Enid Blyton, praise and criticism part 4: The World of Children’s Books

I brought this one (and all the other praise and criticism books) home from the staff library at my work. I just quickly skimmed the index to see if Enid Blyton was mentioned. She’s in this one four times but I fear it won’t be much of a blog as each mention is very brief.

The World of Children’s Books

The full title of this book is An Introduction to the World of Children’s Books, a bit of a mouthful and rather too long for a blog title.

Margaret Marshall the writing, publishing and selling of children’s books and analyses the various kinds – fiction and non fiction, textual and pictorial. Trends in the children’s book world, past and present, are described, and the criteria for selection of a particular book discussed.

It looks quite serious and in-depth despite the bright and cartoony cover, I hope I understand more of it than I have some others!


What does it say about Enid Blyton?

First, there are only around 20 authors listed in the index, many of which have only one page reference. However, I notice on skim reading that many other authors are name checked, if only when their book is given as an example of a genre.

Blyton features four times, no other author has more than that in the index. Maurice Sendak is the only other who equals her four.

Girls’ school stories are vast in quantity, ranging from the archetypal Angela Brazil books to the fifty-six titles in the Chalet School series by Elinor Brent-Dyer, and the numerous titles in the Abbey School series by Elsie Oxenham. Enid Blyton’s school stories were popular from their beginning in the 1940s and remains so today in three series, The Naughtiest Girl, the St Clare’s and the Malory Towers books.

It’s interesting that none of the other authors in that paragraph feature in the index, and I wonder what the criteria was for selecting index-worthy names. I actually recognise few of the chosen ones, yet I know of Brazil, Brent-Dyer and Oxenham.

Anyway, it’s not a very informative bit about Blyton but at least it’s not negative. Though shortly after this the book says of boarding school books in general:

Many of the plots are repetitive, the characters stereotyped, the slang outdated; there is little to do with real-life boarding school practice in the educational sense and almost no explicit boy/girl relationships; but the sometimes exotic settings, the evident privilege in the boarding school clientele and the basic relationships depicted in the schoolgirl or schoolboy world, continue to hold interest, particularly for girls.

I suppose when you have hundreds upon hundreds of boarding school books you would struggle not to see the same plots appearing, but don’t they say that there are only seven real stories (overcoming the monster; rags to riches; the quest; voyage and return; comedy; tragedy; rebirth) out there and everything else is a variation upon on of them? As for no real-life boarding school education, nobody reads a book determined to witness a full geography or maths lesson. I’m also intrigued as to whether explicit means clearly stated or sexual. I assume the former, but the lack of romance or dating isn’t surely limited to boarding school books? A lot of children’s books stick to platonic friendships, or family groups.

The next mention of Blyton is in the bit about Adventure books.

There are many such books for children and many that make from the ingredients an easily absorbed story in which the reader races along with the action. This is the appeal of the phenomenal Enid Blyton books, dozens of which are adventure stories concerning the Famous Five and the Secret Seven in books like Five on a Treasure Island, The Island of Adventure, Castle of Adventure and so on. Her books have been best-sellers since the 1940s and are read by children all over the world, despite the very English characters and settings.

I appreciate that there’s no negativity again, in the idea of the books racing along. Though I’m not sure what phenomenal here refers to. Is it Enid Blyton herself, or her books? Usually it is the word of choice to describe her vast output. I have to laugh when I see the examples given, though, where the Famous Five and Secret Seven suddenly inhabit the world of the Adventure Series.

Illustrations are up next for Blyton;

Some of the classic story books whether opular or esoteric are remembered for the way in which the illustrations complement and extend the story as in Shepard’s pictures for Winnie the Pooh…; the illustrations for Richmal Compton’s William books and those for Enid Blyton’s Famous Five books.

Shame Eileen Soper doesn’t get name-checked here. I would certainly not call Enid Blyton’s books esoteric, so that means that they must be classic! It’s a crying shame that she almost never gets that label despite so many of her contemporaries being lauded as classic.

And lastly Enid Blyton is mentioned because Sheila Ray’s The Blyton Phenomenon is listed as a bibliographical aid to children’s literature.

What isn’t said

Very little is said about any author or books, there just isn’t room. No biographical information appears, and little beyond a few words about any one book at a time.

There are several mentions of racism and sexism  in the book, thankfully none in conjunction with Enid Blyton.

A trend which is being strongly pursued by some people is the attempt to exclude, delete or ban from children’s books, references to what are considered to be sexist, racist, politically unfavourable, or religious themes, comments or characters.

This is more or less branded as a disturbing development especially the notion that books should be weeded for offensive material, or developing a code whereby these sorts of things are managed.

This I very much agree with.

So on the whole, the book casts Blyton in a positive light – though perhaps that’s just because it doesn’t say much negative about any author in particular.


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Monday #275

The second post of this week will depend on whether or not I am actually called for jury duty at the end of the week. If I am, on top of working and running around after a toddler, I may struggle for time and energy.

Enid Blyton in The World of Children’s Books


Letters to Enid vol 7

Miss Kennedy went pale. She guessed that some trick had been played, though she couldn’t imagine what. She stood up, looking unexpectedly dignified, though bits of straight hair fell rather wildly from two knots at the sides of her head.

“Girls,” she said. “There will be no history lesson this morning. I refuse to teach an unruly class like this.”

The St Clare’s girls give Alicia and June a run for their money in The Twins at St Clare’s.

janet and miss kennedy

The Valley in The Valley of Adventure is located somewhere in Austria, as far as we know. It was once just an ordinary if beautiful valley, with several homes in it. Then the pass was bombed during the war and the valley was lived in no more – except for two old people and their hen who moved into the caves to guard a secret treasure. The whole valley is a secret, really, the only way in or out is by air. There are the secret caves and many secret tunnels.



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My twenty-fifth Noddy book: Noddy and the Farmyard Muddle

Back in 2016 I reviewed my twenty-fourth Noddy book and proclaimed it my last. I wasn’t in a strop with Noddy, as irritating as he can be at times, I had come to the end of the main series. There are plenty of other Noddy books out there, picture books, strip books, board books and more.

So of all the Noddy books in all the world, why have I considered this to be the 25th? It doesn’t come sequentially after the main series, in fact it was published in 2009, more than 50 years after Enid Blyton died. But it is intended to be a continuation of the series, written for Noddy’s 60th birthday.

What makes it more interesting is that it was written by Sophie Smallwood, Enid Blyton’s granddaughter.

The book visually

I had seen the cover online before I got the book as a gift. It looks very similar to the classic Noddy books, but there’s one bizarre and quite major difference. It’s a completely different size! The other books are around a5 in size, while this new book is almost twice as big! So although it looks very much like the others it would look silly on the shelf which is why mine is on a different shelf with big annuals.

Blyton’s signature has been replaced with Sophie’s, and her name has been added at the top in smaller letters. Honesty about who actually wrote a book is always a good thing in my book! The characters in the train have also changed – the golly has naturally been removed – and the cows and bull fit the farm theme.

The train’s steam holds the words Illustrated by Robert Tyndall. Tyndall started illustrating Noddy books in 1953 with the 9th book (Noddy and the Magic Rubber, published in 1954). He then returned for book 14 and worked on most of the rest of the series. Originally the words on the steam read Pictures by Beek, and after his death books 8 though 24 read All aboard for Toyland.

Anyway, having one of the original illustrators helps greatly in making this fit with the series. It’s not crucial, but the next best would be a good illustrator who keeps to the same style.

The back has a different style – the original 24 had the train carriages across the bottom with a larger cloud of steam reading All aboard for Toyland. The top left would read Noddy Book and the number, while an image from the book would be at the top right. The new book has the train continue in a crescent shape up the book and features a blurb.

Inside instead of the classic endpapers showing Toyland there’s a farm scene at the front and a party scene at the back. The internal illustrations follow a similar pattern of small inset images and large full page ones with borders.


The story

Noddy is busy ferrying customers around Toyland when he comes across a load of sheep in a lane. He and Mrs Noah herd them back to Farmer Straw’s farm, and discover his new tractor is in the pond. He then finds some wooly-pigs. Or are they oinking sheep? He isn’t sure. Also on the loose are Gobbo and Sly the goblins, but thankfully Big-Ears turns up to deal with them.

Mr Plod also assists, he bring back a herd of blue cows and the bull by train. With all the animals back there’s just the matter of Gobbo and Sly returning them to their usual selves, before the goblins are punished with a load of farmyard chores.

Overall it’s a decent story. There’s just two things I didn’t like. One is that we read all about Sly and Gobbo doing their mischief on the farm at the start of the book (I’m not sure that we get lengthy non-Noddy scenes in his other books?) when it could have made a nice little mystery and been far more surprising to us when Noddy finds sheep/pigs and there are blue cows roaming around. The second is that after being punished Gobbo and Sly get to join in the feast celebrating the return of the animals. I know I can be a vindictive sort of person but as far as I know Gobbo and Sly have no redeeming features whatsoever and are not friends of anyone in Toyland. There’s no reason to have them at the feast and they don’t deserve to be there!

The writing

I’ve yet to read a Blyton continuation that reads exactly like Blyton wrote it, and this book is no exception. To expect Sophie Smallwood to write completely convincingly as her grandmother is silly though, she’s no more Enid Blyton than Pamela Cox is. Sophie was born two years after Enid died, so she never even met her. She did grow up reading her grandmothers’ books and is obviously a fan and I think she has done a good job of writing a Noddy book even if it isn’t a flawless fit for the series.

