Monday #476

I’m taking a little break from looking at the cover art for the books this week before anyone (including me) gets bored, but I am sure I will return to them as they are (usually) reasonably quick and easy to write up.

My favourite Malory Towers moments

and

If you like Blyton: The Secret of Haven Point by Lisette Auton

 “Was it a kind of family necklace?”

“Yes, it was,” said Granny. “It was a magnificent one, made of diamonds and emeralds, and each of the women who lived in this house wore it. But I can’t wear it, because it disappeared about a hundred years ago.”

“How?” asked Mary, handing round the chocolates.

“Well, it’s supposed to be hidden somewhere in this house,” said Granny. “But people have looked everywhere, as you can guess—so I fear it must have been stolen. How I should have loved to wear it! It ought to go to your own mother, after me, Mary—but it will never be found now.”

Well if that isn’t a challenge! Of course Mary, her brother bob and cousin Ralph set about trying to find the missing necklace in The Adventure of the Secret Necklace.

 

 

 

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The Sea of Adventure – TV tie in novel

Last year I read and reviewed the Island of Adventure TV tie in novel, and it was about as dire as I expected. I mean, the source material, the 1990s Tv series was pretty terrible so it would have been difficult to make a good novel out of it, but instead they somehow made it worse.

I’m only reading this as I have had it on loan from the library for more than two years and feel bad about returning it without reading it. So if I have to endure reading it I’m not wasting the opportunity to rant about it here.

 


Could this actually be OK?

Leading with a shocker here – this book is not as bad as the Island novelisation. I’m aware that doesn’t say much, but honestly, it’d definitely better. The writer is different for this book – in fact there were seven writers for the eight books.

One thing I noticed is that one element works better in the book than on-screen which is ironic. When they arrive in New Zealand for their holiday Lucy-Ann complains that it looks just like England. In the book this makes perfect sense as you can assume that Lucy-Ann is English and lives in England. On TV with the Mannerings and Trents both having New Zealand accents, it makes a lot less sense. (As does the fact that the other episodes are also filmed in New Zealand…)

The book is also able to make the storm more convincing describing the heavy rain and strong winds in a way that are more in-keeping with the original book, but couldn’t be created on-screen.


Comparing the episode to the book

It is nearly impossible to do a read along as the episode plays as so much has been moved or changed, far more than I would have expected even though I’ve already read a novelisation of the series.

The episode opens with Perez and his henchman in their lair (yes, it’s as Bond-villain-esque as that sounds what with the shark tank in the background) before moving to the airport to see the Mannerings, Trents and Bill arriving. The book switches these two scenes around.

It also pads out just about every scene, extending sentences within dialogues, adding entirely new dialogue in addition to the natural requirement to describe the locations, characters and their actions. I assume that simply adding descriptors like said Jack, and Lucy-Ann picked up her suitcase to the screenplay would make for a book far too short, and even so this one only comes in at 142 pages. Hence the additions.

The good thing is that on the whole these additions are done well. There is no prize-winning or impressive writing, but what is added mostly fits with the characters, the plot and so on. It seems perfectly natural and for someone who has only watched the episode a couple of times (once all the way through and a second time in bits and pieces as I reviewed it) I couldn’t spot what was original and what had been added.

I would say that the book makes the villains a bit more blood-thirsty than they appear on screen. On-screen Perez does call for an enemy to be terminated and they grin and high five when it happens but the book has Bruce grinning because he loved to kill people. 

Quite a lot of scenes are moved around as well, particularly the cutting back and forth between the children and the bad guys, though it’s not desperately obviously why. Various little bits are also cut, such as Allie’s phone call with Sir George, Jack crawling around the cabin under the rug, the girls nearly hitting the boys as the enter the cabin and so on.

There are a few clunkers, such as

the man – whose name was Davey – took the lift

His name really isn’t important, let alone important enough to be shoved into that sentence. However the book also adds that Davey bribed a night porter to get a key for Bill’s room which is a nice additional bit of background info, and helps explain how he got into the room.

Some of the scenes are quite basic in the way they describe the conversations and action – very much he did this, he did that, then he did something else as if the writer has just watched the episode and described what they saw, but there are just about enough other insights to break it up.

Davey entered the room. He wasted no time. He pulled out a chair and stood on it so that he could reach the lamp hanging from the ceiling. He took a small listening bug out of his pocket, and attached it to the lamp. Then he replaced the chair and left the room, leaving no evidence of his ever having been there.

On screen Davey ‘wastes time’ checking the drawers and looking at Bill’s passport. I assume this is a necessary device to make sure the viewers know whose room it is. In the book it has already been established that it is Bill’s room, so the passport is not required. However the writing becomes choppy – and not in the fast-paced way Blyton excelled at. The last sentence about leaving no evidence at least brings something new to the scene for us, though on-screen he leaves by the balcony so a sentence saying that he left that way in case Bill or anyone should be coming back up to the rooms wouldn’t have gone amiss.

The text describes the manager as the snooty manager rather than finding a perhaps more sophisticated way of describing the manager as being snooty.

Disappointingly the text also includes the line really, girls knew nothing at all, which I assume is to be attributed to Philip as he was the last to speak, but also sounds as if it’s the view of the author/book, or just a plain fact. On screen Philip gives no indication he’s thinking any such thing.

On-screen after the tents blow away we see the children walking some distance and climbing across rocks and then finding the hut. In the book this doesn’t come across so well as they say they’ve already explored most of the island but had seen no kind of shelter, then suddenly they see the hut. Then later, when the men search the island they see the remains of the campsite, and literally look around from there and see the hut in the distance. Again, on-screen there’s at least some suggestion the men walked along the beach.

Lastly, towards the end of the book the narrative reads

it was obvious that Bruce and Davey were heading for one of the many small islands on the horizon but it was essential they discovered which one.

Although not a direct quoted thought it’s clear this is the boys’ thinking as they watch the men, but they had no way of knowing the men’s names!


It’s hard to judge this book, really. The adaptation it is based on is not great, so it will never be a great book. However, I think it did as well as it could with what it had to work with and the changes made generally work, leaving something that is actually readable and adds a little to our experience of having watched the episode. For that, I gave it two stars.

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My favourite Blyton covers part one

Having done some posts on the worst and most misleading covers lately I thought it was time to balance that out with a celebration of some of the covers that I love.

I’m not going to rank them in order, and I’ve tried to keep to a reasonable number of covers because we all know that I could just pick everything Soper ever did.

I learned a few things about my preferences while doing this, hence the slightly odd headings. I mean we all knew that I prefer the early/original covers but who knew I loved covers with either water, primary colours, or both?


Eileen Soper

I’ll start with Soper – and there are quite a few of hers but I think I have been quite restrained because she did do an awful lot more than I’ve picked out.

OK, so Famous Fives first.

I’ve always appreciated her work on the Famous Five covers but not having a lot of the dustjackets myself I’ve actually overlooked all the additional details on the spine and the back. I usually just use the fronts of the covers on the blog as well.

But as you can see the second edition covers have not only the attractive front cover (here Five on a Treasure Island was chosen for the tantalising view of Kirrin Island and the wreck) but also another illustration on the spine and headshots of the Five on the back.

The list of the rest of my favourite Famous Five covers is interesting because it shows that my favourite covers and my favourite books from the series don’t align all that well.

For example Five on a Secret Trail, Five Have Plenty of Fun and Five Go Off to Camp are in my bottom seven, whilst my top two don’t feature in this covers list.

I chose Secret Trail because the colours are appealing (see primary colours, below) and I love the detail of the rope around Julian’s waist. The colours on Plenty of Fun are also attractive and I love the vignette on the back of the children swimming. And Camp I chose as it’s so atmospheric and who wouldn’t choose a spook train?

The other two I like are Five Get Into a Fix with George and Dick frozen in that moment of fun before they plummet into the snow, and Five Go To Demon’s Rocks with the lighthouse in the background, that mix of red, blue and yellow I seem to find so irresistible and of course the sea in the background.

Aside from her work on the Famous Five series, though, there are some real beauties. This one from More Adventures on Willow Farm shows how Soper has made use of the entire of the dustjacket to create a stunning wrap around scene from the farm. The front cover alone is attractive but when you open it out like there’s just so much more to see. I love the gambolling lambs (or are they kids, I must re-read the book!) and all the other details she has packed in.

A similar farmhouse and bridge appear on the equally lovely cover for I’ll Tell You A Story (and I’ll Tell You Another Story which reuses the same artwork).

Another perfect example of a wraparound scene on a dustjacket is from The Wonderful Carpet and Other Stories. At the risk of not sounding like myself, this one’s just so pretty and I love the little scenes inside the bubbles.

The two covers Soper did for the Secret Seven prequels make me wish that she had done the whole series.

I love how Scamper is always just that bit behind them, hidden on the back cover!


Primary Colours

A recurring theme was covers I seemed to choose based on not a lot more than an attractive mix of colours, namely red, blue and yellow.

While I like all of Tresilian’s Adventure Series covers my favourites are the Thames one for The Valley of Adventure followed by The Sea of Adventure.

Notice the bold colours the children are wearing, plus both have water in them which something else I appear to be drawn to!

This edition of The Rockingdown Mystery is actually the third, and to me, far more attractive than the first two. Again notice the prominent reds and yellows in the text and clothes and the blue of the sky.

rockingdown mystery

Two that take primary colours to the extreme are two of the Mary Pollock books. The third edition of The Children of Kidillin in particular is bright to the point of almost garishness and yet I find it really striking and a joy to look at. The sky is yellow, the heather is red, but I would happily frame this and put it on my wall.

Mischief at St Rollo’s, meanwhile, is almost tame in comparison.


This was supposed to be a quick and easy post throwing together some nice covers. As it turns out, however, there are so many that even this first 16 have taken me ages. I have at least 20 more so I’ll save them for another day!

Which are your favourite covers?

 

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Monday #475

In the spirit of getting unpleasant things over and done (having finally finished the Naughtiest Girl continuations) with I’m going to tackle the other novelisation of the Adventure Series on TV this week.

To counterbalance the outpouring of negativity that will surely provoke, I’ve chosen something a bit more positive for Wednesday.

My favourite Enid Blyton book covers

and

The Sea of Adventure TV novel

the-sea-of-adventure-tv

“Batteries,” suggested Barrie.

“Batteries? What for?” asked Jenny, looking confused and getting out her kit list to check.

“Our torches. We will be taking them won’t we? Might need them if we are out at night, so we must make sure they won’t run out when we need them.”

A little sneak-preview for you here, of The Secret of Flittermouse Cliffs by Zoe Billings. It’s still at the proof-reading stage so I can’t promise this will be in the final product, but I hope so! All Barrie needs now is a rope to tie around his waist and he’s ready for a Blytonian adventure.

