Zerelda this afternoon—you were Zerelda all the time—and not a very nice Zerelda either!”

Then finishes with advising her on how to carry on from there, advice that Zerelda takes to heart and finds very helpful.

“You have let your foolish worship and admiration of the film-stars blind you, Zerelda. Why not try to be your own self for a while? Stop all this posturing and pretending. Be like the others, a schoolgirl sent here to learn lessons and play games!”…

“[A schoolgirl is] a very, very nice thing to be. You try it and see! I wouldn’t have been so hard on you if I’d known you had set your heart on being an actress. I thought you were just being ridiculous.”

Matron

Matron is not a teacher but she is an important staff member at Malory Towers, taking care of the girls outside of their lessons.

The girls just talk about going to see Matron as if there’s just the one, but it’s clear that there are four Matrons, one for each house. We only meet North Tower’s Matron but I expect they are all from a similar mould.

Matron is responsible for getting the girls settled in at the start of term, a job which includes checking their Health Certificates and making sure new girls are shown to their dorms.

She is also responsible for the doling out the girls’ pocket money, caring for their clothing and bedding, especially ensuring they properly repair anything that needs it.

Matron popped her head in and said she wanted Gwendoline.
“Oh, why, Matron?” wailed Gwendoline. “What haven’t I done now that I ought to have done? Why do you want me?”
“Just a little matter of darning,” said Matron.
“But I’ve done the beastly darning you told me to,” said Gwen,
indignantly.
“Well then—shall we say a little matter of unpicking and re-darning?” said Matron, aggravatingly. The girls grinned. They had seen Gwen’s last effort at darning a pair of navy-blue knickers with grey wool, and had wondered if Matron would notice.

Matron is kind but firm, and takes absolutely no nonsense from any of the girls. Although there is a sister in the san for girls who are very ill, Matron doles out medicines for minor complaints and according to Alicia, keeps a bottle of a particularly nasty one for malingerers like Gwen.

No— Matron simply never believed her. She would take her temperature and say, “My dear Gwendoline, you are suffering from inflammation of the imagination as usual,” and give her that perfectly horrible medicine.

Other teachers

There are of course other teachers, but we see very little of them so I can only provide a brief description.

Miss Linnie

Teaches art, though once she is referred to the sewing mistress in the fifth book. Miss Linnie is known for being easy going, so the girls can mess around in her classes a bit more than some others. She is young and has red hair done in little curls.

Miss Donnelly

Miss Donnelly is the actual sewing mistress. She is gentle, sweet tempered and gives nothing more than mild protests if the girls are misbehaving.

Miss Remmington

Miss Remmington is the games mistress, but is only mentioned in the first book. Alicia calls her Old Remington and implies she’s good at coaching, but

She won’t bother with the duds.

It is Miss Remmington who suddenly decides to hold a swimming display at half-term in First Form.

“So it would be nice this half-term, as it’s so hot, for your people to go down to the breezy pool, and see not only the beauties of the water, but the way their girls can swim and dive!” said Miss Remmington. “We will have a pleasant time down there and then come back for a strawberry and cream tea, with ices!”

Miss Carton

Miss Carton teaches history and is known for her sarcasm.

Miss Carton over there—see her—the one with the high collar and pince-nez glasses on her nose. She’s frightfully clever, and awfully sarcastic if you don’t like history. – Alicia

This is backed up in the Fourth Form.

Miss Carton, the history mistress, knew that the School Certificate form was well up to standard except for miseries like Gwendoline, who didn’t even know the Kings of England and couldn’t see that they mattered anyhow. She used her sarcastic tongue on Gwendoline a good deal these days, to try and
whip her into some show of work, and Gwen hated her.

Miss Greening

Only mentioned once that I can find, Miss Greening teaches elocution and the girls are advised to go to her for help with their pantomime in the fifth form.

Mr Young

I know that this series is Miss Grayling’s girls, and I’ve stretched that to include female teachers/Matrons (I said last time that these should be Miss Grayling’s ladies, if not for continuity) but I can’t miss out the only male teachers.

Mr Young is called both the music master and the singing master, as he takes both music and singing. As well as doing classes he also does individual singing lessons. It is said that he is either in a good temper, and the girls have to judge which and act accordingly. We only see him in Second Form (though he is mentioned in a couple of other books) where the girls play the chalk trick on him, this works well as he always sits on the stool and twirls around until it is the right height for him. He is also often slightly late for his own classes!

There he was, with his funny little moustache twisted up at the ends, his bald head with the three or four hairs plastered down the middle, his too-high collar, and his eyes large behind their glasses.

Mr Sutton

The other male teacher, and only mentioned in one book, Mr Sutton teaches carpentry, primarily to the first and second years.