Nothing major sticks out as being ‘un-Blyton’, and perhaps it’s just my adult mind looking for faults because I know it’s not the real deal. It doesn’t help that we have Gobbo and Sly as main characters as I associate them with the 90s tv shows (Gobbo first appears in a 1970s adaptation, with different looks and without Sly). I suspect that modern children wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between this and the updated versions of the original 24 books.

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Enid Blyton, praise and criticism part 3: The Ultimate First Book Guide

The Ultimate First Book Guide claims to contain over 500 great books for 0-7s. This might be dangerous for me as I will probably see lots of things I will want to read, I really enjoy going back and reading popular children’s books that I missed at the time. I’ve recently discovered The Giving Tree, Goodnight Moon, The Velveteen Rabbit and several other classics/modern classics.

Anyway, a few Blytons feature in the book so I thought I’d have a look to see which ones.

Three, or is it eight or nine?

There are three entries for Enid Blyton, but all three are series. They are The Magic Faraway Tree, The Enchanted Wood and Amelia Jane.

There are over 60 different contributors to this book, each recommending a book or books. They are split into three age categories, 0-2, 2-5 and 5-7. All of Blyton’s entries fall into the 5-7 group, which has difficulty ratings for each book. One being the easiest and three being the most challenging. Oh and they are listed alphabetically within the sections (the exception being a few pages with a theme or topic).

Enid Blyton
Some children have more adventure than most. It helps if you have an Enchanted Wood at the bottom of your harden, and friends like Silky the elf, Moon-Face and Saucepan Man, the inhabitants of the Faraway Tree. Every week, at the top of this magic tree, there is a different land to visit – from the irresistible Land of Treats to the Land of Bad Temper. The children sometimes find themselves in trouble, but never any real danger – they always manage to get back in time for tea. The stories may be slightly old-fashioned, but they have a vividness and sense of magic that more sophisticated books can lack. And there are things that will always appeal to children’s imaginations – sweets that turn from hot to cold in your mouth, a cat that can tell fortunes, a Land of Birthdays…
Katie Jennings

Katie Jennings is a children’s editor who works for the publishing house that produces the Ultimate Book Guide. The Faraway Tree books have been rated as a three, so amongst the most challenging of the recommended titles. If you think a book is good enough to be recommended in a widely published book, I wonder why there’s a need for saying they are old-fashioned in a negative way (almost apologising for that, rather than celebrating it). Or for using a backhanded compliment by saying it has things that more sophisticated books don’t, therefore saying it is unsophisticated, ie simple or lacking depth.

Many other books/series recommendations have a box to the side giving other titles, but not for the Faraway Tree. There’s also not a picture, though there’s only pictures for half of the books included.

Enid Blyton
This is a classic collection from the prolific pen of Enid Blyton. Amelia Jane is the naughtiest toy in the toy cupboard. In each chapter, she thinks up a new way to tease and terrify the other toys: she snips off pink rabbit’s tail, scares the toys by pretending to be a cat, and pushes the brown teddy bear into a pool of water. But even though Amelia Jane is the largest of the toys, the others are quite good at teaching her a lesson. Whenever she gets her comeuppance, she promises to be good in future… but her resolution is always short-lived!
There are three collections of Amelia Jane stories to enjoy.
Susan Reuben

Naughty Amelia Jane gets a rating of two, between easy and challenging. I’m surprised as I was exposed to Amelia Jane younger than five, though it was read to me rather than me reading it. From what I can tell, the books rated as a one have more pictures and less text.

Again there’s no list of titles and no picture. It’s interesting that although the book was published in 2008 they have stuck to the original three book series with no acknowledgement of the 2001 book Good Idea, Amelia Jane.

Enid Blyton
Two children wander into an antique shop one day and find an incredible chair that will take them wherever they wish to go. So they keep it on their playroom, and whisk off on adventures whenever they can. Of course, things don’t always go according to plan, and they frequently meet nasty creatures who try to take the chair and cause all sorts of other trouble. 
This is the first in a series of three books about the wishing chair, which have the trademark Blyton features of rollicking, adventurous storylines and a fast-paced, unchallenging text.
Susan Reuben

Susan Reuben co-owns a company that carries out freelance work for children’s publishers. I was appreciating these two recommendations until the second to last word. I’m trying to tell myself that she means unchallenging in a positive way, telling parents that their child who finds reading hard would find these books manageable. But come on, almost nobody says anything positive about Enid Blyton these days without caveats and backhanded compliments. If you’ve written a deliberately accessible book aimed at poor readers then unchallenging is probably a compliment, for anyone else it’s just another put down along with ‘limited vocabulary’.

Again, no picture, no list of books, and strangely the fact that it says three books means that they are including the 2000 book More Wishing-Chair Stories. Despite the unchallenging text, the books get a rating of two.

What else is there?

Given that Enid Blyton wrote hundreds of books it’s a shame that more of them don’t feature here, but saying that, her other big series are probably aimed at older readers. The Famous Five, Adventure Series, Five-Find Outers, Malory Towers and St Clare’s for example are usually in the 7 or 8-12 age bracket in book shops. Perhaps the Secret Seven or Josie Click and Bun would have been age appropriate, the latter would have been great instead of going for the obvious and already well-known titles. And of course, Noddy!

I will have to look out for The Ultimate Book Guide which has over 700 books for 8-12s, perhaps more Blytons will feature in there.

Roald Dahl is another prolific writer, though not in the same league titles-wise as Blyton, yet he has seven books recommended. Interestingly Charlie and the Chocolate Factory isn’t there, nor The Witches, or Matilda. Either they thought those would be 8+ as well, or bizarrely rate them not as good as The Magic Finger or The Enormous Crocodile. I love The Twits, and though Esio Trot is good it’s very short and barely a story.

Some personal classics from 0-2 I was happy to see include Dear Zoo (Rod Campbell), Where’s Spot (Eric Hill), The Very Hungry Caterpillar (Eric Carle), We’re Going on a Bear Hunt (Michael Rosen), Peepo! and Each Peach Pear Plum – one of Brodie’s favourites – (Janet and Allen Ahlberg), the Hairy Maclary books – also Brodie’s favourites – (Lynley Dodd) and That’s Not My… Series (Fiona Watt).

Related post⇒ Books for Babies, the lead up to Blyton 

I was not impressed with the inclusion of Bing Bunny books, I despise Bing Bunny who is a character on CBeebies. He is whiny, badly behaved and just incredibly annoying!

I spotted Where the Wild Things Are (Maurice Sendak) – a classic I have yet to read, though I’ve read the book adaptation of the film. Also in there was Goodnight Moon, which didn’t surprise me.

For the 2-5 age group I love the Alfie books  and Dogger (Shirley Hughes), most things by Dr Seuss, more Janet and Allan Ahlberg this time Cops and Robbers and Funnybones, Dr Dog (Babette Cole), The Gruffalo (Julia Donaldson), the Large Family books (Jill Murphy), Katie Morag (wonderfully Scottish and by Mairi Hedderwick), Meg and Mog (Helen Nicoll), Old Bear books (Jane Hissy) and The Tiger Who Came to Tea (Judith Kerr).

Perhaps surprising is The Story of the Little Mole Who Knew it was None of his Business (Werner Holzwarth). This one has scatalogical in the description! It’s the story of a mole who has a poo done on his head and he goes around trying to work out whose poo it is. Sort of a ‘you’re not my mother’ type, but with poo. I’ve read it and it’s actually very funny but I’m not used to that sort of stuff being openly recommended. Mind you it was (and possibly still is) on my library’s catalogue homepage, so I shouldn’t be surprised to see it elsewhere. I’ve just discovered there is a Scottish version too, The Tale o the Wee Mowdie that wantit tae ken wha keeched on his heid.

And for the 5-7s, Winnie the Pooh – in the original form I’d say this is the right age group though there’s lots out there for younger readers (A. A. Milne), the Milly-Molly-Mandy books (Joyce Lankester Brisley), The Sheep Pig – aka Babe – Dick King-Smith, Bill’s New Frock – also excellent are The Country Pancake and The Angel of Nitshill Road – (Anne Fine), the Worst Witch books (Jill Murphy), Happy Families (Janet and Allan Ahlberg), My Naughty Little Sister (Dorothy Edwards), Paddington Bear (Michael Bond), and although it barely has any words; Where’s Wally (Martin Handford).

One book I would like to read now is George Speaks by Dick King-Smith, one I’ve never heard of before!


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Monday #274

Enid Blyton in the Ultimate First Book Guide


Noddy and the Farmyard Muddle

Amelia Jane slept for an hour – and then she began having horrid dreams about falling into a river and getting cold and wet. She woke up with a jump – and oh, my goodness, whatever had happened? She was clasping a few wet clothes tightly to her – and she was soaked through and dripping wet! The snow-doll had disappeared.

In Amelia Jane Again! Amelia Jane learns a hard lesson about what happens to snow when you bring it into a warm room. She’s a rather horrible doll most of the time but I always feel bad for her at this part of the story as I struggle a lot with things not lasting! I hate using the last of anything, and I have lots of unused things because I’m afraid to use them and not have them any more.

Rubadub is a strange seaside town, visited by Roger and Diana Lynton, their cousin Snubby, his dog Loony, their friend Barney and his monkey Miranda, in The Rubadub Mystery. The town is named for the unusual rock formation in the cliff nearby – a rock shaped like a scrubbing board beside a whirlpool. The pool is particularly dangerous as it draws the water downwards, and anyone foolish enough to fall in! It also sends water through a tunnel into the rock and forces it out a blowhole a short distance away.

