I love stats and looking back on things so I thought I would do a little round up of my year in books. Obviously I’ve listed all my books month-by-month in my monthly round ups but I thought it would be interesting to see how many Blytons I read and how many children’s books vs grown up ones.
I have goals every year beyond the total number of books I want to read. There aren’t hard-and-fast numbers but I generally aim to:
Read more new books than ones I’ve read before
Read some books I’ve always meant to but never got around to, especially if they appear on lots of ‘must-read’ lists
Read at least one classic
Read a good balance of grown up books and children’s books
So let’s see how I did!
I re-read 23 books and the rest (95) were new, so I can tick off the first goal.
I read Jurassic Park and The Lost World by Michael Crichton, and Bridget Jones’s Diary by Helen Fielding so I feel like I’ve achieved the second goal too. I also read several often-recommended picture books including a few by Dr Seuss.
I only half achieved the goal of reading a classic as I got through half of Jane Eyre, and I hope to finish it at some point this year.
I read 36 children’s books which means I also read 82 grown-up books, so I’m very happy with that split.
Newly discovered books and authors
I love nothing better than discovering a new author or series, especially if there are several books then waiting to be devoured one after the other, with none of that pesky wait for a new one to be written and published.
In 2018 I discovered (27 years after it was first published…) the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon.
Last year, I found Jasper Fforde and the Thursday Next series. When I say ‘found’, what I mean is ‘finally picked up’ as I had actually heard of them before then. (In fact, I’m sure at least one person had told me I would like them but I hate when people say that and almost always ignore it, only sometimes to my detriment.)
Unfortunately both these series are waiting on a new book; Outlander should have one at some point this year but there is no news on Thursday Next. Fforde has a couple of other series, though, so if I don’t discover anything new soon I can give those a try.
I actually only read five Blyton books last year; all of them Famous Fives. I read:
While writing a guide to our recommended authors if you like Blyton, I had jotted down some other names. These names were of people who had written books featuring Blyton’s own characters, and in the end I decided that these really belonged to a separate category.
Most of the books as sequels, set after the events of Blyton’s own books, but there are a few prequels and some which are set in between the original novels.
Adventurous Four Trapped! by Clive Dickinson (1998)
Given the title this one’s obviously a continuation of the Adventurous Four series. It’s actually only a partial continuation, though. The first four chapters form the short story Off With the Adventurous Four, first published in Enid Blyton’s Omnibus (1951). Clive Dickinson has then added another seven chapters to extend the story.
This is now on my very long list of books to get ahold of as I am intrigued as to how Clive Dickinson has extended a story that had a resolution already written.
Enid Blyton’s Enchanted World by Elise Allen (2008-9)
This is a continuation of the Faraway Tree series with seven books.
Silky and the Rainbow Feather
Melody and the Enchanted Harp
Petal and the Eternal Bloom
Pinx and the Ring of Midnight
Bizzy and the Bedtime Bear
Silky and the Everlasting Candle
Melody and the Gemini Locket
These have obviously been written to appeal to young girls, as the covers all feature the female fairies that are the main characters. I found Bizzy and the Bedtime Bear at work and having flicked through it can be fairly sure that Jo/Joe, Bessie/Beth and Fanny/Frannie don’t appear, and it doesn’t seem like Moonface, the Angry Pixie, Dame Washalot or any other main character (except Silky of course) appear, though I could have missed a brief cameo.
It would seem that these stories have a single storyline rather than the Faraway Tree’s multiple stories, often one per chapter. They are around 160 pages, which doesn’t sound a lot less than the original books 190 pages but the text is much larger as are the spaces between the lines so the stories are in fact much shorter.
I hope to review Bizzy and the Bedtime Bear at some point, I will add a link here when I do.
Famous Five for Grown-ups by Bruno Vincent (2016-17)
Fourteen of these have been written and they are slightly more of a parody than a straight continuation. Each is very short, set when the Five are all adults. I’ve only read one, Five Go on a Strategy Away Day, so I’m not sure what, if any, continuity there is between the 14 books. They are, however, all set in the present day!
The titles are:
Five Go Gluten Free
Five Go On A Strategy Away Day
Five Give Up the Booze
Five Go Parenting
Five on Brexit Island
Five Forget Mother’s Day
Five Lose Dad in the Garden Centre
Five Get Beach Body Ready
Five Get Gran Online
Five Get On the Property Ladder
Five Go Bump in the Night
Five Escape Brexit Island
Five at the Office Christmas Party
Five Go Down Under
The best thing about these are the covers by Ruth Palmer as she mimics Eileen Soper’s style so well.
The Famous Five by Claude Voilier (1972-75)
Claude Voilier translated some of the later Famous Five books into French, and then later wrote 24 continuation books to the series. 18 of these have been translated into English by Anthea Bell (in the mid 80s). The English 18 were not published in the same order as the French ones.
1. Les Cinq sont les plus forts /The Famous Five and the Mystery of the Emeralds
2. Les Cinq au bal des espions / The Famous Five in Fancy Dress
3. Le Marquis appelle les Cinq / The Famous Five and the Stately Homes Gang
4. Les Cinq au Cap des tempêtes / The Famous Five and the Missing Cheetah
5. Les Cinq à la Télévision / The Famous Five Go on Television
6. Les Cinq et les pirates du ciel / The Famous Five and the Hijackers
7. Les Cinq contre le masque noir / The Famous Five Versus the Black Mask
8. Les Cinq et le galion d’or / The Famous Five and the Golden Galleon
9. Les Cinq font de la brocante /: The Famous Five and the Inca God
10. Les Cinq se mettent en quatre / The Famous Five and the Pink Pearls
11. Les Cinq dans la cité secrète / The Famous Five and the Secret of the Caves
12. La fortune sourit aux Cinq / The Famous Five and the Cavalier’s Treasure
13. Les Cinq et le rayon Z / The Famous Five and the Z-Rays
14. Les Cinq vendent la peau de l’ours / The Famous Five and the Blue Bear Mystery
15. Les Cinq aux rendez-vous du diable / The Famous Five in Deadly Danger
16. Du neuf pour les Cinq / The Famous Five and the Strange Legacy
17. Les Cinq et le trésor de Roquépine / The Famous Five and the Knights’ Treasure
18. Les Cinq et le diamant bleu
19. Les Cinq jouent serré / The Famous Five and the Strange Scientist)
20. Les Cinq en croisière
21. Les Cinq contre les fantômes
22. Les Cinq en Amazonie (1983; never translated into English)
23. Les Cinq et le trésor du pirate (1984; never translated into English)
24. Les Cinq contre le loup-garou (1985; never translated into English)
The English books in order are 3, 1, 4, 5, 8, 7, 2, 14, 9, 12, 16, 11, 6, 19, 15, 17, 13, and 10. As above titles 18 and 20-24 were not translated.
From the titles it seems that the Five have become more well-travelled as well as making a jump into the technology and sci-fi filled 1970s. The only one I’ve read is The Famous Five Go on Television and I remember very little about it other than being quite disappointed that it was not, in fact, a real Enid Blyton book that I’d just discovered.
This isn’t a post about cover art, but this series went certainly through several different styles!