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Monday #410

As with every year it seems, February’s weather is worse than the previous winter months put together. So far we’ve had nothing but rain and snow, and we’re still in full lockdown until the start of March at least. Still, there’s a bright spot, and that is that nurseries should be able to resume from the 22nd, and that’s only two weeks away!

Miss Grayling’s Girls part 7: the rest of her teachers

and

Five Go to Mystery Moor

The class saw her back view at once, and gasped. Written across her tightfitting skirt in bright pink letters was the word “OY!” Even Darrell was surprised to see it so clearly, and suddenly felt very uncomfortable. It was one thing to make a patch of pink appear on somebody’s clothes—it could easily be explained away—but how could the word “OY!” be explained? It was quite impossible!

Mam’zelle’s OY causes Darrell some consternation in Second Form at Malory Towers.

 

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If you like Blyton: The Indian in the Cupboard by Lynne Reid Banks

Despite being known as a ‘children’s classic’ I have only read this series for the first time recently. I had seen the 1995 film before and had a certain fondness for it, but the notion of there being a book as well eluded me for a long time. I actually got the film for my Christmas and although I enjoyed it, it wasn’t a patch on the book!

I discovered it was a series in 2014 when I added the first book to my ‘to read’ shelf on Goodreads, though curiously I didn’t add the rest of the series until October last year. I read the first one on my Kindle in October, then while at work at the end of last year I decided to head into the children’s stacks and grab the rest of books as they were all there (in non-matching editions), and I wanted some books to keep me going over Christmas and into the new year if we didn’t reopen straight away.

The series comprises five books of which I’ve read the first three.

  1. The Indian in the Cupboard
  2. The Return of the Indian
  3. The Secret of the Indian
  4. The Mystery of the Cupboard
  5. The Key to the Indian


Who is the Indian, and what is the cupboard?

Little Bull (Little Bear in some editions) is an Iroquois chief from the 18th century. In the story, he begins as a plastic figure given to Omri by his friend Patrick, on his ninth birthday.

Omri is also given an old medicine cabinet by his older brother, and although that seems an odd present he is pleased as he loves secret hiding places for his private treasures.

The cupboard doesn’t have a key but Omri’s mother has a load of old keys and one of those – one she chose as a token from her grandmother before she died – fits the lock.

Omri put the Indian, which initially he was disappointed to receive as a gift, in the cupboard and locks him in, only to discover the next morning that the Indian has come to life, becoming a living, breathing man, but still just three inches tall.


The cowboy in the cupboard

Although the title of the book suggests it’s all about Little Bull, there are other figures brought to life by the cupboard.

Once Patrick knows what the cupboard can do he brings his cowboy figure (and horse) to life. The mistrust between these two tiny men leads to Little Bull being badly injured, and Omri bringing Tommy Atkins, a WW2 medic, to life briefly.

And lastly, as Little Bull has demanded a wife, Omri lets him choose a female figure to bring to life; an Iroquois woman called Twin Stars. In later books more Indians are brought to life, and other medics too.


One for Blyton fans?

On one hand I feel like there’s so much in here that Blyton could have written herself. On the other, Reid Banks has woven together some things that Blyton rarely, if ever, combined.

A magic key or piece or furniture that brings toys to life would fit perfectly into one of Blyton’s fantasy stories. Blyton has written many stories about toys who secretly come to life at night or whenever their children aren’t looking, and I’m sure there are stories about regular toys who are magically brought to life as well.

However, Reid Banks’ toys have something that Blyton’s wouldn’t – we discover along with Omri and Patrick that the toys are imbued with the spirits of real historical people. Little Bear was, or indeed is, a real Native American man from 200 years before, and so he behaves as such. He is naturally terrified of the giant Omri to begin with. He needs to eat and have somewhere safe to sleep, and of course to be kept a secret from Omri’s family. Whenever he is returned to plastic (as the key can do both) he returns to his place in the 18th century, and time passes the same for him as it does for Omri.

That takes us into territory that Blyton didn’t cover in her fantasy tales. Reid Banks begins with a wonderful fantasy which quickly becomes quite a stressful time for Omri – he has great responsibility to care for the tiny people he has brought to life, and as Patrick is rather blasé about them Omri has to battle his friend’s attitudes and actions too. Omri realises that as Little Bear and Boone (and later other ‘toys’) are real people they have to be treated as such regardless of their size. Later books also go deeper into the morals of changing historical events and the fall out of trying. There are several suspenseful scenes as the consequences of various actions are played out, and some tragedies too.

Blyton of course gave us more insightful novels than her fantasy ones (even in those the children debate whether or not their actions would be right or fair but it’s kept reasonably simple) such as The Family at Red Roofs, Those Dreadful Children, The Put-em-Rights and so on. Each of these showed children learning (often the hard way) about responsibility, consequences, respect,  justice and other moral issues.