The rest of the town is almost as interesting; the inn named Rubadub too is a large rambling building with a skylight looking over the cliffs, and a large, rambling expanse of roof just perfect for exploring.

Then there’s the pier with its pierrots show, a fun fair and a mysterious submarine base…

rubadub mystery



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Five Go off to Camp part 2

Last time I wrote a lot about Mr Luffy and the Andrews/Robbins family, and very little about the actual storyline or adventure. Let me remedy that now!

The big adventure

Now I’ve just read the book in the past week and yet I’m back to being confused by the order of events. While reading it I knew what would happen but I wasn’t certain of the order and I’m not much wiser now. I’ve had to flick through the book to work it all out.

To avoid a dull summary I won’t do it in order. I’ll start with that despite the boys making three trips to the yard/tunnel they only find the train and its hiding place when the baddies walk them right up to it. It’s George who finds it, with Timmy.

The boys see the train on their first trips – all three sneak down to Olly’s yard one night and witness a train with no lights which comes out of the tunnel, goes down to the yard for a bit, then comes back. I was struck by how frightening this bit could be!

“It’s only a train going through one of the underground tunnels – the noise is echoing out through this one.”

“It isn’t. That noise is make by a train coming through this tunnel!”

Dick’s Blow, I’ve twisted my ankle! is a line from the cassette tape that I remember well, and it explains why the three boys don’t follow the train to the yard or do any more investigating at the time.

Naturally Julian and Dick go back to the tunnel another night. Dick watches from the Olly’s Yard end where the train comes out, then goes back in, and Julian goes across the top to Kilty Vale where he finds a lot of small buildings, but no train ever appears. So they’ve seen the train twice but are no further forward. You can’t fault them for trying, though, as they’ve even gone into the nearest town to do some research.

Blyton likes her knowledgeable old men characters (Lucas from Five Have a Mystery to Solve, Jeremiah Boogle from Five Go to Demon’s Rocks, Old Grandad from Ring O Bell’s Mystery, to name a few) and in this one is Tucky, an old porter. He knows all about the tunnels.

He gives the children (minus George) a map and I wish we got to see it too, to help me keep it all in my head. I’m rubbish at imagining outdoor things, I always lump everything far too close together and then it makes no sense. In my mind Olly’s Yard is a matter of a few metres from the tunnel opening, and the other end of the tunnel at Kilty Vale is visible to anyone standing atop the tunnel. Not the fault of the author at all – it’s all my useless brain! (I find my mental image of Kirrin Island is just as silly with everything so close together half the plots would never work.)

In my defense the illustrations don’t help – they put Sam’s hut very close to the tunnel entrance, though on different sides!

Anyway, the layout is that there’s a tunnel a mile or so long leading from Olly’s Yard to Kilty Vale. Halfway down this is a branch that once led to Roker’s Vale but it was bricked up due to the roof falling in years ago. The Olly/Kilty tunnel is open but hasn’t been used in years.

Now, George has the basics of this information but hasn’t seen the map or heard the full story but she and Timmy go off anyway. They have a run in with Wooden-Leg Sam and then go up on top of the tunnel where Timmy falls into a hole. A bit like in Five On a Treasure Island he gets stuck halfway down, but this time it’s a vent not a well. He and George reach the bottom and find themselves in the main tunnel, right next to a spook train. I know it’s accidental but she’s able to walk up to it and even get inside, discovering it’s full of boxes. Also accidentally she discovers where the train has been hiding – SPOILER – there is a portion of the bricked up tunnel which opens, revealing a portion of tunnel before another brick wall. The train, along with George and Timmy chuffs its way into this secret space, trapping them inside. – END SPOILER –

Meanwhile Julian, Dick, Jock and Anne explore the tunnel. They walk all the way from Olly’s Yard to Kilty Vale, where a load of weeds tell them that the train clearly never comes that far. The boys head back along the tunnel – while Anne goes across the top – and discover the lines are dull and rusty all the way to the blocked off bit of tunnel.

At this point the story is split to three viewpoints and we have Anne who can see Mr Andrews and some of his men going into the tunnel before the boys have come out. The boys are captured and manhandled into the train’s hiding space. It’s nicely ironic that they wanted so badly to find the train and then end up tied up beside it. It’s also ironic that George – who was banned from any night time excursions – it the one who found it first and then is able to untie the boys to facilitate their escape.

It’s all sorted out quite neatly at the end, Anne fetches Mr Luffy and he brings the police with him. The bad guys are all arrested and the Five go back to the farm for a wash and a meal.

George is as good as a boy

As I’ve said above it’s George that find the train and rescues the boys. I’ve seen a few people say they can’t stand George in this book because of her whining/complaining/stropping but I think that’s unfair.

She gets a bit sulky when Anne tells her that she must help with preparing food and the washing up. She has a point, though. She’s only got to do that because she’s a girl. The boys don’t have to bother with any of that stuff. Ask her to fetch firewood or carry buckets of water and I bet she’d be quite happy.

She and Julian have a real row at one point and neither of them come out of it well. George is needlessly unkind in calling Anne a coward and blaming her for the boys leaving them both behind. Julian calls her out on it:

You’re behaving like a girl, for all you think you’re as good as a boy! Saying catty things like that!

He reinforces the idea that girls are inferior to boys there, just like he did in the last book. He also declares that the adventure belongs to he and Dick, perhaps Jock, but not either of the girls.

I have mixed ideas as to his thought process. Part of his reasoning is that Anne can’t be left at camp alone – but Mr Luffy’s tent is quite close. I suspect it’s 50/50 that and him just believing George shouldn’t be involved as she is a girl. He and Dick know fine they are going to upset George but are pretty blatant about going off anyway, more or less laughing in her face that they’re boys and can do what they like. Not their finest moments in the series. Vaguely related, the boys behave surprisingly like hooligans on their first visit to Olly’s Yard and shove some of the railway trucks along the tracks so they crash into each other.

Anyway, George does get one moment of happiness when Jock compliments her by saying he had thought she was a boy to start with.

Questions, comments and nitpicks

As usual the start of the book gives us a pointer as to where this adventure fits into a timeline (though if you add it up the children should be in their twenties by the last book).

They mention Last summer when we went off in caravans – though omit any mention of the adventure they had in Kirrin in the spring! We can assume this is just a few months later, though.

They eat some strange things this time around. Mr Luffy’s shared sandwiches are cucumber dipped in vinegar, and spam and lettuce. Anne says those are nicer than theirs, making me wonder what on earth is in their sandwiches. Tripe?

Interestingly on more than one occasion they have dinner (mid day) then tea (late afternoon) then a light meal in the evening. I’d have expected them to have lunch at midday, because to them dinner would be an evening meal.

They also have sardines and fruitcake for breakfast one day, which even Mr Luffy approves of.. yuck.

Some of my random observances;

Blyton overuses queer in this book. It’s  used seven times across the scene where the Five meet Wooden-Leg Sam for the first time, and several more times in relation to him elsewhere in the book.

Anne and her volcano occurs a lot earlier than I remember, but I do remember and enjoy Mr Luffy’s little jokes about it later.

anne, five go off to camp

Tucky names Olly’s Yard, Roker’s Vale and Kilty Vale but they are also referred to as Roker’s Yard Kilty’s Yard on several occasions.

At one point Dick says No wonder Jock’s tubby. I honestly don’t remember every reading that before! I’ve never thought of Jock as tubby and he doesn’t look it in the illustrations.

I wonder how this one has been updated. For one, is it still a steam train? And secondly seeing as it’s all about black market goods, is it now iPads and other modern items rather than tea and sugar?

I think it’s a great pity that we don’t find out how the train’s hiding place was thought of and created. The Five make a brief supposition but I’d love to know more about it all.

I also have a lot of questions and nitpicks…

Who is paying Wooden-Leg Sam to watch? And what is he watching for? He is terrified of the spook trains, which suggests he doesn’t know that it’s a real train, yet at the end he’s the one that summons Mr Andrews because the children are in the tunnel. Has he been in their pay all along, or has Mr Andrews just recently paid or threatened him into doing that?

Further to that, if Olly’s Yard is deserted why does it a) still have train tracks that go all the way to Kilty Vale, b) have a watchman and c) still have wagons and other stuff sitting around. It’s all been closed for years, since Tucky was a young man. A bit different from Beeching’s cuts but you’d think they’d still lift the track and reuse it, and remove all the other properties of the company.

What doesn’t make sense is why they move the train in the middle of the day, when George has found it. Surely the whole point of a hidden space is that the train hides! It only comes out to collect goods. Anyone rambling in the area could have walked into the tunnel and come across the train loaded with black market goods. Also at this point a great lamp on the side of the tunnel comes on. If you’re hiding a secret operation it’s probably wise not to install a massive lamp, even if it’s off someone could see it and there’s no good explanation for it.

The whole using of the railway is part genius and part way over complicated. Stolen goods come to Olly’s Farm in lorries and stay a night or two. Then they go down to Olly’s Yard and are loaded onto a train which then gets hidden inside the tunnels. Later the goods come out a side door and onto lorries again.

So, firstly why not take the stuff straight to Olly’s Yard. Or better, straight to that side door and do away with the train nonsense. I suppose the train is part goods moving and part ‘stay away this place is scary’, but it seems like a lot of effort.

Talking of the side door… George and the boys can’t get out of it because – they suppose – the men have jammed something against it from outside. There’s no lock, so it isn’t just locked. I imagine it could be padlocked, but they believe it’s jammed which, to them, makes sense. They say it’s probably hidden too. The idea that they would simply jam something against it makes no sense though as they are wanting to prevent anyone getting in, not out!

