My top five St Clare’s villainesses by Chris

I suppose the St Clare’s books were mainly aimed at girls, and I probably wouldn’t have read them as a child had I not had five sisters, four of them older than me, and so I inherited their copies. For some reason they either did not like or did not have Malory Towers books. Anyway, I read them and one of the things which appealed to me about them was that, like many of Enid Blyton’s books, there are clearly signalled heroes and villains, or, in the case of St Clare’s, heroines and villainesses.

In St Clare’s, heroines range from plain decent Hilary Wentworth and Lucy Oriell, to decent – but flawed – Pat and Isabel O’Sullivan, to decent – but a bit cheeky – tricksters Bobby Ellis and Janet Robins, to cheeky – but fundamentally decent – French minxes Claudine and Antoinette.

But, actually, Blyton was more subtle than that, and in St Clare’s there are several characters who initially appear to be villainesses (like Mirabel Unwin and Margery Fenworthy) who turn out to be heroines. I can’t, though, think of any who travel in the opposite direction, from heroine to villainess.

Anyway, I must confess that reading them as a child my main enjoyment was in seeing the villainesses ‘taken down a peg or two’, as Blyton might have put it. So, here, in ascending order of badness, are my top five St Clare’s villainesses along with any mitigations there may be for their faults.

Alma Pudden (Fifth Formers at St Clare’s)

Alma, demoted from the Sixth Form, steals food from the midnight feast cupboard and when Alison realises that someone is pilfering, leading to the cupboard being locked, she plays nasty tricks on her. Then, after Antoinette realises that Alma is the pilferer and humiliates her for her greed, Alma sneaks to the Mirabel, the Games Captain, about the planned feast.

Mitigation: In my memory, Alma was most dislikeable, but thinking about it now, I feel she was unfairly depicted. She was certainly wrong to sneak, but it does seem as if she had an eating disorder and, really, her main ‘sin’ is being fat. Blyton eggs us on to dislike her for that reason alone by naming her ‘Pudden’, which of course leads to her being nicknamed ‘Pudding’ by the other girls (there was actually a recipe in Mrs Beeton’s Cookbook of 1861 for ‘Alma Pudding’).

Elsie Fanshawe (The Second Form at St Clare’s)

Like Alma Pudden, ‘Catty’ Elsie should be in the form above, although in her case she was not put up rather than being dropped down, but is made co-head of the second form. She abuses that position to indulge her spiteful nature, leading a campaign of nasty tricks against Mirabel Unwin which she tries to blame on her fellow head girl. However, the form turns against her and decide not to accept her as co-head, leading to Elsie’s humiliation. Despite attempts to reach out to her, Elsie tries to ruin Carlotta’s birthday party but fails, in the process exposing herself to a dressing down from Miss Jenks. However, with the form’s support, Miss Theobald allows Elsie to move to the third form.

Mitigation: It’s hard to forgive Elsie’s spite against Mirabel, especially, but, to her credit, she seems to understand her shortcomings when Miss Theobald proposes to move her up to the third form, despite her behaviour. She’s also quite nice to Gladys at the end, so we should probably accept Miss Theobald’s judgement.

Erica (The O’Sullivan Twins)

Having found out about it by bullying Gladys, a maid, Erica sneaks on Tessie’s midnight feast by waking up Mam’zelle. Then, when sent to Coventry by the form for having done this, she takes her revenge on Pat (who had most keenly encouraged the punishment) by ruining her knitting and stamping on her nature work. Erica allows Margery Fenworthy to take the blame for this, until Margery rescues her from a fire, at which point she confesses. Miss Theobald then expels Erica from St Clare’s.

Mitigation: Erica (unless I’ve missed it, we are not told her surname) does confess in the end, so at least she has a conscience. In the end, though, the decision to expel her weighs against her, because we know that ‘wise’ Miss Theobald rarely makes mistakes.

Miss Quentin (The Second Form at St Clare’s)

Miss Quentin is the only mistress in this list. A flamboyant Drama teacher, she actively encourages ‘featherhead’ Alison, the O’Sullivan twins’ cousin, to idolize her. Alison is then devastated to overhear her idol speaking contemptuously of her behind her back, including comparing her to a ‘pet dog’. Whilst it’s true that Alison is far too given to heroine-worship, Miss Quentin, as an adult, should not have led her on, and her remarks about Alison to other teachers were spiteful and unprofessional. And although she was within her rights to give the best part in the play to the best actress, rather than to Alison, she could have handled the situation much better.

Mitigation: Miss Quentin leaves at the end of term, having received an invitation to pursue a career on the stage, so it seems that her heart was never in teaching and she was just at St Clare’s as a stopgap. And she did not know that Alison would overhear her conversation. Even so, as a teacher and an adult, Miss Quentin has to be judged against a higher bar than the others in this list.

Prudence Arnold (Summer Term at St Clare’s)

Prudence ‘Sour Milk’ Arnold sneaks on the tricks that Bobby and Janet play, spies on Carlotta the ‘circus girl’ hoping (though failing) to turn the other girls against her for her ‘common’ background, and sucks up to rich American heiress, Sadie Greene. Worst of all, she enters into an abusive ‘friendship’ with Pam Boardman, making the girl ill. When her wrongdoings are exposed, she shows herself to be a coward, sobbing to Miss Theobald to ‘let her go home’. Miss Theobald confirms that Prudence will be expelled.