 

 

 

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The Naughtiest Girl continued: The Naughtiest Girl Marches on

Finally here we are at the last Anne Digby Naughtiest Girl book, the last Naughtiest Girl book altogether.

She has marched on through six continuation books which was six books too many, if you ask me, so I really hope she hangs up her Whyteleafe Uniform now.


The blurb

Elizabeth is overjoyed to be appointed monitor again, especially when the new head-boy and girl have such exciting ideas. But one of the second form boys is slowly turning all the other boys against her, starting with a nasty note in her desk and ending with a false tip-off about a midnight pillow fight in the boys’ dormitory. Rather than report it, Elizabeth plans to investigate – and, with the help of some friends, unleash a surprise water pistol attack on the boys. But Elizabeth has been set up, as she discovers when she runs straight into their form teacher and the head boy – mistakenly squirting them both with water. Now, Elizabeth is in trouble again – and she could lose her prized monitor’s role. Can she find out who has a grudge against her – and why?

Presumably the new head boy and girl are Thomas and Emma, who were elected in the previous book.

This actually sounds moderately like something that would happen in a Naughtiest Girl book, but perhaps not with the water pistols. Elizabeth is definitely impetuous and likes to handle things herself, so I can totally see her trying to catch the boys having a midnight pillow fight while conveniently forgetting she is not supposed to be out of bed. I’m not sure that as a recently re-elected monitor – and a year older than in the original books – she would be so silly as to plan a group of friends to attack with water pistols.

If it’s really well written it’s the kind of thing that you could be persuaded to believe, but given the quality of the previous five continuations I won’t be holding out hope.


The cover

I dislike the style of these covers anyway but this one in particular raised three questions for me.

The first was why does Elizabeth look like she’s auditioning for the Ministry of Silly Walks?

Then I wondered what was going on with their feet. Both girls’ feet look like they should be much further forward in their slippers, but that would make their slippers far too big. I can only conclude that they have Sideshow Bob sized feet in that case.

Having read the book since making the above comment I realise I had forgotten about their long, pointy elf shoes which imply that they do have weird feet.

And lastly, I just had to ask why Elizabeth is wearing short pyjamas, knee socks, and a scarf. A scarf with pyjamas is odd enough, but it is especially odd when it’s clearly not cold enough for full-length pyjamas.


A whodunnit

The main story is about who has written the two notes to Elizabeth, as she navigates her way through the term as monitor again and manages to upset several boys.

The main suspects the book tries to lead us to are:

Daniel 

He has stepped down as monitor twice for Elizabeth and is obviously disappointed by it. However the story of him stepping down the second time is just thrown in randomly and is quite obviously a red herring.

Julian

I think he’s too good a friend to Elizabeth to be guilty but the book introduces a fair bit of friction between them as Elizabeth’s monitor duties mean she has less time for him. He also gets annoyed by her being a goody-goody. 

Jake

A boy who has supposedly been at the school for a few years but has never been mentioned before, Jake is a strong candidate. Jake is off the hockey team while his ankle heals and is obviously annoyed by Elizabeth’s tactless attempt to comfort him. My suspicion is that he is actually faking or exaggerating the issue to get out of playing for some reason – possibly just too much pressure, and he could be the letter writer to get Elizabeth off his back and prevent her from outing him. But then again is it too obvious for the new, brooding character to be the guilty one? Maybe.

Patrick

Patrick has never been a great friend to Elizabeth though they have reconciled somewhat after their period of fighting in the fourth book/short story. Elizabeth finds out that he saved a child’s life in the village, but had been down there alone which is against school rules. He is clearly aggravated by her constant attempts to out him as a hero, so could he be the letter writer? He is either desperate not to be caught out for his rule breaking or is just mortified at the thought of being called a hero (perhaps the child running out had been his fault in the first place?) so he is a possibility.


Boys vs girls

There is a strong focus on the boys being against Elizabeth, and by extension against girls as monitors and I was disappointed at how it was handled.

Jake has a problem with Elizabeth sticking her nose in – fair enough as she outs him as being recovered. But he makes it all about her being a girl which should be irrelevant. However, the heads agree that it would have been difficult for a big, strong boy like Jake to speak to a mere girl.

Then there’s the issue of the boys’ dorm. There have been pillow fights and Martin taunts Elizabeth that as there are no boy monitors in the second form no-one can stop them. That’s blatantly stupid as there must have been many times that two girls or two boys were monitors for their form. In the first book Nora is actually Elizabeth’s monitor and she is a few years older, though there is also Kenneth mentioned as being a first form monitor. So there are clearly ways of managing it.

If it was a rule there was to be a boy and girl monitor for each form, just as there is a boy and girl head, that wouldn’t be unreasonable, as long as there were exceptions allowed if there was no suitable candidate amongst either the boys or the girls – after all there’s no good electing a monitor if they aren’t up to the job.

The fact that there is no such rule suggests it is not generally a problem. What IS a problem is the boys’ behaviour, and the solution to that is to tackle the boys’ behaviour and not blame the girls’ monitoring.

Instead, what happens is that conveniently Joan is happy to step down due to new commitments with the new swimming team, and they decide to elect a new monitor who must be a boy.

Patrick also gets away with saying

It’s all right for you to lose your temper, Elizabeth. You’re only a girl.

Elizabeth, who’s known for her temper and being quick to react just smiles to herself.

 It was a typical Patrick remark – and just one of the reasons why she much preferred his cousin Julian!

Of all the times for her to have control of her temper!


The MM

This book also introduces MMs – Monitors’ Meetings – which occur weekly with the head boy and girl.

These are to plan the weekly meeting – though I’m not sure what needs planning. The heads read out any notices, they take in the money, requests for money are heard, complaints or grumbles are raised, the monitors are able to make any reports they need to.

Yet the new heads seem to want to consult the monitors on everything privately, leaving them having to keep things secret from the rest of the school, and worse, various issues are dealt with at those meetings instead of at the big one.

The whole point of the whole-school meeting is for issues to be raised publicly and sorted by everyone. There are some exceptions where it is deemed the best course of action for something to be dealt with in private, with the child speaking to the heads alone, but otherwise things are talked over in the open.

With the MM Elizabeth and her friends are punished for the water-pistol stunt in private, as to not embarrass Elizabeth her being a monitor and all. That’s exactly the opposite of what the meetings stand for.


The real culprit

This section will contain spoilers!

So, as it turns out Jake was a red herring too. He was faking the injury – so a point to me – but he didn’t write any letters.

The letters were written for quite a convoluted and bizarre reason, and I don’t think that the reader really had the right clues to solve the mystery themselves, at least not right until the end.

The culprit actually admits it to Elizabeth after the final meeting and she’s shocked as she never had him as s suspect.

So drum roll, please… It was Patrick.

A few times in the book I did consider him. First when Elizabeth won a place on the table-tennis team ahead of him (again) and he was angry, but then she gave up her place by (very badly) faking a headache and letting him play. He wasn’t even cross about that, though. Then when he was adamant that she not reveal him to be a hero, though that didn’t seem to be a great motivation to write the notes she got.

So why did he do it? Well, it turns out that he wasn’t a hero at all. It was Julian (whose close likeness to Patrick has conveniently not been mentioned in this book) all along. Patrick was mistakenly identified and having – apparently – had no time to correct the mistake was so pleased by the new respect Elizabeth had for him he decided to keep up the lie. Then when the new award was announced he was desperate for Elizabeth not to be monitor so that she couldn’t nominate him. I suppose he forgot that as a non-monitor Elizabeth could still pass on the nomination to the new monitor.

The book tries to cram in a last clue – too late – with Patrick stating he’s always been against having two girl monitors. Not that he said that during this book, of course.

Anyway, disappointingly Patrick is barely dealt with. He does get a telling off for  standing up in that last meeting when Thomas asks the hero to stand up, but his letter writing and his lie to Elizabeth are kept secret.


Other details

Elizabeth really is awful in this book. She acts like a five year old gushing over Jake’s injury

I am going to wish and wish and WISH your ankle to get better, Jake! Just you wait and see!

What is she, five? She pouts when she doesn’t get her own way – including over the ridiculous idea of having the monitors wear arm-bands so they are more easily identified.

She is wildly stupid to plan a water-pistol raid on the boys. It wasn’t a spur of the moment thing, it was planned in advance and she uses a whole load of faux military language in guiding her squad on the attack as if it’s all a big game to her. Elizabeth loves being a monitor and takes it seriously so this is just so out of character.

Language wise, Elizabeth twice says she wants to be a dynamic monitor which is very much modern business jargon if you ask me. There’s a tracksuit which I am trying to take as an exercise suit worn on a track (as in the origins of the phrase) and not a nylon Adidas affair, but who knows at this point.

Plus there’s a mistake on one page where a whole word is missing along with a space –  I wonder whoget the first Willian and Rita Award? Not even a will in there!

Talking of the award it’s an odd thing. I understand the desire to award something beyond academics and sport as they recognise that not everyone can shine in that respect. However it quickly becomes an award only for the most outstanding cases of bravery with nominations for mere kind acts not even being considered for the short list.

I think it’s a real shame as in the end there are only two contenders – Julian for the life-saving and Jake for overcoming a personal trauma to carry on playing hockey. Both well deserved but what about all the other children who did good things and are still overlooked because it wasn’t flashy?

Also they plan to award it every half-term so what happens to children who perform heroics in the second half of a term?


The book ends with Julian being made monitor for his heroism (even though the heroism wasn’t good enough for him to win the award). Julian is definitely an odd choice for monitor seeing as he has a problem with authority! We won’t ever get to see him as monitor, though, as that was the last book. And for that, I am eternally grateful.

 

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April 2022 round up

May the fourth be with you! Yes it’s May now, the last legal restrictions ended in Scotland finally and so life is feeling fairly normal – which is actually quite weird. Jacqueline Wilson’s new Faraway Tree book comes out at the end of the month, which I for one am looking forward to.


What I have read

I have more than caught up with my reading target (thanks in part to quite a few Nancy Drews) and in fact am now ahead. I have been trying to read for at least six minutes every day – that may seem arbitrary but it’s part of a Scottish campaign called Keep the heid and read – and of course I then end up at least finishing the chapter I am on.