I’ve gone over this review a few times now and can’t seem to put into words how great these books are – not without outlining multiple scenes and spoiling the story anyway. I wish I had read them as a child as I’m sure revisiting them would be as rewarding as rereading my favourite Famous Fives.


A note of caution: I am aware of some criticisms of these books regarding the portrayal of the Native American characters. I don’t have the right to say that indigenous Americans should or shouldn’t be offended by these books. All I can say is that although Little Bear may seem somewhat stereotypical to begin with (There’s an interesting article about his speech here) and that Reid Banks may have included some inaccuracies regarding specific Native American details, the book delves quite deeply into a lot of issues in a positive way.

I’ll leave a couple of articles I’ve read on the subject here, one positive and one negative so you can be more informed.

 

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January 2021 Round Up

That’s the first month of the long-awaited 2021 over, and to be honest, it wasn’t any better than much of 2020, was it.


What I have read

I set myself a target of 100 books for 2021 and then proceeded to ease myself in slowly, mostly reading easy children’s book as I didn’t feel motivated to read much else what with the new lockdown restrictions and rubbish weather. Thinking back to my stats for last year, my stats for this month are heavily tilted towards both rereads and children’s books. I did read a couple of new grown-up books at the end of the month though!

  • The Return of the Indian (The Indian in the Cupboard #2) – Lynne Reid Banks
  • The Girls of Mulberry Lane (Mulberry Lane #1) – Rosie Clarke
  • Anastasia Krupnik (Anastasia Krupnik #1) – Lois Lowry
  • Anastasia Again (Anastasia Krupnik #2) – Lois Lowry
  • Anastasia At Your Service (Anastasia Krupnik #3) – Lois Lowry
  • Clanlands – Sam Heughan and Graham McTavish
  • Anastasia Ask Your Analyst (Anastasia Krupnik #4) – Lois Lowry
  • K is for Killer (Kinsey Millhone #11) – Sue Grafton
  • Anastasia on Her Own (Anastasia Krupnik #5) – Lois Lowry
  • The Secret of the Indian (The Indian in the Cupboard #3) – Lynne Reid Banks
  • Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland – Lewis Carroll
  • Anastasia Has the Answers (Anastasia Krupnik #6) – Lois Lowry
  • The Radium Girls – Kate Moore
  • Dead Man in Ditch (The Fetch Phillips Archives #2) – Luke Arnold

And I’m still working my way through:

  • L is for Lawless (Kinsey Millhone #12) – Sue Grafton

What I have watched

  • Hollyoaks, as usual.
  • More Mythbusters, Only Connect and Taskmaster, plus the odd episode of The Crown.
  • Some films with Brodie which include A Bug’s Life, Paddington 2, Toy Story 4, Peter Pan, The Incredibles, Hotel Transylvania and Hotel Transylvania 2, The Spongebob Movie: Sponge on the Run and Bee Movie.
  • The Big Fat Quiz of the Year – for once I did better on current affairs (and even sport!) than entertainment.
  • The second series of Dream Home Makeover (I can’t understand why I like this when they’re tone-deaf enough to genuinely think they have customers on a ‘limited’ budget, who are spending $30,000 for redecorating and furnishing a single room.)
  • Tattoo Fixers and Tattoo Fixers on Holiday
  • After reading Clanlands I was in the mood for Outlander so I started back at at season one.
  • Wandavision, the new Marvel show which is on Disney+

What I have done

  • The very hard jigsaw of the Marauder’s Map which I got for Christmas
  • Many wet and cold walks and trips to various parks
  • Some home-baking, Brodie and I have made no-sugar blueberry scones, banana bread and porridge bars. 
  • Played in the snow as it snowed twice in January
  • Had a few ‘special’ teas where we set the table and ate together – steak pie on New Year’s Day and a veggie haggis potato pie on Burns’ night. We also ordered pizza one night, Brodie’s first delivery!

I also spent far too long trying to solve this puzzle from one of the magazines, and in the end sent a photo to my family who were equally baffled. Then finally, a few hours later my dad solved it (he’s the crossword-er in our family).

Let’s see if any of you can solve it? 

 

If you get it, just say so in the co


What has your month looked like?

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Monday #409

I was going to say ‘we’re at the end of January’ but I now realise it will be the start of February when this is published. It has probably been a miserable month for a lot of us; cold and dark and pretty lonely with the tight lockdown restrictions in the UK. But, January is over! Now onto February which is inevitably just as cold (if not colder) than January, but even so, it’s a step closer to spring and the hope that the vaccine roll out will mean an easing of restrictions.