And lastly there’s a conversation I have never been able to make head nor tail of. I won;t copy the whole thing but the important points are below:

“Come tomorrow,” said Dick.

“I can’t,” said Jock. “He’s gone and arranged for me to meet Cecil Dearlove.”

“Oh blow, so you won’t be able to come tomorrow either,” said Julian. “Well, what about the next day?”

“It should be all right,” said Jock. “But I’ve a feeling I’ll have dear Cecil planked on me for the day.”

“Well if you can’t come tomorrow either, and perhaps not the next day, what about going one night?” said Dick.

What day is Cecil is going to be ‘planked’ (as a Scot I would have used the word plonked in that context!) on Jock? If it’s the day after tomorrow why does he say it should be all right? If he’s referring to the next day, then the day after should be ok, and they wouldn’t have to go at night.

Final thoughts

Five Go Off to Camp came out in a lowly 16th place on my list of favourites from the series. I’m mildly surprised at that now, as I did enjoy it. I do love the spook train and the (confusing) tunnels, but I stand by the comment I made on that list about how long the real adventure takes to get going.

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Letters to Enid volume 6

Previous letters pages can be found here.

Letters page from Volume 1, issue 15. September 30th – October 13th, 1953



 1. A letter from Joan Bickerton, Whin Garth, Gunnerton, Hexam.
Dear Enid Blyton,
You may be very pleased when I tell you this ; my brother has nearly fifty budgerigars, and I have picked out five nestlings, which I am going to teach to talk. You can guess quite easily what their names are! They are Julian, Dick, George, Anne and Timmy. The one I have in the house just now said “George” for the first time to-day. I hope you are glad to think that it is not only humans that have anything to do with the Famous Five. We are going to get a parrot one day and I am going to call it Kiki!
From your most faithful reader,
Joan Bickerton.

2. A letter from a “new-leaf-turn-overer.”
Dear Enid Blyton,
If you print this letter, PLEASE do not print my address. Not very long ago I was lazy, selfish, greedy and, I’m afraid, bad-tempered. But when I read your letters in Enid Blyton’s Magazine, and also your stories, I decided to change myself. I did – and although although it didn’t work out very well at first, I am now good-tempered, busy, AND the happiest girl in Leicestershire.
Lots of love from,
A Friend and a new-leaf-turn-overer.

3. A letter from Marian Titt, South Litchfield Grane, Overton, Nr. Basingstoke.
Dear Enid Blyton,
We have a strange assortment of names in our district. Our surname is Titt, a girl my sister knows at school has the surname Partridge, and my Sunday School teacher is Mrs. Martin. A lady who lives near us is Mrs. Nightingale, a milkman that goes to some houses near here is Mr. Crow, and a man who has just gone away is Mr. Parrot. I think this is rather funny, don’t you?
Yours sincerely, 
Marian Titt.

Three wonderful letters this week! I just love the idea of the Famous Five budgies, and I truly hope that Joan got her parrot called Kiki later.

Marian’s bird named people is exactly the kind of thing I find funny, though I admit I gave a childish snigger at her name before I even read the letter.

The cynic in me thinks that the second letter could be one of those ones children were writing just to get on the letter’s page and have a chance at winning the prize. Maybe Enid wasn’t sure either, and that’s why it didn’t get first place. It’s nice to think that it’s genuine, though.

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Monday #273

Letters to Enid volume 6


Five Go Off to Camp part 2

Noddy and the Tootles is the penultimate book in the series of 24 books about Noddy. The Tootles are a family of musical gypsies who camp by Noddy’s house, Mr Tootle, Mrs Tootle and their eight little Toots. At first they may seem like harmless and amusing neighbours but soon they are causing Noddy bother and he has to do some work to get things sorted again.

noddy and the tootles

Alison O’Sullivan is a cousin to the O’Sullivan twins, Pat and Isabel. She joins St Clare’s at the start of The O’Sullivan Twins, the second book about the boarding school. Pat describes her instantly as a bit stuck up (which is rich coming from her!) full of airs and graces and as having had her hair permed. This brief insight is quite accurate as when we meet Alison and follow her through a few years at St Clare’s she is certainly vain, feather-headed and really quite silly. She spends a lot of time idolizing and worshipping some older girl or school mistress, usually because they are pretty, or glamorous or wealthy, or sometimes all three though she does improve a little as the series goes on.

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Five Go Off to Camp

This is the seventh book in the series, a series which was only meant to run for six book! Children loved the Famous Five so much, however, that Blyton wrote another six. And another six. And then a final three.

My sister and I had this book on cassette tape and used to listen to it all the time so I find bits of the book playing in my head as I read it. Not everything as the cassette was highly abridged but many of the lines of dialogue stand out in my memory – Blow, I’ve sprained my ankle! – But you will let me come next time, won’t you, Julian? – That’s let the cat properly out of the bag – Aye, I’m a ninny – Cecil Dearlove! and loads more!

A story in three parts

Usually I split the stories into three bits – the start where nothing adventurous happens, but they arrive somewhere and settle in, the adventurous middle and an exciting conclusion.

This one I’ve split a bit differently:

  • The Five going off and setting up camp with Mr Luffy, and hearing the story of spook trains from Wooden-Leg Sam.
  • The Five meet Jock and begin to investigate the spook trains.
  • The drama in the Kilty Vale / Roker’s Vale tunnel.

Usually the first discovering of a mystery/adventure would start part two, but I feel it fits more into part one here. Once they meet Jock the dynamics of the group change a bit and the real adventures begin, starting from Mr Andrew’s OTT warnings to stay away from the spook trains.

All about Mr Luffy

Mr Luffy is one of Julian and Dick’s school teachers, and is also a friend of their parents/ Due to all their previous adventures their parents aren’t keen to let them go off on their own again, so they arrange for Mr Luffy to go with them to supervise.

Only Mr Luffy is more likely to need supervision! He is a bug enthusiast and is happy to disappear for hours on end, forgetting about meals and everything else, including friends he was out with.

Two chaps I know once went out in his car with him for a day’s run, and he came back without them in the evening. He’d forgotten he had them with him, and had left them wandering somewhere miles and miles away,” – Julian

On form, he arrives late to pick them up, and then drives too fast as he forgets he is pulling a trailer. The last time he took it he lost half the contents through bad driving! Later he almost drives off with the empty trailer still attached as he forgot about it – and says he’s always taking it without meaning to.

He’s almost like a very genial version of Uncle Quentin – though he seems to pay a bit more attention to the importance of regular meals.

Blyton describes him as an odd-looking fellow. He had very untidy shaggy eyebrows over kind and gentle brown eyes. He had a rather large nose with looked fiercer than it was because, unexpectedly, it had quite a forest of hairs growing out of the nostrils. He had an untidy moustache, and a round chin with a surprising dimple in the middle of it. His ears… were large and turned rather forward, and [he] could waggle the right one if he wanted to. To his great sorrow he had never been able to waggle the left one. His hair was thick and untidy, and his clothes always looked loose, comfortable and too big for him.

I just love the extra detail about the ear waggling, and especially his sorrow about not being able to waggle the other one. I almost know how he feels as I can raise one side of my upper lip in a marvellous sneer, but not the other!

Initially, when we’re told that the Five are going to have to put up with a supervising adult for their holiday you imagine that they’re not going to be very happy about it. As a reader we also are not that happy, unless we think they can be quickly disposed of with an emergency at home or something. But as soon as we hear about Mr Luffy I think we relax, and understand why the children are quite happy to go off with him. They like him, and also know that he’s not going to be bossy or cramp their style. It turns out he’s great fun anyway. He had wanted to camp near the children but was tactful enough to camp further away when he realised they would prefer that. He lets them do their own thing, but joins them for the odd card game and he’s also a great swimmer, even faster than Julian.

Still, imagine going to boarding school all year then going on holiday with your teacher as well! Not sure what modern safeguarding would make of it.

I love Soper’s artwork as always but she just doesn’t draw Mr Luffy like I imagine him. I picture him as having much bushier hair and stronger features. I think I also imagine him as quite a bit older than Blyton and Soper do. He looks around 40, maybe, but in my head he’s more like 60.

Mr Luffy comes through for the Five a couple of times in the book, proving they were right to go away with him. First he stands up to Mr Andrews and allows Jock to stay with them at camp, and then he reports the missing children to the police and escorts Anne on a rescue mission.

Jock, Mr Andrews and Mrs Andrews

Jock is an important sidekick in this book. Often the Five adventure perfectly well all by themselves, but it’s also nice when someone else is included (especially when he doesn’t make idiotic car noises all the time…).

Jock Robbins lives at Olly’s Farm with his mother and step-father. Mrs Andrews explains they have different names, rather apropos of nothing, as Jock was her first husband’s son. Maybe she thought they looked the judgemental type.

Olly’s farm is a smallish place where you would expect them to be scratching a living by working all hours. Surprisingly, though, it’s full of shiny new mod-cons, equipment, machinery, lorries. It doesn’t quite add up. Mr Andrews is no farmer, he hires men who are rubbish farm-hands.

It doesn’t add up from the perspective of a reader who knows what’s going on. Spoilers to follow!

So Mr Andrews is running a side operation in black-marketeering. I say side operation, it probably accounts for 95% of the income. So why pour so much money into an unprofitable farm? Anyone with half a brain could tell that farm couldn’t produce enough profit to sustain that sort of spending. I suspect a lot of it is just to please Mrs Andrews who seems like a lovely woman. I do wonder though how much she suspected and whether she was burying her head in the sand. She knows how to run a farm, surely she could tell the figures didn’t add up?

