Letters to Enid part 18

Previous letters pages can be found here.


Letters page from Volume 2, issue 6. March 17th-30th 1954.

OUR

LETTER PAGE

 1. A letter from  Sunbeam Susam Biffen, 11a Hazel Road, Rubery, Birmingham
Dear Miss Blyton,
We are sending you £2 os. 8d. for the little Blind Children. I enclose one News-Sheet, showing how we made this money. Gifts – 18s. 1d. … Earned Money – 11s. 7d. … Puzzle Money – 7s. 10d. … Pocket Money – 3s. 2d. Don’t forget we are always ready to help anyone, you can call on any of us.
Ann, Jane, John, Marlene, Barry, Edward, Brian and Susan. (Sunbeams.)

(What a splendid little band! I am proud of each of you.)

2. A letter from Freda Whale, 53 Clifton Road, Weston-super-Mare.
Dear Enid Blyton,
One day my Uncle Fred found an old sun hat. He put it on and said, “What would people say if I went on the sea-front with this on my head?” And Jimmy, my budgie, said, “Pretty boy!”
Love from,
Freda Whale.

(Your budgie is clever enough to put into a story, Freda!)

3. A letter from Patricia English, Melbur House School, Fore Street, Tregony.
Dear Miss Blyton,
Thank you for our Sunbeam badges. The school is now shining with badges. We are delighted with them and our teacher says she is quite dazzled. All the pupils in our school are now Sunbeams.
Yours sincerely,
Patricia English.

(Yours is the first school in which everyone is a Sunbeam, Patricia. My warm congratulations.)

4. A letter from Doreen Burton, Hole Farm Bungalow, Wareside, Ware.
Dear Enid Blyton,
One day when Mummy was out shopping she bought me one of your magazines. She didn’t know it, but it was the first one out! I liked it so much that she ordered it for me, and I have had it ever since.
Lots of love from, Doreen Burton.

(What a good thing your mother saw it, Doreen! You are one of our oldest readers.)


Four letters this week, and some boys again, even if they didn’t write the letter.

 

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Monday #245

This is the last week before I start on the Christmas posts, you have been warned!

Letters to Enid part 18

and

Updates to the Naughtiest Girl part 3

The Mystery of Banshee Towers is the fifteenth and final Five-Find Outer book. It is fairly widely regarded as the worst of the series and a weak mystery but I don’t think it’s as bad as all that. It’s not my least favourite of the series at any rate.

Banshee Towers is an art gallery which is supposed to be haunted by a wailing banshee. Naturally the Find Outers are curious about this phenomenon and visit, only to become involved in a mystery regarding stolen paintings.

Snubby, real name Peter, would irritate me if I ever met him in real life. Despite that I think he gets rather a harder time than he deserves. He is an orphan who spends school holidays rotating between various aunts and uncles, some of whom seem to rather unwelcoming.

Despite that the best for for Snubby is irrepressible. He is always cheerful and full of mischief. He plays the fool most of the time but he would never play a trick with malice. His best friend is his utterly mad spaniel called Loony.

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October 2019 round up

The blog turned 7 years old on Tuesday, so happy birthday to us!


What I have read

I’ve read a lot more this month. I’ve now read 88, so I’m 5 ahead of schedule. Two months left in the year and only 12 books left to read! (I won’t stop if I reach 100 before December 31st of course.)

  • Something Rotten (Thursday Next #4) – Jasper Fforde
  • The Wartime Midwives – Daisy Styles
  • Bridget Jones’s Diary – Helen Fielding
  • Miss Nightingale’s Nurses (Nursing #1) – Kate Eastham
  • Five Get Into Trouble – reviewed here
  • A Mystery for Ninepence – Phyllis Gegan, reviewed here
  • First Among Sequels (Thursday Next #5) – Jasper Fforde
  • The Mystery of the Vanishing Skeleton (Mystery Island #6) – Helen Moss, recommended here.
  • The Liverpool Nightingales (Nursing #2) – Kate Eastham
  • Mr Lemoncello’s All Star Breakout (Mr L’s Library #4) – Chris Gabenstein
  • The Foyles Bookshop Girls at War (The Foyles Girls #2) – Elaine Roberts.
  • The Bomb Girls (The Bomb Girls #1) – Daisy Styles

And I’m still working on:

  • The Naughtiest Girl in the School – I’m doing a text comparison on this one
  • The Exile: An Outlander Graphic Novel – Diana Gabaldon
  • The Four Streets (Four Streets #1) by Nadine Dorries

I’m really struggling with the graphic novel – I find it really hard to work out what’s going on and who is who!


What I have watched

  • Hollyoaks
  • Finished ER, and felt very sad about it.
  • Only Connect
  • More of Taskmaster
  • Some more of the Letdown
  • The Dark Crystal Resurgence on Netflix. I love the film – though I didn’t discover it was a film until I was about fifteen. I’d had a book based on the film and loved it, so I was amazed to find a DVD in a shop and discover there was a film!
  • The Bookshop, a 2017 film starring Emily Mortimer and Bill Nighy
  • Murder She Wrote, seasons five and six

What I have done

  • Visited the Botanic Gardens
  • Gone to several parks
  • Been to the beach in our coats, hats and boots
  • Gone on some very muddy woodland walks
  • Visited the deer at the Scottish Deer Centre
  • Started my Christmas shopping nice and early!
  • Recycled a lot of crisp packets

What I have bought

A new section which won’t appear every month (thankfully for my bank balance).

This month I’ve rediscovered eBay and bought:

  • The Third Holiday Book
  • The Rabbit’s Party and Other Stories

I needed these to help complete the two series they belong to, so I’m down to missing one from each – The Holiday Book and Susan and the Birds and Other Stories. Neither has a dust jacket and both are a little tatty but they were both well under £5 each so I am very pleased.

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My twenty-sixth Noddy book: The second Big Noddy Book

Seeing as it’s Noddy’s 70th anniversary this month I thought I would look at the only Noddy book I have but haven’t yet reviewed.


About the book

The second Big Noddy Book, is as the name suggests, a large volume like an annual. Published in 1952 it has pictures by Beek, the original Noddy illustrator.

In her preface Blyton says:

This is little Noddy’s second Big Book. You liked the first one so much that he thought you would like another. Isn’t he lucky to have Little Books about him, and Big Books, too?

In fact she would go on to write another six big books, and eighteen more little books, not to mention the many many other stories, picture strips, board books etc she wrote about Noddy.


The contents

There is a mix of things, though perhaps not as much variety as some of her other annual-type books. They were all specially written for the book, rather than being taken from her magazines, and as far as I can tell none of them have been re-used (unless their names have been changed. There is a story titled Well, Really, Noddy in a later magazine but it’s not the same story), making this an even nicer book to have.

There are eight short stories, around five pages each: A-tishoo, Noddy and the Little Dolls, Noddy and the Squeaker, Stop Noddy Stop!, Noddy’s Tail, Noddy is Quite Clever, Big-Ears’ Red Hat, and Noddy and the Moon.

The other three stories are in picture-stip format, and those are: Where’s Your Car Noddy?, Well Really Noddy!, and Noddy Gets a Shock.

A Picture to Colour is exactly as it sounds – a colouring page, Can You Find the Twins? is a picture-puzzle and Noddy’s Car is a poem.


The stories

In A-tishoo! Noddy catches a cold – or as he says, a cold has caught him.

His poor car then catches it and Noddy takes care of it by pouring hot water and lemon into its water tank and keeping it warm under a blanket.

In Noddy and the Little Dolls, Noddy is asked to take nine(!) little doll children out for a picnic. Noddy’s car is a marvellous thing clearly as he can drive it with a picnic hamper under his feet (not to mention its ability to catch the cold!). They have a lovely time and a wonderful picnic;

Egg sandwiches, tomato sandwiches, banana sandwiches. Chocolate biscuits, ginger biscuits. Fruit cake and ginger cake. Lemonade and orangeade.

Now I love a banana sandwich but they don’t keep well for long, so I hope they are all right by the time they ate their picnic!