What I have read is:

  • Mary Poppins (Mary Poppins #1) – P.L. Travers
  • Over The Edge (Nancy Drew Files #36) – Carolyn Keene
  • The Little Wartime Library – Kate Thompson
  • Margaritas and Murder (Murder, She Wrote #24) – Jessica Fletcher & Donald Bain
  • The Desolations of Devil’s Acre (Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children #6) – Ransom Riggs
  • Bizzy and the Bedtime Bear (Enid Blyton’s Enchanted World #5) – by Elise Allen, reviewed here
  • The Party Crasher – Sophie Kinsella
  • Glass Houses (Morganville Vampires #1) – Rachel Caine
  • A Catalogue of Catastrophe (A Chronicles of St Mary’s #13) – Jodi Taylor
  • The Art of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children – Leah Gallo
  • Textile Travels – Anne Kelly
  • Scottish Mysteries – Donald M. Fraser
  • The Greek Symbol Mystery (Nancy Drew Mysteries #60) – Carolyn Keene
  • The Swami’s Ring (Nancy Drew Mysteries #61) – Carolyn Keene
  • The Kachina Doll Mystery (Nancy Drew Mysteries #62) – Carolyn Keene
  • The Naughtiest Girl Want to Win (The Naughtiest Girl #9) – Anne Digby, reviewed here
  • Sleeping with the Enemy – Nancy Price

And I’m still working on:

  • Hidden Figures: The Untold Story of the African American Women Who Helped Win the Space Race – Margot Lee Shetterly
  • Dilly’s Hope (Dilly’s Story #3) – Rosie Goodwin
  • Love Your Life – Sophie Kinsella

What I have watched

  • The usual suspects Hollyoaks and House of Games.
  • The Home Edit series 2 arrived on the first of the month, and that lasted me all of three or four days so I moved on to Baking Impossible (mixing engineering and baking to make cakes that look like boats but also float, or robots that can navigate a course etc) and Tiny Big Challenge (teams working to make rooms to go into a dolls’ house). I also finished Sparking Joy with Marie Kondo.
  • Seeing as I have the Starz channel at the moment for Outlander, which we just finished, I also watched Men in Kilts which features two of the stars of Outlander touring Scotland and taking part in all sorts of traditional activities.
  • We try to watch a film at the weekend and watched Patriot Games and Clear and Present Danger (first time I had seen either), No Time to Die, and Saving Mr Banks.
  • On Tuesdays my sister and I watched Save the Last Dance and Dirty Dancing,
  • And lastly I have started re-watching Desperate Housewives. Despite having watched it at least twice before I still can’t remember just about anything that happens so I am surprised with every episode.

What I have done

  • Now that it’s not quite so cold and wet we have had multiple trips to different beaches in April, and I have managed to find some pottery and glass every time, plus we did some litter picking.
  • We took a trip to take a ride on the Falkirk Wheel and also went to visit the Kelpies which aren’t too far from the wheel.
  • We also had our first big family Easter party since 2019. We all got together in my aunt’s garden for a picnic and the children did an egg hunt.

What did your April look like?

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Monday #474

It was a long weekend here so I’m a bit late(r than usual).

Having reviewed the penultimate Anne Digby Naughtiest Girl book last week (spoiler: it was awful) I’m just going to keep that momentum going and review the last one this week, and then I’m free!

April round up

and

The Naughtiest Girl Marches On

This lovely illustration (by an uncredited artist) shows Billy and Betty in Billy and Betty at the Seaside burying their mother under a pile of sand. Apart from the buying part, this is my ideal day at the beach. A comfy pillow, a book and a man with a whole cart of ice cream coming my way.

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The Naughtiest Girl continued: The Naughtiest Girl Wants to Win

I am finally subjecting myself to the penultimate Naughtiest Girl continuation book. I know it will be bad but the question is, how bad?


The blurb

I’m already rolling my eyes just reading the blurb.

Elizabeth is furious when a girl new to the sixth form becomes head girl over her friend Emma.

She knows the new head girl, Kerry, is a nasty piece of work – but how can she prove it? Kerry is cleverer than Elizabeth thinks, and somehow she just manages to make the naughtiest girl look like a troublemaker.

I have a few issues with this.

Firstly, would Whyteleafe really make a new pupil head of the school? I think not. The headmistresses and other teachers are all very sensible and I’ve no doubt that they’ve always had pupils in mind to ascend to the positions of head girl and boy for when William and Rita moved on.

Secondly, whether it’s purely based on the teachers or the children get a vote too, a candidate for head girl would be under such scrutiny that I’m sure a nasty piece of work would not be chosen. Yes in the past Elizabeth has proven Robert to be a bully when nobody but his victims knew that, but that’s quite different to someone being chosen as head girl.

Thirdly, I have no recollection of Elizabeth’s friend Emma from any of the previous books so their friendship must have been minimal at best.

Fourthly, surely Elizabeth should – as she is a fair and moral person – be outraged that a nasty piece of work has been chosen as head girl regardless of who else was running, yet the blurb puts it Elizabeth is primarily concerned that Kerry beat Emma!


Before the start of term

In a string of coincidences (rarely the best way to start a book) Elizabeth arrives at the station more than half hour early, as have Joan and Julian. Julian just so happens to have seen a sign at the theatre next door saying that a rising young actress will be visiting to sign autographs beginning in just a moment.

Elizabeth and Joan have seen her latest film and are desperate to meet her, so persuade Mr Allen to let them go over, as long as they are back by in time for the train.

However Kerry Dane arrives rather late and so does not sign any autographs, she merely says a few words then disappears, obviously planning to leave via a rear exit.

Elizabeth, being impetuous decides to try to intercept Kerry around the back of the theatre. Before she gets that far, though, she accidentally runs into Kerry who is disposing of the flowers she was just given. The meeting is not what Elizabeth had hoped for, however, as Kerry calls her a pest, knocks her autograph book into the mud, says something else rude to her and then gets in her car.


The train journey and beyond

Most of the train journey is spent discussing who will be the new head girl and boy. Now that Elizabeth and Julian (and presumably most of her class) are moving up to join Joan in the second form they can now vote in the elections for head girl and boy.

Everyone agrees that a sixth former called Thomas would be ideal, and Elizabeth suggests her ‘friend’ Emma, with most of her friends agreeing though they think that Emma is a little bit quiet.

Elizabeth however is absolutely set on Emma and is convinced she will be perfect. She goes on an on about Emma and Thomas, in speech and in thought, for the next five or six chapters in fact, as well as the book showing us how nice Emma is. Jenny suggests that Nora might do well, but most others say no Nora isn’t right. Poor Nora gets a total character assassination in fact, being branded too bossy and quite wrong for the role. And of course there are no other possibilities amongst the monitors or other senior girls so Elizabeth gets bizarrely emotionally invested in having Emma as head.


A surprising lack of surprise

And here lies the fifth problem with the blurb when it names the new head girl as Kerry. Added to that, the illustration showing the actress at the theatre in a Whyteleafe uniform (which is contradicted in the text when later Elizabeth is baffled to see the famous Kerry in a Whyteleafe uniform) completely ruins what could have been a bit of a surprise when Kerry arrives in the dining hall.

The whole thing makes no sense, though. If you were catching a train to a new school for the first time would you really a) plan a ‘surprise’ (I think they mean last-minute) visit to a theatre even if it is next door, b) turn up late for the theatre and all but ignore the fans, c) waste time throwing your flowers away instead of just leaving them in the car d) get driven all the way next door to the train station and yet have to have the train stop after it’s just started moving to let you on e) get a taxi to the school from the station while the other children get on a coach?

Elizabeth is late to lunch as she hasn’t heard the first bell, and arrives to a general sense that something big is going on. Julian tells her she’s in for a surprise, but Patrick reminds them that the teachers have been telling everyone to act normal and not make a fuss.

Then Kerry – who claims to not want a fuss but has clearly done everything she can to make a big entrance – walks in. And Elizabeth is somehow dumb enough to not understand why she’s there and wearing school uniform.


A new head girl? Not yet

Despite the main premise of the book supposedly being about Kerry being given the head girl role it doesn’t happen until page 72 that it actually happens, and the book is only 123 pages long.

The chapters before are first concerned with Elizabeth trying to bide her time in revealing Kerry’s true nature and them pondering why Kerry has come to the school, and then about the ‘race’ to head girl.

Initially it is only Emma’s name down, but then Kerry persuades Nora to run. Seems odd but Julian and I agree that it’s a vote-splitting attempt. Nora has become a silly affected girl who is swayed by Kerry’s star qualities but we barely see any of her in the book, just other people talking about her. Then at the last minute Kerry puts her own name down, though she claims it’s only because everyone begged her to and she goes around telling everyone to still vote for Nora. This is all a bit complex for high schoolers and could so easily have backfired.

Elizabeth and her friends then hold a cringe-worthy parade every day with banners and posters, playing music and shouting ‘vote for Emma’. It’s cringe-worthy as this clearly isn’t how the process normally goes and they don’t actually do anything to increase Emma’s credibility as head girl other than to beg people to vote for her. I didn’t expect political rhetoric but they could perhaps have advertised Emma’s positive qualities that would have made her a good head?


Head girl Kerry

Finally we get to the main plot of having an unsuitable head girl, and boy does she prove herself useless immediately. I had thought she would have become head girl much earlier, giving her the opportunity to present a perfect head girl front while abusing her power behind the scenes only to be caught out later.

However what she does is give a speech and hog the limelight and then ask Thomas (the new head boy) if she could be excused from putting all her money in the box as she’s head girl. So straight away he knows that she doesn’t get the Whyteleafe way of working and is not impressed by her.

Elizabeth, Joan and Julian walk out of the meeting (a serious sin at Whyteleafe) which strikes me as unlikely. Joan is a monitor and had to walk off the platform to do it, and she’s pretty law-abiding and quiet. Julian, yes, I can see him with his devil-may-care attitude doing it, and Elizabeth possibly depending on the situation. If Kerry had tried to tell her off I could see her walking out, but as at that point she was waiting for the nominations for monitor to go in, and expecting to be made monitor, walking out seems a step too far for even the Bold Bad Girl.

Kerry takes delight in making sure that Elizabeth and Joan cannot be monitors after that, and revels in banging her gavel and generally being in charge.


The downfall of Kerry

Kerry does not last long as head girl, as she is brought down by Elizabeth surprisingly easily on pages 115-117.

It all plays out quite similarly to when she accused Robert of being a bully in an earlier book. She accuses Kerry of taking chocolate for a fund-raising stall from one of the juniors, but he is too afraid to stand up in the meeting and tell the truth so Elizabeth is disbelieved.

I was expecting a war to start between the girls then but no, Elizabeth goes off and finds the chocolate wrappers, comes back ten minutes later, and it’s all over for Kerry as she launches a tirade admitting what she did, calling the school stupid and the chocolate not even that good.

She doesn’t even get to reform as she leaves the school soon after (as she is of age) to begin a full-time acting career.


The setting

I have a hard time working out when the books are supposed to be set.

There is some old-fashioned language as used in the original books but the rest is fairly neutral. There’s nothing glaringly modern, but the train isn’t described as a stream train, there’s no gramophones or maids, and the money is of course decimalised, and handed out at a level that would only have seemed reasonable in the 80s or 90s if then.

The original books were published in the early 1940s, but several references date the books to occurring in the early 1960s at the earliest.

For example carrier bags, which weren’t created until 1959 – before then people used paper bags, fabric or string bags, or often just wrapped things in paper. The theatre shows film stills in colour, and although colour films began in the early 1900s (first hand-tinted) it was much more expensive and therefore it didn’t fully take off until the late 1950s.