Also, I know he needed labourers for moving the stolen goods but why for goodness sake does he hire them as farm hands then let them skulk around doing very little? It’s all very stupid if you’re trying to pretend nothing out of the ordinary is going on. But then again maybe he’s just very stupid. His massive over-reaction to hearing the children talking about spook trains proves that. He rambles about Bad things. Accidents. – possibly the Comic Strips inspiration for the Robbie Coltrane speeches. He even insists that the spook trains are real – a sure fire way to make sure the boys go to investigate. His attempts to keep Jock from the children also seems heavy-handed and I’m surprised the children don’t see through that earlier and suspect him of being involved.

Anyway, the end is a bit strange too. Mr Andrews is arrested and Mrs Andrews is a bit upset but also very pragmatic about it. She blames his friend for persuading him into his criminal activities, saying her husband is very weak. He’s also a liar and a bully not to mention a member of a criminal gang. He doesn’t merely do a bit of black marketeering, he then kidnaps three children, hits one of them, ties them up… Not a nice man at all. Mr Luffy seems to think being arrested and perhaps jailed or fined for his crime will set him on the straight and narrow but I’m not so sure. Being the 1950s step fathers (and some fathers) were probably not expected to be particularly close with their children but he shows such little interest or regard for Jock that I think they’d be far better off without him.

I will stop there for the time being, next time I will go over the exciting spook train and tunnel events at the end of the book, and do all my questions, comments and nitpicks as well.

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May 2019 round up

What I have read

After taking a bit of a break from the Outlander series in order to read some other things, I’ve gone through two more and I’m now on the eighth book. I’m almost halfway through my hundred books, which is good as it’s June now!

I’ve read:

  • The Wild Things – Dave Eggers
  • A Breath of Snow and Ashes (Outlander #6) – Diana Gabaldon
  • The Little Book of Going Green – Harriet Dyer
  • Hairy Maclary and Zachary Quack – Lynley Dodd
  • H is for Homicide (Kinsey Millhone #8) – Sue Grafton
  • Summer Term at Malory Towers – Pamela Cox, reviewed here
  • An Echo in the Bone (Outlander #7) Diana Gabaldon
  • I is for Innocent (Kinsey Millhone #9) – Sue Grafton
  • The Eyre Affair (Thursday Next #1) – Jasper Fforde

I’ve still to finish:

  • Can You Keep a Secret? – Sophie Kinsella

What I have watched

  • Hollyoaks
  • Murder She Wrote season 4
  • The latest series of Taskmaster
  • Reruns of Friends and The Simpsons

What I have done

  • Visited lots of play parks
  • Gone for walks in woods
  • Went to the beach and paddled
  • Bought a pair of sandals and inadvertently caused it to rain every day since
  • Started working on a board game library at work
  • Gone out for lunch and for cake
  • Took Brodie to the children’s library
  • Got Brodie’s hair cut finally


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Monday #272

Last week was a very busy one so not only did I not review Five Go Off to Camp, I didn’t even take it off the shelf. Oops! I will try harder this week.

May round up


Five Go Off to Camp

“Mad! Must be the hot weather! Wants to talk about my boots! Go away and lie down. You’re mad!”

Goon fails to get anything useful from Colonel Cross in The Mystery of the Invisible Thief. 

The hollow tree that Peter and Susan run away to in Hollow Tree House is simply enormous. It’s big enough for three children and a dog to sit in comfort inside, and for two children to lie down to sleep. It has a ridge inside which they use as a shelf, and the only improvement they need make to it is to cut a squarish hole in one side to form a window. It’s generally cosy and dry inside – although sometimes the rain gets in through the branches above. The only way in is by climbing up into the branches and then down into the hollow space – but all the better for keeping unwanted visitors out!

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Letters to Enid volume 5

Previous letters pages can be found here.

Letters page from Volume 1, issue 14. September 16th-29th 1953



 1. A letter from Jean McGregor, aged 9, 6 Grenville Road, Padstow, Cornwall
Dear Enid Blyton,
My friend and I thought we should like to earn some money for the Blind Children, and for the Busy Bees, so we worked hard and made peg-bags, embroidery bags and lots of other things. Our mothers made us cakes and biscuits. Then we had a sale of all this to our neighbours. When it was over we counted the money and we had  one pound, four shillings, which was twelve shillings each. I wish to give my half for the Sunshine Homes, and Patricia wants to give hers to the Busy Bees. I shall be very pleased to be a Sunbeam when the Society begins.
Yours sincerely,
Jean McGregor.

2. A letter from Tyrone Peter Moody, 7 Pound Lane, Swindon, Wilts.
Dear Enid Blyton,
I have made a Secret Seven Club. We all live in Pound Lane. I must tell you something interesting. A boy who is a cousin of one of our members left in bike in the street and someone took it. We asked who had seen it. I then took the description of it. We found it in the end. That was our first mystery.
Yours sincerely,
T.P. Moody.

3. A letter from Diana MacVine, Selwyn, Packhorse Road, Gerrards Cross, Bucks.
Dear Enid Blyton,
Yesterday a man came to build a sand-pit for us. The next day I wondered what to build. At last I made up my mind and I built the Island of Adventure, the Castle of Adventure and the Mountain of Adventure. I liked these books very much.
With very much love from
Diana MacVine.

This is only the third letter from a boy so far. The first letters page had two boys’ letters, then there have been none until now.

It’s strange seeing children’s full names and addresses being published like this. Nowadays (apart from submissions being by email or social media) it would be first name and town or region only.

In the newsletter at the back of the magazine Enid says: Look on page 40 for some of the best letters out of my post-bag. The top one gets the prize. Don’t send in special letters for this, please, I prefer to choose out of the ordinary ones I get. I’ve seen similar messages in other volumes of the magazine – I assume some children wrote special letters in the hope of getting them published.

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Monday #271

Letters to Enid volume 5


Five Go Off to Camp

“Now, when I were a boy, a boy not much older than this here youngster, there wasn’t no light-house out there – but there was always them wicked rocks! And many’s a time in a stormy season when ships have been caught by their teeth, a-glittering there, waiting.”

A short but spine-tingle extract from Jeremiah Boogle’s tales of wreckers in Five Go to Demon’s Rocks.

The Adventures of Mr Pink-Whistle, (sometimes known as Mr Pinkwhistle), is the first of three books about a half-man and half-brownie who goes around righting wrongs, going good deeds and showing naughty or unkind children the error of their ways. Each chapter has him appear in a new location to solve some sort of issue, by use of his magic brownie powers.

adventures of mr pink-whistle

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Mr Galliano’s Circus covers through the years

Seeing as I like looking at all the different cover designs that Enid Blyton’s books have had over the years, I’ve decided it’s Mr Galliano’s Circus’ turn. I have already looked at The Famous Five, The Secret Series, The Adventure Series, The Barney Mysteries and Malory Towers.

There are three books in the series – Mr Galliano’s Circus, Hurrah for the Circus! and Circus Days Again.

The first editions

The first editions were published by Newnes in 1938, 1939 and 1941 respectively. They all had covers by E.H. Davie, who at it turns out, is probably a man and not a woman as I had always thought.

The three don’t really go together as a series, for me. The first two share bright colours, and the last two share a similar image of Lotta riding a horse but that’s about it. The first has a very 1930s look, the others are more timeless. I always have to look twice at the last one too, as it looks like a giant Lotta and horse are pulling the yellow caravan.

Mr Galliano’s Circus had two further hardbacks, in 1940 and 1942, both by Newnes and E.H. Davie. The 1940 one reuses the illustration from the first edition, cropped, with a white border and new text. The 1942 edition has a new cover entirely, which looks better alongside the first edition of Hurrah for the Circus.


Armada did the first paperback versions of the series in 1963, and another set in 1972.

The 1963 set have what I think of as the typical Armada look, and they use some fun, colourful fonts alongside illustration work by Dorothy Brook.

Again it’s a bit of a mismatched series. If the three books had different colours it might  have looked better than two yellows and one blue.

The 1972 set are more toned down, colour-wise, but also use an interesting font. The cover artist for these was not credited.


Between the two Armada sets is a Merlin set from 1967/68 set from Merlin, with artwork by Clyde Pearson.

Pearson’s covers are the second to show the bear rescue on the cover of Circus Days Again rather than generic circus scenes. His internal work leaves something to be desired, but his covers are better, though the horse riders look very rigid and doll-like on the first one.


Dean did three sets. One in 1972/3, 1984 and 1987. The only cover to have a credited artist is Mr Galliano’s Circus from 1972, and that was by G. Robinson.

Hurrah for the Circus looks like it was probably done by the same artist, and it’s not beyond the realms of belief that the last book was too. I like the three colours chosen, and think they go together, but the different fonts make the books seem less of a series again.

The 1984 set is just weird! The first book looks like something out of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart Club Band. The second has an extremely strange montage where Jimmy, Lucky, Lotta and Sammy look like they are under attack from a terrifying trio of a tiger, clown and horse. As for the third book, we have a clown looking over his shoulder while winding up a car. It doesn’t exactly capture a sense of what happens in the book!

This last set, from 1987, and in hardback, have a well-recognised Dean layout (an upside down polaroid, if you use my mental label). The series looks like it could be about a boy who runs riot in a zoo. First he runs through the elephant enclosure, then he goes to pet the tigers, and when he miraculously survives that he goes off to chase the bears. Not a circus tent in sight!