We interviewed Sue Welford about writing this prequel series a while back, and you can read that here.
Five on a Great Western Adventure by Mandy Archer (2019)
This is a tie-in to the marketing campaign for Great Western Railway. It is a 54 page story about the Five chasing a jewel thief (presumably by rail!). It was given away free for World Book Day in March 2019, and I’m not sure how easy it would be to find a copy though I’d very much like to.
Malory Towers by Pamela Cox (2009)
Adding to the six original Malory Towers books, Pamela Cox has written another six. They pick up the year after Darrell has left the school, with Felicity moving into the third form. There are two books in the third form, one each one each for the fourth and fifth and then two for the sixth.
I have read the first two, and although they are not bad books they don’t capture Blyton’s style or stand up to the originals.
New Class at Malory Towers by various authors (2019)
This contains four stories by Patrice Lawrence, Lucy Mangan, Narinder Dhami and Rebecca Westcott and it set during Darrell’s time at Malory Towers. There are plenty of terms not written about by Blyton so it should be easy to slot in a story to one of them.
The Naughtiest Girl by Anne Digby (1999-2000)
There are more Naughtiest Girl books by Anne Digby (author of the Trebizon series of boarding school books) than there are by Enid Blyton! Blyton wrote three novels and one story (Here’s the Naughtiest Girl) which was published in Enid Blyton’s Omnibus and then published as a separate book in 1997.
Anne Digby has then written another six:
The Naughtiest Girl Keeps a Secret
The Naughtiest Girl Helps a Friend
The Naughtiest Girl Saves the Day
Well Done, the Naughtiest Girl!
The Naughtiest Girl Wants to Win
The Naughtiest Girl Marches On
I have found all six of these in my library (I was briefly confused by the numbering, as I was calculating 3 original books + 6 continuations = 9, but it is 10 if you include Here’s the Naughtiest Girl as #4, which the latest publishing run has) and I couldn’t resist borrowing them all and I hope to start reviewing them soon.
New Adventures of the Wishing Chair by Narinder Dhami (2009)
There are also more Wishing Chair books by Narinder Dhami, than there are by Blyton. Dhami has written six (rather short) titles while there are only two by Blyton. They are not a continuation of Peter and Mollie’s stories but the Wishing Chair is found (presumably a very long time later) by Jessica and Jack who also have adventures with it.
The books are:
The Island of Surprises
The Land of Mythical Creatures
The Land of Fairytales
Noddy and the Farmyard Muddle by Sophie Smallwood (2009)
Sophie Smallwood is Enid Blyton’s granddaughter (by her daughter Imogen), and she wrote the 25th Noddy book, which I thought was very good if not a seamless entry to the series.
Secret Seven by Evelyne Lallemand (1976-82)
Lallemand wrote 12 new Secret Seven books in French, nine of which have been translated into English – by Anthea Bell again.
The ones in English are:
The Seven and the Lion Hunt
The Seven Go Haunting
The Seven and the Magician
The Seven Strike Gold
The Seven to the Rescue
The Seven on Screen
The Seven and the UFOs
The Seven and Father Christmas
The Seven and the Racing Driver
Despite the rather wild titles it would appear that the Seven don’t stray from their little town in these books and the plotlines don’t sound that far from the originals either.
Secret Seven by Pamela Butchart (2018-19)
Two books continuing the Secret Seven books have also come out in the past few years.
I gave Mystery of the Skull a fairly bad review but acknowledge that if it was a children’s mystery with new characters I would have rated it more highly.
St Clare’s by Pamela Cox (2000-8)
As we know, the St Clare’s series follows an odd format. There are three books set in Pat and Isabel’s first year at St Clare’s, one in the second form, one in the fourth form and one in the fifth form.
Pamela Cox the gives us some gap-fillers, a books for the third and sixth forms, and another which isn’t clear.
The Third Form at St Clare’s
The Sixth Form at St Clare’s
Kitty at St Clare’s
The description of Kitty at St Clare’s says she joins the third form, but as it is published after all the others I assume that Pat and Isabel are in the sixth form and we haven’t jumped back in time.
This list does not include every book written by other authors and based on Blyton’s works. There are other continuations in other languages but as they have not been translated into English I haven’t included them.
Then there are other books like the Adventure series books based on the TV episodes, or The Diary of the Naughtiest Girl but I feel these are alternative tellings of existing stories and not books continuing a series. I’ll cover these in a separate post which I plan to call Unnecessary retellings of Blyton’s Work.
I will update this post in the future if new books come out (I suspect Pamela Butchart will write more for a start) or if I get around to reviewing anything else already listed.
Has anyone read any of these books? If so, what did you think of them, did they meet your expectations?
A guide to Blyton’s sequels, prequels and continuations
My 2019 in books and Blyton
He climbed higher still. When he next looked down he gave a cry of surprise. He could see right down into the hollow trunk of the great tree! It had rotted away through many long years, and now the great tree was really nothing but a dying shell, still putting out leaves on its many great boughs – but fewer and fewer each year.
Peter finds the Hollow Tree that they turn into a house in Hollow Tree House.
You can find part one, chapters 1-4, here, part two with chapters 5-8 here and part 3 which has chapters 9-12 here.
I am comparing the 1944 5th reprint by George Newnes (which should be more or less identical to the true first edition) to a 2012 edition by Hodder and Stoughton.
CHAPTER XIII The Third Meeting / CHAPTER THIRTEEN THE THIRD MEETING
The first two changes are to do with money (I think we will see that every time there is a Meeting!).
Someone is given a whole pound for their birthday and this becomes a whole ten pounds. Most of the money changes so far have worked on a one shilling = one pound. So one pound should be 20 pounds as there are 20 shillings to an old pound.
Also at the meeting someone asks for a shilling to get her watch mended and that’s changed to a pound. Could you get a watch mended for a pound in 2012?
The editor clearly can’t decide if gramophone is too old fashioned or not. It has been alternately edited and left alone in previous chapters. This time a beautiful gramophone recording becomes just a beautiful recording.
One use of italics is cut from my mother and father have taught me good manners, and perhaps by mistake a paragraph break is lost on page 99 of the paperback.
A boy is still told to buy some yellow distemper and cover over his scribblings on the wall, however. Google nowadays primarily links distemper to the illness in dogs and other animals, but if you search for distemper paint you can find out it is an early type of whitewash. It is described as ancient, traditional and historic, and I’m almost certain it is not something often used today! I doubt many children would even know the word, so if you are updating a book with the view that children are too stupid to find out what a word means I would think distemper would need changing.
CHAPTER XIV A Lovely Week / CHAPTER FOURTEEN A LOVELY WEEK
After being changed in the last chapter gramophone is left in this chapter twice.
The only change is one loss of italics where Elizabeth is thinking how nice it is that everyone is eating her cake.
Perhaps the editor fell asleep again.
CHAPTER XV Two Tricks—and a Quarrel / CHAPTER FIFTEEN TWO TRICKS – AND A QUARREL
The editor was presumably still asleep in this chapter, or had sudden concerns that maybe all these edits to Enid Blyton’s books weren’t such a good idea. Anyway, they didn’t change a single thing.