Mitigation: Very little can be said in Prudence’s favour. We know she is a Vicar’s daughter, and perhaps her overly ‘pious’ ways can be attributed to that, but there’s really no excuse for her behaviour.

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Monday #482

I’m so glad to finally have gotten that Naughtiest Girl Diary done and dusted last week. Now I can move on to other ideas, though it feels like I just did a monthly round up, and yet here I am doing another.

Chris’s Top 5 St Clare’s villainesses

and

June round up

On Wednesday I arrived at a branch library to cover a shift and there was a copy of the new Faraway Tree book by Jacqueline Wilson prominently on display. This improved my day quite a bit as it turned out that after me rushing up there from my regular branch the shift had already been covered by someone else due to poor communication.

I had actually forgotten that the book coming out at the end of April and although there are 14 library copies (one per branch) in my city this was the first time I’d seen one. Naturally I borrowed it straight away, and this is me making myself accountable. Hopefully now that I’ve admitted to having it I’ll get around to actually reading it – I mean, miracles can happen, right?

You can read my thoughts on Jacqueline Wilson writing a new, modern story based on the Faraway Tree series here.

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The Diary of the Naughtiest Girl

I celebrated a little presumptuously a few months ago when I finished the Naughtiest Girl continuations by Anne Digby. I then remembered I also had The Diary of the Naughtiest Girl. By remembered I mean found the book behind the sofa. I borrowed it at some point before the lockdown in 2020, so it’s high time I read it so I can return it.


Several degrees of separation

A diary belonging to Elizabeth Allen could be quite interesting. Difficult to write, perhaps, making sure all her entries matched the events of the books whilst still adding something new and interesting for readers.

But that’s not what Jeanne Willis has done. Elizabeth Allen has been brought smack into the 2010s, and enough changes have been made that no painstaking timelines and detail-checking are required. The girls’ names are different, and I wonder who this book is aimed at. If it’s for fans of the OG* naughtiest girl then there’s a lot of work in trying to figure out who’s supposed to be who. If it’s for children who have never read the original books then… why bother?

So, in short, this Naughtiest Girl is not at all like the original one.

*original gangster, but means someone who’s old-school. I threw it in to reflect all the slang in the diary, but I’m not sure that I can pull it off.


A guide to the characters

Anyone who’s read the original series will be familiar with the characters, but I feel like a guide is needed here as it’s not always obvious who is who.

Elizabeth is still Elizabeth, and her mummy and daddy are the same (but they’re off to Africa to study baboons, and instead of buying Elizabeth a laptop they bought her a diary, leading to a big rant at the beginning of the book).

Instead of Miss Scott, Elizabeth has Kesi, who has lived with them since Elizabeth was born in Kenya.

On the train, then at the school Elizabeth meets:

  • Hannah James aka Hamster – Ruth
  • Ellie Marden (referred to once as Ellie Marsden) aka Smellie Marsden – Helen?
  • Joanna Townsend aka Mousie – obviously Joan Townsend
  • Mei Ling – Eileen
  • Melinda Cartwright aka Carthorse – Belinda?
  • Shauna O’Sullivan – Nora O’Sullivan, one tiny improvement is that she speaks in an Irish-sounding pattern, whereas Blyton mentioned she was Irish once then seemed to forget about it.
  • Rebekah Shah – Rita the head girl
  • Harry Dunn – Harry Dunn
  • William Murricane – William the head boy. Murricane is actually a real (if uncommon) name but has clearly been chosen purely so Elizabeth can nickname him Windy Hurricane.
  • Rowan McDonald
  • Kenji Nakahara
  • John Terry – John Terry but nicknamed JT (and now Scottish)
  • Humphrey Pickleton aka Grumphrey (accuses Harry Dunn of cheating)
  • Ricardo Marconi – Richard

The fact that names have been changed and events and dialogues are reported via Elizabeth’s diary entry means it’s really hard to know who a lot of the pupils are meant to be. It’s not until Elizabeth quotes a bit of dialogue from the original book, or makes a particular observation that some of them become clear.


The events

While the story plays out in more or less the same way various details are change throughout.

As above it begins with Elizabeth not getting a laptop, and she tries to burn the diary (might have been good if she had succeeded). She tries behaving really well, and also really badly to get out of going to Whyteleafe. There’s a strop over having to wear tights (not stockings) and Elizabeth does pin a pair to Kesi’s skirt, like she does to Miss Scott (though there’s no seccotine in the shoes). I actually liked the added detail that Kesi went to Tesco with the tights pinned to her, and they got caught in someone else’s trolley in the cheese aisle. That’s a good way of modernising the book while staying true to the original.

The uniform has changed to a kilt and beret, for some reason, and they are in year 7 rather than first form.

Shauna/Nora still has her run ins with Elizabeth and removed the belongings from the top of the dresser. The items are different, though, as they are now photos, hair straighteners, lucky hippo, catapult, musical torch, lip salve, scrunchy, bubble-gun stash and nodding dog.