In other news, Stef and I are still working on our next Cunningham and Petrov story. We are halfway through chapter 5 at the moment, where David has just returned to the Evans’ farm with the donkeys trailing after him. I don’t know yet how many chapters it will run to, the last one was meant to be 9, then 12, then ended up being 25 (sort of like how the Famous Five series was meant to be 6, then 12, then 21, but rather than children clamouring for more, it’s just that we cannot be succinct apparently!) so we will hold back on starting to publish it for a wee bit longer.

January round up

and

If you like Blyton: The Indian in the Cupboard by Lynne Reid Banks

“Slithery dithery, musty fusty dusty,” said Kiki, trying to remember the various collections of words she had picked up at one time or another. “Huffin and Puffin.”

Kiki shows off her perhaps irritating intellect in The Mountain of Adventure. She’s actually very like a toddler, if you think about it. Likes rhyming words and repeating things, talks a lot of nonsense, makes a lot of noises, is very loud…

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On my bookshelf part 7

A while back I gave you detailed tours of my main bookcases. First up were my Blytons in parts one, two and three, Blyton and Malcolm Saville in part four, miscellaneous children’s books in part five and my collection of grown-up books (and more children’s books) in part six.

And now we are on part 7. How many more bookshelves do I have, I hear you ask. Well, if we ignore the stacks of books in my wardrobe (primarily Nancy Drews, Buffy and Angels, Point Horror and Crime) there are a couple in Brodie’s room.

He has a unit in the living room with a load of toddler-appropriate books, and a unit in his bedroom, plus two shelves on the bookcase in there. But near the top of the bookcase are two shelves full of my books. (The middle shelf holds his trousers, don’t ask.)

Most of these books are in his room under the pretence that I am keeping them there for him when he grows up. Really I just don’t want to part with them and don’t have room anywhere else… But if he wants to read them later then that’s fine!


The Blyton overflow

Starting at the left are The Amelia Jane Bumper Book and the Noddy Classic Treasury which I used as my modern copy to compare older texts to.

Then a couple of non-Blytons, The First Margaret Mahy Story Book and Centuries of Stories.

Then there’s a boxset of the first three Adventure Series books (obviously I have these in hardback but I was given these at some point and they’re too nice to chuck).

Next, some Dean editions of Tales of Long Ago, Stories for You and Tales of Brave Adventure. These were once my mum’s, but as they’re Deans they’re relegated to the spare room. I have a bit of an irrational dislike of Dean editions, partly as they try to pass themselves off as first editions far too often! There’s also a World Distributors Now For a Story – a 1960s reprint of an earlier book.

After that are two of the Hodder Short story collections, the only two out of the 20 or so that exist – Christmas Stories and Christmas Tales, and All Aboard which is an omnibus of some of the Caravan Family stories.

Then a hardback of Five Have a Mystery to Solve, there because I bought a first edition a while ago so this one is surplus, a paperback of The Folk of the Faraway Tree, five duplicates of Noddy titles, a paperback of The Enchanted Wood (which I should do a text comparison on), another duplicate Famous Five, this time Five Run Away Together, two more Noddy duplicates in paperback, and my Red Fox paperback of Five Have a Puzzling Time and other stories. (And yes, writing that out makes me realise I really need to reorganise those to put like with like, but I’m not willing to wake Brodie to do it right now).

The pig bankie contains various foreign coins as I went though a phase of collecting them (without ever leaving the country!), the bear one is empty but I’ve had it since I was a baby, and beside those is where we keep Brodie’s dummies so he can’t reach them.


The other children’s books

This is a total mishmash of things. Some I’ve read and don’t want to part with, but quite a lot are waiting for me to get around to reading them!

On the far left is The Velveteen Rabbit, The King the Mice and the Cheese (a very Dr Seuss-ish story but by Nancy and Eric Gurney), Gobbolino the Witches’ Cat by Ursula Moray Williams, four of Beatrix Potters’ Peter Rabbit tales, an omnibus of The Spiderwick Chronicles, Find the Phantom of Ghastly Castle (a puzzle book full of pencil notations, which I remember my dad helping me with and I’m still not sure we managed to solve it…), four Tashi and the Ghosts books. Then there’s three of the Princess Diaries books, Ella Enchanted and The Wolves of Willoughby Chase. Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry (I should have handed this back as it was a school copy…) Charlotte’s Web, some Jacqueline Wilsons and Ramona Quimby books, and War Game by Michael Foreman (I have War Boy and After the War is Over in hardback on the bottom shelf).

Stuart Little, Dirty Gertie Mackintosh (silly poems), The Turbulent Term of Tyke Tyler, The Demon Headmaster (the first in the series), Milly-Molly-Mandy Stories, four Gemma novels by Noel Streatfeild, The Family from One End Street, The Arbradizil (actually this one is Ewan’s, one of the only children’s books he still has!), Mrs Frisby and the Rats of Nimh, Madame Doubtfire (enjoyable but quite different from the film which I absolutely love… “It was a run-by fruiting!”), The Haunted Island, and two of the sequels to The Animals of Farthing Wood.