Not even the little girl slapped Harry hard in the face or [he is]too much of a gentleman to slap you back are changed. Darrell no longer slaps Gwen in the first Malory Towers book instead references to slaps are replaced with scoldings or shoves. It’s interesting that Elizabeth still slaps Harry instead of shoving him or just scolding him.
CHAPTER XVI An Apology—and another Meeting / CHAPTER SIXTEEN AN APOLOGY AND ANOTHER MEETING
Another meeting and more money problems.
One swap is a straight oneshilling for one pound. The other is half a crownto buy a little red handbag. Half a crown is two shillings and sixpence so should really be £2.50, is one shilling is one pound (which it isn’t always).
Neither £2 or £2.50 would be enough to buy a handbag in 2012, however, unless it came from a charity shop. Both editions state the handbag was seen in a draper’s shop, however. If you’re think a children’s book needs modernised surely draper’s shop would also need changing?
No other changes were made to this chapter, but I noticed that gramophone appeared twice in relation to a gramophone record and Mr Lewis’s fine gramophone.
Roman numerals to words
Case change for chapter titles
Removal of hyphens from good-bye, to-day, etc
Removal of italics for emphasis
Extra word capitalised at start of chapter
Over the years we have reviewed lots of books by other authors, because we think that they’re the kind of thing other people might like if they like Enid Blyton books.
I thought I would pull together a list of our reviews, and add a little bit about each author and what else they have written.
There are some writers who were contemporaries of Blyton, writing during her lifetime. There are also lots of modern writers who write in the genres she excelled at, some set in her era and some set now.
I’ll not include books which are prequels, sequels or continuations of Blyton’s work. They have their own tag here and I plan to do a guide to them all in the future, too.
Joyce Lankester Brisley was an English writer, born in 1896. A contemporary of Blyton the first book of her famous Milly Molly Mandy series came out in 1928.
Milly-Molly-Mandy is a little girl in a pink and white striped dress, and each book contains several short stories about her life in a little village during her four-to-eight year old years. She finds joy in many simple games and activities, helps out when she can and explores her world in the way only a young child can.
Colin Dann (born 1943) has written many books for children, most of them about animals. His Animals of Farthing Wood series has eight books, the first published in 1979 and the last in 1994. The BBC made a cartoon series based on the Farthing Wood books in the 90s.
Susie Day describes herself as writing inclusive, diverse children’s books about the real world we live in. (Plus the occasional dragon.) Those include four books about Pea Llewellyn, three books in her Secrets series (not to be confused with the Secret Series), as well as a few stand alone young adult titles.
Esme Kerr has written two boarding school books set at Knight’s Haddon. The Glass Bird Girl in 2014 and Mischief at Midnight in 2015. Although the books are set in the present say a technology ban at the school makes them seem more of Blyton’s time.
R. J. McGregor, a headmaster at a boys’ school, wrote both mystery and science fiction books for children from the 1930s through to the 1950s. The Secret of Dead Man’s Cove is a sequel to his 1934 book The Young Detectives.
There are 14 books in the Adventure Island series, published between 2011 and 2013. The books are about three children; Scott, Jack and Emily, who, along with Emily’s dog drift, solve mysteries on Castle Key. Helen Moss has also written three Time Dogs books and three Secrets of the Tombs books.
Born in 1903 Mary Norton’s first book was The Magic Bedknob in 1945, followed by Bonfires and Broomsticks in 1947. The film Bedknobs and Broomsticks starring the wonderful Angela Lansbury is based on these books. Her Borrowers series (which has spawned a TV adaptation and several films) has five books and a short story, published between 1952 and 1982.
Malcolm Saville was a prolific writer for children, writing books in eight different series, as well as many books about nature and the countryside and several travel guides. He was born in 1901 and his first book – Mystery at Witchend, the first Lone Pine title – was published in 1943. The series concluded in 1978, with the children having aged and developed somewhat, and each book reflecting the time it was published in. Saville’s books were primarily set in England, in Shropshire, Sussex, Dartmoor, and so on, and he included many real-life details to bring these locations to life.
Ali Sparkes is children’s author with at least 40 books to her name. Many, like her 6 book Shapeshifter series or 5 book Unleashed series have a supernatural element, while others are more sci-fi. Frozen in Time is a stand-alone book which probably fits into the sci-fi genre.
Dead Man’s Cove is the first of five books about Laura Marlin, a girl detective, published between 2010 and 2017. Lauren St John has written many other children’s books including five in her Animal Healers series.
Robin Stevens is the author of the Murder Most Unladylike books of which there are currently eight novels and a few short stories, with a new book expected in 2020. She has also written two books in her London Eye Mystery series.
The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow is the first of four books in Katherine Woodfine’s Sinclair’s Mysteries series which began in 2005. She as also written two books in her Taylor and Rose Secret Agents series.
I will update this guide as and when I review any other authors’ books.
If I do try hard to be good, and do everything I ought to, will you please ask Miss Belle and Miss Best to let me go home?
Elizabeth Allen asks Rita to help her escape from Whyteleaf School in The Naughtiest Girl in the School.
I’ve decided that I’m already sick of winter so I’ll take a break from winter-themed posts! Instead we will have The Secret Island. This is actually quite a serious book; children escaping from poverty and abuse and having to fend for themselves. Despite that is is full of fun and excitement as Jack, Mike, Peggy and Nora set up a life for themselves on their Secret Island. They make a house, a farm yard complete with animals, grow their own fruits and vegetables and run it together splendidly, whilst fending off the odd intruder.
Of course they can’t live there all their lives but the reason they leave the island is a happy one for them all.
It primarily features Darrell Rivers and Anatoly Petrov, who as a couple we call Dartoly. It also has a cameo from Bill Smugs, due to a recent request.
If you need a little help picturing these two I’ve included a picture of roughly how we see them. We use Michelle Dockery as inspiration for Darrell and Anton Yelchin for Anatoly.
Anyway, on with the story!
“Yes, sir,” Anatoly said into the small telephone receiver which was attached to his powerful wireless, issued to him by the SIS. He listened for several minutes, one eye on his watch. He knew he shouldn’t interrupt his boss, Bill Cunningham, when he was talking, but if he didn’t leave soon he would be late for his date with Darrell.
“Do you have somewhere else to be?” Bill asked him shortly after. He must have read the impatience in his replies.
“Well, yes, as a matter of fact,” Anatoly said, wondering how much to give away.
“I don’t have you down for anything this evening”, Bill said, and Anatoly could hear him shuffling papers.
“It is not work, sir. It is personal.”
“Oh. I see,” Bill said. Then there was a pause. “You’re meeting your new friends, then? Or… dare I ask-”
“You dare not,” Anatoly responded quickly, wishing he had never confided in Bill about Darrell.
“You have a date, then.” The grin was evident in Bill’s voice, even over the wireless.
“Petrov? Are you still there?”
“I am here, sir.”
“I expect a full briefing when I call you tomorrow.”
“I respectfully decline, sir.” Thankfully Bill wasn’t just his boss. He had been the one to bring Anatoly into the SIS, and had become a mentor and somewhat of a friend, too. He therefore got away with a lot more cheek than other agents.