Beaver are the final publisher to look at, and they did three sets of books, plus a random extra one of Hurrah for the Circus.

I’m not sure this first one can classed as a set. David Barnett (cover artist for the 1994 Hodder Famous Fives) did the first and last book here in 1979, and in 1980 Miralles (whoever that may be, a person or a company I don’t know) did the middle one in a different style.

Barnett’s are garish in an attractive way, I suppose, while Miralles’ is quite bland except for the text. It looks more like they are at a ball (albeit with a horse) than in a circus tent.

Tony Morris did the next set in 1982, with the titles in a banner. I can only find two examples, though I assume the first book would have had a similar cover (hopefully in yellow!)

And finally, the last Beaver set from 1987. (I understand that in the past paperback licenses were separate from the hardback ones, so two publishers could be producing the same books in different formats at the same time).

I quite like the striped background of the second book, though it seems a little out of place beside the other two which have similar layouts and colours.

There’s also a random Beaver edition of Hurrah for the Circus from 1985, but none for the other two books.

Mr Galliano in the past thirty years?

Getting away from purely looking at the covers, I was surprised to see that the last time the Galliano’s Circus books were published in individual editions was in 1987 – when I was probably still under a year old. (They may have continued to print one or both of these runs for a while, but I think we can assume the series has been out of print for a long time).

I have found evidence of ones published in 2003, in Australia, by Hinkler Books.

The books have been published in omnibus form more recently. I’ve found a book which contains the three Galliano’s Circus books, plus two of the Naughtiest Girls, which is a strange combination. From what I can tell it was from Cresset Press in 1992.

The tiny bit of image shown is from the 1987 Beaver edition of Circus Days Again, but flipped.

Another strange combo is this 2012 Egmont omnibus which claims to contain Mr Galliano’s Circus, Circus Days Again and Come to the Circus. Come to the Circus is a stand alone title, but there are four or five eBay listings at the moment which have “All four books in the Galliano’s Circus series” and include Come to the Circus. The cover seems to feature a wild circus which does its stunts on the outside of the tent.

And the most recent edition is from Hodder in 2016, and described as a bumper short story collection. I know Hodder has released a lot of story collections which I assume are selling well, but it seems silly to market three novels in one as a story collection. It doesn’t contain 26 stories, it contains three books! The chapter flow one after the other, you can’t just read them in any order.

I couldn’t find any information of the cover artist, but the style looks familiar to me. I can’t think what book(s) I’ve seen it on, though!

Did you have any of these editions? (If you had the 1984 Dean of Hurrah for the Circus, I want to know if it still haunts your nightmares!)

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What Would Julian Do? The Religion of Julianity

I don’t even remember quite how this started, but in 2011 Stef and I created a Facebook page called Julianity. We’ve just scheduled it for deletion, actually, as it had been a very long time since we have posted anything on it. Despite that it had 1,002 people following it (due to Facebook’s lousy algorithms hardly any of those people saw anything we posted, believe me I tried publicizing the blog on it!).

Enid Blyton created the character of Julian Kirrin in 1942. He had 21 adventures with his brother Dick, sister Anne, cousin George and her dog Timmy. He always looked after anyone younger than him, and of course, girls. Some might consider him pompous and sexist, but we love him in all his incarnations. Disclaimer: We are NOT Julian Kirrin.

I think we had the brainwave of thinking what if the J in WWJD stood for Julian, and not Jesus?. I mean we do pretty much worship Julian and his quick brain.

We then made a lot of very of-their-time memes which may not even be funny now. I may well have to explain who some of the people in the memes are, and their relevance. Seeing as the Facebook page is soon to be no more I thought I would put the memes on here anyway, just so they don’t get forgotten.

Of their time current affair memes

Yes those are David Cameron and Rebekah Brooks, placing us back in 2011/2012. If only all politicians and newspaper editors asked themselves What Would Julian Do? then the world would be a better place!

Harry Potter memes

Here Draco Malfoy, Harry Potter, Ron Weasley and Voldemort ask WWJD?

Random pop culture memes

D’oh! Homer Simpson could have done worse than consider what Julian would do.

Fry from Futurama.

Elpheba from Wicked.

Bella Swan from Twilight.

Rebecca Black, who sang Friday, giving the wrong answer.

Memebase memes

Memebase, as the name suggests, was a big meme site. It had a load of ‘characters’ which had expected behaviours and people would add their own text to images of those characters making new jokes on the same idea.

I fear that none of these are really funny unless you know the characters, and by explaining the joke then it’s still not funny, but here goes.

Misunderstood Mitch (the original caption was something about him turning up his collar -the implication being he looked idiotic – but he was really trying to protect his neck from sunburn).

Good Guy Grey, known for, well, being a good guy.

Philosoraptor – a philosopher/velociraptor hybrid who asks funny yet deep and meaningful questions.

Y U No guy, who basically asked Y U No (why you not) do various things.

Staredad, a four panel ‘comic’ where a son rushes to tell his dad, or ask his dad something and the dad replies in a usually sinister fashion.

And finally some Blyton memes you might actually find funny


Dick (as played by Paul Child in the 90’s Famous Five series) asks the important question. Julian does not approve from the Rebecca Black meme above comes from the same screenshot. Also, Jemima Rooper who played George in the same series, asks herself the same question.

Another one from the 90s series, this time with bad punctuation!

So… yeah

Those memes more or less supported a whole Facebook page and gained 1,000 followers.

Oh we did mock up a few tshirt designs as well.

I think the rest of our content was just us uploading screencaps or random photos of Julian from the books.

Apart from the time I found a coke bottle with Julian on it, and noticed there’s an episode of Jessica Jones called WWJD. I’m pretty sure she wasn’t meaning Julian, though.

And that was more or less our most popular Facebook page. Goodness knows why!


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Monday #270

What Would Julian Do? The religion of Julianity


Mr Galliano’s Circus covers through the years

“What sauce to call me Jenny Wren at my age!” Miss Wren would say, but her gentle brown eyes would twinkle, and everyone would smile. Jenny Wren liked her new name, and her new family, and her new home, just as much as her new family liked her!

Jenny Wren settles in with The Family at Red Roofs.

The Hidey-Hole was Enid Blyton’s last novel in 1964. It is about three children who are trying to raise money for a good cause by picking and selling blackberries. While doing this they find a secret hidey-hole to play in, which becomes important when the owner of the garden they have been blackberrying in is burgled.

The story was written while Enid was in declining health, and it doesn’t quite live up to most of her earlier books. The word blackberry or variations of it appear constantly, and the story might be classed as a little bit thin. Still, it’s a fun short read, and has a special place as her last book.

the hidey-hole



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Summer Term at Malory Towers by Pamela Cox

A couple of months ago I read and reviewed the first of Pamela Cox’s Malory Towers books, New Term at Malory Towers. I wouldn’t say I loved it, though I thought it was a decent attempt at an Enid Blyton book.


The new girls

We meet Lucy first, a pleasant girl who has her own horse and has already palled up with horse-mad Julie. Then we meet Esme. Actually, Felicity and Susan saw her first, before we were introduced to Lucy, but it was just a glimpse of a tall willowy girl with beautifully arranged blonde curls. She was getting out of an American car, so my initial thought was that we have another Zerelda on our hands. Anyway, when the girls meet her properly it turns out she looks a lot like Lucy. So much so they are mistaken for twins, though Lucy is quite boyish while Esme is very feminine. Actually they are cousins, daughters of identical twins. So as well as Zerelda we have a bit of the two Harries there as well.

The identical cousins are very surprised to see each other, and the initially nice Lucy turns quite nasty.

Esme is a bit like Zerelda – without the wish to be an actress. She wears lipstick and mascara until Miss Peters instructs her to wash it all off. She puts in curlers before bed and is determined not to ever mess up her hair or get red-faced by doing any sort of exertion. She’s not actually American, she’s just lived there for the past four years. Despite spending her first nine or so years in England with a British mother (and an American father) she is just like Berta of Five Have Plenty of Fun in that she says twenny for twenty and wunnerful for wonderful.

Then there is a newer girl, Eleanor of the fifth form, who joined the school the previous term. She is disliked by most of the lower forms as she is cold and bossy. Eleanor pops  up now and again to antagonise the third formers, mostly June who she really doesn’t like, and she plays an important role in solving the mystery of who is stealing from Bill and Clarissa’s stables.

There is so much of the new girls that Felicity is barely mentioned in the first few chapters, beyond her arriving at the school, and she only pops up now and again through the rest of the book with a wise comment or order as head girl.

The main storylines

The storyline that features on the blurb of the book is that someone is stealing from Bill and Clarissa’s stables (Five Oaks) and doing other bits of mischief.

A cash box is stolen, and Merrylegs is let out. A fire is set (as a distraction) and Julie’s pony is stolen. Bill’s reins are cut so that she falls from Thunder and breaks her arm. Some of the third formers turn detective and nose around looking for clues, while others go to help out with the mucking out etc.

The detective work is pretty basic – just nosing around and asking obvious questions, but then it is a boarding school book and not a Find-Outers story. There is only one clue found – a blank note – which, once the significance is worked out, reveals more or less everything and it is left to the police.

I worked out who the culprits were from the outset – something I almost never did with the Find-Outers, even the ones I first read as an adult.

Let’s look at the facts (you might want to scroll past the bullet points if you don’t want to know whodunnit).