Anyway, when it comes to home-time Noddy carefully counts the dolls to make sure he has them all. But alas! He remembers there are ten of them in total but can only count nine. He is terribly apologetic when he returns the little dolls to Mrs. Jolly-Doll but she laughs. Silly Noddy forgot to count himself!

In Noddy and the Squeaker Noddy goes to a party at Mrs. Fluffy-Doll’s. He wins a squeaker in a cracker and puts it in his pocket without realising what it does.

The squeaker ends up falling into the lining of his shorts and making a noise every time Noddy sits down, and he gets more and more upset thinking he keeps sitting on a cat. Eventually Big-Ears solves the mystery for him.

Noddy borrows Big-Ears’ bicycle in Stop, Noddy, Stop! because his car is in the garage being mended. He stops to buy Big-Ears an ice cream as a thank-you but when he rides back an elephant chases him shouting Stop! and It’s mine!

If you look closely at the two illustrations I’ve included I think you’ll all be able to see why, and it has nothing to do with the ice cream.

In Noddy’s Tail, Noddy finds a tail lying on the road and tries it on for fun. He then forgets about it and takes a clockwork mouse to the train station.

Everyone has a good laugh at his expense – except the owner who comes to claim his property!

Noddy is Quite Clever has Noddy going to tea with Mrs Tubby and Miss Tibby. Miss Tibby is upset as she has had an unpleasant time at the shoe-shop as the toy serving her laughed at her clawless back paws.

Noddy, desperate for some of Mrs Tubby’s chocolate cake, fashions some claws from rose thorns and presents them to Miss Tibby.

In Big-Ears’ Red Hat, Big-Ears’ loses his hat when Noddy drives him very quickly down a hill. Noddy tries his best to find the hat, but all the red things he spots belong to other people.

Just as Big-Ears is getting very cross they arrive back at his house to find the wind has returned his hat for him!

And lastly in Noddy and the Moon, Noddy is at his most foolish as he tries to catch the moon’s reflection in a pond.


The picture-strips

In Where’s Your Car, Noddy? Noddy’s car goes missing – having floated away on a big bunch of balloons!

Then in Well, Really, Noddy, Noddy (who really shouldn’t be allowed to drive!) crashes into a toy house and demolishes it. Seeing as it’s made of building blocks it isn’t too hard to put it together again but he can’t find the chimney. Then follows a lengthy series of visits to different people. Mr Bricks the builder will give Noddy a chimney if he brings him two eggs, the farmer will give him two eggs if he brings him a ladder, and so on. He completes all these tasks – luckily the farmer gives him some milk without  payment of any sort or the story might never have ended – and Noddy gets his chimney.

Only, the house never had a chimney to start with, so he gives it to Mr Tubby for his hen-house.

Noddy Gets a Shock seems to feature his car as well –  I wonder what disaster can possibly befall it now! Well, it seems to have disappeared from in front of the ice cream shop! He and Mr Plod search all over the town for it and hear that a brownie was seen driving it. It turns out that Big-Ears saw it outside the shop for so long he thought that Noddy had forgotten it and took it home for him. Normally Big-Ears is much more sensible than that!


A colouring page, a puzzle and a poem

The colouring page has been mostly done already.

The puzzle is a nice one – all the Beek drawings in this book are great actually;

And here’s the poem;


This is a really lovely book. I often find Noddy a bit tiresome but these stories are so short he doesn’t have time to mope or howl or be annoying. His problems also get solved nice and quickly so he doesn’t seem quite so idiotic!

There are hundreds of lovely illustrations throughout, which makes it very bright and colourful too.

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Monday #244

Noddy is 70 years old this month! His first book, Noddy Goes to Toyland was published in November 1949. I thought we would have a bit of a Noddy theme today and a review of a Noddy book on Wednesday to celebrate.

The Big Noddy book #2

and

October round up

Oh, Wind, you’re very rough today,
You blow the clouds along,
You puff my chimney smoke away
And sing a windy song.
You shake the washing to and fro,
You make me dance and sing,
You take my little bells and blow
To make it jingle-jing!
Oh, it is a happy thing
To have a little bell to ring!

One of Noddy’s songs from Noddy and Tessie Bear.

Toyland is full of towns and villages populated by toys. There is Toy Village where Noddy lives, Bouncing Ball Village, Golliwog Town, Humming-Top Village, Wooden-Engine Village, Doll’s-house Town, Skittle Town, Toy-Cat Village, Noah’s Ark Town, Rocking Horse Town, Clockwork Clown Village and Toy-Dog Town amongst many others.

Apart from Toy Village the rest are populated by a single type of toy.

 

 

 

 

 

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The Naughtiest Girl in the School: How has Blyton’s original text fared in a modern edition? Part 2

You can find part one, chapters 1-4, 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 V Elizabeth is Naughty / CHAPTER FIVE ELIZABETH IS NAUGHTY

Something I didn’t note the last time, the first word of each chapter is capitalised in the original, the first two in the paperback. I’ve never understood the need for capitalising any words at the start of chapters, to be honest.

I also forgot to mention the punctuation differences. The hardback uses double quotation marks, the paperback single. The hardback also uses a long M dash and the paperback the short N dash.

The only edit to this chapter is changing queer for strange. The same substitution as the other time it has been used so far.

Interestingly Elizabeth still kicks the monitor over, and he still pulls her hair. Usually slaps/kicks/any sort of violence is removed or toned down, like when Darrell slaps Gwen in the first form.

The paperback has its first proper illustration in this chapter, showing the same scene as one from the hardback, Elizabeth kicking the monitor. As there are only four different chapter title vignettes, they start to repeat from this chapter and I won’t bother including them again.

I have many questions about the new illustration. First is, did Elizabeth need a step-ladder to get up on such a high swing, and if she kicks the boy surely she’d get him in the face at that height? The rest concern her outfit. Why is she wearing stripy stockings? The text repeatedly refers to brown stockings. Why is her skirt tartan? That doesn’t match the description of her uniform either. It’s after Easter, so why is she wearing a scarf?


CHAPTER VI Elizabeth joins her Class / CHAPTER SIX ELIZABETH JOINS HER CLASS

The mere threat of violence is removed from this chapter. Nora originally threatens that she will spank you with a hairbrush. This becomes give you what for. Both are followed by Monitors do that sometimes, you know! which makes much more sense in the first example, seeing as she’s already spoken quite severely to Elizabeth before.

After that Elizabeth felt that she couldn’t bear to be spanked by Nora, but that then becomes Elizabeth felt like she couldn’t bear to test Nora’s threat. Why not? She’s intending to push as many boundaries as she can to be sent home!


CHAPTER VII The First School Meeting / CHAPTER SEVEN THE FIRST SCHOOL MEETING

As before all references to the pocket money has changed from two shillings to two pounds. 

All references to money after that also have to be changed, but of course, they get changed with little consistency or thought.

Shillings and sixpences, half-crowns and even a ten-shilling note or two went into the big box becomes Pound coins and fifty pences, five pounds and even a ten pound note or two went into the big box. The sentence begins with Money clinked into [the box] which works better with the longer list of coins and the rarity of a note.

Elizabeth’s money started out as Six shillings, two half-crowns and five sixpences. In the paperback it is Six pound coins, two fifty pence pieces and five twenty pence pieces. Initially they seem to be replacing every shilling with a pound, but a half-crown is two and a half shillings, not half a shilling, so replacing them with fifty pence pieces greatly reduces how much Elizabeth had. Elizabeth had thirteen shillings and six pence, so she should have put in thirteen pounds and fifty pence, surely?

There are two requests for money at this first meeting.

I should like sixpence extra becomes I should like sixty pence extra. Again sixpence should equal fifty pence if two shillings equals two pounds.

Then May I have one and ninepence extra to pay for an electric light bulb? is changed to May I have ninety pence extra… Surely that’s £1.90 by the editors logic (if one shilling is one pound, and sixpence becomes sixty)? But if actual logic is applied, based on the 1s=£1, it would be £1.75, as nine pence is 3/4 of a shilling. Oddly they still specify electric light bulb in the paperback, as if there would be another kind!