“Do you want to be removed from St Andrews, Petrov? No, I thought not. Same time tomorrow. Smugs over and out.” The connection went dead. Anatoly glared at the receiver, banged it down, grabbed his suit jacket and then dashed from his room, pausing only long enough to lock it securely.
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
Darrell nervously pushed a hair pin into her dark hair and bit her lip. She leant forward over the chest of drawers and pulled her mascara out from the bag. Using as little as she could of the precious cosmetic, she applied it to the ends of her lashes.
Sally watched Darrell from her bed, where she was propped up, reading a book for her class and smiled at her friend.
“Are you sure you want to do this?” Sally asked Darrell. “I mean he is four years older than you. I will admit that he is a bit of all right when it comes down to it, but I didn’t realise you were so interested in him.”
“Just because I haven’t verbalised anything, doesn’t mean that I wasn’t interested,” Darrell said, turning around, hands on her hips, making her best skirt swing out in a circle.
I reached my target of 100 books in November and finished the year on 119.
The Cat in the Hat Comes Back – Dr Seuss
Christmas Shopaholic (Shopaholic #9) – Sophie Kinsella
The Day the Crayons Came Home – Drew Daywalt
Click, Clack, Moo: Cows that Type – Doreen Cronin
How the Grinch Stole Christmas – Dr Seuss
Undead and Unappreciated (Undead #3) – MaryJanice Davidson
Spark Joy – Marie Kondo
The Exile – Diana Gabaldon
Five Fall Into Adventure – reviewed here and here
Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Slayer Stats – Steve O’Brien
Discovering Scotland’s Lost Railways – Julian Hollans
Undead and Unreturnable (Undead #4) – MaryJanice Davidson
Why is Nothing Ever Simple? (St Mary’s #10.5) – Jodi Taylor
The Making of Outlander: Official Guide to Seasons 1 & 2 – Tara Bennett
The Organised Mum Method – Gemma Bray
And I’ve ended the year with a few unfinished books:
The Naughtiest Girl in the School – I’m doing a text comparison on this one
Hocus Pocus and the All New Sequel – A.W. Jantha
Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte
I’m finding both Hocus Pocus and Jane Eyre a slog, but for different reasons. The first part of Hocus Pocus is based on the film and was a decent writing of it, the second half, however, is a new story. It’s not great and worst of all it’s written in first person present tense. First person is fine, but present tense I hate with a passion. It just sounds so ‘me me me’ in a really shallow teenage way.
My problem with Jane Eyre is that I really can’t stand Rochester. I was enjoying it through her childhood and time at boarding school, but then Rochester showed up… and I find him rude and boring in equal measures. Even the mystery of the crazy woman in the attic hasn’t persuaded me to get past 52% read.
On the plus side I forced myself to finish Spark Joy (actually decent once I picked it up again) and The Exile (still dire) so they’re not hovering on my current read list any more.
What I have watched
Murder She Wrote, season 7 and I’m now onto 8
More of His Dark Materials
A few Christmas films including The Christmas Chronicles
I’ve also been rewatching the last series of Call the Midwife, to refresh my memory for the new series.
What I have done
It has been very cold that that didn’t stop us going out to several parks.
We went to the Transport Museum (again) and got an annual pass to save ourselves some money.
It was my birthday halfway through the month and of course Christmas at the end so a lot of food was eaten and presents opened. There was also the decorating, shopping, wrapping and general organising for Christmas.
I went to see Rock the Halls – a concert of Christmas songs – at my local theatre
I got back into doing jigsaws and did one that I got for Christmas the year before (!), and then I did the one I got this year as well.
It doesn’t sound like a lot but it was a very busy month!
It is likely that the Nature Charts for January will show snowy, frosty days, for as the proverb says, stronger cold comes with the longer days. Keep a list of the sunset times for this month, so that the children may see with interest how each day is a little longer than the one before. They will soon remark, too, how much longer light is there when the sky is clear and how quickly it gets dark when the sky is cloudy.
Enid’s first nature notes in her Book of the Year. I always console myself that, the shortest day of the year falls between the 20th and 23rd of December, and so once Christmas and New Year is over the days are already a bit longer and will just keep on getting longer. I’m already anticipating the days that it’s not dark before 5pm!
For a winter-themed book you can’t beat Round the Year with Enid Blyton – Winter Book. I have it as part of a combined volume titled Round the Year with Enid Blyton which has all four season’s books in it.
It is a guide to all things winter in nature; the whereabouts of all the creatures that are so plentiful in other seasons (and how we can help them), the formation of frost crystals, identifying footprints in the snow, feeding the birds, evergreen trees, and even a bit about astronomy and other things.
First I’ll admit that’s a slightly misleading title as I didn’t actually get any Blytonian presents for my birthday this year – gasp! I did get two Blytonian birthday cards, however.
There are a few cards out there based on the Famous Five for Grown-Up books. My cards were Five Go on a Digital Detox and Five Go to Party Island. They look just like the other books in the series and I actually had to check they weren’t real titles.
That reminds me I have a few of those books that I really must read, if only to write reviews saying how bad they are! Anyway, I fared much better for Christmas
Pepys card game
Famous Five playing cards
These 1950s Pepys cards might look familiar to you. And so they should. I was given a set in 2013 and they had sat on my bookcase in the flat since we moved in 2015. Then last year I realised they were no longer there. I suspect they had fallen off and landed in the bin because I’ve searched everywhere for them. So now I have a nice new set (which is in slightly better condition than the old one, and even has the instructions and all the cards!)
Noddy happy family cards
I actually ordered these myself and gave them to Ewan to put in my stocking. I bid on a Faraway Tree set and a few other things but didn’t win. There are two sets of Noddy cards out there, a snap set by Pepys and this happy families one by Sampson Low (publishers of the Noddy books). This one is also complete and has the instructions.
Noddy party game
This is a Pepys game, a bit like my Famous Five party game but much more simple. The game is to find Noddy’s friends hidden on the cards.
New Class at Malory Towers
This is a short story collection by four different authors, set during Darrell’s time at Malory Towers. It will be interesting to see if any of them capture the essence of the original books.
The Adventure Series Nintendo DS game
This is a bit of a weird one, but I couldn’t resist asking for it as I actually have a (pink) Nintendo DS tucked away in the cupboard. All eight books can be read in full on the DS and you collect jigsaw pieces as you read to unlock puzzles and games. There are also quizzes on the books to unlock more pieces. The books are described as interactive, too, and the box says there are links in the text to view character profiles and play sound effects. The DS has two screens (one is a touch screen), so I imagine you can turn it sideways to read the book, a page to each screen but I suppose I will find out when I play. I will review it, of course, then!
Happy New Year, everyone! Enid Blyton wrote such a wide range of material that it’s hard to find a subject she hasn’t at least touched on. There are, of course, some topics she gave more attention to than others.
New year got a fair amount of attention, after all, it comes around every year! I think she was a fan of resolutions as those are mentioned a few times.
Unfortunately there aren’t a whole lot of illustrations to go with these (mostly early) works so I hope you didn’t have too much to drink before tackling this.
1920s New Years
On New Year’s Resolutions from The Teachers World 1005, Jan 1924
This is a rather serious article, I suspect to be read by the teachers and not their children.