Likewise popcorn, although introduces to cinema concession stands shortly before WWII didn’t become widely available in shops until the late 1950s.


Series consistency

This does follow on from the previous book, with William and Rita leaving and needing to be replaced. It’s the first book in the second for for Elizabeth which must be a record in a Blyton series – 8 books in a single form!

Table tennis is a sub plot in the book, with Elizabeth hoping to be chosen for the team. I have no recollection of table tennis ever being a thing at Whyteleafe before now.

There is a nice reference to the limit of items allowed on the chest of drawers, with second formers being allowed more than the first formers.

The monitors sit behind the head boy and girl, which I think they have done before, though in another Anne Digby book they sit six on each side, and in the original books they sit in front.

Elizabeth, Joan, Julian, Arabella and Martin all behave more or less as you would expect, while Jenny, Nora and Kathleen could be absolutely anyone. None of them show any particular traits that you would recognise from the original books.

The school now as a telephone room with a coin-in-the-slot payphone. This is inconsistent with the original books where Julian is allowed to use a telephone in the hall to speak to his father. Now, though, second formers and above are allowed a telephone call from their family every Sunday and can make calls out if it is important. You’d think that homesick first formers would benefit just as much from a weekly call, but obviously that would contradict the early books even more hence the arbitrary rule.

The votes read out for the head girls amount to 98 in total, suggesting there are around 20 children per form, though it’s possible that not everyone voted and therefore the numbers could be a little higher. That seems reasonable for a school like Whyteleafe.


So, yes, over all an extremely disappointing book that did not live up to the blurb. We could have had an interesting story about Elizabeth trying to catch out Kerry over a prolonged period of time and finally being successful, instead we got a ton of ‘Oh I do hope Emma becomes head girl, she’s so wonderful’, and then a rushed chapter where Elizabeth makes an accusation, it fails, but then she proves it all of ten minutes later.

 

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The most misleading Famous Five covers

While doing the worst covers I almost chose several which actually had good or at least reasonable artwork. I was picking them as terrible because they don’t match what actually happens in the book. There are various very generic covers which could be from any book so I’ll stick to ones that really might mislead the reader and leave them wondering if they had somehow missed the scene on the cover. I had intended this to be a mix of series/books but there were so many from the Famous Five series alone that I’ll leave anything else for another time.

There are a lot of covers that I don’t think are right for the books, as in they depict the children wearing modern clothes or are done in a style that makes the books seem ‘whacky’ or ‘zany’ but (for the moment) I’m going to stick to books where the cover doesn’t reflect what actually happens in the book.


Five on a Treasure Island

The 1970s TV show didn’t film Five on a Treasure Island as the right to adapt it was still held by the BFI/CFF at the time. Instead they filmed Five Go To Kirrin Island, which was basically Five On Kirrin Island Again but the cousins meet for the first time at the start. Naturally, that poses a slight problem. There’s no stills or publicity shots for the book cover of Five on a Treasure Island. Personally I’d use any shot I had of the children at Kirrin, on the island or in George’s boat. Sounds reasonable, right?

What did the Knight do in 1978? Used a picture from Five Go to Mystery Moor with train tracks in it. Extremely misleading.


Five Fall Into Adventure

Laura Ellen Anderson’s Five are absolutely not my (or most people’s it would seem) cup of tea, so she often features if I’m talking about terrible book covers. This is the first of two of her most misleading covers.

I’ve decided that this is misleading primarily because of the tone it sets. Yes there are cliffs and a tower in this book. However it is not set at night and the bad guys are not demonically evil.

In addition to that the tower is accessed by Julian, Dick and Jo by means of an tunnel from the beach that enters the courtyard. They are never on the top of the cliffs looking at the tower.

If that’s not enough that’s Anne, you can see her blue dress, with Julian and Dick when it’s Jo that goes along rescuing while Anne stays at Kirrin Cottage.

Plus George never has Timmy up in the tower with her.  (Also, the perspective is wild here and it looks like a giant tower top is resting on the cliffs.)

Anne also erroneously features on the covers of at least two of the other covers. Yes they go out in the boat together early in the book but both of these show them heading for the secret cave that leads to Red’s Tower.

Then there’s the problem of the cover from the wrong book. This belongs on Five on a Hike Together, and in fact an almost identical cover was used for Hike the year before. A drawing of the Five boating could be from multiple books, but they only use a raft in one.


Five On a Hike Together

To compound the mistake above they also swapped the cover that should have been on Fall Into Adventure onto the cover of Hike. While Hike features water it’s a lake, not the sea, and it’s the only time they are on the water when it’s not in a boat.


Five Go Adventuring Again

This is possibly my favourite bad cover for the sheer disbelief of DID YOU NOT READ THE BLURB? The book that’s a) set at Christmas, b) features snow and c) has so much snow that people are snowed into their houses.

What did Laura Ellen Anderson draw, then? The Five in their usual summery clothes in the woods. No coats but they have bikes, which aren’t in the book. The trees at the front are bare suggesting winter, but the sun and grass suggest spring or summer.

Both the 70s and 90s series also fail on the snow front, as both opted not to try to fake snow for their episodes. Their stills from the episodes are always posed outdoors ones rather than candid shots from actual filming, so I assume there were no indoor scenes they could have used.


Five Get Into a Fix

The Fix covers for the TV tie ins also suffer from a lack of snow, for the same reasons as above. You can also see that the children are wearing the same clothes in both the 90s covers suggesting that at least one isn’t from the right episode.


Five Go Off to Camp

Five Go Off to Camp has several covers that don’t quite reflect the book.

The 1970s TV cover shows the steam train puffing away in broad daylight when everyone knows that the spook train only runs at night.

The 1987 Knight also shows the spook train in daylight, but adds the entirely false idea that the children ever run down the tracks away from the train. In fact George and Anne never see the train coming out of the tunnel. George only finds it inside the hidden section and Anne never sees it at all.

After that the 1991 cover also shows the Five running away from the train, though at least it’s at night.

This is actually the cover that I had as a child and I’ll be fair and admit that it didn’t mislead me, but then I had a mix of books and more or less ignored the paperback covers as they didn’t have the Five looking like they should i.e. as Eileen Soper drew them.

Then there is a familiar cover from 2001 and Adrian Chesterman, a name which I think will feature a lot in posts about bad covers. In fact this cover for Camp already appeared in my last post on worst covers.

Again it shows running from the spook train including Anne who, as above, never sees the train.


Five Go Down to the Sea

As I said in my review, despite the title of the book being about the sea they barely visit the beach during the story. Yet the 1995 paperback shows the Five frolicking in swimsuits and playing in the sea.

And Laura Ellen Anderson again proves that she didn’t read the book and shows them building sandcastles and paddling.


Five Go to Mystery Moor

The 90s series is in the doghouse this time, for putting what is obviously a shot from Five on Finniston Farm – with the Harries – on onto the cover of Mystery Moor. They filmed Finniston Farm so there’s no excuse for this!

Then there’s Peter Bailey’s effort which just baffles me. At no point during the book does Timmy stick his head out the window of a ruin. In fact I can’t think of any book where that’s an important enough scene to feature on a cover.


Five Go to Billycock Hill

Two names that will just keep cropping up are back again, Richard Jones and Adrian Chesterman.

Jones concocts a scene where the boys are somehow right under a plane as it takes off.

While Chesterman decided to have them opening a door to an aircraft hanger.

Even my beloved 90s series didn’t do that well. They tried to go generic but have the children in front of a castle, instead of using a shot from the two-parter they did of Billycock Hill.


 

 

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Monday #473

I go through phases on the blog where I have loads of ideas and can’t get them published fast enough. Then I go through a phase where I’ve used all those ideas and I’m floundering for others. There are always books to review but those mean committing to actually reading the chosen book in the week before the post is due up.

I’m committing this week, though, as the last Naughtiest Girl continuations have been sitting in my house for over two years now and it’s time to subject myself to them and get them returned to the library.

The most misleading Blyton book covers

and

The Naughtiest Girl Wants to Win

Dick, Juliet and Robert loved the girl next door, but their mother didn’t.

“I never knew such a tomboy!” she said. Always climbing trees and tearing her clothes and shouting and playing cowboys and Indians and goodness knows what!”

I rather like the sound of Tessie, That Girl Next Door! In fact she sounds a little like Robin, The Boy Next Door, though she only gets a short story about her rather than a whole book.

The quote is taken from Summer Stories, a recent collection so I should really try to check the original wording if I can.

 

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My Enid Blyton hallway

I have shared a couple of photos of my hall already, when I showed off what I got for Christmas in 2020, but those photos don’t show everything I have up.


The postcards

This is the bit I’ve shared before, so feel free to skip it.

Top row is Corfe Castle and then an RAF one which I like to think shows Julian and Dick (Julian doing his national service and Dick who did his then went on to have a career in the RAF).

Second row are both Corfe Castle.

Third row is Church Stretton, and the inspiration for the Ingles’ Farm in the Lone Pine books by Malcom Saville (so Blyton adjacent), an arty photo of a goblin perhaps escaping and a Noddy book, then a quote from Albert Einstein about libraries.

The fourth row is not Blyton, but one from Gillian Gamble who has strong Dundee and St Andrews connections, and two from the Bodleian.

The fifth row starts with a hidden Gillian Gamble, then a modern cover from The Naughtiest Girl and another from the Bodleian. Below that is another Corfe castle.

On the opposite wall are my Famous Five postcards. There are 30 in total but a 5×5 grid worked best in the space, and the remaining ones wouldn’t have matched the layout as there were 11 headed book covers, 5 unheaded covers and 14 illustrations. These (like the other postcards) are all just stuck up with Blu Tack, though I have to stick various corners back down quite often. I really should get a proper frame for them.


Cards and posters

Below the Corfe postcards I have a poster of Malory Towers book covers from the 1960s. This I got for free as I’d bought Stef a mug and when it came the handle was broken. The seller resent it but included a couple of posters by way of apology. I sent Stef one and kept one myself.

Below that are two cards with covers from the Famous Five for Grown Ups books by Bruno Vincent. I think I might actually have more than two of these but at least one is a duplicate.

The dog chalkboard represents Mackie from the Lone Pine books (though I guess it could be Buster too!) while the quote is from Mean Girls. Because who doesn’t like a mash up of genres?

Between the living room and bedroom door is a narrow bit of wall just big enough for my Famous Five Annual poster.


Books

I don’t have any actual Enid Blyton books in the hall but it is where I keep my Bruno Vincents, as they don’t deserve to grace my actual bookshelves.


Last but not least

A photo of me and Stef at Old Thatch taken way back in 2012. In a frame decorated for me by Stef, no less.


Where do you display your Blyton stuff?