What doesn’t change is that the request for six/sixty pence is to go towards a new gramophone!

Also inconsistent is the use of form. When describing the room it’s said that all the children are sitting on forms. Forms are also mentioned later in the chapter. Yet, the line Ruth saw the purse on the form is changed to Ruth saw the purse on the floor. If they didn’t think children would know what a form was, why not change all uses to bench? Why change one to floor, when it’s already been said that Elizabeth pushed the purse under herself and sat on it?

The one queer in this chapter is also changed to strange (hardly widening the vocabulary!).

There’s another illustration for this chapter, and again they’ve shown the same scene.

I’m still baffled by the uniform. The other girls seem to be wearing leggings instead of stockings, and Elizabeth has knee length leggings over her stripy stockings? There’s a whole page dedicated to Elizabeth arguing about wearing her socks instead of stockings. Surely, SURELY, if she then wore stripy stockings instead of plain Nora would have had something to say about it? It’s like the illustrator either didn’t read the book, or just didn’t care that her work doesn’t match the text. They’re also sitting on chairs and not forms.


CHAPTER VIII The First Week at School / CHAPTER EIGHT THE FIRST WEEK AT SCHOOL

There are more references to gramophones and records in this chapter, but only one of them is changed from She wondered if they had the gramophone record to just the record. Records would still have been a very outdated term in 2012! I know records have had an upsurgence lately as people like the sound of them but it’s a reasonably niche and specialist interest and it’s unlikely that schools or girls of 10 would be in the record buying club.

It’s said that the children can go to the cinema once a week, which got me wondering if that was likely on £2 a week. I decided in the end it was possibly, if they went to a special kids club showing (Odeon, Cineworld and many of the other big chains do these for £1.50-£2.50 on weekend mornings). They’d not be able to buy any popcorn or sweets, though!


The count

Some things are changed more than once, but they are the same change and only get counted once:

Already counted:

Roman numerals to words
Case change for chapter titles
Removal of hyphens from good-bye, to-day, etc
Removal of italics for emphasis
Queer to strange

New:

Extra word capitalised at start of chapter
Quotation marks
Dash length

Total: 3

Unique changes (some of which will move to the above list if I see more examples later):

Spank with a hairbush to give what for
Be spanked to test her threat
List of money going into box
Elizabeth’s money
Request for sixpence
Request for one and nine
Form to floor
Gramophone record to record

Total: 8

Total this post: 11

Over all total : 25

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Remember, remember the fifth of November

Remember, remember!
The fifth of November,
The gunpowder treason and plot.
There is no reason
Why the gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot!

Blyton clearly agreed as she featured Bonfire Night/Guy Fawkes Night several times in different books, stories and poems. That or she just found it a good inspiration for writing!

I’ve already written one post featuring various excerpts from books and stories about bonfires, guys and fireworks. We’ve also already posted a couple of poems, The Bonfire at Night and Firework Night.


On Bonfire Night

On Bonfire Night is the first story in volume 1, issue 17 of Enid Blyton’s Magazine. It runs for eight pages so I won’t reproduce it in full here.

on bonfire night

Health and safety clearly being a concept unknown in 1953, six children have saved up their money to club together and buy a load of fireworks to go with their bonfire. (Blyton does work in a lengthy warning about keeping pets indoors, however). They plan to make a magnificent guy and invite lots of friends to share their fireworks with.

Once they have saved a whole pound they go to the toy shop and buy a selection of fireworks. Some of the possible choices were Rockets, Roman Candles, Big-Flashes, Swish-Bangs, Catherine Wheels and Bang-Jumpers.

Bonfire Night arrives but Harry, one of the group, is so eager to have fun he starts setting off fireworks on the way to the bonfire site. He scares a horse which goes running off, and George, the main character of the story ends up spending bonfire night in a ditch taking care of the frightened horse and so misses the fireworks.

He and the rest of his group – except Harry of course – get another bonfire night courtesy of the farmer and his wife.

An interesting moral tale for modern readers! Children can buy fireworks and light them, just as long as they don’t throw them at horses or forget to shut the cat in a room!


A letter from Bimbo

In the same issue as On Bonfire Night Blyton sends the ‘take care of your pets’ message via Bimbo, her Siamese cat.

 


Bonfire Night is Coming

Enid Blyton’s Magazine volume 2 issue 22 comes a year after volume 1 issue 17, so Bonfire Night has come around again.

In this one David is a member of a fireworks club, but he is the poorest member and can’t contribute to the funds. He thinks that’s not fair of him and proposes to resign but the others insist he stays, and makes his contribution by collecting firewood and things to burn on the bonfire.

He works very hard and collects twigs from the woods, cardboard boxes, old bits of furniture and even a mouldy old cushion. As it turns out the cushion contains a load of cash, and upon returning it to its owner he gets to keep ten whole pounds. He can then buy some fireworks and put the rest aside for his mother’s birthday and other nice things.


A letter from David

David, the boy from Bonfire Night is Coming writes a letter in a similar vein to Bimbo last year. (Though strangely they’ve squeezed it in thirteen pages before the actual story and it rather gives away the ending!)


The Firework Club

Two years later in volume 4, issue 20 The Fireworks Club follows a very similar pattern to Bonfire Night is Coming.

Tom is also part of a fireworks club, his family aren’t as poor as David’s but he gets very little pocket money. The money he does earn doing chores he spends on flowers for his sick grandmother, replacing his little sisters’ lost pocket money, and nylons for his mother’s birthday.

His group are also kind, however, and insist that he still comes to the firework night but won’t be allowed to light any as he has contributed the least money.

His good deed is finding a dropped box of fireworks and returning them to the owner instead of keeping them for his club. His reward is an invitation to a grand fireworks party the next night.

You can read the story in full here.


A letter from Enid

Enid Blyton’s Magazine volume 5 issue 23 is another November issue. Enid begins with her usual letter to her readers which includes another warning about caring for pets on bonfire night.


One Bonfire Night

Also in volume 5 issue 23 is One Bonfire Night. Despite the name being similar to the first story in this post, and it is about caring for animals again, it’s a very different story.

First it’s set in the made up Village of Tick-Tack, which is populated by little folk and witches. The little folk are most anxious that their bonfire night with fireworks not upset any animals so they send a bell-man though the village to warn everyone to keeps their cats, dogs and ponies etc inside.

Witch Green-Eyes is incensed at being told what to do and refuses to keep her cat, Cinders, in. Well, poor Cinders is scared out of her wits and runs away. She finds a nice new owner and never returns to help Witch Green-Eyes with her spells.

Read the whole story here.


Noddy and the Bonfire

Readers got a second bonfire story in the next issue as well, though since this magazine came out on November 20th it’s not a bonfire night story.

Noddy and Big-Ears light a bonfire to burn all their rubbish (a concept which might seem a bit strange today.)  Big-Ears is very firm that Noddy must not light the fire himself. Noddy loves the bonfire so much that he then goes and lights the Bear family’s rubbish heap next door. Mrs Bear is quite happy that it has been done, because it has started raining, but Bruiny Bear howls because he’s hidden a birthday present in the rubbish and now it’s gone.

Poor Noddy has to pay all his saved money to Bruiny to replace it. I actually feel quite sorry for Noddy as there’s no way he could have known about the present and it’s a rather silly place to have hidden it. But then he does light the fire for selfish reasons rather than genuinely wanting to help!

You can read the story in full here.


Adventure for a Guy (a short story)

Volume 6 issue 23 is another November issue, with another seasonal story. This is more of a mystery tale, involving Peter and George (but not of the Secret Seven).

They chat to a newspaper seller who complains that his money keeps getting stolen when he goes for a cup of tea. He won’t give up his tea, and he must leave the tin for people to put money in as they take papers, so what can he do?

Nobody would steal if there was a policeman watching, but that would only prevent a theft not catch the thief. What he needs, he says, is an invisible man.