Things then escalate. Elizabeth runs Shauna’s bra up the flagpole (Elizabeth frequently mentions that Shauna has boobs like melons etc) with Shauna retaliating by hanging Elizabeth’s pants on a hockey stick stuck out a window, getting them soaking. She uses a hairdryer to dry the pants as the rads (radiators) are off. Somehow this takes her an hour and she blows up the (borrowed) hairdryer.

Despite it being banned Elizabeth has snuck her old phone (but apparently not a charger) along. She also hides her money in a book so that she doesn’t have to hand it over, she is planning to use it to run away to stay with her uncle. She’s silly enough to put it back in her purse and take it to the meeting, though, so it gets taken in the same way as the original book.

She gets sent out of class (though her misbehaviours are a little different) she gets laughed at for wearing socks instead of stockings (though it happens at a different point in the story). She goes to the village alone and is caught by Rebekah. She pours blackcurrant juice on her rug (rather than ink).

She takes music lessons with Ricardo, who puts on an over-done Italian accent. She has her fight with Harry, though instead of tipping water over him she puts porridge in his pockets. He gets his own back by pinning a sign to her back. But it’s not the sign we know about the Bold Bad Girl. Instead it says I love John Terry.

She spends all her money (£50) on presents for Joanna’s birthday and gets caught out, Joanna goes for a walk and gets soaked and falls ill. Elizabeth writes to Mrs Townsend and it ends up resolved in a broadly similar fashion.

She still intends to go home at half-term and is talked out of it by the head boy and girl.


The writing

I really didn’t like the writing, but I could tell that from reading one page. As it’s a diary it isn’t written in full sentences. Bridget Jones’ Diary is a bit like that, quite abbreviated to reflect it being handwritten and often at speed. But the Naughtiest Girl’s writing is just all over the place, and although possibly accurate for an 11 year old it’s awful to read.

The worst offenders are

  • this + that + something else
  • it was v v annoying
  • I did it cos
  • I’m in big trubs

I can understand wanting to be brief but given how long Elizabeth yammers on about nonsense, saving a few syllables here and there is largely irrelevant.

It’s clear that Jeanne Willis wanted to write in a ‘young’ style, as Elizabeth, but as so often the case a grown-up trying to imitate the slang and speech style of older children and teens it is often very cringe-worthy, and has dated very quickly.

I mean were 11 year olds (even in 2016) talking about strutting their funky stuff, or throwing crazy shapes?

There’s also a huge reliance on immature humour. It’s probably an accurate representation of at least some girls – I have an 8 year old niece who finds bodily functions and body parts hilarious. But you can barely go a page without Elizabeth talking about Shauna’s boobs, or her bra, or which teacher is adjusting her bra strap. Or kicking someone in the goolies, girls being sweaty or farting or peeing in the pool. Or Joanna’s boobies, or girls in the nuddy getting changed, or poop hitting the fan and it goes on and on. Even Mr Lewis talks about how his pupils don’t give a ferret’s fart.

It is also very definitely set in 2016, which is not a particularly bad thing. This is made clear by references to WH Smiths (though she has the notion that the shopkeeper would put aside a CD for her, as if it’s some quaint independent store), Pizza Hut, DVDs, decimalised (and reasonable amounts of) money, Coke, Britain’s Next Top Model and so on. Though there are a few darlings and shan’ts thrown in.

What is not so great is it has fully embraced the depressing modern trend of girls as young as 11 being obsessed with their looks. Blyton could be rather mean about girls who were fat, pasty or spotty but it was mostly (I believe) her way of encouraging good eating and exercise in an over simplistic belief that it would fix these ‘problems’.

There’s a lot of nail filing, eyebrow plucking and even ladyshaves. Elizabeth mentally praises Shauna for getting rid of her moustache, as if that somehow makes her a better person (this is in addition to a lot of nasty comments about the size of her chest). There are even references to getting a plastic surgeon, along with a makeover for Joanna where they accidentally shave off half an eyebrow and repair it by gluing some fake fur on with a Pritt Stick.

There is also the pointless addition of Elizabeth having a big crush on John Terry, which adds nothing to the story and just pushes the idea that girls and boys can’t be friends without it becoming romantic.

There are also a few lines, casually thrown in that seemed a bit too mature for the audience, based on the rest of the writing especially. It’s not to say that these are inappropriate themes for older children, but the accessibility of the rest of the book and the immature humour means that it will probably be read by girls like my 8 year old niece and I’m not sure I’d be happy with her reading the following:

  • I hope they haven’t built gallows in the playground or I’m gonna swing
  • this hell hole
  • what do I have to do to get out of here, commit homicide?
  • Beans [her pet] is suicidal

Handled sensitively none of these themes should be excluded from children’s books but the casual, blithe way they are thrown in as jokes seems very distasteful and inappropriate to me.


A few positives

There were a few clever jokes, I’ll admit that. As above I enjoyed the modernising of the stockings prank.

Elizabeth changing the school name to Frightleafe, Blightleafe Tighteleafe, Spiteleafe and so on (though she runs out eventually and has to reuse some of them) is quite funny, especially at the end when she decides to say and changes it to Righteafe.