The slim volumes are mostly Ladybird classics, several dating from the 1960s, the last one is The Cabinet of Calamari, a short novelisation of an episode of The Real Ghostbusters TV cartoon (I knew of the cartoon long before the films, and was rather in love with cartoon Egon as a child. I was very disappointed when movie Egon didn’t have this ludicrous hair.)

The last book is The Tales of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter.

And this concludes the tour of my bookshelves!

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(One to avoid) if you like Blyton: The New Bobbsey Twins #22 The Super-Duper Cookie Caper

We are heading in a slightly different direction with this review; the first Bobbsey Twins post was an overview of the 1980s Wanderer series, which Sean followed with reviews of two of the New Bobbsey Twins books; The Secret of Jungle Park and The Case of the Close Encounter.

All these posts came under the banner of ‘If you like Blyton’, and were recommendations. This one is different as Sean chose it to highlight how different the latter books of this series are.

With Blyton a few of her series show a decline in quality towards the end. Most people agree that the final Famous Five book (Five Are Together Again) is the weakest. I personally find the second-last book (Five Have a Mystery to Solve) rather weak too, but there is a variety of opinions as to which point the series declined. Some people think everything after book 12 was poor, others think there are some highlights in the second half – but few can agree upon exactly which books were the high points!

The final Five Find-Outers book (The Mystery of Banshee Towers) is the weakest according to most readers, the final Secret Seven has several inconsistencies and is not amongst the best entries.

But Enid Blyton was a single author who, as she aged, found her health and memory declining. Her stand alone titles towards the end of her career also declined in quality, and so it wasn’t as simple as each series declining, but her general work declining from around 1960 onwards.

The Bobbsey Twins were written by ghost-writers from the Stratmeyer Syndicate, and while it’s possible one ghost-writer’s writing quality declined as the series went on it is unlikely, as the beauty of ghost-writers are you can replace one with another and your readers are none the wiser. From reading Sean’s review it looks more like someone in the Syndicate decided to take the series in a slightly different direction, a direction I’ll let his review explain to you.

This could still be considered an ‘if you like Blyton’ post, but only if it come after ‘one to avoid!’.


The Super-Duper Cookie Caper

Warning: Spoilers and snide comments to follow!

Ok, so here is my review on one of my least favourite Bobbsey books. For those of you that missed my earlier reviews, the New Bobbsey Twins series is a collection of 30 books written in the late ’80s and early ’90s starting the Bobbsey Twins as they solve puzzling conundrums.

The first 17 books of the series have the twins solving big mysteries including industrial spies, theft of secret government aircraft, a troubling theft on the set of a Hollywood movie, and other crimes that really sparked my tween imagination! The latter 13 books really lessened the stakes with such “crimes” as mischief at the science fair, a missing pig at the county fair, hijinks at sleepaway camp, and this gem-the mysterious disappearance of a cookie recipe!

In all fairness, maybe the publishers thought that they wanted to change the pace of the stories and have them involve things that kids would realistically be expected to encounter (after all, how many youngsters solve real crimes before they enter their teens?) However, the change was abrupt, and it was made at the worst time for me. The series lasted from 1987 to 1992, so I was 12 when it started, and about 17 when it finished. The books were written for what I would think would be ages 12-14 at first, and by 1990 when the change was made, I was in my mid-teens, and really wasn’t the age group they were aiming for.

Ok, backstory over-let’s get into this book:

It starts with Freddie (the 6 year old younger boy twin) wanting a bicycle. He decides to earn the money for it by selling chocolate cookies on weekends using his grandmother’s secret recipe. He enlists the help of his twin Flossie, (and their housekeeper Mrs Green helps with the oven baking), and they start selling cookies at the park on weekends. It starts off with them doing very well in sales, but alas-trouble rears its head! First, a mysterious stranger with flour on him buys a cookie and says they are just “all right”, one of their classmates decides to sell brownies, and Danny Rugg (the neighbourhood bully) makes trouble!

Older twins Bert and Nan  (they are 12) suggest they put up flyers and go door to door with samples so they can take orders and get a jump on the brownie baking classmate. This works, and they do get quite a few orders for cookies. The next day, the four twins are in the kitchen baking, but they begin to get overwhelmed, burning a whole batch! What’s worse, the secret recipe goes missing! Was it stolen? Freddie suspects Brian (the kid selling brownies), especially after he says he is going to start selling cookies too!

Now, I know I complained about the lessening of the stakes, but I really do feel for Freddie at this point as he worries about getting his bicycle, and he is getting pretty stressed about the recipe being missing (the twins try to recreate it to bake more cookies, but they don’t turn out right).