Blyton comes firmly down on the side of resolutions and suggests it’s better to have a positive I will resolution rather than a negative I won’t resolution.
This is a cheery look at how everyone gets a New Year which will brings a fresh start along with all the wonders of spring.
Read it in full here (where you will also find a poem titled New Year Sing-Song).
New Lamps for Old from The Teachers World 1133, Dec 1925
This is a strange one. I’ve not heard the tale of Father Time collecting old lamps for new ones on New Year’s Eve. There’s a poem of that title by Rudyard Kipling but it seems to have a different background. It may be something Enid has made up as the whole article is a huge metaphor where the old lamps represent people who have become jaded and miserly.
The Golden Promise: A New Year Story from The Teachers World 1135, Jan 1926
This is a lovely story, though it has two curious elements. One is that it specifies the year as 1925, and secondly Blyton speaks to the reader near the start. She often addressed the readers at the end of chapters in her adventure novels but here she says I once saw the number written downbut I couldn’t have read it out. Anyway…
The story is of a bored old wizard who has a ton of money but nothing to spend it on. Then at his door arrives a small child – a Little New Year who has fallen from Father Time’s sleigh. He is terribly upset that he is lost in fairyland and won’t reach the mortal world in time for New Year, and even more so that he has lost some of his spring flowers and animals.
The wizard, who at first comes across as somewhat aloof (he may even be a cruel wizard for all we know) suddenly melts at the child’s tears and does all he can to make things better.
I have not done it justice at all in that summary so please do read it for yourself, it’s such a shame it hasn’t been collected anywhere else. There’s no reason the year at the start couldn’t have been changed for a new publication.
New Year Letter from The Teachers World 1261, Jan 1928
This one’s addressed to boys and girls. It combines a couple of her favourite themes: nature and doing good. She extols the joys of the spring to come (she even enjoys January, apparently), and hopes that the children reading will become happier, braver and kinder as the year goes on.
The New Year from The Teachers World 1389, Jan 1930
A short but sweet nature-themed poem (and a few mentions of the New Year in the letter below, too).
A Happy New Year from The Teachers World 1597, Jan 1934
This is another poem, this time about what Gillian would wish for at the New Year.
Poor Mr Tumpy from The Teachers World 1389, Jan 1930
Mr Tumpy is probably one of her less-well-known characters. I’ve not read any of his stories though I know there’s one about him and his caravan. Anyway, Mr Tumpy makes a mistake ala the Three Golliwogs, and tears off too many days on his calendar and thinks it’s New Year’s Day a day early.
A Happy New Year Poem #2 from The Teachers World 1649, Jan 1935
This poem has the same title as the earlier one, but is a different piece. I suppose there are only so many possible titles for New Years’ poems!
This one has a nature-theme as well, and you can read it here.
A Happy New Year! from The Teachers World 1936
A story in which Benny makes a resolution to smile more and it pays off. Read it here.
1940s New Years
New Year’s Party from Enid Blyton’s Book of the Year, 1941
A clever story about three children attending a New Year’s Party. One is selfish and greedy, one is lazy and the other is kind.
Blyton introduces an idea I’ve only ever seen in her work, this one and another story featured later in this post. I assume she is using an old idea from folk tales or somesuch but I really don’t know.
The children go into a candle-lit room and see there are long pictures on the wall, pictures of children doing all sorts of things.
One is spoiled by blots of colour across it and another has lots of unfinished bits. The marked one represents the selfish child’s year, and the marks represent all the times she has been unkind. The unfinished one belongs to the lazy boy, the unfinished portions showing where his laziness has meant he has abandoned tasks.
They then see the picture created by the kind child and hers is unmarred and wonderful.
Yes, it wasn’t just books, poems and magazines Blyton wrote. She did calendars too!
It wouldn’t be of much use to write your appointments or birthdays on as the dates are the smallest part of this calendar. Each month has a few pages of beautifully illustrated poems and nature stories.
For January 1943 there is a New Year poem.
1950s New Years
Father Time and his Pattern Book from Enid Blyton’s Gay Street Book, 1951.
This is one I nearly missed as it doesn’t have New Year in the title! If it hadn’t been for a fellow Blyton fan sharing the contents of the story I wouldn’t have known it even existed as I don’t have a copy of the book.
This is another story that features the idea of children making pictures, or patterns, each year and the picture or pattern showing how ‘good’ or ‘bad’ they have been.
This time there is one child, Robin, who is shown several patterns by Father Time. His brother’s is lovely but spoiled by black dots here and there where he has lost his temper. Another is attractive except where rips show a girl’s cruelty. One is almost all ugly – made up of greed and selfishness, with just one or two bright threads which represent hard work.
Lastly Robin sees his own pattern which is beautiful apart from the grey smudges of lies.
I really do love this pattern/picture idea. If you’ve seen it elsewhere please let me know.
A New Year Promise from Enid Blyton’s Magazine issue 2 volume 1, 1954
As the title may suggest this is a story about resolutions. John always breaks his so his resolution then is to keep any promises he makes. His sister Dinah goads him (perhaps her resolution is to be more encouraging!) that he always forgets and breaks promises but he’s determined. He does well at first, but then forgets he has promised to put fresh straw in the dog’s kennel. He remembers in the night and, eaten with guilt, sneaks down to do it and instead catches two burglars.
The dog gets to sleep inside as a reward for helping and John is forgiven for breaking his promise.
John writes a letter about his story a few pages later. (It is absolutely Dinah in the story, I’ve double-checked!)
This is the last post of the year and of the decade!
You may be pleased to know that’s the end to the Christmas quotes in the Monday posts but I think I’ll move on to wintry ones as having a theme is quite fun.
Enid Blyton at New Year
Birthday/Christmas present roundup for 2019
It was grand fun to be on the ice that clear winter’s morning. Roger fell over quite a lot, and groaned and rubbed himself, quite envious of the others, especially of Snubby. Snubby did not skate as gracefully as either Barney or Diana but he was as usual, full of idiotic tricks, leaping in the air on his skates, twisting himself round in never-ending circles till he fell over in giddiness – and altogether behaving in what Diana called a “very Snubby-ish way.”
From The Rat-A-Tat Mystery.
Five Get Into a Fix is set in the depths of winter and the Five get an extended Christmas break to recover from being ill. They are sent off to Magga Glen which, of course, they find an adventure in. There’s a big house on the hill which has signs warning off trespassers, it also has a strange ‘shimmering’ above it some nights. There’s Aily, who brings notes telling of a woman being held prisoner in her own home. There’s surly Morgan with his booming voice and seven dogs. There is also a lot of fun as they toboggan in the snow and ‘camp’ out in the summer-house above the farm.
Christmas is finally here! This will be the only post this week, as I’m taking the rest of the week off to celebrate and eat too much. (After I’ve cleaned and tidied and wrapped etc!)
I’ll be back on Monday the 30th for the last post of the year, and posting as normal from then on.
Coming up in the next year there will be a new fanfiction story about Darrell’s first date with the suave-yet-secretive Anatoly, a guide to our other recommended children’s authors, and I’ll be carrying on comparing The Naughtiest Girl in the School, reviewing the Famous Five books and sharing letters to Blyton from her magazines. Plus a lot more, which I’ll have to dream up at some point!