Her joke about someone looking like a lizard as they were a monitor raised a smile, as did her observing that Joanna had more than six used tissues on her drawers and it was  a wonder that Shauna didn’t have anything to say about it.

Lastly, when Richard says Sir, do I have to play with her? She’s a girl. Elizabeth writes how Mr Lewis ignored that sexist remark. (Of course it would have been even nicer if she’d challenged it out loud.)


A few things that don’t make sense

The French mistress is normally just referred to as M’selle (rather than Blyton’s usual Mam’zelle) but on one occasion she is M’selle Dupont. This is Whyteleafe, not Malory Towers. It’s possible that it’s a little in-joke, an Easter-egg, but it looks more like an accident.

At one point Elizabeth gets Shauna in a headlock, but this is never mentioned again. Attacking a monitor would surely lead to some sort of punishment?

Elizabeth defending her parents is similarly outlandish, she doesn’t  just stamp her foot and insist that her parents have beautiful manners, instead she does that and also calls William you son of a baboon at the top of her voice. Again, this isn’t treated as a separate ‘crime’ and the story just carries on without it being mentioned.

Lastly, a back-story for Shauna is crammed in near the end of the book as she tells Elizabeth that she was so mouthy when she first came to the school that she had no pocket-money for a month, but with the school’s help she settled down and became a monitor.


So what did I think?

I thought it was pretty awful. The odd amusing part can not make up for the rest of it. All the heavier parts of the book – Joan’s backstory and her reconnecting with her mother, Elizabeth’s soul-searching over whether to stay or go and the lesson she learns about it being a brave thing to change her mind are completely ruined by the irreverent and always-trying-to-be-funny writing style.

Other enjoyable parts like the details of what Elizabeth does in the school gardens are abandoned in favour of her gushing about John Terry. It has the same number of pages as the 2012 edition of the original book, but somehow most of the details are missing and many minor things are skipped altogether. The font is larger and a fair bit of space is ‘wasted’ with scribblings, bubble fonts, bullet pointed lists and so on.

The majority of the changes – particularly the new names for the cast are pointless. I can understand wanting to modernise the odd name, and/or suggest a little more diversity but half the changes are plain silly, and Elizabeth’s nicknames on top are utterly ridiculous. Joanna is Mousie throughout, and she then starts calling Elizabeth Monkey. Elizabeth uses Carthorse, Hamster and Smellie Marden right though, which does not give her the same redemption arc as she realises she doesn’t hate the school or the pupils. Instead she just comes off as mean and nasty to the end.

One star, I do not recommend!

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The Blyton covers that give away the endings

I have done a lot of posts looking at the cover art for the books. How the styles have changed over time, my favourite covers and the ones I think are terrible. Now for some that give away the ending, or other important plot points. Some will have artistic merit, others will probably be bad, but they will contain spoilers.


The Famous Fives

Five Go Adventuring Again

More than one of these covers reveal the location of one end of the Secret Way. The Five spend a lot of time puzzling over the clues on the bit of linen, and tapping away at wooden panels at Kirrin Farmhouse. Many of the covers – including the first edition, though not terribly obviously – show the Five in the secret passage. It’s the Five, though, so finding a secret passage is almost inevitable. However, showing that the secret entrance they are hunting so hard for is in the floor, beside a fireplace and in a room full of books, that’s a real spoiler.

Five Go Off in a Caravan

Likewise this book has a few covers showing the children underground, but it’s hard to do a cover without giving something away. What is easy not to give away, though, is the ending. Yet two of the covers show them finding the jewellery, giving away the whole mystery of why Lou and Dan are so determined to keep the caravans away from their underground hiding spot.

 

Five Have a Mystery to Solve

Two things are given away between some of the covers. One being that there is some importance to the well on the island, and that the Five find treasure. I had thought about listing some of the Five On Finniston Farm covers, for showing treasure, but in that book the Five know -or at least believe the rumours – that treasure is to be found in the remains of the castle dungeons. Showing them finding it makes the book a story about how they did it. Whereas showing them finding a treasure that the blurb doesn’t even hint about, that’s something else.


 

The Adventure Series

Some of these are slightly more grey areas in terms of how much they are spoilers.

The Valley of Adventure

Depending on what blurb you read you may well know that the pilots of the plane are looking for some sort of treasure in the valley. And that sort of excuses the treasure on the front cover. (The early covers with the statues and stalagmites/tites are less evocative of ‘treasure’ in its more obvious forms).

The Circus of Adventure

Showing the children in the circus – even Philip with the bears – seems reasonable.

Showing the daring tightrope rescue, however, seems like a spoiler. Part of the story is a) finding out where the children are being held, then working out a way to rescue them. Showing that on the cover gives rather a lot away. (If it wasn’t for the change of shirt these two could be the same scene a minute or two apart in fact.) Saying that, though, the tightrope scene graces the frontispiece of the early Macmillan editions, thus giving it away before you read chapter one.

The Mountain of Adventure

This probably has the most clear-cut spoiler for the series. While most covers show the outside of the mountain, one shows inside complete with a mad scientist (The King of the Mountain, possibly, given his bald dome) and weird machines.