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The worst ever Blyton covers

We all know that I am a big fan of the original artwork for Enid Blyton’s book, though I have a soft spot for the 60s Armadas and the recent Ruth Palmer covers. Amongst all the modernised covers (which look just as dated now as the originals do, but without the vintage charm) there are some true horrors.

I’ve only gone through a few series so far but these are the worst I have found.


Stories for You, Dean

From the Dean’s Reward series (I would assume these are from the 90s as they use the same ‘upside down’ polaroid style covers as other from that time) this is the final version of the book.

I’ve seen some bad covers in my time digging through the Cave but this is definitely one of the worst. The shell suit is horrendously 90s and dates it so badly, while everything else is squeezed in regardless of whether it fits or not. The houses overlap, the car (which looks bent in the middle) looks as if it will just tumble off the cover the road is so steep, while the flat train sits on the extremely curved pavement.


Adrian Chesterman’s Famous Five

I feel sorry for Adrian Chesterman as I’ve picked three of his covers! If you visit his website you can see that the digital artwork he produced in 2016 is actually impressively detailed. However shrunk to paperback-sized a lot of that is lost, drawing your attention to the somewhat comical looks of shock and terror on the children’s faces. In particular, the covers doesn’t really convey anything about the book, instead Smuggler’s Top looks look as if it’s set in a frozen cabin, while Hike has a ghostly fog in the background and the children in Off to Camp look completely super-imposed.


A couple more Famous Fives

Five Go off to Camp by David Tazzyman is a baffling cover. First, I know I like a bit of leaning on a book cover, but this lot look as if they’re about to pitch forward onto their faces. And what odd faces they are. Not to mention the impossibly thin arms and legs, clown feet and the person in the background who appears to be jumping over a tent?

Then we have Five Go Down to the Sea by Richard Jones. This is another digital cover, and the two boys look completely gormless and as if they, too, are about to tumble face first to the ground.


Many Secret Sevens

First, two different versions of The Secret Seven. The first is from 1984, a bit earlier than most of the worst covers. An amalgamation of scenes makes for a strange visual effect with two giant snowmen/boys rearing up over a regular sized man and dog. Or is it that the snowmen/boys are the normal size but everything else has shrunk?

The second is by Stephen Hanson in 2006, and reminds me of the cheapest of the cheap 3D animated TV shows.

Another terrible 1980s cover (from the same set as above) is on Secret Seven Adventure.

It’s like some bizarre sci-fi adventure with a floating brick wall trying to take over the world.

In fact pretty much every cover from that set is bizarre. I’ve seen cleverly done illustrations where more than one scene has been put together but these are just weird.

My notes for this blog included ‘Shock for the Secret Seven – yes I’d be shocked at that giant dog’. I’d also be terrified by the giant girl holding an aeroplane and terribly concerned about the giant half-boy holding a giant cat, growing out of a tree.

And then back to Stephen Hanson of the cheap graphics who has used night-time scenes for around 2/3rds of his covers, perhaps in a vain attempt to hide the terrible quality of them.

For Three Cheers he has done 2/3rds of the cover at night and 1/3rs in daylight. (Harry Rountree gets a lot of flack for his cover for The Secret of Spiggy Holes, where the children look like they’re in daylight while there’s a night-time sky behind them. However that’s a masterpiece compared to this.)


The Five Find Outers

The FFOs have unfortunately been beset by several bad sets of covers.

The first are by Button Design co. None of their covers for the series are exactly great but here are a few of the worst.

The 90s curtain hairstyles are unbelievable dated already, and to add to that these are enlarged versions of the previous covers. By enlarging them from a square to cover the full cover they have awkwardly cropped someone half-off on each, and then covered over significant portions of the children with the text box. It’s particularly odd on Hidden House where there’s that nice bit of blank sky available.

Then there are the ones by Jason Ford. Some of these are not terrible, depending on whether or not you like his particularly stylised way of drawing.

However some are not as god as the rest. The people on Disappearing Cat are somehow more angular than the rest and look particularly odd, while scale seems to have been forgotten entirely on Missing Necklace with the foreground and background people looking the same size. The rounded hill appears to some extent on every cover, making the earth look tiny (maybe he’s a flat-earther, i.e. if the Earth was round you should be able to see the curve!) which is possibly why the caravan and tent are so awkwardly perched up the top of Vanished Prince.


The Barney Mysteries

These 90s Armadas feature extremely dated fashion and nearly unreadable writing at the top. The mystery is, why write MYSTERY at the top of a book which has Mystery already in the title at the bottom, but then make it really hard to read?


 

Malory Towers

While I’m not a fan of most of the post 1990 Malory Towers covers this stand-alone one for First Term is shockingly bad. I had not intended to include covers who’s only sin was not fitting the books, or being misleading about the contents but this ones so ridiculous I had to include it.

If this was a story book for toddlers I wouldn’t give it a second glance (apart from maybe wondering why they couldn’t have fitted in the whole of the girl at the bottom left). But it’s not, it’s for older children.


What is the worst Blyton cover you’ve ever seen?

 

 

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Monday #472

It was Easter yesterday so the house is now full of chocolate. Maybe not quite as much as we had last year where we discovered an uneaten Easter egg in the top of the cupboard at the end of the year. Unfortunately it was inedible (and here was me thinking that chocolate didn’t really go off!).

Then again I found some Christmas chocolates yesterday, which were on top of the cupboards and forgotten about (which is often what happens when I am organised and buy things early). There were also five regular mince pies and two mini ones. It’s OK though as now there are only five regular mince pies and one mini one because Brodie decided that he absolutely had to have a mini mince pie right then regardless of how long they’d been up there. (Don’t worry, he’s still alive.)

The worst ever Blyton book covers

and

My Enid Blyton hallway

Once upon a time there lived an Uncle and Aunt who didn’t believe in fairies. They lived on the edge of a wood, and though Ben and Mary, their nephew and niece, knew perfectly well that the wood was simply full of fairy folk, Uncle John and Aunt Judy said it was all nonsense.

Well, you can just predict that Uncle John and Aunt Judy are going to run into some fairies at some point, aren’t they? This is the beginning of the story Fairy Easter Eggs from Teachers World volume XXXIII, 1925, and you can read it in full here.

 

 

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A dirty dozen of search terms

Yes, this is the twelfth time I’ve bored you (if you’ve bothered to read these posts) by sharing the wild and wonderful search terms that populate part of the blog’s stats section.


That’s not her name

As always our favourite author’s name has been mangled, but it’s not just limited to the (hard to spell?) Enid Blyton. Others have been given the same treatment. (Many of these are just careless typing, but no disrespect is intended to anyone with dyslexia or any other condition that would make spelling difficult. It’s just amusing to see how many different ways Enid Blyton can be typed).

Emid Blyton food – I had a few searches for Emid back in 2017 and she’s back again, along with

Erid Blyton stories

And the French sounding Enid Bouton character info, the character in question being one Bill Cuningham.

Then it’s Eileen Soper’s turn with Famous Five covers Sopher

And lastly I had Michele Galagher Famouse Five actress. Michele is correct, though a more unusual spelling, but Gallagher does have two Ls. And of course it’s famous, unless there’s been a rodent spin off that I’m unaware of.


Good questions

Sometimes I get some insightful questions.

enid blyton petition I don’t know what we’d be petitioning but I’d quite possibly be behind it (unless it was to ban Blyton, of course).

Do Bets and Fatty get married? I’d like to think so but of course Blyton ended the series long before that would even be possible.

The Famous Five Lego Something I wish actually existed. My Treasure Island Lego Build, and my Five on a Hike ones were distinctly amateur.

What’s the name of a(n) Enid Blyton book where the children go behind a waterfall? That would be The Valley of Adventure.

Five on a Treasure island comtimuity error (Darn that pesky M and N being so close on the keyboard…) Do they mean Alf becoming James later? Or something else? Continuity error

St Andrews book Enid Blyton chapter 20 I’m touched that this person considered the fanfic here worthy of calling a book when they wanted to read chapter 20.

Why did they give Julian a broken leg in Five Have a Wonderful Time? Because the actor genuinely broke his leg, playing football which I believe they were not meant to do during filming just in case someone got hurt…

How can Bruno Vincent use Enid Blyton’s book characters? because he has the permission of the copyright holders. Most of the time these continuations happen because the copyright holders (currently Hodder) approach writers with an idea for books they want written.

What kind of scientist was Quentin Kirrin? It’s never made very clear, but possibly a physicist as he was concerned with creating an energy source.

The mustery of Uncle Quentin I assume this is meant to say mystery, or is this a new amalgamated word meaning a musty mystery? Anyway, what mystery is Uncle Quentin involved in? The Mystery of how Aunt Fanny puts up with him? The Mystery of how he can do complex scientific equations and yet can’t spread his toast with butter instead of mustard?

Miss Grayling Malory Towers actress change Yes you’re not imagining it, Miss Grayling changed between series one and two. I’m not sure why, but I assume that the original actress was unavailable.


Strange questions

Malory Towers lesbian sex erotica Definitely none of that here. Try Archive of Our Own!

timmy d dog in famous5 dtill alivefamous five 1970s drunk I’ve left this one exactly as it appeared as it makes the drunk on the end much more apt. No Timmy is not still alive as dogs don’t generally live for 50 odd years. I also don’t know if the dog ever got drunk.

Naughties Girl book where someone attempts suicide If they meant the Naughtiest Girl then no, there definitely isn’t a plot as dark as that!

Uncle Quentin spanks the Famous Five I believe Uncle Quentin makes a threat or two but he never actually spanks any of the children, let alone all of them. Spankings seems to feature highly in the search terms for some reason though.

Briefing on Enid Blyton’s Five in a Secret Trail of Famous Five I get a lot of searches for synopsis and summaries but briefing is a new one.

Malory Towers woke the less said the better

Is there a monkey in Enid Blyton animal stories? At first I thought this was was a bit vague but I suspect they are talking about the 2019 collection. I haven’t got this and there isn’t a contents list online so I can’t answer that. 


Are you sure you’re in the right place?

Strict mature matron This is possibly a reference to a Malory Towers matron? But the wording seems odd.

Lucy you can’t divide a bigger number into a smaller number you can if you’re stupid peanuts This one I assume is about the cartoon Peanuts as there’s a character called Lucy in that, I think. No idea how they landed here, though.

Puppy parachute Nope, none of that here. Well, there is now, but there wasn’t before.

Buff mortarn buffy bookset I have no idea, none at all. I can’t get any Google results for Buff Mortarn (or Buff Morton), or see how that’s connected to Buffy, but I have at least mentioned Buffy books on the blog.


 

 

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Bizzy and the Bedtime Bear

I borrowed this book from the library some time before the pandemic started, and it has been sitting behind the sofa in a pile of my ‘to reads’, along with some other Blyton continuation books I borrowed around the same time. I hasten to add that it isn’t technically overdue as I have just kept renewing it!