Peter dresses as a guy and George wheels him into position near the newspaper stand. With George inside a shop, Peter watches lots of honest people putting in a penny and taking a paper. Then someone else comes along and steals the whole lot!

Luckily Peter recognises who it is and they can confront him later.

There’s a nice little bit about the boys honesty here – they’ve promised not to ever beg for money with a guy so if anyone gives them anything they’ll give it to the newspaper man.

Read the story in full here.


Bonfires (a poem by Enid Blyton)

I don’t have access to many Sunny Stories but number 44 has a poem about Bonfires, which hasn’t been published anywhere else.

When dark November comes along
And leaves are falling down,
The gardener builds a bonfire up
Of rubbish old and brown.

He strikes a match – he lights the fire –
It flares up high and bright!
We jump and dance around in glee,
It’s such a lovely sight!

The flames go up, the smoke blows round,
The bonfire crackles loud,
It sizzled like a frying-pan,
And sparks fly in a crowd!

It looks so lovely in the dark –
Oh, gardener, may we stay
And sit close by it all night long?
Do tell us that we may!


Guy Fawkes Day (a poem by Enid Blyton)

Another poem which hasn’t been used elsewhere is Guy Fawkes Day from Teachers World November 1922.

In gardens all around are bonfires big and small,
And we’ve got a simply lovely one behind our garden wall;
I’m very busy poking it to make it flaming-red,
And Peter’s getting all our fireworks from the garden-shed.

The sky is full of whizzing rockets- just a streak of light,
And then a bunch of coloured stars comes falling thro’ the night,
Then bang! A Roman candle shoots its glory in the air,
And it lights up all the garden with a green and yellow glare!

The catherine wheels are spluttering and whizzing round and round,
And golden rain is dripping with a pretty crackling sound;
Funny little squibs are jumping everywhere about,
And some go hopping in the fire, and find they can’t get out!

Oh! poke the bonfire harder, till the sky is all a-glow,
And shout, “three cheers for Guy who lived so very long ago!”
For whatever poor old Guy Fawkes did that shouldn’t have been done,
It’s all because of him we’re having fireworks and fun!


Bobby’s Fireworks

This one’s also from Teachers World, November 1938 this time.

Bobby has bought a lot of fireworks for fireworks night and he and his friends have been building a bonfire on the hill. One evening he takes an old chair that his granny has given him to burn, and finds the shepherd has fallen and hurt his leg.

The shepherd begs Bobby not to leave him – not even to fetch help – so Bobby sets off all his rockets a few at a time until help arrives.

The doctor who treats the shepherd gives Bobby some money as a reward so he can guy even more fireworks!

Read it in full here.


Mister Guy Fawkes

Mister Guy Fawkes, I’m afraid,
Was not a kindly man,
With others helping him he laid
A bad and foolish plan
They said, “We don’t like James the First
Upon the English throne,
We think he is the very worst
Of all the kings we’ve known.”
So quite a lot of time they spent
Within a cellar small
Beneath the Houses of Parliament,
And there, against the wall,
The stores the gunpowder away,
A very deadly thing,
To blow up Parliament the day
‘Twas opened by the King.
But someone heard about the plot
And to the cellar sped,
Discovered Guy Fawkes on the spot-
And so he lost his head!
And ever since we all remember
Guy Fawkes’ wicked plan,
And on the fifth of each November
We do all we can
To make a really frightful noise
With fireworks loud and bright!
We’ll thank old Guy Fawkes, girls and boys,
For starting Firework Night!

A nice little history lesson in a poem. I wonder if children now are as aware of the reason for the 5th of November celebrations as they presumably were in Blyton’s time. You don’t see children making Guys anymore, and I don’t know if many displays still put Guys on them.

It’s strange to see her (twice) thanking Guy Fawkes for his actions. Bonfire night is meant to be a celebration of foiling the plot! Maybe ‘thanks for being so incompetent, Guy, so that nobody died but we get to have bonfire night’ just wouldn’t fit into a poem.


My house has a great view of one of the two parks the fireworks are set off from, but I won’t be home until 8.30, long after all the fun, on November 5th this year. Oh well – I hope you can all go and see the fireworks and have lots of fun.

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Monday #243

Remember, remember the fifth of November

and

Updates to Blyton’s Texts: The Naughtiest Girl in the School

The countryside lay smiling in the afternoon sunshine. Cottages clustered together here and there, and cattle grazed in the fields. In the distance, a curious, steep hill caught her eye. It rose up very suddenly, and at the top was a strange building. It looked like a small, square castle, for it haad towers at each end.

Pam looks out the window and sees Cliff Castle for the first time in The Secret of Cliff Castle.

The Children at Happy House is the first book of three about Jack, Jane and Benjy, who in typical Blyton fashion, move to the countryside from the city. Aimed at younger readers there is no high drama or adventure, just a nice family story about getting a dog and earning some money to buy mother a birthday present.

 

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Letters to Enid part 17

Previous letters pages can be found here.


Letters page from Volume 2, issue 5. March 3rd – 16th 1954

 

 

OUR

LETTER PAGE

 1. A letter from Egan Crowley, aged 12, 23 Rugby Road, Belfast.
Dear Enid Blyton,
I send you a P.O. for 14/- which was collected by a gang of us in this road. We made camp fires in the lane, and sold chips and tea and fried bread and anyone could have the food provided they paid the price marked on the slate. We hope it will come in useful for your little blind children. We did enjoy ourselves collecting it. With love from all the members of the hang in Rugby Road and from
Egan Crowley

(Thank you, Egan – I wish I’d come along and had tea and chips too!)

2. A letter from Nanette Williams, 17 Charleville Circus, Sydenham, London, S.E.25
A letter from 
Dear Enid Blyton,
Last week my Daddy made a bird house for me and put it in the garden, and every morning we put bacon scraps, bread and a small bath of water out. Daddy put straw in the house and there are three robins living in there now.
Yours sincerely,
Nanette Williams

(What an interesting piece of news, Nanette!)

3. A letter from Rosemary Ford, Bolankan Farm, Praze, Camborne, Cornwall.
Dear Enid Blyton,
My best pet is a hen who is one year old to-day. She is black, with lovely bright blue beady eyes, and her name is Susie. We both earn sixpence every week. Susie earns hers by laying three eggs each week, and I earn mine by helping Mummy. I enclose sixpence for the Sunbeam Society from us both.
With best wishes from
Rosemary Ford,
and a very big “Cluck” from Susie.

(Thank you, Rosemary, thank you, Susie – how kind you both are!)


Finally, another letter from a boy! I must say, what a nice ‘gang’ he seems to belong to!

I love Nanette’s address – Charleville Circus. I even looked it up on Google maps, and it’s a very round street. All the houses are lovely big ones and Nannette’s is now covered in ivy, I wonder how much ivy there was in 1954?

I like that Enid includes those who raise lots of money, but also those kind enough to share just sixpence.

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Enid Blyton for Halloween?

I’m sure I’ve said this before, but Enid Blyton didn’t really do Halloween. She wrote about most other holidays, but Halloween perhaps wasn’t a big thing in Britain when she was writing. Despite that, here are some Halloween-themed Blyton things!


Books

Hodder have tried to cash in with three sets of short story collections. None of them say Halloween, but it’s clear they are in that theme.

Stories of Wizards and Witches came first in September 2017, then Stories of Magic and Mischief in September 2018, and then Tales of Tricks and Treats in September of this year. All just in time for Halloween!

Broomstick rides and bubbling cauldrons, Perfect for sharing at Halloween, and Who will be on the receiving end of a trick, and who will win out with a treat? are just a few of the phrases used to describe these books so nobody can deny they’re trying to link them to Halloween.


Costumes

Children have been dressing as Enid Blyton characters for a long time, possibly less for Halloween and more for World Book Day and other literary events. I’ve seen some great Saucepan Man (and woman) costumes – I don’t want to put any in here as the photos don’t belong to me but if you Google Saucepan Man, there are lots of images.