The Treasure Hunters

One more treasure one for now. Three of the four covers for The Treasure Hunters (including the first edition) show the children finding the treasure. As adults, we know that any Enid Blyton book about treasure hunting will definitely lead to treasure being found. For children, though, I can’t help but feel that this takes away rather a lot of the anticipation and the mystery! Perhaps children don’t see it that way, though. Perhaps they are simply excited by seeing treasure on the cover, but don’t then think about what that means for the plot?


How many of these do you see as spoilers, and how much do you think it matters?

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Monday #481

I went AWOL again last week. Unfortunately nothing as fun as a holiday, rather I came down with my first dose of Covid. I haven’t read a book or opened my laptop for a whole week, but I am more or less back to normal now so it’s back to business.

I know I’ve said I will review The Diary of the Naughtiest Girl for about two months straight, but I’ve almost finished it and written the first 800 words of the review so who knows, this week might be the week.

Blyton covers that give away the ending

and

The Diary of the Naughtiest Girl by Jean Willis

‘Well, we’re all going down to Cherry-Tree Farm to stay with Auntie Bess for at least six months!’ shouted Penelope, and she danced round the table in joy.

‘Penny! Are you sure?’ cried Rory.

‘Oh, Penny! It can’t be true!’ shrieked Sheila.

‘But what about school?’ asked Benjy in surprise.

‘Mummy said that the doctor advised a good long holiday for all of us,’ said Penny, still skipping about happily. ‘She said . . .’

‘Penny, do stop still and tell us everything properly,’ begged Rory. So Penny sat down on a stool and told her brothers and sister what she had heard.

‘Well, we’ve all had measles, and then we had the flu, and then Benjy and I got that awful cough, and Mummy said we were all so thin and pale, and we didn’t eat enough, and the doctor said the only thing to do was to let us run wild down in the country, and Mummy said, “What about Cherry-Tree Farm?” and the doctor said, “Splendid,” and Daddy said, “Just the thing,” and I listened and didn’t say a word, and . . .’

This is probably the most generous holiday due to illness in any of Blyton’s books. Usually the children get a few weeks somewhere, though even that’s not to be sniffed at. I could sure do with a holiday!

the children of cherry tree farm enid blyton

 

 

 

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May 2022 round up

I’m a little bit later doing this than usual, because I was away on holiday. The holiday was in June, though, so I won’t be rounding that up until next month!


What I have read

What I have read is:

  • Love Your Life – Sophie Kinsella
  • The Naughtiest Girl Marches On (Naughtiest Girl #10) – reviewed here
  • Dilly’s Hope (Dilly’s Story #3) – Rosie Goodwin
  • The Secret of Haven Point  – Lisette Auton, reviewed here
  • The Sea of Adventure TV Novelisation – Nigel Robinson, reviewed here
  • The Ocean at the End of the Lane – Neil Gaiman
  • The Last Library – Freya Samson
  • A Summer Wedding for the Cornish Midwife (Cornish Midwife #2) – Jo Bartlett
  • Read Between the Lines (Ms Right #1) – Rachel Lacey
  • Amongst Our Weapons (Rivers of London #9) – Ben Aaronovitch

And I’m still working on:

  • The Diary of the Naughtiest Girl – Jean Willis
  • Wedding Bells for Land Girls (Land Girls #2) – Jenny Holmes
  • The Clanlands Almanac – Sam Heughan and Graham McTavish

What I have watched

  • I attempted to make inroads into the many episodes of Hollyoaks I have recorded but I think I have more or less given up on it now. I have too many to watch to catch up, and so after more than ten years of never missing an episode I think I’m done with it.
  • I have stuck with House of Games, though. Also Taskmaster.
  • I’ve also carried on with Desperate Housewives and am on series five.
  • We slogged through Zero Chill on Tuesday nights, and it remained awful so I don’t know why we bothered.
  • We started the new series of Stranger Things and Obi-Wan Kenobi.

What I have done

  • We went ten-pin bowling, first time I’ve gone in at least twenty years. Safe to say I was not good, even with the bumpers on. We also did crazy golf that day which I was marginally better at, but it was probably good that we didn’t actually record our scores.
  • I did a few toy repairs with a 3d pen which is much harder than it looks, I can barely draw in 2d let alone with a third dimension. One held up quite well (the tow bar on a car) the other did not (the skids on a helicopter).
  • We took yet another trip to the beach but also visited the castle beside it, something I’ve only done a couple of times before.
  • Made my first cheesecake which although very runny tasted OK.
  • I continued my sewing classes and learned how to do machine embroidery – basically setting it up and it does it for you with a preprogramed pattern!
  • Visited the sea life centre for the first time since before the lockdowns, and also spent a bit of time at the beach
  • Saw the Loads o’ Lorries event at the transport museum
  • Visited the botanic gardens on their open day and went pond dipping
  • Was a (fully-dressed) life model for the teenage art class in the library (I was asked to fill in at the last minute).
  • Took Brodie’s Paddington to work and let him get up to all sorts of mischief

What I’ve bought

I often go months without buying anything Blyton-related and then buy two things another month.