Following on from part one of my review now it’s time to see what happens now that the three plus Jo are hunting for George.
Jo being taken off by Jake means that the other three get lost when trying to get out of the woods again, and after going round in circles for hours they have to sleep there. Jo finds them in the night and leads them home in the morning, so there’s about two chapters out of these three which don’t further the story, really.
Perhaps Blyton just felt like we needed a chance of pace after all those hectic event-filled preceding chapters.
Off to Red Tower’s tower
The final assault begins in chapter seventeen with Julian, Dick and Jo taking George’s boat up the coast to find Red Tower’s abode.
You’d think they would be in their element here, exploring the caves that lead from the beach to Red Tower’s house, but it all goes very wrong. They’ve brought their own rope and torches but neither can stop Red from catching them. He orders their boat to be destroyed and for Timmy to be shot.
So shortly Julian and Dick are tied up, Timmy is drugged in the summer house and George is locked in a high room in the Red Tower’s tower.
All about Jo
Jo is pretty much the hero from this point on. OK, so it’s substantially her fault that they are in the situation they are in, but she fixes everything for them.
Having hid when Red Tower catches the boys, she is free to rescue them a short time later. She then scales the tower, rescues George and even takes her place so that George can escape. She stands up to her father and Jake, knowing they’re likely to beat her, and manages to lock them and Red in the tower room before making her own escape.
She’s absolutely fearless and very brave, it has to be said. With everyone free – though Timmy’s still very dopey – they just have to work out how to escape. The lack of a boat is a major problem, of course.
There are several dramatic moments in the final chapters, as they strive to escape. The twist is the boat has not actually been destroyed, but getting to it and getting it in the water becomes the challenge.
Quentin only appears in the first chapter, but there’s a reasonable amount of things I can find to say about him, still.
George tells her cousins that Father’s in quite a good temper. He’s been to America with Mother, lecturing and hearing other scientists lecturing too. Mother says everyone made a great fuss of him, and he liked it.
This is an interesting insight, I would have imagined he would have no time for being fussed over, but I suppose he does have an ego.
It’s also said that The children were fond of him, but held him in great respect. That’s perhaps over-simplifying things. There is certainly respect, and perhaps some fondness, but they also find him frustrating and Anne certainly can be afraid of him.
He is wild about what’s in the newspaper. “Look here, Fanny,” he shouted. “See what they’ve put in this paper – the very thing I gave orders was NOT to be put in! The dolts! The idiots!” He’s so mad, in fact, he doesn’t appear to even notice the children have arrived. Of course, he’s right to be angry, anyone who has read the book before will know that.
Contradicting what George said a mere page or two earlier Quentin is snappish and jumpy, Fanny declares he is as touchy and nervy as can be and it will do [him] good to get away. I suppose his good moods disappear as quickly as his bad moods arrive.
He is, at least, consistent with his forgetfulness. I didn’t know [the children] were coming… you might have told me, Fanny. Of course she has, several times. And regarding going to Spain – Well you might have warned me it was tomorrow!
The next day he spends ages sorting his notebooks while the taxi waits. Eventually he is chased out the door by another call from a reporter, but he’s taking a despatch case of work with him much to Fanny’s dismay.
My questions, comments and nitpicks
This is the fifth Kirrin adventure, and comes after two non-Kirrin ones. It is the end of the summer holidays, they only have two weeks as Julian, Dick and Anne have been in France for six weeks.
The first chapters are such a clever series of tiny events. The newspapers have published details of Quentin keeping his work at home. The adults leave. Jo makes friends with Timmy. The pantry window doesn’t shut. Timmy goes out on his own for a walk at night. George takes him out the next night. Some of these are mentioned well before they become important and everything draws together nicely. You could say it’s all a bit coincidental but it works for me.
Jo spits damson stones at the Five, and I honestly have to admit I’ve never seen or eaten a damson before. I had to Google to make sure I was picturing them correctly.
The Five dig ‘comfortable’ sand holes. It may be my age talking but I can’t imagine a hole in the sand being particularly comfortable.
How funny would it have been if Anne chose an ‘unimportant looking’ notebook for the kidnappers, but it turned out to be the very important American one? (Uncle Quentin gave them to a friend for safekeeping so it’s not possible, but Anne wasn’t to know that.)
I always feel sorry for Sid as it’s after midnight before he goes home, and he has a paper round in the morning! He will be up early for that, I bet.
When the Five are on the beach with the whole place to themselves, they ask why Jo and her father would sit right beside them. Well, a) Jo’s clearly trying to get the measure of them and get in with Timmy and b) that happens everywhere. Park in a deserted bit of car park, someone will park next to you. Sit in an empty cinema row, someone will plonk themselves in front or right next to you. Some people just don’t observe the unwritten social rules!
Looked at with an adult’s critical eye there are some possible flaws surrounding the burglary.
Quentin’s study is fairly trashed, but surely that would have made a lot of noise? It was done in the middle of the night, and while I’m sure they didn’t want to be there for hours surely a careful search through his papers would have been more sensible?
Why did they bother locking the door behind them when they left? That then identified the pantry window as the entry point.
The illustration of Anne and the window shows that the window is not that small at all. Anyone could slide through it feet first, surely?
Julian is described as sensible but he goes off to bed, leaving the front door open for George to return later.
I wonder that there only seems to be one set of keys (unless Quentin or Fanny has taken some away).
Dick’s adventure (following Jo after the parcel is picked up) takes around an hour based on the times given (the notebook is collected at 11 and it is after 12 when they bring Jo inside) but what’s written doesn’t seem like it would have taken nearly as long as that.
A few general nitpicks:
Joanna, the cook, has become Joan. There’s no mention that it’s a new cook, it reads as if it’s the same person. Perhaps she turned 40 and decided to go by a more mature version of her name? Or is it just me who thinks Joanna sounds younger.
All of a sudden George’s boat has a sail. Jo takes the tiller and steers the boat while Dick and Julian look at the map on the way to Red Tower’s, with no mention of rowing. They also take a sail down when they get there. On the way back the row all the way with no mention of a sail. That’s not implausible if the wind is not in their favour but at no point is a sale ever mentioned before this point. I know if I had a sail and had to row I would be lamenting the lack of wind/wind blowing in the wrong direction. Also, there are no illustrations of a sail on George’s boat in this or any preceding book.
I have this ranked as 13th in the series. It doesn’t mean I don’t think it’s a great book, just that there are 12 others I enjoyed more.
If I was to pick the ‘flaw’ that pushes this title down into the bottom half it’s the fact that George is missing for a significant chunk. She goes out with Timmy at the end of chapter 7 (p56) and doesn’t appear again until chapter 18 (p132). That’s 76 George-free pages, and actually 86 without any dialogue from her. Of course Timmy is absent for all those pages too, so that’s three fifths of the Five missing for well over one third of the book. To add to that, Anne is missing for 54 pages (and barely appears for a few before then) which is almost a third of the book.
As much as Jo is a great character the Five books are about the Five, and how they interact and solve problems together.