It’s also not too hard to dress as the Famous Five or Adventure Series kids – some shorts, a shirt and pullover, a rope around your waist and you’re good to go!

I have, however, seen some official Enid Blyton costumes this year and to be honest I think you might be better making your own! There are three on Smiffys.com – Malory Towers, St Clare’s O’Sullivan Twins and Famous Five Anne, though they’re aimed at World Book Day rather than Halloween.

The Malory Towers one is probably the best as it follows the description in the book with all the brown and orange.

Your little girl can dress just like Darrel Rivers when she wears our wonderful Malory Towers Costume this World Book Day. Inspired by Enid Blyton’s series of Malory Towers books, this costume comes with a School Uniform style Brown Jacket and Skirt, with a matching Hat and Brown Book Bag also included to complete the ‘Schoolie’ look.

I’ve copied that directly from the site, so yes, they spelled Darrell wrong. This is priced at £22.99, which I suppose is cheaper than buying a brown skirt, jacket and hat specially for a costume. I bet it’s horrible synthetic fabric, though. It comes in age 7-9 and 10-12 so sadly I won’t be trying it out!

The St Clare’s one isn’t too bad either, though it is clearly modelled on a recent version of St Clare’s, most likely the 2005 Egmonts, hence the purple jumpers which don’t feature anywhere in the text.

Your Child will look like they’re enrolled in St Clares Boarding School when they wear a St Clare’s O’Sullivan Twins Costume from our Enid Blyton collection. Perfect for World Book Day, parties, even just to play around in! Our costume contains an embraided Purple Jumper, Skirt and School Tie, letting your little girl look just like Pat or Isabel.

Again, copied directly, complete with missing apostrophes, and the wonderful ’embraided’, a cross between embroidered and braided? Not to mention the awful random capitals! This is only £18.99, as it doesn’t have a hat or bag I assume. This is easier to do yourself if your school uniform already has a grey skirt. If not supermarkets do school skirts and jumpers for a few pounds (purple is a popular colour in my area for uniforms, may not be the same everywhere).

The absolute worst is the Anne costume. Although the St Clare’s one is based on a modern illustration, it’s fairly inoffensive and recognisable. Anne, however…

This is so clearly based on the Laura Ellen Anderson’s version of the Five where they wear the same outfits regardless of the book’s setting or weather. I want to know where the other three’s costumes are, if Anne is recognisable surely the rest are too?

Are you trying to find a fantastic Famous Five Costume? Well now Children dress up as Anne this World Book Day when they wear our Famous Five Anne Costume from our Enid Blyton costume collection. Great for girls, this Famous Five inspired outfit lets you look just like Anne, and includes a beautiful Blue and Red Dress, striped Tights and Headband with attached Flower.

This is £19.99, and I would happily pay you that and more if you could destroy all evidence this monstrosity ever existed. Why pick the ugliest version of Anne that ever existed? If the dress wasn’t such a clashing blue/red it might have been not so bad, but the stripy tights on top make it ridiculous.

The worst thing is, Smiffy’s are capable of reasonably period costumes – if you look at their 1940’s section there’s some decent looking stuff if you ignore the odd shiny suit! It’s also a shame there’s so little choice for Blyton costumes, when the Roald Dahl bit has several costumes for boys, girls and adults.

P.S. This isn’t a sponsored post as I don’t do those. If Smiffy’s had paid me for this, I’m pretty sure they’d want their money back!

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Monday #242

Enid Blyton at Halloween?

and

Letters to Enid part 17

Curly runned away, he runned fast!

Benny blames his pigling for leading him astray in Five Go to Billycock Hill.

The Saucy Jane Family is the second book about the Caravan Family. But in this book they abandon the caravans (which need painting) and move onto a canal boat called the Saucy Jane. They are used to cramped quarters so adjusting to life on a narrow boat isn’t too big a problem, but the fact that Ann can’t swim poses a bit of an issue. The family spend several weeks on the boat, taking a trip or two along the canal on other boats to experience life and work on the canal.

 

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The Naughtiest Girl in the School: How has Blyton’s original text fared in a modern edition?

It has been more than two years since I’ve done a text comparison (I blame Brodie!) but I was in a branch library the other week and spotted a recent paperback of The Naughtiest Girl in the School. I thought that would be perfect for comparing – not long after looking at all the different covers for the series.

I will be 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.


Before the first chapter

The first thing I notice is the book features an introduction by Cressida Cowell. I know she’s a famous author but I couldn’t tell you what she’s written as I’ve never read any of it. Ok I can tell you she wrote How to Train Your Dragon as it says so above her introduction. I think that may have been made into a film?

Anyway, Cowell says that Blyton played a crucial role in turning her into an avid reader as a child. The Naughtiest Girl in the School was one of her favourites.

The original illustrator was W. Lindsay Cable, the new version has been illustrated by Kate Hindley. At first I thought illustrated wasn’t accurate as all I had spotted was some crude vignettes above the chapter titles (a mouse, a pencil, a pencil-sharpener and an ink-bottle with beetles, repeated one at a time) but then I realised there are perhaps half a dozen full-page illustrations too.


CHAPTER I The Naughty Spoilt Girl / CHAPTER ONE THE NAUGHTY SPOILT GIRL

The first change is the chapter headings. Both have CHAPTER in capitals but the original uses what I find a slightly annoying Title Case. The 2014 edition uses all capitals. It also replaces the roman numerals with words.

Perhaps interestingly, both books use the opposite style for their contents list. The original has all capital chapter titles, and the new one has Annoying Title Case.

There aren’t any actual changes to the main text of the first chapter, however. A few things I thought might be changed but weren’t are Elizabeth’s stockings, vests and bodices. Also ink-bottle and drawing-room both in terms of being old-fashioned and having hyphens.

Illustration-wise the original has three small illustrations. Elizabeth on her mother’s lap, begging her not to send her away, Elizabeth shouting she is not afraid at Miss Scott and Elizabeth banging on the door with a book. The new edition has just the ink and beetles above the chapter title.


CHAPTER II Elizabeth goes to School / CHAPTER TWO ELIZABETH GOES TO SCHOOL

First – one of the reasons I hate title case is knowing what words are important enough to capitalise. Not the, an, it, on, at, for, and so on. But words like goes and makes look odd in small. Probably because they are longer than the words that usually get missed, though still fall under whatever rule governs capitals in title case. Apparently propositions shouldn’t get capitals – which would include beneath, under, about etc. But some guides would say all words over four letters, even if they are propositions. Ack!

OK, grammar-talk aside, there are some actual changes in this chapter.

The seccotine Elizabeth puts in Miss Scott’s shoes becomes glue. I have to admit I didn’t know what seccotine was when reading but as it says in the next sentence about Miss Scott trying to remove her toes from her sticky shoes it’s quite clear.

Good-bye is modernised to goodbye, which makes sense.

Yellow badge is corrected to yellow badges as the narrative is describing the collective uniforms of a group of boys.

Italics (shown in bold in my example) are removed from the sentence She does at least say something when spoken to.

Interestingly Ruth is still a tubby little girl half a dozen times. Given the de-fatification of Fatty in The Mystery of the Burnt Cottage I thought that would have been changed for sure.

There are two illustrations in the original edition, one of Elizabeth in her school uniform and one of her on the train. There are none in the new edition apart from the pencil-sharpener.


CHAPTER III Elizabeth makes a Bad Beginning / CHAPTER THREE ELIZABETH MAKES A BAD BEGINNING

See, how strange does that title look with a small M?

I have to admit I was starting to worry about a lack of alterations, in case this blog series turned out to be really short. But this chapter sees a lot of edits.

The first queer is in this chapter, and gets changed to strange.

As before to-day becomes today.

More italics go, this time from I had a new bicycle for my Easter present and
What did you have for Easter?

When the list of girls for Nora’s dormitory is given Joan Lesley becomes Joan Townsend. I think that’s correcting an error on Blyton’s behalf as I’m sure it’s Joan Townsend who becomes Elizabeth’s friend later in the book, and who is then in her dorm too.