In May I bought another issue of Enid Blyton’s magazine to fill a gap in my collection, volume 2 issues 14 and 15 still elude me, though.

I also bought this magazine as I hadn’t seen it before. It’s one from a series where you got a magazine and a classic children’s book every fortnight so it was nice to see Blyton be included as a classic.

What did your May look like?

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Monday #479

I know that at least one person noticed that I have been AWOL the last few weeks. I was away on holiday and the week before that was just so busy. But I am back now, so it’s business as usual.

May round up

and

The Diary of the Naughtiest Girl by Jeanne Willis

Newly published this week is Zöe Billings’ new book – The Secret of Flittermouse Cliffs. I reviewed her first The Secret of Tull Hall after it came out last year, and this one features the same children. This time they are off to an outdoor activity centre where something just isn’t quite right…

I have already read this as I proof-read it, but I will review it once I’ve read it properly.

 

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Favourite covers part two

There were far too many lovely covers to put into one post, so here are some more of my favourites.


Grace Lodge

Grace Lodge is another big name in terms of Blyton’s illustrators, having done at least 45 first editions plus potentially hundreds of short stories.

I particularly like the covers for A Story Party with Enid Blyton, and A Picnic Party with Enid Blyton. One of the special things about these covers is that Grace Lodge got to draw Enid Blyton on them, along with the children at the parties.

In a departure from her usual realistic style I also really like this striking later reprint of Three Boys and a Circus by Grace Lodge. It has that red-blue-yellow colour scheme that I seem to be attracted to but I also like the silhouetted animals and people.


Water

Another theme that revealed itself in the earlier post was covers with water on them. Here are a couple more, from the Caravan Family series.

The Saucy Jane Family looks nice enough with just the front cover (which seems to be how we’ve always shown it on the blog) but the full dust jacket is even better.

Again this has a lot of red, blue and yellow, as well as the water. I love the reflections in the rippling water.

The Seaside Family also looks even better fully opened out. It’s also full of red, blue, yellow and water so obviously a winner for me. I love beaches as well.


Armadas

These are attractive covers but can’t quite compare to the detail on the larger canvass of a hardback. Some, which I had as children, are most likely nostalgia picks, and even some of the others there’s a certain sense of nostalgia in the style.

The above were all ones I had and looking at them just makes me want to read the book.

Below are two school ones that I didn’t have. I like line drawn green background on the Naughtiest Girl, especially with the green uniforms of the two girls (I don’t recall the Whyteleafe uniforms ever being described as green but for aesthetic purposes they work!)

The pillow fight on The Twins at St Clare’s just looks really fun and the girls sensible uniforms really contrast with the sunny yellow background.


Real Nostalgia

As much as I like some covers I can also appreciate their lack of artistic merit, and the way they contradict the text.

One in particular that I really like is a bit garish. As a child I had this in my head as a group of American girls on a night out – I have no idea why, but somehow this image didn’t say 1940s school girls having a midnight feast. I think the pyjamas look a little like fashionable jumpsuits, and the dressing gowns like coats but where American came from I don’t know.

Anyway, I can appreciate that this is not a great cover but I still like it!


Ruth Palmer

An honourable mention has to go to Ruth Palmer whose modern covers are the only ones I would consider buying. She’s the cover artist for the Famous Five for Grown-Ups books, but has also done covers for both the original and continuation books for Malory Towers and St Clare’s.

Here are a few of her best, at least in my opinion. It’s unusual for me to have a continuation book anywhere near the word favourite but I like the way that the rear window of the car frames Malory Towers on Goodbye Malory Towers.


Did any of your favourites make the cut this time? I have at least one more post planned, for wraparound dustjackets.

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Monday #477

A mix of positives and negatives this week. I’ve briefly flicked through The Diary of the Naughtiest Girl and from that I can tell that it’s going to be atrocious, but I can’t bring myself to return it without reading it. I’m just a glutton for punishment.

More of my favourite covers

and

The Diary of the Naughtiest Girl by Jeanne Willis

Once a sea-lion ate more than his fair share of fish, and this is how it happened. The keeper had a truckful of fish, which was the supply for the whole of the Zoo, not just for the sea-lions only. He wheeled it into the sea-lions’ enclosure and then went to shut the gate.

Albert, a sea-lion, happened to see the fish on the truck, and thought it a glorious idea to eat fish without having to catch it first! So he galloped clumsily up, and when the keeper came back after a few moments he found his truck empty! How Albert could have swallowed all the number of fish on it is a mystery, but he did. The keeper said he looked just like a blown-up balloon!

Of course, the other fish-eating members of the Zoo could not go without their meal simply because Albert had been so greedy. So in a great hurry messengers had to be sent to buy more fish from all the fishmongers round—and, would you believe it, when the keeper took his place to feed the seals and other sea-lions, Albert barked for his share just as if he had never touched a fish in his life! But I don’t expect many fish were thrown in his direction that day!

Just one of the many funny anecdotes in The Zoo Book.

 

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

I first heard of this book when the cover artist (Gillian Gamble) posted about it on Facebook. I saw the lighthouse and was immediately interested, as somehow, despite only featuring prominently in one book that I can think of, I associate lighthouses with Enid Blyton.