More bad and suspicious things start happening. The man who had flour on his clothes came back to the park, and saw not only Freddie and Flossie selling cookies, but Brian selling brownies, and he got quite upset! Also, the older twins discover that the flyers they’ve been hanging up around the neighbourhood start mysteriously disappearing! Curiouser and curiouser as the saying goes!  Bert and Nan follow the mystery man and discover that he owns a bakery, but they also clear him of the theft.

Freddie, meanwhile has a faux conversation in front of Brian, Danny, and some other kids saying that the next weekend, their grandmother is giving them another recipe-this one is to a super duper cookie like no other! The four go to the grocery store to put an assortment of ingredients in a cart thinking that they will catch one of the suspects with those same
ingredients in his cart. Turns out the recipe swiper was one of the neighbours who placed an order! She wanted to sell them at her husband’s newspaper, and she stole the recipe because she is such a terrible cook. (I’m not kidding, that was the plot!)

Like I said, the latter part of the series uses a different artist, and a different genre of mystery. I can’t recommend it

Never fear, Bobbsey fans! Next time, I’ll go back to a favourite story of the New Bobbsey Twins!

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Monday #408

It’s another Monday but it doesn’t seem like we are getting any closer to the end of this particular lock down. Still, there’s hope somewhere ahead, even if it’s further away than we thought it would be as we celebrated the end of the disaster that was 2020.

Today is also Burn’s Night in Scotland which means it’s (veggie) haggis for tea tonight. I plan to turn it into a ‘pie’ with mashed potato on top and roasted parsnips on the side.

Here are a few words from Burns which seem appropriate for the times:

The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men
Gang aft a-gley,
An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain
For promis’d joy.

(Translation: The best-laid schemes of mice and men
Go oft awry,
And leave us nothing but grief and pain,
For promised joy!)

(One to avoid) if you like Blyton: The New Bobbsey Twins #22 The Super-Duper Cookie Caper

and

On my bookshelf part 7

“Wipe your feet!” screamed Kiki, and made a noise like a mowing-machine cutting long grass. It sounded really terrible in the still night air of the mountain-side.

The wolves started in fright. Then with one accord they all galloped away down the hillside into the night. Kiki shouted rude remarks after them.

Kiki makes herself useful again and scares off the ‘wolf’ pack in The Mountain of Adventure.

 

 

 

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Enid Blyton’s winters

Winter is firmly here in Scotland. It has been in minus figures most days for the past few weeks, not ideal when our only options for activities outside the house are the garden, walks and playparks. Going for a walk when it’s crisp and cold can be lovely, but it’s nicest when it’s a choice and not done simply because you’ll lose the plot if you stare at the same four walls (or your toddler’s epic mess) any longer.

Anyway, I like to post seasonal content, so here are a few things that Blyton wrote about winter. Maybe we can find a new appreciation for the season! I make no pretence that this is an exhaustive list, though, it’s just around a dozen things I noted down, there will be much more out there.


Nature-lovers’ Corners

We all know that Enid Blyton was big on nature, and despite winter seeming quite a barren month to those of us in the UK, she still found plenty to write about. I have to admit although I have a mild interest in animals and birds, I know very little about flowers and trees.


In volume 1 issue 19 of Enid Blyton’s Magazine Blyton says that this is the time of year to learn to know the evergreen trees and bushes. She adds that it’s quite clear which ones these are, as they’re the only one still with leaves (even I knew that!).

She also mentions the robins who, in winter put on their scarlet waistcoats… [and] now they look like proper little redbreasts!

Blyton begins by starting her Nature-lovers’ corner for December 9 1953 (volume 1 issue 20 of Enid Blyton’s Magazine) with a question.

What sort of a month will this turn out to be? Mild and fair with a few primroses opening their pale petals in sheltered corners? Or bitterly cold, with frost and snow, and all the ponds frozen?

Well, for me December 2020 was somewhere in-between, while January is firmly in frozen pond territory! (I read a lovely new story the other day about a 77 year old who went skating on an Edinburgh pond on her 50 year old skates!)

Blyton continues by reminding us that December 21st and 2nd are the shortest days of the year – though the days seem to be getting longer very slowly, and advising us to watch the stars at night and to try to catch some snowflakes to examine their shapes.


In volume 3 issue 23 of Enid Blyton’s magazine has Blyton giving us something for us to find

She suggests putting out a bird table (as this is from November it is to ‘tame’ the birds, it may be too late to do such a thing in January), and you may see at least nine different kinds of birds – blackbirds, thrush, starling, robin, sparrow, chaffinch, and two or three kinds of tit.

Blyton also suggests looking for spruce trees which have a straight spike at the top, and six-inch pine cones.