As we’ve seen in other books Hie becomes Hi. And I’ll say what I’ve said before – they’re not the same word! Hi is simply hello. Hie is more like oi or hey, it’s a call to attention.

The next two changes are utterly daft.

She had only slept with Miss Scott before becomes She had only shared with Miss Scott before. And Now she was to sleep with five other girls is Now she was to share with five other girls. 

I mean, come on! Yes slept with can be a euphemism for had sex with but considering we are talking about a girl of around ten and her governess I think we can rule out that meaning. I also don’t think we need to make it clear that the six school girls are going to share a room and not have sex in it. I mean girls go for sleepovers, still, don’t they? Not shareovers.

Nora’s words of and I MEAN tidily become and I mean tidily(The bold indicates italics again). Considering this book has already started the removal of italics, and I suspect there will be plenty more, it seems odd to put more in. Modern publishers probably have clear house-styles but when you’re reprinting a seventy-something year old book surely you can ignore a few rules?

And lastly, the money is updated. They originally got two shillings a week, and it’s now two pounds a week. Two pounds is not very much for a ten year old, even in 2012. I can’t wait to see how much they can buy for that. I get a bit befuddled by trying to work out relative costs comparing then to now, but here goes. Two shillings in 1940, allowing for inflation, would be around £2.37 today, so at first look, £2 pocket money doesn’t seem that odd. But on purchasing power, you’d need £6.42 today and £5.36 in 2012 to get the same amount of goods (calculated here).

Two illustrations in the original again, Elizabeth at the dining table and facing off against Nora. Only a mouse in the new one.


CHAPTER IV Elizabeth gets into Trouble / CHAPTER FOUR ELIZABETH GETS INTO TROUBLE

There’s only one change to this chapter, another removal of italics from cut her cake into ten big pieces. It’s strange as plenty of italics for emphasis are left in and I can’t see a particular reason why some have gone and not others. It’s not like Blyton’s peppered every other sentence with italics!

Another two illustrations in the original, Elizabeth and Nora at her dressing-table and Elizabeth not sharing her cake. A very wonky pencil graces this chapter in the new edition.


The count

I usually explain what I’ve counted and what I haven’t and I’m not sure it has been very clear in the past so I’ll try it a new way this time.

The new introduction is not counted as I’m focussing on the main text. New editions often have additional introductions, adverts, sneak-peaks and so on.

Some things are changed more than once, but they are the same change and only get counted once:

Roman numerals to words
Case change for chapter titles
Removal of hyphens from good-bye, to-day, etc
Removal of italics for emphasis

Total: 4

Unique changes (some of which will move to the above list if I see more examples later)

Seccotine to glue
Correction of yellow badge
Joan Lesley to Joan Townsend
Queer to strange
Hie to hi
Slept to shared
Sleep to share
Removal of capitals for emphasis
Addition of italics for emphasis
Two shillings to two pounds

Total: 10

Overall total: 14

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If you like Blyton: A Mystery for Ninepence by Phyllis Gegan

A Mystery for Ninepence, published 1964, is something I picked up in a charity shop because I like the spines on the Collin’s Seagull Library books. I paid a grand price of £3 for this one, and the original price was 4s.

I can only find one other book – The Harveys See it Through by Phyllis Gegan and one short story – Adventure in the Alps – from Coronet Girls’ Annual 1958. I can’t find any biographical details about Phyllis Gegan, either, and I’m left wondering if it was a pseudonym for another writer.

There is a list on the back cover of other Collin’s Seagull Library titles – split into ones for boys and one for girls! No Blytons on either (though some of her books were published in this format), but the two Gegan books appear on the girls’ list, as do a couple of other books I have. Interestingly this book was presented to Jimmy Stevenson, though! Clearly the school didn’t read the list on the back. Saying that it’s not a girly book at all, it’s as neutral as the Famous Five.


So what’s it all about?

Although I picked this book for the spine I also checked the blurb to see if the story also appealed! I’ve found several Seagull books that I’ve put back after deciding the contents didn’t seem as good as the cover.

In this case the blurb reads:

Over fire, through water. Press on, for right will prevail.

These words, faded and almost illegible, and an ancient key are found when Robert buys a bundle of old books for ninepence. They herald the beginning of a summer of mystery and excitement for the ‘Quartet’, a club formed by Robin, his two sisters, Ann and Fiona, and his friend Hugh.

The answer to the puzzle lies somewhere in Farnleigh Manor, ancestral home of the Mourton Family. But the manor is shut up and deserted, looked after by caretakers, Mr and Mrs Petherbridge. The Quartet’s willingness to help in the unkempt grounds and their growing friendship with the Petherbridges opens the way into the manor for them.

Amidst the echoing corridors and high vaulted rooms of Farnleigh manor the young people determinedly follow each clue in an effort to solve the mystery which has disgraced the name of Mourton for three hundred years.

Phyllis Gegan’s exciting story will hold you spellbound as you follow the adventures of the Quartet in a mystery which turns out to be worth much more than ninepence.

Two points here – Robert is not a typo on my part – it’s a mistake on the inner flap as the boy is actually Robin! The blurb also spells Anne wrong.

The burb more or less gives you the whole story. Robin buys some old books and finds a key inside one of them along with a family crest. Initially they think it will be a good idea for a game (like the sort of games the Cherrys play) but then realise that there’s a hidden message and possibly a real mystery.

Luckily the crest belongs to a family with a manor within cycling distance, and, as the blurb also explains, the children visit and become friendly with the housekeepers. They do a lot of gardening in return for lots of fruit to take home, and also a chance to have a look around the empty manor.

After a few false starts they find a keyhole and the hidden secret.


What about it is like Blyton?

We have a group of children who have formed a club – The Quartet – who set out to solve a mystery.

There are lots of non-mystery interruptions to the story, luscious (as Anne would put it) picnics with lots of fruit and cream, a couple of walks to see otters and bats, a trip to a fair, a lost little brother, a beach holiday, a dramatic capture of a supposed criminal, and a daring cliff-side rescue of a puppy. Blyton was always good at interspersing mystery or adventure elements with a bit of fun or at least good food.

The parents are even shipped off for a trip abroad, though this doesn’t give the children any particular leeway to adventure.

They have the same honest attitudes as Blytonian children – they say they would like to go into the manor to draw etc and those are things they do want to do, and they ensure they do plenty of it in order to be truthful.

And Fiona remarks:

How nice food tastes in the open air!

Which is a very Anne Kirrin thing to say. I have to admit I laughed at Hugh’s witty reply:

Probably ants have got into the cheese and tomato. That ‘ud give it a different flavour. Piquant, the French chefs call it.


Where is it not like Blyton?

This is an enjoyable book but it doesn’t live up to most of Blyton’s mystery/adventure books.

If Enid Blyton had written this there would almost certainly have been an enemy for the children to work against – either someone who wanted to find the secret first, or who wanted it to never be found. There are only two episodes of danger and conflict.

The conflict is with two local boys who let the Quartet take the blame for a broken window. It’s all resolved very quickly and the boys becomes friends of theirs.

The danger, such as it is, comes when there’s reports of an escaped convict in the area. The Quarter see a man matching the description given asleep by the manor and tie him up, only to discover he’s an off-duty policeman. It’s the sort of thing Blyton has included in her stories – but alongside real danger too!

There isn’t even conflict with the parents, nobody is grounded or punished except for Anne. She has a careless bike accident and, as the rule is in her family, isn’t allowed to rife for a week. It’s all very amiable, though, and as the rule doesn’t stop her riding a tricycle she isn’t prevented from visiting the manor – though she gets there rather slowly!

Blyton would also have definitely had a night-time adventure (for the boys at least!).

There is a backstory to the secret and I can see what the author was aiming at; it trying to give us an understanding of why there is a hidden secret but it doesn’t come off entirely successfully.