The reason I hadn’t read it was that I was sure it would be terrible. Was I right? Let’s see…


Enid Blyton’s Enchanted World

This is a whole new series, based loosely on the Enchanted Wood books. Bizzy and the Bedtime Bear is book 5 in the series so I have obviously missed some things along the way but it wasn’t too difficult to work out roughly what the overarching plot was.

I say loosely based as although the Faraway Tree and a few of the characters we know appear, the tree is only in the first chapter.

There is also a small matter of the characters. There are five fairies, Melody, Petal, Pinx, Bizzy and Silky. It’s not explicitly stated that Silky is the same Silky as from the original books, but it would be a bit of a coincidence otherwise. The problem with that is the continuity, though.

Silky in the original books has no wings and never flies. Silky in later reprints has wings in the illustrations, but still doesn’t fly. Silky in this new series has wings and flies.

Book five has a bit of an explanation at the beginning about the tree (and I assume that appears in all the book) ending with the paragraph:

Of course, not everyone explores the Lands for pleasure alone. Five fairies have been asked do so for the ultimate cause: to save the life of the Faraway Tree and make sure the doorway to the Enchanted World remains open.

And yes, that’s exactly as it appears in the book. I think the general meaning is clear despite the mistake, though.

The blurb on the back also says that:

When Talon the evil Troll tries to steal the Talismans that link the Lands to the Tree, the Enchanted World is suddenly in danger.

After the opening chapter which is a party designed to introduce us to the characters and the tree, a new land appears at the top of the tree.

The Land’s Talisman is the Bedtime Bear: the ultimate stuffed toy. Its embrace gives the gift of peaceful slumber to anyone who wishes for it. You should go now; we don’t know how long the Land will be at the top of the Tree…

I only hope that you remain focused and can return safely with the Talisman. And please be careful of Talon; I know you left him locked away in the Land of Giants, but he is strong and clever. If he has found a way out, he’ll be after the Bedtime Bear… and all of you.

Those few sentences more or less explain the plot of the series. It seems like the fairies have been tasked with collecting 7 talismans from different lands in order to save the tree and keep the door to it open. I assume the first book explains it all a bit more. I have only read 2 of the Faraway Tree books but I’m fairly sure that the idea of each land having a special talisman is a new device for these books, and I’d be interested to know how stealing talismans from the lands is a good thing (beyond keeping them out of Talon’s hands).


Sleepover Land

The land (no I won’t be capitalising land every time like the book does) the fairies go into is Sleepover Land, where hundreds of identical girls (the “sleepees”) are having sleepovers in groups of eight. The whole land is made up of room after room set up for sleepovers, and the day lasts just a few minutes, then a new sleepover begins. The goal is for the girls to have fun and stay up all night, then switch to a new room for a differently-themed sleepover.

Anyone who disrupts that fun is called a party-pooper and gets locked away in the first convenient place (naturally the fairies run into trouble here a couple of times).

The idea is interesting, but more sci-fi like than the whimsy of the lands Blyton had us visit. Why are all the girls identical? How can they survive without sleeping, ever? Is the land supposed to be less sinister but the talisman has changed it? None of these questions are quite answered, though at the end the talisman is returned to the vault so my theory holds some water.

The largest part of the book sees the fairies trying to find the Bedtime Bear and then persuade the girl who has it to give it up, then there are a few chapters at the end where Talon turns up to try to steal it himself and has to battle the fairies.

This is where the secondary plot comes in, that of Bizzy’s lack of confidence. The party at the start was a way of showing her messing up a few spells, so when it comes to the battle at the end she is not confident in casting any more but the other fairies convince her she can do it. I expect that as the books have a different main character each time (Silky and Melody have two books each) that there is a subplot about a personal struggle of theirs each time too.


The style

There is not a single thing about this book that says Blyton. If you changed the references to the tree to, say, taking a boat ride or climbing a hill to enter a portal to a different world then nobody would ever guess that it was based on a Blyton book.

Firstly there’s an irritating amount of capitalisation. I know the original books had Google Buns and Toffee Shocks, and sometimes capitalised the Tree (but not Land on its own) but that seems a style of the time, whereas in a book from 2009 it just seems like an affectation. What’s more is that it takes the trend to new ridiculousness by having phrases in capitals like Perfectly Prodigious Party Pastime, Zany Zonked-Out Zombie, Basic Bizzy Blunders and Spectacularly Splashy Sleepees Surprise.

The idea of girls having sleepovers with pillow fights, make overs, pink and black zebra-print rugs, funky-shaped lamps, ball pits full of lime green balls and so on is very 2006 (thus already a bit dated) and not at all in keeping with the original books. Being 2006 its also still full of girly stereotypes with the sleepees all wearing pink and purple pyjamas, doing makeovers, all but one fairy wears pink and they all have on makeup, jewellery and impractical dresses (not great for when you’re flying above people’s heads, I’m sure) except for the one wearing leggings underneath. The cover is sparkly and has bubbles and feathers on it, though they have no relation to the story. The talismans they collect are the teddy bear, a rainbow feather, a harp, candles, two kinds of jewellery and a flower. All sickeningly girly.

It’s a shame particularly as Blyton was so good at writing books that appealed to both boys and girls. Almost every book she wrote had a mix of boy and girl characters and even though the girls often took a back seat, due to societal expectations of the time, the books still appealed to all readers. I honestly don’t think that creating an all-female series of books is that great an achievement when you then try your hardest to make them super pink and girly so that they wouldn’t be read by a majority of boys.


Overall

I gave this one star on Goodreads. You can’t give a book no stars, but I think it has earned the one star as the general idea behind the story is good. The original books are episodic adventures, so I quite like the idea of a ‘big bad’ and seven talismans to collect across seven books. I just hope that the last book has a suitable ending to round off the story. It also has illustrations which seem exceedingly rare in post 2000 children’s book.

Unfortunately as it’s aimed at younger readers, the idea is not developed very well. Add to that five fairies who are pretty interchangeable, Annoying Alliteration And Avoidable Capitals plus the stereotypical girliness it’s just a big let down.

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Monday #471

I’m excited to say that there’s a copy of Zöe Billings’ next book sitting in my inbox, ready for me to proof-read. It’s the April holidays so I haven’t managed to open it yet because I want to wait for when I can get really stuck in. I can’t wait to see what the four kids get up to next. Unfortunately for you, I’ll leave my review until I’ve read the properly published version.

Enid Blyton’s Enchanted World: Bizzy and the Bedtime Bear by Elise Allen

and

The Dirty Dozen of search terms

They all went up the road together, the man hunched up in his bulky coat. He pulled his scarf over his chin as they met the wind at a corner.

“We are soon at Grintriss?” he asked, anxiously. “This wind is too—too—”

“Too windy?” said Pip, obligingly. “That’s the worst of winds. They’re always so windy.”

Pip, thinking he is talking to Fatty in disguise, is a bit cheekier than he would have otherwise been.

 

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If you like Blyton: Mary Poppins by P.L. Travers

The character of Mary Poppins is no stranger to me, but I admit that I am primarily familiar with the film version, as played by the wonderful Julie Andrews. I have also seen the Emily Blunt version, but only once. The books (there are eight of them!) have been on my list of things to read for quite a while now, but I had never got around to reading them. Ideally I wanted to magically find a nice early hardback that didn’t cost very much, but that didn’t happen, and so I found myself borrowing an eBook from the library via Libby.


The Mary Poppins Series

As I said above, there are eight books written by P.L. Travers. I have only read the first so far, so anything I say about the remaining 7 is based on what I’ve read online.

The titles are:

Mary Poppins (1934)
Mary Poppins Comes Back (1935)
Mary Poppins Opens the Door (1943)
Mary Poppins in the Park (1952)
Mary Poppins from A to Z (1962)
Mary Poppins in the Kitchen (1975)
Mary Poppins in Cherry Tree Lane (1982)
Mary Poppins and the House Next Door (1988)

 

Though some lists give a different order for the series, putting the A-Z and In the Kitchen in the last two places. Another has 7 books in the series with the A-Z an extra.

Having read the descriptions of these, I would imagine as it is because these are not novels as such. The A-Z has 26 vignettes, each telling a new tale about the characters of the books and using various words starting with the featured letter. In the Kitchen has Mary Poppins teaching the children to cook, and includes recipes.

What’s also interesting is that chronologically the events of In the Park, In Cherry Tree Lane and House Next Door all take place during the first three books.


Updates to Travers’ Books

There have been many updates to Blyton’s books over the years so I was interested to read about updates to the first Mary Poppins book, as from what I can gather they were made by the author herself.

In one chapter she and the children use a magic compass to travel the globe. They visit China, Alaska and the contiguous United States, plus Africa (though there is an argument that the visit south could have been to Australia), and meet the native peoples of those countries. Due to criticisms of the language, stereotypes and dialogue used Travers updated the text in the early 1970s.

In 1981 she revised the book again, and replaced the people with animals from the regions. Mary Mary Shepherd (the original illustrator) also replaced the illustrations to match.

The copy I read has the animals, but I would be interested to read both the earlier versions. I understand the reasoning for the updates, but I think it’s a shame that the end solution was to remove the human characters altogether rather than to more subtly amend the language and the illustrations.

I find this particularly interesting as the first update was carried out shortly before Blyton died. Travers was born in 1899, so she was only two years younger than Blyton, in fact less than two years by two days. The two women grew up at the same time, their school years and early adulthood would have overlapped heavily, and both began writing careers in the 1920s. One difference is that Travers was born and raised in Australia, coming to England in 1924, and moving to America for periods starting in 1940. Another is that aside from the eight Mary Poppins books above, Travers wrote just five other novels and a few Mary Poppins short stories (it’s not immediately clear to me if those short stories were taken from the novels or are fresh pieces). And the last one is that Travers passed away in 1996, and was still writing Mary Poppins books at 89.

Had Blyton’s health and mental facilities not begun to decline in the early 1960s I would not have been at all surprised if she had taken a similar stance and made some edits to her books, though of course this would have been hampered by the sheer vastness of her output.

Travers’ reasoning seems to have been two-fold. The reason for the first edit was seemingly her wish to not offend,

P.L. Travers decided to alter the descriptions and dialogues in this section of the story because “if even one Black child were troubled, or she (Dr. Francelia Butler) were troubled, I would have to alter it.”

Lina Slavova from The Mary Poppins Effect

Though she has also made statements that imply she didn’t believe that the work was offensive;

What I find strange is that, while my critics claim to have children’s best interests in mind, children themselves have never objected to the book. In fact, they love it. That was certainly the case when I was asked to speak to an affectionate crowd of children at a library in Port of Spain in Trinidad. On another occasion, when a white teacher friend of mine explained how she felt uncomfortable reading the pickaninny dialect to her young students, I asked her, “And are the black children affronted?” “Not at all,” she replied, “it appeared they loved it.”