More things for us can be found in volume 3 issue 25 of Enid Blyton’s Magazine.

She advises looking at bird prints in the snow to see which birds hopped across it and which ran. Hopping birds’ prints will be side by side while running ones are one behind the other. Coincidentally I spotted some clear bird prints on my walk in between sessions of writing this blog! Some running and hopping ones, I think.


There are long Nature Notes for January in Enid Blyton’s Book of the Year.

It begins with As the day lengthens, the cold strengthens. I’m glad to see that it’s not just me imagining that January and February are colder than December!

She also says, though, that a cold January usually means a good spring, so here’s hoping! The notes are then divided into sections; birds, which are the usual suspects, trees, flowers (not many unless it’s very mild), animals (many still sleeping), insects (few apart from moths).


Poems

Trees in Winter (from Enid Blyton’s Magazine, volume 5 issue 25)

Elm and chestnut and beach and lime
Are bare and brown in the winter-time
Oak and sycamore, birch and plane,
Have hardly a leaf to catch the rain!
Ash and maple and poplar tall
Haven’t a leaf to show at all!

But holly and fir and cedar and pine
Stand up straight in a well-dressed line,
And juniper, privet, laurel and yew
Wear their leaves all the winter through!
Maybe they feel the cold and so
They never undress when the chill winds blow!

This rather reminds me of the poem used to remember which months have thirty or thirty one days – only useful if you can actually remember which order the names go in!

Cold Weather (from Enid Blyton’s Magazine, volume 1 issue 20)

The sky is grey, the wind is cold,
The hungry birds are tame and bold,
There’s ice beside the running river
Where the wagtails stand and shiver.
Frost climbs up each blade of grass,
And every puddle shines like glass;
The lane is powdered white with snow
And carefully the horses go
For fear they will slip; within the fold
The little lambs are safe from cold,
And when we breathe, our breath comes out
Like steam from any kettle-spout

The Robin (from the Water-Lily Story Book)

Here I am with chest puffed out
To keep away the cold,
Upon your sill I hope about,
A robin bright and bold

My eye is black, my chest is red,
I bob and flick and bend,
Oh haven’t you a mite of bread
To throw your little friend?

Jack Frost (From Enid Blyton’s Book of the Year)

Every little twig of brown
He lightly powders up and down,
Every blade of grass is bright
With tiny crystals, dazzling white;
On the spider threads he grows
Frosty beads in shining rows,
Changing into fairy lace
All the webs in every place!
He sits upon our window-sill
And paints with rare and loving skill
Leaf and frond in rich design
On your window-pane and mine.
Silently he comes and goes,
Unseen as the wind that blows.
Leaving loveliness behind
For our eyes to seek and find.

Snow (from Enid Blyton’s Book of the Year)

Nothing is so quiet as the snow;
It falls from out a leaden sky
Upon the wintry ground to lie
Without a murmur, silently and slow.

Like a fleecy blanket, softly spread
Upon each sleeping field and hill,
It shelters them in warmth until
They stir and rouse within their wintry bed

Then silent as it came, the dazzling snow
As silent goes, within a night;
And here and there the snowdrops white
Put up their heads, and sweetly nod and blow.

I actually like it when it snows; at first at least. It looks lovely and playing in it can be fun, but it becomes tiresome when it inevitably freezes and it becomes treacherous to walk anywhere.


Short stories

Jack Frost features heavily in the stories I found.

Who could it be? (Enid Blyton’s Magazine, volume 3 issue 25)

One winter afternoon Sam and Valerie walk home on frosty grass that sounds like toast as it crunches under their feet. Valerie comments how lovely everything looks, and how she’d like to paint it, and then they spot a small man, rather thin who is doing just that, but when he sees them he runs off with his easel.

Sam picks up a sketch book the man has dropped and it is full of detailed drawings of ferns, over and over, so rather dull. But then the last pages are full of what the children realise are snow crystals. The book is signed by a JF, and they can’t work out who that could be.

That night is very cold and when they wake up the next morning their windows are covered in the same snow crystal pattern as the last pages of the book. Then they realise who JF is – Jack Frost!


Jack Frost is About (From the Foxglove Story Book)

When Jean’s mother tells her that it’s Jack Frost that brings the cold weather Jean goes outside and shouts out that she doesn’t really believe in him, but he shouts back! She responds how she doesn’t like how he kills plants and makes everything cold.

They then have a conversation where he defends himself and says he will prove to her that he is real – and he does so by drawing on her windows that night.

Jack Frost is About (Brownie’s Magic p 49)

This series of books is slightly odd as although they look like a standard Blytonian collection of short stories each is a nature lesson hidden in a story. They are almost fiction and non-fiction at the same time.