Near the manor is Mourton’s Ride, a long tree-lined avenue. There’s a mystery as to why it’s called Mourton’s Ride being two miles away, and the adults they ask claim not to know other than there’s some mystery about it. There’s almost a creepy historical feeling like there is in The Ring ‘O Bells Mystery but it comes into the story quite late on, and the ‘big reveal’ at the end doesn’t live up to that.

As it turns out the secret is a confession from a servant from 1779, admitting that he had been paid to say he had witnessed a Mourton riding away from the scene of an attempted murder (all over an accusation of cheating at cards). It’s good of course that this black sheep of the family has been cleared of wrong-doing but just the way it’s all written it doesn’t have much gravitas.

The final ‘problem’ is that it takes almost 150 pages for the children to solve the mystery. Not a problem if the mystery is complex, but this one really wasn’t. It is drawn out hugely by various interruptions, problems and inconveniences. Their first few trips to the manor they concentrate on the gardens which is fair enough, though they nosy around the old well. At home they have another bright idea and find more of the clue on the crest. Only then do they go and look around inside the manor but have no luck searching inside the chimneys or on the bookshelves. Three days go by and they are kept home by bad weather and Robin having a cold. On their next visit they think to look somewhere new and find a keyhole! That’s on page 78 so half-way through the book. But Robin has left the key at home so there is no progress until their next visit. Even then, with the key, there are more visits to the manor – after their holiday – before they figure out the full solution to revealing the secret.

It is extremely stop-start. Given that there is only one key, one clue and one hiding place, it takes them absolutely forever to solve the mystery!


Final thoughts

I’ve been to harsh in my criticisms, I always am! It’s mildly frustrating to look back and see that a simple mystery is drawn out so long but the interludes are always interesting and fun so you don’t mind so much when reading the book. It won’t keep you on the edge of your seat but it is a good read. The children have distinct personalities and the other characters are also well-drawn, from the parents to the housekeeper and the two boys to the manor’s caretakers.

So if you like Blyton, but understand this isn’t in quite the same league (but then, what is!) you’ll probably like this too.

Dust jacket by an unknown artist, which rather gives away the solution to the mystery!

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Monday #241

If you like Blyton: A Mystery for Ninepence by Phyllis Gegan

and

Updates to Blyton’s texts: The Naughtiest Girl in the School

Sid was quite overcome at his wonderful evening. First there was what he called a ‘smasher of a supper,’ with ham and eggs and chip potatoes followed by jam tarts and a big chocolate mould, of which Sid ate about three-quarters.

“I’m partial to chocolate mould,” he explained to Anne. “Joan knows that – she knows I’m partial to anything in the chocolate line. She’s friendly with my Mum, so she knows. The things I’m partial to I like very much, see?”

Despite more-or-less being kidnapped and held hostage Sid the paperboy manages to have a good evening at Kirrin Cottage in Five Fall Into Adventure.

Craggy Tops is the home of Uncle Jocelyn and Aunt Polly – and during the holidays, of Philip and Dinah Mannering. It is a huge old house, complete with tower, built into the rocky cliffs beside a wild sea. Half of it is crumbling away, perhaps because it is constantly being eroded by sea spray. There’s no electricity or running water, just oil lamps and a well outside. On the plus side, it has its own secret passage leading from the cellar to a cave on the beach.

So why would anyone stay in a place like that? Well, Uncle Jocelyn is a historian and is writing a book about the various battles that took place on that bit of coast, and for that, he apparently has to live right there.

 

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Five Get Into Trouble

It has been ages since my last Famous Five review. Three months, in fact! I had almost forgotten I had been doing them. But here I am with book number eight. So far only books one and two have been reviewed in a single post. The others I’ve split into two (apart from Smuggler’s Top which was three!). That’s partly because I just don’t know when to stop typing, but also because (confession time!) I haven’t always finished the book in time for a full review. This time I devoured the book in under 24 hours, so I will have to see how many parts I will end up writing.


A story in four parts

For some reason I always break the story down into parts, so here’s my interpretation of this one.

  • Part one: The children go on their biking holiday
  • Part two: They encounter Richard and Dick gets kidnapped
  • Part three: The children enter Owl’s Dene and get held prisoner
  • Part four: Richard escapes and the police come to Owl’s Dene to sort everything out

You could, I suppose, combine parts one and two if you wanted a three part tale. But the dynamic changes quite a lot once Richard joins the group.


The Five in trouble? Again?

The Five are often in some sort of trouble. So far they’ve been locked in a dungeon, been chased by artists, had to run away from home, almost got sucked into a marsh, been held hostage underground by gun-wielding circus-folk, nearly been blown up and been trapped in a secret railway tunnel (not to mention having sat on a ‘volcano’!).

So all in all, they’re no strangers to trouble. Nonetheless the trouble they find themselves in is quite troublesome.


The cause of all the trouble

You can place the blame for the Five’s trouble directly on Richard Kent. They meet Richard one morning on their cycling tour when he tells them they’re swimming in his pool. Or rather his very rich father’s pool.

He is generous enough not to throw them off his land but that’s the only decent thing he does for quite a while.

Richard is very keen to join the Five for a bit of cycling and agrees he will ask his mother and then meet them. He plays the fool a bit, cycling three abreast and disregarding both the highway code and Julian’s authority.

The Five think they are shot of Richard after dropping him at his aunt’s house, but later he comes charging through the wood, shouting about being chased by Rooky, a former employee of his father who holds a grudge. And this is where the trouble really starts.

Rooky’s friends take Dick, thinking he is Richard. As they point out, Dick is short for Richard.

I think we are supposed to dislike Richard almost all the way through the book, and to be fair, he doesn’t exactly cover himself in glory. We are used to Blyton’s characters displaying their stiff upper lips and being brave and resourceful. Richard, however, falls apart.

Now it’s all his making for lying about being allowed to cycle with the Five and stay with his aunt, but he’s had a terrible scare and I’m not sure I would be much braver at this point. He wants to stick with the remaining four of the Five rather than cycling off alone to potentially run into Rooky again, and thus follows them to Owl’s Dene where Dick has been taken.


Before the trouble

Going back a bit – the start of the story is quite idyllic as is often the case. The Five have lovely weather as they cycle and sleep under the stars, eating wonderful food. Even when Richard first turns up and is a bit of a pest things are still light and fun.

It’s the word puncture where I always go ‘uh-oh’ and my heart sinks because I know what’s about to come. A puncture means stopping to repair it, and that means Dick’s left in a prime position for kidnap.


Owl’s Dene

Owl’s Dene, on Owl’s Hill, is a strange (or indeed queer) place. It’s a great big house in the middle of nowhere. There’s no phone, no gas, no electricity, no water laid on, just two great gates which open by themselves. (Under what power, I wonder??) Aggie actually continues her statement with Only just secrets and signs and comings and goings and threats and… Not so dissimilar to Robbie Coltrane’s  No telephone. No eelecticity. No gas.  No water laid on. Just secrets, and signs and THREATS from Five Go Mad in Dorset.

Inside live Mr Perton, the owner, a scared old woman called Aggie who does the cooking and housekeeping, and Hunchy who does the odd jobs and feeds the livestock. There are also others like Rooky and his men who come and go in a mysterious black Bentley.

It’s not a very hospitable place. Dick’s locked in an attic and once they are found, Julian, George, Anne and Richard are given a bare room with mattresses on the floor for the night. Timmy is forced to sleep in the grounds. Food is meagre – except when Aggie sneaks them extras – and they are at the mercy of the angry Hunchy.


The redemption of Richard

After a catalogue of foolishness, Richard comes good in the end. They decide that the only conceivable way out of Owl’s Dene is in the boot of the Bentley. It’s too small a space for Julian or Dick, and they won’t let the girls take such a risk, so it’s Richard who squeezes in and is taken into the nearest town by the unaware Mr Perton. It’s not even a simple case of sneaking off once he gets out of the car as he is spotted and has to run to evade Mr Perton.


Uncle Quentin and George

We know that they share the same terrible temper, but we get a little hint that George has inherited her father’s forgetfulness too.