Paris Review 1982 (though this portion is behind a pay wall)

However the second time was because the San Francisco Public Library had removed her book due to the ‘negative stereotyping’. Despite being annoyed at her publisher for not defending her more strongly, she decided to make the heavier edits to protect her book from further banning. The original text and the 1980s text are compared in this article.

Nonetheless, I have rewritten the offending chapter, and in the revised edition I have substituted a panda, dolphin, polar bear, and macaw. I have done so not as an apology for anything I have written. The reason is much more simple: I do not wish to see Mary Poppins tucked away in the closet.

Paris Review 1982 (though this portion is behind a pay wall)

Minus the cinema-screen technique Travers’ writing style sounds not dissimilar to Blytons’. (Blytons’ non-fiction work, aside, of course).

P.L. Travers did not use researched information for the portrayal of her characters. She simply pulled them out of the mixture of her childhood memories, readings and musings. Facts were never of a great concern for P.L. Travers.

Lina Slavova from The Mary Poppins Effect


The cast of Mary Poppins

Those of you who have seen the film will be familiar with the inhabitants of number 17 Cherry Tree Lane – Mary Poppins herself, Jane and Michael, Mr and Mrs Banks, maid Ellen and cook Mrs Brill.

These screen characters are largely representative of those in the books with a few alterations. Mrs Banks is not a suffragette, and Mr Banks makes money – by literally cutting out coins – rather than working in banking.

The film, perhaps to give more momentum and a neat ending to the plot has Mrs Banks engrossed in the suffragette movement and Mr Banks an over-worked and cross father. This allows Mary Poppins (and Bert) to show Mr Banks the error of ignoring his family and bring them all together at the end with the kite-flying. The book, being a more episodic series of adventures has no such overarching theme, but of course the Banks’ family story runs through the whole series.

I found the Mary Poppins of the book less likeable than on screen. In both she is firm and no-nonsense, but book Mary has a larger streak of vanity and can be much more snappish and cross. Film Mary may not admit that they’ve just had a magical adventure, but it is done with a knowing wink. Book Mary will snap at the children as if she has taken offense at their suggestion that they’ve just done something magical, which makes for quite confusing reading. As below, someone’s already expressed this much more clearly:

While they are similar by nature, they are completely different in personality: Julie Andrews’s Mary Poppins is never cross, but the Mary Poppins in the books is not only usually cross but reads as bitter, unloving, and grumpy. She also comes across as playing with the children’s minds, manipulating and belittling them while claiming that their magical adventures never happened.

– Jeffrey Davies of Book Riot.

Aside from that there are also two more children in the book – baby twins John and Barbara. As they are under year to begin with they do not have a great deal of page time, with the exception of one chapter where they are able to communicate quite clearly with birds (and presumably other creatures) an ability all children lose when they become one. It’s quite funny to see the twins adamant that they will always have that skill and never forget it. But of course Mary Poppins knows best and the twins turn one and become just babbling babies.

There is also a very lazy (but likeable) gardener called Robertson Ay, who for some reason, is also responsible for polishing shoes.

Outside of the house there is Admiral Boom with his nautical-inspired house (but no earthquake-inducing cannon fire), Miss Lark next door with her overly pampered dog, and of course, Bert.

Bert’s role is expanded for the film, in the book he is a street artist and friend of Mary who accompanies her (but not the children) into one of his paintings for an adventure. He also appears later, selling matches.


The adventures

Again, film-watchers will recognise the tea-party on the ceiling, feeding the birds for tuppence a bag, the trip inside the chalk painting and various other details from the screen.

However, being a book, there is room for many more adventures than made it into the adaptation.

There is the story about the pampered dog next door who makes friends with a common mutt, their adventure with the compass to meet people or animals depending on your edition, a visit to the zoo at midnight where people are in cages and the animals are the viewers, a trip to the shops which ends with a visit to a special sweet-shop, and a Christmas shopping expedition where they meet a star come to buy presents for her sister stars.

To be honest any of these could have been adapted for screen as they all have the same whimsical feeling to them – I particularly enjoyed the back-to-front visit to the zoo, which was not quite as fraught with danger as you might imagine with lions and other predators roaming free.


Although book Mary is less likeable than the Julie Andrews version I enjoyed the book and plan to read more of them as I am intrigued by just who, or what, Mary Poppins is, and to see what she and the children get up to next.

 

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Enid Blyton references in other works of fiction

For quite a long time I have been keeping a list of all the times I’ve found references to Enid Blyton in other things I have been reading. I think I now have enough to write a post now, though it has taken me some scrambling around to try to identify some of the books as all I had in some cases was a photo of a single page!


The Little Wartime Library – Kate Thompson

“I’ve made a list of fifty classic children’s books.”

“Such as?”

“Alice in Wonderland, Little Women, The Jungle Book. We’re down to our last Treasure Island, so that had to go on, various Enid Blytons…”

“Enid Blyton? Why’s she on here? She’s appallingly formulaic.”

“She’s one of the library’s most popular authors,” Clara protested. “One of our patrons, little Babs Clark, must have read The Faraway Tree at least a dozen times.”

“Poor child,” he said witheringly.

This is the most recent one I’ve found. Based on real events, The Little Wartime Library is set during the Blitz, where on the first day a bomb landed on Bethnal Green Public Library. After that a little library was set up over the tracks of the Bethnal Green Tube station, which had been requisitioned to accommodate thousands of East End Londoners.

The scene above comes as Mr Pinkerton-Smythe (chair of the Library Committee) launches another attack on Clara (Bethnal Green children’s librarian, turned head librarian) on the grounds that she lets children into the library, allows women to read popular fiction and is putting foolish ideas into women’s heads about leaving abusive husbands, to name but a few of her supposed misdemeanours.

Don’t worry, though, Mr PS gets his comeuppance later, which is exactly what he deserves.


Shopaholic and Baby (Shopaholic #5) – Sophie Kinsella

P.S. Do you still have a copy of In The Fifth at Malory Towers? There is a rather large fine on it.

In the fifth (aptly enough) novel of the Shopaholic series about Becky Brandon (nee Bloomwood), Becky’s school librarian replies to a letter and adds this little post script. Becky never reveals if she still has the book, though!


The Wartime Midwives – Daisy Styles

“Just one more chapter, then I have to go and cook Daddy’s supper,” she said with an indulgent smile.

Robin giggled happily and snuggled up closer to his mother. “What happens next in The Enchanted Wood?” he whispered.

Once again Gloria opened Enid Blyton’s popular book and continued reading until Robin’s long, silky eyelashes drooped and he finally fell asleep.

Forcing herself to stay balanced in the midst of a highly emotional storm, Gloria gathered her son into her arms and comforted him.

“Shirley’s just gone home for a little holiday,” she murmured. “When she’s back, we’ll read The Enchanted Wood together, just like we always have.”

This is another WWII book, this time set in a(n unmarried) mother and baby home on the Lancashire coast. Gloria has been evacuated there, though she is married, and continues reading The Enchanted Wood to her son, Robin, and also one of the young mothers.

There’s also this reference, which may or not be related to Blyton:

Big Ears – that’s the donkey’s name by the way.


Bookshop of the broken hearted – Richard Hillman

Fair-goers wandered across to Hannah’s Bookshop in a mood to spend something on literature perhaps. And a  few of the ferret people from Fisher Reserve, when they could tear themselves away. Books were sold: Enid Blyton more than most; a number of Noddys, Famous Fives, Secret Sevens.

Blyton is fairly popular in Australia, I believe, so its’s not all that surprising to see her pop up here. This one is about a woman who survived Auschwitz and later came to Australia to set up a second-hand bookshop.

the bookshop of the broken hearted robert hillman


The Little Bookshop of Lonely Hearts

In the back office, one of the walls was covered with the signatures of visiting authors, everyone from Nancy Mitford and Truman Capote to Salman Rushdie and Enid Blyton.

It was in Bookends that Posy had met some of her best friends. Pauline, Petrova and Posy (whom she was named from) Fossil from Ballet Shoes, her mother’s favourite book. Not to mention Milly-Molly-Mandy and little-friend-Susan, the girls of St Clare’s and Malory Towers and the Chalet School.

As all the people milled about the courtyard, it was a faint glimmer of what the future might hold, Posy thought as she sent two little girls back to their parents with a complete set of Enid Blyton’s Malory Towers series.

This is a very different book to the previous one, despite the similar titles. Posy is my kind of girl when it comes to her feelings about books. Blyton was well-known for signing books and autographs but this is the first I’ve heard of her writing on walls. (It’s possible that Posy means signatures on bits of paper pinned to the wall, but she is lamenting the possible loss of her bookshop and all its memories; pieces of paper could be removed and saved while signatures on the wall itself couldn’t).


Why Mummy Swears (Why Mummy #2) – Gill Sims

I have one week till the summer holidays begin. I can’t help but feel awfully jealous of the Famous Five’s parents – not only did Julian, Dick and Anne’s mama and papa simply bung them off on Aunt Fanny and Uncle Quentin at the slightest excuse, but Aunt Fanny was always sending them off to island and moors and coves FULL OF CRIMINALS AND WRECKERS AND SMUGGLERS so that Uncle Quentin could work in peace at his inventing. I have frequently wondered if I could do similar… if only I could just send the children to live outdoors and go feral for the summer. As I recall, Uncle Quentin’s inventions never even made any money, which was why he and Aunt Fanny ere poor and had to look after the beastly cousins, which makes it doubly unfair that it is now so frowned upon to hand your children and bicycle and a packet of sandwiches on the first day of the holidays, and tell them not to come home till it’s time to go back to school.

Jane is eleven now, you see, and more than of an age for Famous Fiving. I did once wistfully suggest this to her, when we were in the middle of one of our frequent rows abut why she is not allowed an Instagram account yet, and she pointed out the many illegalities with this plan and threatened to call Childline if I ever broached it again.

I am feeling particularly bitter about the expenditure the the summer holidays necessitate, because I have been reading the Famous Five books with Peter though somewhat against his will, as he informs each night that he would much rather watch DanTDM than endure another chapter of marvellous Blyton-y japes, frolics and foiling of beastly common-criminal types

Peter, however, has not quite succeeded in breaking my spirit to the same extent as Jane, and so I am still forcing him to sit with me and roam Kirrin Island.

Were it not for the fact that I am just as adept as the next person at lying on social media, I would be convinced that every other child in the country spends the entire summer holidays in some sort of sun-drenched, golden Enid Blyton world.

The extensive quotes above make up almost the whole first two pages of this book, about Ellen and her struggles with her two children, useless husband and Judgy, their well-named dog. Give me another five or so years and I may be writing a similar rant about my own precious moppet (as Ellen calls her kids, entirely ironically, I assure you).