It’s a pity there isn’t a lot of the Five together (54 pages at the start and 6 at the end!) because there are a lot of good things about this book. As I’ve said earlier I love the fast-paced beginning with all the little details that tie together. I enjoy the scene with Sid, and the escape from Red Tower is a real thrill-ride. I just like my Famous Five books with more Famous Five!
It’s no secret that Eileen Soper is my favourite Blyton illustrator. She is best known for her work on the 21 Famous Five books, both the covers and internal illustrations, but she also illustrated lots of short story collections, a few other novels, jigsaws, card games, nature books and lots more.
So here is a look at the illustrations she has done for various Christmas stories, spanning just over a decade. There are potentially many more but these are just the ones I happen to have myself. You might have seen some of these if you have read my Blyton at Christmas series, but there are new scans as well.
Santa Claus Gets a Shock
from Enid Blyton’s Happy Story Book, 1942
I’ve seen the Famous Five illustrations so many times in my life that I can’t help but see the Five in Soper’s other illustrations. That could just be Anne and George with Santa, had they known each other that young and had Santa dropped in on Kirrin Cottage one Christmas!
The Great Big Snowman
from Enid Blyton’s Happy Story Book, 1942
This isn’t strictly a Christmas story, but snowmen are associated with Christmas and appear on cards. The girl doesn’t resemble anyone from the Famous Five, but the boy with the cold knees could be Dick.
Five Go Adventuring Again
Obviously Soper illustrated the whole book, but of the 32 illustrations (not including the two dust-jackets and the endpapers) there is just the one that depicts anything Christmassy. We can forgive her as so much happens in the book that Christmas is the least exciting part.
Santa Claus Makes a Mistake
from The Green Story Book, 1947
Another Santa with two children by/in a fireplace. I’d say the boy looks like Dick again but the girl is fresh.
The Cracker Fairies
from Enid Blyton’s Lucky Story Book 1947
I’ve never featured this story before – I missed it on my previous searches because it doesn’t have Christmas or Santa in the title. Soper must like Dick Kirrin’s looks because there he is again! In actual fact that is William with his sister, Elsie. They have been ill over Christmas and too miserable to enjoy any of it, until they open some magical crackers.
The Tiny Christmas Tree
from Tales After Supper, 1949
Compare this to the little Christmas tree from Miss Brown’s Class below, it’s very similar. (I have a 1962 edition of Tales After Supper which I think is of a cheaper making, hence the awful colour of the paper).
Enid Blyton’s Book of the Year, 1950
The first edition of this book was illustrated by Harry Rountree, illustrator of the first two books in the Cherry Tree/Willow Farm series (coincidentally, Soper illustrated the third book), The Secret Mountain and around eight other lesser known Blyton titles.
Eileen Soper then freshly illustrated the whole book for the 1950 reprint. I have the 1952 reprint which has the same Soper illustrations. Normally I date the book as 1941 (as I have done in my Blyton at Christmas series) but as I’m really looking at the illustrations I’m dating it as 1950 this time.
One Christmas Eve
This is perhaps less recognisable as it has no people in it, but I can still see Soper’s style in the castle (she’s drawn enough of them over the years!)
The Little King
This I can’t really recognise as Soper’s work. Poor baby jesus looks a little awkward without a neck.
Baby Jesus looks a little more natural here, and the animals are certainly Soper.
A Christmas Tale
Soper’s girls certainly have more variety to their looks!
The Christmas Tree
The three Santa Clauses we have had so far from Soper look very much as if they are the same person.
What They Did at Miss Brown’s School
What they did was make a Christmas cake, as above, and a little Christmas tree for the birds, shown below. Above we have Dick, Anne with longer hair, George and an unknown child.
The Christmas-Tree Party
from Tricky the Goblin and Other Stories, 1950
Showing the pictures alone here you could almost read it as a comic with little to no text, the illustrations show the story so well. There’s a young Anne (it’s really Janey) and her brother Dick (really Robin) and the child in the first image really makes me think of Fairuza Baulk. The changing colours between illustrations is funny as it looks like Janey has two identical outfits, one in red and one in pink.
Enid Blyton’s Bright Story Book, 1952
There are two stories in this one – one of which I have featured in my Blyton at Christmas, and one which I managed to miss entirely despite it having Christmas in the title.
Santa Claus Gets Busy
No people but a very Soper-ish castle in this one.
One Christmas Eve
I hope you’ve enjoyed looking at Eileen Soper’s Christmas works.
There were trees about three feet high, just big enough for a small nursery. Then there were rows of bigger trees, whose branches could take quite a lot of toys and ornaments. Then there were bigger trees still for parties – the kind of Christmas trees that almost touch the ceiling of the drawing-room, and look simply wonderful when they have candles lighted.
And largest of all were the trees that were sold for school-parties – the sort that tower right up high, and hold hundreds of presents and sparkle like magic.
Who knew there were so many kinds of Christmas tree? From The Tiny Christmas Tree in Tales After Supper.
Janey, from The Christmas-Tree Party is a little girl who is a bit of a voyeur, actually, but a nice, honest one. She isn’t invited to the party in the house across the street but she watches it all being set-up in awe, exclaiming over all the lovely decorations and food. Meanwhile, her brother Robin is sulky and jealous about it. Being voyeuristic means that Janey sees the Christmas tree about to fall on the dining table and rushes over to warn her neighbours. Her good deed earns her an invite to the party, while sulky Robin has to stay home and sulk even more.
Letters page from Volume 2, issue 7. March 31st-April 13 1954
A letter from Sunbeam Christine Warren, 51 Central Road, Wembley.
Dear Enid Blyton, Today I left my big china doll, Daphne, in her cradle sitting up with my Enid Blyton’s Magazine in her hands, and I went downstairs to tea. When I came up she looked as if she was reading it. I looked to see what page it was open at and she was looking at the News Sheet, straight at the place of the Sunbeams’ News, looking as if she would like to be a Sunbeam. So I enclose a postal order for her badge. Daphne is about 27 years old and I hope she is allowed to join. Love from Christine.
(I am delighted to have Daphne for a Sunbeam as well as you, Christine!)
A letter from Margery Wallace, Leith Hill Place Farm, Holmebury St. Mary, Surrey.
Dear Miss Blyton, When I knew that March 18th was the first birthday of our Magazine I said to my friends: “Those of us who are members of the F.F., will drink a toast on that day for its birthday. We will each bring a glass and a nice little bottle of cherry-ade, and at “break” we will sit on the forms and I will make a speech, and we will all stand and drink the toast.” They thought it was a good idea and I hope you will too. Love from Margaret Wallace.
(I think it’s a splendid idea, Margaret, thank you very much!)
3. A letter from Margaret Paterson and Lorna Coad, 75 Tudor Gardens, West Acton.
Dear Miss Blyton, We are fond readers of your magazine and books, especially “The Famous Five.” We have a club which is called “The Adventurous Club,” and we use the F.F.’s Club badge. When we write to each other we use invisible ink or secret codes. For our clubroom we use an attic. Much love from Margaret and Lorna
(This excellent little club is typical of many. Good luck to it!)
Such nice letters this week, and they make a refreshing change from the frequently seen letters about how much money has been raised by the writers.
Continuing the theme, I thought I’d have a nosy in the magazines for more Christmassy things. I’ve included some crafts and stories in some other posts but I have some new magazines to look through, and there are other things I’ve not used before.