Haven Point

Haven Point is not a typical peninsula with a lighthouse. Normal peninsulas are generally accessible to people – and if they aren’t there are fences or walls to claim ownership and keep people out. Haven Point has barriers – magical ones. They are invisible and keep the peninsula out of sight and out of mind. They only let in the sort of people who will fit in.

Old Benevolent – Old Ben for short – is the lighthouse, where some of the inhabitants of Haven Point live, though there are so many now that cottages have sprung up to accommodate all the rest.

Once upon a time Cap’n lived alone in Old Ben (well, alone unless you count the kitten living in his beard). And then the first of his Wrecklings arrived. Alpha Lux (so named as Alpha is the first letter of the Greek alphabet, and she was found in a Lux soap box) is the first, and our narrator.

The Wrecklings are so called as, well, they literally go wrecking. However, they are not like One-Ear, Nosey and Bart. Or at least, they are not very like them.

Firstly, they only wreck ships from companies with a dodgy reputation, Cap’n himself calling them seafaring Robin Hoods. It’s all handled carefully – the boats are not truly wrecked, just helped to unload their cargo by the mermaids that live off the shore of Haven Point. The mermaids then cause the ships’ crews to forget all about it with their magical songs, and the boats carry on. Lastly, they only wreck as it’s the only way to get certain supplies – things beyond what they can grow and make at Haven Point. Although the barriers are there to keep the outsiders out, the Wrecklings don’t venture out into the outside either.


The mystery of Haven Point

The mystery, to begin with, is who or what is watching Alpha? Alpha notices a glint of light up on the cliffs a few times, in a place they’ve been banned from playing in as it’s dangerous. If this was the Famous Five they’d be shouting FIELD GLASSES straight away, but, Alpha’s not immediately sure. That’s partly because although she has a bad feeling, like someone’s watching, and there’s danger afoot, her the barriers aren’t meant to let anyone like that in.

She does investigate, though, along with her best friend, and finds an intruder.

Then the mystery becomes who exactly is the intruder, and is anything he’s said actually the truth?

This one is harder for Alpha to work out as the adults – how very dare they – take over rather a lot. From what Alpha’s seen and heard, the intruder isn’t actually as evil as they think, but that’s not automatically believed by everyone.

A note on what I said there – about the adults. Not all the wrecklings that arrive are babies. Some are older children or even teenagers. They all turn up one way or another, guided by some sort of magic that leads them to this safe haven – or what had been a safe haven. It doesn’t feel so safe with an intruder amongst them, especially when they start to think that someone on the inside has been helping him.

With the truth revealed, the people of Haven’s Point come to a crossroads. Their enemies were definitely bad people, but they force the wrecklings to have to reconsider their safe space. Is it so safe, keeping themselves isolated and insular?


Blytonian?

This one is perhaps more of a stretch than my usual if you like Blytons, as it’s a rather different blend of fantasy and adventure than Blyton wrote.

It does have a lighthouse, caves, at least one secret passage, a bunch of children too smart for their own good who ignore the adults and go investigating (that could be describing the Scooby Doo gang, now I think about it) and apart from the wrecking, a fairly strong sense of morals. Lessons are learned about judging people, treating them badly, telling lies and so on.

Besides all that it is a very good read and even had me shedding a few tears near the end.


One final thing

I haven’t mentioned one part of the story. I am swithering between calling it integral and irrelevant, which are pretty much opposites.

On one hand, the story could have been written without it and it still would have worked. But then it would have just been a book like any other children’s fantasy novel you could pick up on any bookshelf in any bookshop or library.

On the other hand, this element is important to the author and her identity, and is something that makes the book stand out as an important piece of representation.

If you’ve read the blurb, you’ll know what I’m talking about as it’s not kept a secret – the fact that all the residents of Haven’s Point are disabled is not the secret of Haven Point.

I didn’t lead with this fact – or mention it until this point, as it’s woven so naturally into the story that it feels like making a big deal about nothing as it’s certainly not done to be edgy. I also know that there are a lot of people who would immediately label it virtue signalling, woke (or indeed the wokey cokey, whatever that is) or some other nonsense. I hope (probably in vain) that promoting the plot of the book by itself first may encourage more people to give it a chance.

Of course, while I’ve used words like irrelevant and (not a) big deal, I know that it is actually important especially for disabled children. Disabilities are not commonly featured in any novels, including children’s books, so I can appreciate how important this book will be for disabled readers, allowing them to see themselves in the cast. Not only seeing themselves in the cast, actually, but in a large cast who are having adventures and not just being side-line characters.


 

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My Top 10 Malory Towers moments

Malory Towers is one of my favourite series so here are my ten favourite moments from the books.


10

Irene loses her health certificate
Second Form at Malory Towers

Irene loses her health certificate almost every term, but this is probably the funniest time.

Having approached Matron, Irene panics and starts emptying her case onto the floor looking for it. Only then does she feel a safety-pin pricking her chest and remember she has pinned her certificate to the front of her tunic, so that she wouldn’t lose it.


Felicity and Nora’s magnet trick
Last Term at Malory Towers

The magnet trick – stealing a Mistress’ hair pins with a strong magnet – is played a few times by the second formers but the last version is the best.