No Through Road (East End Murders #3) – Anne Cassidy

I don’t have the full quote for this one (yet, but I will once I’ve dug the book out of my wardrobe).

Patsy Kelly (a teenage amateur detective) is looking into a murder and visits the dead teenager’s bedroom. On the shelf she spots;

Five on an Island

This is the reference that started the list, which is why I didn’t take care to quote more than just the book title. This was before I had started the blog, though, so I’m not sure what I had intended to do with that bit of information way back then, other than wanting to note it especially as Cassidy got the book title wrong.


Double Act – Jacqueline Wilson

Garnet likes old books too – stuff like Little Women and What Katy Did and all those E. Nesbit books. And she reads twin books too. Books like The Twins at St Clare’s. And all the Sweet Valley Twins. I read them too, because you can read them nice and quickly.

WANTED: GIRL TWINS

Sunnylea Productions are going to turn Enid Blyton’s much loved Twins at St Clare’s books into a children’s television serial. Auditions start on Monday for the plum parts, the twins themselves, so any likely lively outgoing twins girls aged 10-14 with showbiz ambitions can show up at 10 Newlake Street, London, W1, at nine o’clock.

I can’t go to an audition in London! I can’t say a lot of stuff with everyone watching. It’ll be even worse than being a sheep. Why won’t Ruby understand? She won’t listen to me.
She’s riffling through The Twins at St Clare’s right this minute, trying to choose which bit we’ll act out.

The talented gems of stage and screen, identical twins Ruby and Garnet Barker, who first sprang to stardom in the acclaimed television serial, ‘The Twins at St Clare’s’

And I’ve been thinking – we’ll have to inject a little ooomph into our act to make us stand out in front of all these others. So we’ll still do the scene with the twins having a battle with Mam’ zelle, but we’ll act Mam’ zelle too. Don’t look so scared,
I’ll do her. I am good at doing zee French accent, ma cherie, oh la la, très bon.’

‘We’ve got our audition piece all prepared,’ Ruby said brightly, trying to show them we were dead professional. ‘I’m Pat and she’s Isabel and I’m also Mam’ zelle and at the end I’m Janet as well.’

It’s not surprising that Jaqueline Wilson chose an Enid Blyton book as she has said before that she was a big fan growing up. It’s a shame that this St Clare’s TV series is made, up though! From my limited knowledge of the St Clare’s books (I’ve only read them once), the references all look accurate though at first I misread battle as bath for some reason which confused me greatly.


Do Not Disturb – Claire Douglas

In the distance I can see the ring of mountains that forms part of the Brecons, their tops disappearing into cloud. Evie jokes that there’s another world up there, as though the mountains are like the Faraway Tree in her favourite Enid Blyton story.

I haven’t read this book, but it was posted by a member of an Enid Blyton Facebook group. So thank you to Lisa Babs Brûlée for this one. (I admit, though that I read the full page from the photo and spent quite a while thinking about how I did not recall any of the characters. Luckily I noticed that I had saved the photo with the book title as the file name or I would have been completely baffled.)


Folly (Alex Duggins #1) – Stella Cameron

“We took in a few Enid Blytons yesterday. You might like to look at them,” said the bookshop owner.

“I’ll do that,” Alex said.

She collected children’s books. On her library shelves were beautiful classical books, but she also gathered in childhood favourites – even if the condition was less than fine. She loved the charming illustrations, especially the line drawings in some of them.

She saw how torn the top book’s cover was. Torn and taped together. But she also saw it was an original cover on a copy of The Circus of Adventure and swept it up. This was the only one missing from the books she already had in that series.

This is another one I haven’t read but I didn’t note who or where I found the quote. So apologies for not giving credit to whoever deserves it here.


The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 3/4 – Sue Townsend

Sunday May 24th

I have decided to paint my room black; it is a colour I like. I can’t live a moment longer with Noddy wallpaper. At my age it is positively indecent to wake up to Big Ears and all the rest of the Toyland idiots running around the walls. My father says I can use any colour I like so long as I buy the paint and do it myself.

Monday May 25th

Bought two tins of black vinyl silk-finish paint and a half-inch brush. Started painting as soon as I got home from the DIY centre. Noddy keeps showing through the black paint. Looks like it’ll need two coats. Just my luck!

Tuesday May 26th

Now put on two coats of black paint. Noddy still showing through!

Wednesday May 27th

Third coat. Slight improvement, only Noddy’s hat showing through now.

Thursday May 28th

Went over Noddy’s hat with kid’s paintbrush and last of black paint, but [the] hat bells are still showing through!

Friday May 29th

Went over hat bells with black felt-tip pen, did sixty-nine tonight, only a hundred and twenty-four to go.

Saturday May 30th

Finished last bell at 11.25 p.m… The paint is dry but it must have been faulty because it is all streaky, and here and there you can see Gollywog’s striped trousers and Mr Plod’s nose.

I would have been embarrassed by Noddy wallpaper at that age too, though strangely I wouldn’t be now as an adult! I am impressed, though, that he painted a whole room at least three times over with a half-inch paintbrush. Must have taken all day!


The Well of Lost Plots (Thursday Next #3) – Jasper Fforde

“I think I’ve found an assignment that should test your mettle. It’s an Internal Plot Adjustment order from the Council of Genres.”

Despite my natural feelings of caution, I was also, to my shame, excited by a practical test of my abilities. Dickens? Hardy? Perhaps even Shakespeare.

“Shadow the Sheepdog,” announced the Bellman, “by Enid Blyton. It needs to have a happy ending.”

“Shadow… the Sheepdog,” I repeated slowly, hoping my disappointment didn’t show. “Okay. What do you want me to do?”

“Simple. As it stands, Shadow is blinded by the barbed wire, so he can’t be sold to the American Film Producer. Up ending because he isn’t sold, down ending because he is blinded and useless. All we need to do is to have him miraculously regain his sight the next time he goes to the vet on page…” he consulted his clipboard. “…two thirty-two.”

Later there is a whole chapter dedicated to Thursday’s time inside Shadow the Sheepdog, and I plan to write a whole post about it. Just as soon as I’ve read Shadow the Sheepdog myself, that is.

To explain, slightly, Thurday Next is training to be a Jurisfiction Agent, Agents being people who can jump in and out of books to fix plots, chase out characters who don’t belong and much more. Her visit to Shadow the Sheepdog, is her practical test to become a fully-fledged Jurisfiction agent, and the plan given to her by the Bellman is to swap Shadow for another collie.


How many Blyton references have you spotted in your fiction reads?

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Monday #470

A bit late in the day, but I was drawing a blank on what to write about! I’ve finally come up with something, though.

PS, yes, Friday’s post was an April Fool’s. Sadly Stephen King has no plans to write a Famous Five book (at least, not that I know of).

Enid Blyton references in other fiction

and

If you like Blyton: Mary Poppins by P.L. Travers

Peter considered. “We can’t go chasing over the countryside looking for all the scarecrows in the fields!”

“Yes, we can,” said Colin. “Quite easily. All we’ve got to do is to separate, and bike all over the place, and whenever we see a scarecrow, get off and see if anyone has been disturbing the ground by it. I bet whatever is hidden is well dug-in beside a scarecrow.”

Oh yes, of course, Colin. I’m sure it will be extremely easy to bike miles around the countryside and that the very scarecrow you want will be visible from the road, and not in a field behind some trees or a small hill. Or indeed, behind a farm-house.

As it happens they do find the scarecrow, but only because they hear from Peter and Janet’s mother that a scarecrow on their own farm – which they can see from their windows – has had someone walking over the crops around it.

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March 2022 round up

Phew, it’s the first of April already. I hope you enjoyed this morning’s post!

We had a brief warm spell in March where we could sit outside in short sleeves, but by the end of the week it was snowing. Just your typical Scottish spring, then. But still, it’s April now and the schools are about to come off for the Easter holidays so lots of fun to be had I hope.


What I have read

I have managed to keep on track for my reading challenge so far, but I should probably aim to get a bit further ahead just in case! Deciding to just read some of my favourite Nancy Drew books instead of starting at the beginning of the series has helped.

What I have read is:

  • Sleeps Like a Baby – Aurora Teagarden #10) – Charlaine Harris
  • The Man Who Died Twice (Thursday Murder Club #2) – Richard Osman
  • New Class at Malory Towers – Various authors, reviews are here
  • Why Mummy’s Sloshed (Why Mummy #4) – Gill Sims
  • Let Darkness Bury the Dead (Detective Murdoch #8) – Maureen Jennings
  • The Big Alfie Out of Doors Book – Shirley Hughes, recommended here
  • Trouble in Tahiti (Nancy Drew Files #31) – Carolyn Keene
  • Stories by Firelight – Shirley Hughes, recommended here
  • A Little Princess – Frances Hodgson Burnett (reviewed here)
  • High Marks for Malice (Nancy Drew Files #32) – Carolyn Keene
  • The Essential Guide to Beachcombing and the Strandline – Steve Trewhella and Julie Hatcher
  • Danger in Disguise (Nancy Drew Files #33) – Carolyn Keene
  • The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires – Grady Hendrix
  • The Conference of Birds (Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children #5) – Ransom Riggs
  • Vanishing Act – (Nancy Drew Files #34) – Carolyn Keene
  • Bad Medicine (Nancy Drew Files #35) – Carolyn Keene

And I’m still working on:

  • Hidden Figures: The Untold Story of the African American Women Who Helped Win the Space Race – Margot Lee Shetterly
  • Margaritas and Murder (Murder, She Wrote #24) – Jessica Fletcher & Donald Bain
  • Mary Poppins (Mary Poppins #1) – P.L. Travers

I started Hidden Figures in October and it hasn’t appeared on my reading list since November so I thought it was time I picked it back up and tried to finish it!


What I have watched

  • The usual suspects Hollyoaks and House of Games
  • In the end, after finishing Charmed, I ended up rewatching The Home Edit on Netflix (the new season starts in April!), and then all three series of Your Home Made Perfect. I then started on Sparking Joy with Marie Kondo, but got derailed by Is it Cake?
  • Ewan and I have been watching Good Omens, he’s read the book but I haven’t, and have started Outlander season six (I’ve read the books but he hasn’t.) We’ve also tried The Witchfinder from BBC2.
  • We’ve also watched The Da Vinci Code (I’ve read the book but he hasn’t), and Angels and Demons (we’ve both read it).
  • Tuesday nights were the Sex and the City reboot, And Just Like That – and I’m finally starting to remember the name now that we’ve finished it. We also watched Misbehaviour, starring Keira Knightley, which is about the real-life events of the women’s liberation movement disrupting the 1970 Miss World competition.

What I have done

  • Found a few new places for walks
  • Explored more beaches (and collected more glass and pottery as well as doing some litter picking)
  • Played miniature (table-top) curling
  • Visited the transport museum for camper van day
  • Spent time in the garden while the weather was good

 

What did your March look like?

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