    • There’s a rival stables right next door.
    • The rival stable owner keeps coming by or sending his grooms by to ‘help’ as he is worried about Bill and Clarissa.
    • The rival stable owner’s niece is stabling her horse at Five Oaks as there is ‘no room’ at her uncle’s stables.
    • The niece is uncharacteristically nice to Julie after her horse goes missing, and speaks to her in a shaking voice.
    • An unnecessary extra clue is that Felicity doesn’t trust the rival as he’s always smiling and therefore seems sinister.

A large part of the book however is dedicated to girls not getting on, arguing, making up, and various deep insights into their plans.

In a very similar vein to last time, Amy and Bonnie are in a bit of a triangle, this time with Esme rather than Veronica. Bonnie likes Esme straight off, but Amy doesn’t. Bonnie encourages Esme to flatter Amy, which she does, and Amy ‘falls’ for it, allowing Esme into their little group. They then spend a lot of time trying to turn her into one of their sort of English school girls. They (Amy mostly) get her to bin all her makeup and brush out her curls (Amy’s motive is unclear here, is she genuinely trying to help her fit in, or is she jealous of her glamorous made-up look?), and try to teach her to pronounce things properly.

The mostly absent Felicity pops up with a wise comment:

‘I think it would be best if Esme didn’t copy anyone at all,’ said Felicity thoughtfully. ‘Her own personality is very pleasant and unique, and it would be a terrible pity if she lost her individuality through trying too hard to be something that she isn’t.’

And Esme must have picked up on it psychically as she does pull away from Amy’s influence a bit. She realises that she actually quite likes sports, and does well at tennis.

The Esme/Lucy thing gets a lot of pages too. There’s a whole long backstory why their families fell out. In short, their fathers bought a business, but were both strong-willed and couldn’t agree how to run it and they fell out. The mothers and daughters took their husbands’/fathers’ sides and thus they all fell out, and Esme’s lot moved to America. Esme’s telling of it goes on for four pages alone. Then the other girls talk about it. Lucy talks about it. The girls talk about how to get Lucy and Esme to make up. Lucy and Esme work out a way to get their respective parents to make up. That part is actually reasonably interesting, as it involves a fake drowning.

June forms the last plot element. She has a whole bit to herself as she goes off in the night as part of the plan to expose the stable culprit, and she learns the value of teamwork through solving the mystery (and spraining her ankle). She actually has a big attitude adjustment near the end of the book when she decides not to play in a tennis competition. She knew she wasn’t fit enough for it after spraining her ankle, but wanted to play anyway. Then she realised she was being selfish and it would have been better for another girl to play on behalf of the school. All very noble but she comes across rather pious almost, I think I prefer the don’t-care June better! I wonder if she will retain this persona in the rest of the books, or if she will struggle and misbehave a bit still. Maybe she will do an Amelia Jane and promise to be better and go back on it each time.

‘So, you see, June, we both played a part. It was teamwork!’ [said Bonnie].

‘So it was!’ said June, looking brighter.‘Well, I’m beginning to think that there’s rather a lot to be said for teamwork!’

Tricks and jokes

It wouldn’t be a Malory Towers book without some tricks. As usual June leads the trick planning, though she goes a bit overboard this time.

Reminiscent of the invisible chalk of Second Form at Malory Towers, June has got some, well, invisible chalk. Only this chalk is visible at first, then becomes invisible, whereas the previous stuff was invisible then became visible later. They use it to great effect on Mam’zelle Dupont, who takes it so well when Miss Potts rumbles the trick, that there is no telling off let alone a punishment.

The chalk is then seems to turn into invisible ink which is placed in someone’s bag as a trick, but it becomes important later when a ‘blank’ note is found at Five Oaks. (This ink can be read in the dark by torchlight… of course).

June (along with Freddie) also put insects in Bonnie’s pencil case, replaces Amy’s expensive talc with itching powder, spoil Susan and Felicity’s tennis practice with a trick ball, and put a frog in Esme’s bed. It’s not like June to pull a load of thoughtless tricks though. She might pull a prank on someone who has really annoyed her but this seems like indiscriminate nonsense.

She also jumps in the pool fully clothed on the first day, as a sort of dare. I’m not sure June’s daft enough to do that.

The silliest one is when she ties Eleanor’s shoe laces to the tennis court fence. Eleanor is so distracted by Freddie pointing at nothing that she doesn’t notice both sets of laces getting tied. She is also too stupid to slide her feet out of her shoes so she can go round the other side of the fence to untie them, instead of trying to do it through the tiny gaps. Amanda then has a go at her for distracting June’s tennis practice, and she storms off without even punishing them.

So what’s my issue?

I really want to like these books. I don’t dislike them, and they’re not awful. They just don’t live up to Blyton’s writing.

This one suffers from far too much ‘tell’ and not enough ‘show’. Several times we don’t see key action (like Bill’s fall from Thunder for example) as it is either described to us in conversation, or as an afterthought in the narrative, when again, it is quickly described. As another example, we know that Julie loves horses. Why? Because Pamela Cox describes her as horse-mad and her school friends talk about how much she loves her horse and talks about him all the time. We don’t see her acting horse mad very often, nor does she speak about her horse apart from once of twice.

There is also still an awful lot of internal thoughts of the various girls filling up the pages as well.

Some authors probably lean on the telling side more than others, I just find it’s more interesting to ‘see’ something happen rather than be told it happened. Blyton was skilled at showing us, often in fast, punchy narratives that sped us through a lot of action, so these new books struggle to compete.

Some random thoughts

As always when reading I pick up on lots of little things that don’t really fit into any neat headings.

It took several pages for me to confirm the girls are still in the third form, this is the end of the school year we were reading about in the previous book.

The girls’ ability to leave Malory Towers remains important, as it means they can go to the stables. It is revealed that the lower school must go out in twos or larger groups, though. We also find out that the girls have a summer uniform of orange and white checked sun dresses with white collars.

Five Oaks is said to be ‘only a few minutes away’, and there is another stables bordering their land. A third stables is also mentioned nearby. Malory Towers own stables are overflowing with school girls’ horses, which is why so many end up at Five Oaks. There didn’t seem to be that many horses in the original books.

Miss Grayling must not challenge Esme on her makeup when she comes to her for the new girl talk, though I now think that she obviously didn’t say anything to Zerelda either, as it is their respective form mistresses that give them a dressing down the first day of classes. Similarly Matron clearly twigs that June has not just sprained her ankle in the morning, as she claims (it’s far too bruised and swollen to be a brand new injury) but says nothing.

In a nice nod to the original books Mr Rivers has to wait for Felicity and Susan to get in the car, rather than Felicity and Darrell. Darrell is mentioned as being unable to come to half-term but her mother is going to send her some photos of Felicity’s diving performance.

We also learn something more of Bill’s family. Two of her brothers, Harry and John, have gone into the army and come to help her out.

There is a theory from some fans (and some non-fans) that Bill and Clarissa are in a relationship, but this book has them in separate bedrooms.

Language wise it still retains the old-fashioned flavour. I did notice that your/their/her people is used seven times, several of them in the same chapter which seemed a bit much. I also came across Bonnie interpolating a word here and there. From the context I understood it to mean the same as interjecting but I’m not sure it’s a word I’ve seen before, certainly not in a children’s book. Is it commonly used now?

It might just be my (slightly dodgily obtained) copy of the book but Bluebell Wood is referred to as Blueberry wood on one occasion. I’m not certain that’s a mistake made by the author or publisher as my copy has several formatting errors (quite a lot of missing spaces between punctuation etc).

In another un-June like moment, she makes a big deal about her hurt ankle. What seems to be several days (at least) after spraining it she declares her ankle will never stand a half hour walk to a picnic. I sprained my ankle (and tore ligaments) so badly at 35 weeks pregnant that I ended up with a highly stylish toe to knee boot from A&E. Less than a week later I was walking (in regular walking boots) around St Andrews, and a few days after that 20 minutes to my aqua aerobics class and back! Anyway, it’s probably only so that the girls can make a big deal of surprising her with a ride on Jack to the picnic.

When Julie’s pony is recovered it is said that The police found him stabled at [spoiler removed]. He has been well looked after, and not ill-treated in any way. It’s a children’s book and we don’t want a happy ending marred by a tortured horse but it’s a bit saccharine. The culprit is willing to set fires and endanger people and horses, but looks after a stolen horse perfectly? It would have looked more natural if he was found in a shed, but we are reassured that he did at least have food and water.

So there you have it, a mixed bag. Some interesting stuff, decent ideas, just poor execution?

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Letters to Enid volume 4

Past letters pages can be found under the letters page tag.

Letters page from Volume 1, issue 13. September 2nd-15th 1953



 1. A letter from Avril Archer, Lisheens, Carrickmines, Co. Dublin.
Dear Enid Blyton;
I have been getting your magazine ever since it came out, and I enjoy it very much. Sometimes I read the stories to my kitten and he sits very still while I read to him. I like best “Five Go Down to the Sea”. I found the flower that tells what the weather is going to be it will be very useful. Now I won’t have to carry an umbrella – I’ll use it for a sunshade!
From your friend,
Avril Archer.