Felicity visits the sixth form classroom and steals Mam’zelle Dupont’s pins, which is funny, but it’s funnier when a hissing pellet leads the baffled sixth formers to a set of pins in a pun cushion up the chimney.

Nora then comes and steals the pins from Mam’zelle’s thoroughly re-pinned bun, and they find another pin-cushion behind the blackboard.


8

Mary-Lou is brave
First Term at Malory Towers

Mary-Lou and brave aren’t often seen in the same sentence, but she definitely has her moments. Technically this is two moments, but who’s counting.

First, when the other girls have secretly manufactured a confidence-boosting scenario for her, she goes over and above. They mean for her to just throw the life-ring to Darrell as she pretends to have cramp, but as the ring is off for repairs she jumps in, fully dressed, to come to the rescue.

With that having worked to boost her confidence, she then goes creeping about in the night – when she’s afraid of the dark – to find evidence that Gwen was responsible for the nasty tricks and not Darrell.


7

Mam’zelle Dupont’s treek teeth
In the Fifth at Malory Towers

The girls play a lot of tricks in their time at school, but this is the only time a teacher plays a trick, or indeed, a treek, instead.

It’s funny enough that Mam’zelle Dupont orders as set of terrible-looking fake teeth and goes around flashing them at the girls, but it’s hilarious when she gets cornered by Miss Grayling and a couple of parents of prospective girls, and has to try to hide them.

In the end she almost gets away with it but, in relief, flashes them a terrifying smile then has to hurry off to burst into laughter, dropping the teeth on the ground in the process.

The icing on the cake is Mam’zelle Rougier’s disapproval.

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


6

Irene brandishes her hairbrush and almost takes out Belinda’s eye
In the Fifth at Malory Towers

This is just a little moment but it always makes me laugh. With twins Ruth and Connie having been separated at the end of the previous year, and Connie seemingly unable to let Ruth ‘go’, she comes to her twins’ dorm to check on her. The fifth formers are annoyed as they have seen Connie overshadow and control her twin for too long already. The girls all respond with a resounding clear out, but Irene sees fit to fiercely brandish her hair-brush and almost takes out Belinda’s eye in the process.


5

Belinda accidentally ends the Mam’zelles’ feud
Second Form at Malory Towers

The two Mam’zelles, Rougier and Dupont are not alike and do not appear to be particularly good friends normally. Things get out of hand in the second form, as they are both trying to produce the French play and keep casting different girls – Mam’zelle Dupont casts her pretty favourites and Mam’zelle Rougier goes for girls who can actually speak French!

Belinda makes a few sketches of the Mam’zelles in unflattering ways – Mam’zelle Rougier stalking Mam’zelle Dupont with a dagger, aiming a gun at her from behind a bush, pouring poison into her tea.

Unfortunately Mam’zelle Rougier sees these unflattering caricatures of herself and marches the girls to Miss Grayling. It looks like they are all set to he punished harshly, but Mam’zelle Dupont finds out about it and has her say. She finds it all very funny and the truth about their falling out is revealed to Miss Grayling. In the end the two French women become friends in a move of solidarity amongst all the English girls.


4

Miss Peters saves Thunder (and Mavis)
Third Year at Malory Towers

Miss Peters and Bill didn’t see eye-to-eye at first, Bill’s day dreaming drove Miss Peters demented, in fact, and she banned Bill from seeing Thunder. Bill thinks the woman is heartless but Miss Peters proves just the opposite. When Thunder develops colic she is out of bed like a shot, and rides off into the night to fetch the vet. She then stays up the rest of the night to take care of the horse. She also rescues Mavis whom she finds, soaking, by the side of the road that night – all round being a hero!


3

Miss Grayling’s speech
Last Term at Malory Towers

Miss Grayling gives her speech every year, but we only see it in the first and last books. The speech is the same each time, but I particularly like the one in the last book as it so nicely bookends the series. It is Darrell who takes the new girls to see Miss Grayling at the start of that term, and Miss Grayling acknowledges her.

Six years ago I said those words to Darrell. She is one who has got a great deal out of her time here – and there is no one who has given more back than Darrell has.


2

June rescues Amanda from the sea
Last Term at Malory Towers

Amanda, over-confident in her abilities and under-estimating the power of the sea, goes for a swim off the coast and gets into difficulties.

Luckily for her, June wakens early that day and decides to go for a swim herself – in the safe pool, of course. But she sees a swimmer  in trouble and manages to drag the boat from the boat-house to go to the rescue.


1

Daphne rescues Mary-Lou from the cliff
Second Form at Malory Towers

Daphne goes out to look for Mary-Lou who has tried to take a parcel to the post office for her, only to find Mary-Lou has been blown off the cliff. Thinking quickly Daphne ties her mackintosh and tunic belts together and, holding on to a gorse bush with her feet, lowers the makeshift rope to Mary-Lou who is clinging to the cliff. As she isn’t strong enough to pull her friend back up, all Daphne can do is hold on until help arrives.


Are any of these your favourites? If not, let me know what yours were!

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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’s 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 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 Five 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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