Naturally Blyton references Christmas in several of her letters at the start of magazines published in November and December.
And now I must send some special messages of my own to my readers. First, the Famous Five Club members: Happy Christmas, Famous Five Members, and may you enjoy the next adventures of Julian, George, Dick, Anne – and Timmy! Thank you more than I can say for all the help you have given to our little Children’s Home this year. You really are good friends.
Next, the Busy Bees. Happy Christmas to all my Bees, and may you buzz loudly and often in the coming year! Thank you very much indeed for all your kindness to animals and birds this year, and your really splendid work.
And last the Sunbeams, our newest Society. Happy Christmas, Sunbeams, and may you shine brightly in the months to come. Thank you with all my heart for the way your are helping our little Blind Children.
And now to every one of my readers, big and small, I send my warm wishes for a wonderful time at Christmas – plenty of cards, children, a stocking full to the top on Christmas morning, a fine Christmas pudding, Christmas tree, balloons and crackers! I must wish you a Happy New Year too, because it will be in 1954 before I write to you again.
– Vol 1 Issue 21, Dec 23 1953
DEAR BOYS AND GIRLS,
Only a little more than four weeks and Christmas will be here! I have had many letters from you, telling me of your Christmas plans – and I am very pleased to hear that o many of you are thinking more of that to give other people than of what you are going to have yourselves! Some of you are suggesting that you might send toys to our little Children’s Home here, but as the generous Famous Five Club members have, as usual, send me almost enough money to buy new toys for every one of our small children, I suggest that you send your toys to the Evening News, who are asking for Christmas Toys for Sick Children… I know they will be grateful. The toys will go to children ill in hospital, of course.
And now I must tell you some news you have been waiting for. I told you that my pantomime “Noddy in Toyland” is to be performed again this Christmas – and that I had written another play also, for older children, about the Famous Five. Well, we are now busily rehearsing for both plays – and they will both be in the same theatre, one in the afternoon (Noddy) and one in the early evening (Famous Five), and the theatre is – PRINCES THEATRE in London. I know that hundreds of you could not see “Noddy in Toyland” [I think there are a few words missing here!] telling you early, in order that any of my readers may be sure of seats at either of the plays.
– Vol 3 Issue 23, Nov 23 1955
DEAR BOYS AND GIRLS,
Now that we are in December I expect you are all thinking of the excitements of Christmas-time – the carol-singing, gay cards arriving, mysterious parcels – the Christmas tree and the Christmas pudding – parties and pantomimes! It really is a merry time, isn’t it? I have already had my first Christmas cards – they came from abroad, where they had to be posted early – and they must have caught a fast boat because they certainly arrived in good time. One is from South Africa, two from New Zealand, and three from Australia. I wish I could post cards back to the kind senders, but they wouldn’t get there in time.
As you can guess, I am very, very busy now, not only with Christmas, but with rehearsals for the two plays… which must be ready to be performed the week before Christmas. We haven’t much time left!…
There will be another number of the magazine for you before Christmas, so I shall be able to give you my Christmas wishes there. We shall all be feeling very excited by then, shan’t we?
– Vol 3 Issue 24, Dec 7 1955
There is also another letter from Father Christmas in Vol 2 Issue 26.
While Sunny Stories was advert-free from what I’ve seen, Enid Blyton’s Magazines have quite a lot of adverts. Some are for her own books, and lots of others for Noddy toys, but there are plenty for other toys of the time as well as adverts for sweets and chocolates.
Here are a selection of Christmas-themes adverts I’ve picked out (some are similar to ones that had already been running with ‘perfect for Christmas’ type wording added!).
Three consecutive years (1853, 1954 and 1955) feature a list of books which would make good Christmas gifts.
Of course an Enid Blyton book is at the top of each of these lists! Malcolm Saville features on them all as well.
The Children of Green Meadows even gets its own advertising space in 1954, after being serialised.
These are just some of the Noddy adverts – if I’d shown all the ones from November/December issues we’d have been here all day. I’ve just picked the ones that say ‘Christmas’ in them. Also in there is an advert for the Enid Blyton Diary.
And here are a couple of confectionery adverts which feature Christmas. The comic-style one is for Mars and tells the story of a boy who dreams that Santa only gives Mars bars to boys who help others. The boy then goes carol-singing for the children’s hospital and is rewarded with a Mars bar.
The Palm toffee bar advert is a good example of the times Enid was living in – and why she used golliwogs so often. You can see along the bottom that the banana split flavour is illustrated by a banana, the fruit and nut by a strawberry, and the chocolate and liquorice flavours with a golliwog’s face (I assume as they are ‘dark’ or ‘brown’ flavours). That’s far worse than anything Blyton ever wrote! I’ll stop there as this is supposed to be a Christmas post not a debate about racism in her books.
And some other bits
If you do decide to make skittles out of cotton reels I’d advise you to leave off the stereotypical ‘Chinaman’ additions. You could easily paint them in reds and greens with more pointed hats as elves, or in red, black and white with a cotton-wool beard and red hat for Santa.
Possibly the least-festive Christmas greeting I’ve ever seen!
Hallo, hallo, here’s Santa Claus,
He’s come to see you all because
To-morrow’s Christmas Day!
So bring the ducks and bears and gollies,
Motor-cars and books and dollies,
Crackers bright and gay.
One of Santa’s songs from Santa Claus Gets Busy.
Margery from The Enormous Stocking is painted as greedy and piggish. And to be fair – she probably is, as she always takes the largest portion and the best toys. Her Christmas list is also very very long. Saying that – her solution, knitting an enormous stocking – is not only clever but very industrious. She works long and hard to make a big enough stocking for all she wants and it’s quite harsh that all she gets is vegetables in it! I think her ingenuity should have been rewarded at least a little bit.
Off this list I do not recommend The Four Streets as it was dire, and unless you’re a fan of at least a few of the authors in Bite (I was only reading for the MaryJanice Davidson story from the Undead series) I wouldn’t go for that either. I’d already read the Charlaine Harris entry and the others were pretty awful.
What I have watched
More of Taskmaster
Tiny House Nation on Netflix where people build very small homes, usually on trailers.
Murder She Wrote, season six
The start of the new adaptation of His Dark Materials
George Clarke’s Old House New Home and some of Grand Designs House of the Year
Some of Tutankhamun with Dan Snow which explored possible reasons for the pharaoh dying so young, his less than stellar burial rooms and other mysteries.
What I have done
Hosted International Games Week at my work and did a few games events
Visited the wildlife park
Hosted International Games Week at work
More trips to increasingly damp playparks
Did a few rather muddy walks in the woods
Educated Brodie on Christmas songs by putting the music channels on
Did some Christmas shopping (but not enough!)
Went to our annual Christmas event and Brodie was not impressed by Santa
What I have bought
I’ve been back on eBay again – much to my bank balance’s horror! I’ve bought ten more of Enid Blyton’s Magazine, as I’m trying to fill the gaps in volume 2 so that I don’t have to skip any letters pages. I also bought two Mary Mouse strip books from the same seller as I couldn’t resist.
Please excuse the terrible photos, I only have time to take blog photos after dark these days!