This story teaches children how deciduous trees are not dead in the winter, as they all have little buds containing leaves which will begin to grow again in the spring. This is achieved by having Jack Frost boasting about how he’s killed the trees and an owl correcting him, and showing him how it is the trees are alive.

Jack Frost the Painter (from the Daffodil Story Book)

This one I don’t have a copy of, I have the Daffodil Story Book but it’s a later reprint which is unfortunately heavily abridged.


Whole Book

Blyton also wrote a whole book about winter – the Round the Year with Enid Blyton series has a book for each season.

The winter book is split into 10 chapters:

  1. How things make ready for the winter
  2. The story of frost and snow
  3. The creeping snail
  4. Making friends with the birds
  5. The compass
  6. Our evergreens
  7. The robin and the wren
  8. Foot-writing in the snow
  9. Twigs and their story
  10. The friendly tits

Most of these chapter headings are fairly self-explanatory. The snail chapter also covers slugs though I’m not sure how related to winter it is, other than to say that snails close over their shells during cold snaps. The compass is similarly unrelated to winter, but I expect Blyton had a list of topics she wanted to cover and the compass is no less related to winter than any other season!

Twigs and their story covers the same information as in Jack Frost is About, but in more detail.

Each chapter also has a few ideas of things to do related to the subject of the chapter.

There’s too much in the book to really go into any detail here but maybe I’ll review it soon (or next year if I run out of time this winter!)

There is also Winter Stories, one of the newer Hodder short story collections. You can see the contents here, and although many of the titles don’t sound wintry I assume they are at least set in the winter.

 


Further reading

A few years ago Stef pulled together a couple of lists of Christmas and winter-themed books, if you are in the mood for your books to match the weather outside. Part one is here and part two, here.


 

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Letters to Enid #23 from Volume 2 issue 11

It has been a long time since I last did a letters to Enid post. To tell the truth I am missing volume 2 issues 14 and 15 and have been wary of doing more posts and then running out of consecutive issues! I have been trying my best to source those missing ones but with no luck so far. Anyway, I decided I might as well do issues 11-13 while still hunting.

If anyone has those volumes and could send me a scan or photo of the letters page(s) I’d be eternally grateful!

Previous letters pages can be found here.


Letters page from Volume 2, issue 11. May 26th – June 8th, 1954.

OUR

LETTER PAGE

 1. A letter from Jennifer Snell, 183 Broad Lane, Coventry.
Dear Enid Blyton,
One Sunday, we were having our dinner when Daddy had a phone-call telling him that some monkeys had escaped from a circus, so he went to see if he could find any, and took us with him. While Daddy was talking to some people we suddenly saw two of the monkeys up a tree, and we coaxed them down with an orange. It must have been a surprise to passers-by to see 13 or 14 monkeys looking down at them!
Love from
Jennifer Snell.

(What an adventure, Jennifer! I shall have to put your monkeys into a story!)

2. A letter from Maureen Ainslie, aged six, 5 Market Road, Chirnside, Berwicks.
Dear Enid Blyton,
The kitten in your book “The Laughing Kitten” is exactly the same as my Sally, and when I let her see the picture she started to purr!
With much love from
Maureen

(She must be a darling if she is like the “Laughing Kitten”, Maureen!)

3. A letter from  Patrick Armstrong, St. Mark’s Vicarage, Newnham, Cambridge.
Dear Enid Blyton,
I like our magazine very much, especially “The Children at Green Meadows,” as I am a Scout. I am interested in Nature, so I am fond of the Nature-lovers’ Corners. These I cut out and colour and mount in an exercise book – and then I have my own Nature Book!
Yours,
Peter Armstrong.

(I pass on your excellent idea to other Nature-lovers, Peter. Thank you!)

4. A letter from  Shirley Allen, 65 Prote Mateje, Belgrade.
Dear Enid Blyton,
This is an International School, and we have children from eleven different countries. They all like your magazine very much. I had a sale of comics and magazines at school and I raised £1 7s. od. for the Sunbeams; please forward it for me.
Yours,
Shirley Allen.

(Thank you, Shirley. I was interested to hear about your school. Give the children out best wishes, please.)


Two more unusual letters this time – one from a boy and one from outside of the UK.

I love that Enid chooses such mundane letters such as ‘I have a kitten like one in your book’ because these things are so important to little children. At the same time it’s also nice to read the more exciting letters about escaped circus monkeys! Can anyone think of any stories that she might have based on Jennifer’s letter?

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Monday #407

Just a reminder that fan fic Fridays are on hold for the meantime as we work on the next instalment of Cunningham and Petrov.

Letters to Enid #23

and

Enid Blyton’s winters

“In the winter she curls up around a good book and dreams away the cold.”

Effra, the genius loci of the River Effra, talking about Sky the woodnymph in Ben Aaronovitch’s Broken Homes of the Rivers of London series.

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