2. A letter from Margaret Bride, 41 Shepherds Bush Green, London.
Dear Enid Blyton,
I am writing for my Brownie pack. At our parade last Sunday we collected a shilling, and we thought we would like to give it to the Sunbeam Club, so here is a postal order from the Brownies.
Yours sincerely,

3. A letter from Vanessa Bennett, 72 Bristol Road, Birmingham.
Dear Enid Blyton,
I have a very peculiar story to tell you. Once my little brother Lincoln was coming home from school on his scooter when a little brown and white dog ran across the road to him. Lincoln didn’t take any notice of him, but this little puppy followed him all the way home. He sat shivering on the door-step, whining to get in, and Mummy let him in. He sat by the fire, still shivering, and we called the vet. He said the puppy had distemper. When he was better the police said we could keep him. We call him Mischief and he is now as lively and happy as a king.
Lots of love, from

4. Extract from a letter from Jilly Peters, P.P. Box 202, Ndola, N. Rhodesia.
Dear Enid Blyton,
Can you work this out? Can you arrange two match sticks so that they make ten? I have tricked you! Put them in Roman figures, like this, X. Isn’t that clever?
Love from Jill.

I wish I knew that the first letter is referring to, there’s a flower that predicts the weather? At first I read it as a flower that could predict the weather AND could be carried as a sun-shade, but I suspect Avril means that she will use her umbrella as a sun-shade instead.

I looked it up and Ndola is now in Zambia. I know very little of the history of the countries that make up Africa and was interested to read a bit about Rhodesia which only existed for fourteen years.

I’ve noticed that so far most of the letters have been sent in by girls, and from my brief search through before I think that trend continues. I wonder if more girls wrote in, or Blyton picked more girls’ letters, or a mix of both.

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Monday #269

Letters to Enid volume 4


Summer Term at Malory Towers

The Caravan Family is the first book in what’s sometimes known as the Caravan Family series. In it, Mike Belinda, Ann and Mummy have been living with Granny while Daddy was away with some sort of war-work. Now that Daddy is back they are looking for a home, but can’t find a suitable one. What they do find are two caravans which, although unorthodox, end up being a perfect home for them. They do them up with new paintwork and flooring, new little bits of furniture and so on, and move into them. They acquire horses after a time and move around the country, ending up on Uncle Ned’s farm just in time to help with the haymaking.

Berta Wright is the daughter of a famous scientist, she owns a dog and in Five Have Plenty of Fun she dresses as a boy. She’s not as like George as that sounds, though. Firstly, she’s forced to disguise herself as a boy to keep herself safe from her father’s enemies, and she actually rather likes being a girl. Her dog is a little poodle called Sally, and while Sally is loyal and loves her mistress she doesn’t have the same protective bulk that Timmy does.

Berta’s American and the Five tease her about not being able to say ‘twenty’ or ‘plenty’ properly, but they admire her pluck in dealing with being left with strangers while kidnappers are looking for her.

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Five on Kirrin Island Again part 2

I didn’t mention the Curtons at all in part one of my review, very remiss of me!

The Curtons

Martin and his father are staying in a cottage belonging to the coastguard. Martin, as seen through the eyes of the Five, is a slightly curious boy. He is quiet and rather sullen, difficult to get along with beyond polite small talk. He does, however, ask George a great deal of questions about George’s island and her father’s work there. Somewhat foolishly she tells him a fair amount, flattered by him mistaking her for a boy. Dick is not so easily taken in and has a couple of disagreements with George over Martin’s interest.

His father seems genial and jolly, inviting the Five to come and watch television with them – the first time George has ever seen a television – but when the Five are not there he displays a terrible temper and is unkind to Martin.

When Mr Curton reveals that he is newspaper journalist Dick relaxes, thinking that Martin was merely assisting his father with a story. But this is a clever red herring.

A bit more about Uncle Quentin

I looked at his relationship with George last time, but there are lots of other bits about Uncle Quentin, particularly his terrible memory and lack of attention when it comes to anything other than his work.

Apparently he has been terribly excited and so thrilled lately, so says Aunt Fanny. I wonder how he displayed that, I can’t quite picture him skipping around Kirrin Cottage no matter how excited he was. Perhaps she just meant he smiled a lot!

He does not look after himself at all well while staying on the island. He forgets that Fanny and the Five are coming to visit despite it being written in his diary. He wolfs down the picnic Aunt Fanny has brought – he clearly hasn’t been eating regular meals while working. Fanny had even left him soup, which he had forgotten about.

What’s more is he tries to eat the soup a few days later and has the cheek to complain that it was quite bad. Aunt Fanny had clearly anticipated this and already told him to throw the soup away, before it went bad.

Aunt Fanny also relates the brief story about the time Quentin was working in the Cheddar caves.

I remember once when he was doing some sort of work in the stalactite caves at Cheddar, he disappeared in them for over a week – but he wandered out all right when he finished his experiments.

There probably isn’t much more to the story than that but I find myself wanting to know more. Had he gotten lost? Did he just find a place to work that nobody thought to look? Did anyone even bother going looking for him? Anyway it pretty much sums up Uncle Quentin, totally absorbed in his work. I bet if a recue team had made effort to find him, and interrupted his work he would have been very angry!

I have to say though, that he is quite heroic in the end. He does everything he can to keep his work falling into the hands of the bad guys, and is willing to die in the process. His dash to his tower to destroy the power supply and therefore prevent the blowing up of the island is also impressive and exciting.


George’s desire to be treated as a boy is often merely an interesting facet to her character, popping up now and again. But sometimes it becomes important to the storyline, for example when her ambiguous gender confuses adults and causes them to miscount the children (like at the end of Five Go Off in a Caravan).

This book has only the one important plot point regarding George being mistaken for a boy, by Martin, – and I’ve mentioned that above. The bad guys also mistake her for a boy towards the end, though it doesn’t have any impact on the story.

There are several instances where it was mentioned, though, and a couple of little things in relation that I picked up on.

Julian praises her for giving in gracefully, adding you’re more like a boy than ever when you act like that. Perhaps he just wanted to say something complimentary to her, or use that comment as a way to encourage her to sulk less, but Anne takes a bit of offense. Her reply is it isn’t only boys that can learn to give in decently… heaps of girls can. And she’s quite right.

George does seem to have some strange ideas about girls, mind you. She doesn’t want to be petty and catty and bear malice as so many girls did. Her ideas about boys aren’t always much better.

When Dick calls her out for spilling everything to Martin just because he mistakes her for a boy he says Jolly girlish-looking boy you are, knowing that will offend her more than most other insults. George’s reply is magnificently silly.

I’m not girlish-looking. I’ve got far more freckles than you have, for one thing, and better eyebrows. And I can make my voice go deep.

Dick is suitably disgusted with this logic, and ends with the accusation that Martin was just playing up to her, knowing how much you like playing at being what you aren’t. Ouch! George was being pretty daft but that was rather cruel a comment from the usually affable Dick.

Little things I noticed were James calling George Miss twice instead of master, and the fishermen doing the same.


The usual nitpicks, comments and observations

This is the first adventure for the Five since they went caravanning the previous summer, and it is also the first time the children have all been together since then, too.

There are two major(ish) continuity errors in this book. One is the already mentioned room in Kirrin Castle which has collapsed in Five Run Away Together but is perfectly fine now. The second is that Alf, the fisher boy, is now called James. It is definitely meant to be the same character as his relationship to George and Timmy is mentioned.

Aunt Fanny somewhat foreshadows the start of a later book when she says whoever heard of bathing in April? Do you want to be in bed for the rest of the holiday with a chill? Of course at the beginning of Five Have a Wonderful Time George is delayed from joining the others because she has been bathing in April and has caught a chill.

I have to adjust my mental pictures of the locations quite often when I’m reading and notice details or descriptions don’t match what’s in my mind. Kirrin Cottage is said to not overlook the island well, so George struggles to look for Timmy with field-glasses and they have to go upstairs to watch for Uncle Quentin’s signals. This somewhat contradicts the fact that in Five Run Away Together George asserts she has seen a light on her island. It also doesn’t match my mental picture of Kirrin Cottage being quite near the beach and looking directly over the island.

Talking of misunderstanding things, I tend to forget that Uncle Quentin prevented the explosion. I think I confuse it with the end of The Island of Adventure when the mines and undersea tunnels are blown up, and end up thinking that the same happened to Kirrin. I even went as far as drafting a Travel Blyton Kirrin post where I mentioned the former undersea tunnel.

I find it strange when both Joanna and Aunt Fanny keep calling Uncle Quentin The Master. I always think of Joanna as almost part of the family, rather than a servant. She’s obviously staff, but she’s not part of a large household where servants were supposed to sneak around the back stairs without ever being seen.

And lastly, when I first read this I had no idea what sou’westers were. I imagined them as a sort of jumper or sweater – mostly because sweater and sou’wester share a lot of letters, and is something you might wear on a cold, wet day.

Last thoughts

Despite enjoying the Kirrin setting and the neat addition of the undersea tunnel this book is only in 14th place in my series rankings. I think there are a few factors which lower my opinion of the book. One is that the enemy is revealed/met so late, and it’s only George and Uncle Quentin who feature in the bulk of the final scenes. Mr Curton is never a real threat to the children despite his involvement and Martin is neither horrible enough to be disliked or nice enough to garner my sympathy. I do like his little backstory and the stuff about the painting but it’s not really enough for me to feel like I know him as a character.

The other is the frustration of having a Kirrin adventure where the island is mostly off-limits. The same could be said for Five Go Adventuring Again, but the constant tension of Mr Roland at Kirrin Cottage and the exploring of Kirrin Farm make up for it.

I do like the introduction of the (never seen again) coastguard, and the quarry, but I feel like this book misses out on some of the things I like best about the Famous Five books. The glorious picnics, lazy days on the beach, exploring their location together, the Five alone facing their enemies.

It’s still an excellent book, just not as excellent as thirteen of the others!



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