Quentin has never been known for his attention to any other details than his scientific work, and he demonstrates that at the start of the book when he has arranged to go to a conference while the children are staying at Kirrin for Easter. He has not remembered the various discussions about them coming, nor thought to ask Fanny for the holiday dates. He’s so hopeless that Fanny can’t comprehend not going to the conference with him.

The first line of the book is:

“Really, Quentin, you are most difficult to cope with!”

which I think sums it up nicely.

As for George, Fanny shares the story of the time George left an egg to boil dry. It wasn’t because she was trying to be so boyish that she messed it up, or didn’t know how to boil an egg, it was sheer forgetfulness as she was so focussed on making sure Timmy got fed.

She has another very absent moment later when she accidentally eats one of Timmy’s dog sausage sandwiches and doesn’t even notice until Anne points it out.


The questions, comments and nitpicks

This is the Five’s fourth non-Kirrin adventure, and they’ve had four Kirrin ones too so the tally is even at this point in the series. This story is set at Easter, so it must the the year after they went off to camp.

George doesn’t do an awful lot of sulking or talking about being as good as a boy in this book. She does nearly fight Richard and is annoyed not to be allowed by her cousins, but it only lasts a minute as she is so pleased that Richard truly believed her to be a boy. She is also pleased later when the Owl’s Dene folk mistake her for a boy.

Julian notes, however, that George and Anne seem to fall for all of Richard’s tall tales while he and Dick are a little more disbelieving.

Unusually for a Famous Five book they encounter a farm with unpleasant people. Usually a farmer’s wife welcomes them in and forces food upon them for a bargain price. This time a surly man demands five pounds for a bit of bread, ham and eggs. Julian will only give him five shillings which is still generous. He wonders why on earth the man asked for such a ridiculous price – and I wonder why Blyton wrote that too as it has no relevance to the story and makes no sense.

Also unusually, Julian gets it wrong when he says he doesn’t think the man they saw changing clothes was an escaped prisoner. Of course, he was. This makes it all the stranger that Julian is so determined to find out who’s snoring in the vicinity of the study when he’s no reason to believe it’s an escaped convict.

One error I think I spotted is when the boys and George are described as wearing shirts and thin jumpers while Anne wears a skirt. I suspect it should be shorts then the fact Anne wears a skirt instead makes more sense.

Also not quite right but possibly character error rather than author error is Richard’s explanation of why Rooky has a grudge against him/his father. The first time he says:

He [Rooky] did something that annoyed him [Richard’s father] – I don’t know what – and after a perfectly furious row my father chucked him out.

Later he says:

Don’t you remember? – I told you about him… He always swore he’d have his revenge on my father – and on me too because I told tales about him to Dad and it was because of that he was sacked.

So either Enid forgot what she had written earlier, or Richard isn’t good at keeping his stories straight.

Another unlikely character error is Aggie and Hunchy both failing to notice that five children have suddenly become four, and none of the adults in the room noticing that Richard is rubbing soot all over his head. Surely that’s got to cause a mess?

One curious thing is this book has two examples of symbols being used in the text. Owl’s Dene is described as like an E with the middle stroke missing which is an odd way to describe a three sided building, and there’s a little icon like a n E missing the stroke (or a square C) as an example. Later Richard sees a police sign and we get a rectangle with the word POLICE in it, just in case we didn’t know that that would look like. I can’t recall anything similar in any other books.

I always like the moment in a film or book when the title gets used. A little ‘aha!’ moment. In this book there is we got into this fix. I wonder if Blyton liked the phrase so much she got them into a fix for a later adventure. Also amusing, but perhaps only to me, is the chapter title Julian looks round. This is only funny if you’ve read Charlie and the Chocolate Factory where the visitors to the factory are baffled by Mr Wonka’s square sweets that look round. I just had the image of a rounded Julian.


Phew, final thoughts

Although I divided the book into four it can also be said that is has two distinct parts; everything outside Owl’s Dene, and everything inside. The Owl’s Dene chapters have a very different feel to them. It’s darker, scarier and quite tense. There are few outright threats like they have received from the likes of Lou and Tiger Dan but they’re so trapped that you can’t relax.

Unfortunately a few details are a let down; like the diamonds that are important to the backstory yet just appear suddenly rather than being carefully woven into the plot. Solomon Weston is also very underused, though his secret room is a nice touch.

Something I’ve barely mentioned is the Bentley’s licence plate: KMF 102. I always feel this is in the same iconic realm as Two Trees, Gloomy Water etc. I’m glad to see that in later reprints it hasn’t become a Ford Focus with a modern license plate (though I haven’t checked every reprint!)

All in all a satisfying story, and quite different from the usual mystery/adventure plots. They don’t go to Owl’s Dene to investigate the man who changed his clothes, or to find the diamonds, those are almost coincidental. Mr Perton is really his own undoing, if he hadn’t kept the children captive they’d never have discovered anything!

 

 

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Letters to Enid part 16

Previous letters pages can be found here.


Letters page from Volume 2, issue 4. February 17th – March 2nd 1954.

OUR

LETTER PAGE

 1. A letter from Betty Kerr, 2 Council Houses, Glenlougham, Scarva, Co. Down.
Dear Enid Blyton,
I hope you are pleased because I have got 18 members for the Sunbeam Society, 8 for the Busy Bees, and 10 for the Famous Five. When Daddy asked me for a design to make us a banner I suggested a blind child, the same as on our badge. Our motto is “Make Dark Places Light.”
Your Loving Sunbeam No. 7, Betty Kerr.

(What a wonderful little worker you are, Betty. I am pleased with you!)

2. A letter from Marion Taylor, 44 Newcourt House, Pott Street, Bethnal Green, London, E.2.

Dear Enid Blyton,
Every week I cut out “The Adventures of Josie, Click and Bun,” mount them on cardboard and bind them into a neat book. It is very interesting and my young sister, Jennifer, never gets tired of reading it and it certainly keeps her out of mischief.
Love, Marion Taylor, F.F.

(How delighted your sister must be Marion. I am, too.)

3. A letter from  Jennifer Routledge, 1 Montpelier Rise, Wembley, Middx.
Dear Enid Blyton,
The family ad I have been giving a penny every time we make a spot on the tablecloth. I have now saved 10s. for the blind children.
Please give them my love. Jennifer.

(What a wonderful idea, Jennifer. I can’t help hoping you make lots more spots on your tablecloth!)

3. A letter from  Greta Croker, Newbold Missionary College, Binfield, nr Bracknell, Berks.
Dear Enid Blyton,
I am a member of the F.F. Club and I am sending the enclosed money for you to spend on some little girl without a father or mother, because I have such a wonderful father and mother. I earned the money by helping my father milk the cows. I send my good wishes to you all and my fellow-readers of our magazine,
From, Greta Crocker.

(I think your mother and father have a fine little girl, Greta. Thank you very much.)


Now I know that Enid chose her winning letters from the ‘normal’ ones she received, not ‘special’ ones written with the hope of appearing on the letters page. But I can’t help but notice that an awful lot of the featured letters are ones saying “I earned X money by doing X clever thing and I would like it to go towards X cause.” If those aren’t letters hoping to win, then I would like to see the obvious ‘special letter’ attempts!

I know, I’m being cynical. I’m sure these letters are children just genuinely wanting Enid to know they’ve worked hard to send money to one of her causes. All I’m saying is that if a child really wanted to be featured they would have been wise to write a letter like that.

I’m intrigued by Jennifer’s idea. Usually paying a penny every time you spill something (or indeed swear) is meant to be a way of encouraging you not to spill or swear. But in order to raise lots of money, you’d have to make a lost of mess or bad language. Slightly opposing ideas, there. Incidentally, to have raised 10 shillings, Jennifer’s family made 120 spots on the tablecloth. I hope it got washed regularly!

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Monday #240

Letters to Enid part 16

and

Five Get Into Trouble

Fattish! Could the owner of the sleep-walking uncle be – that fat boy! Was is that pest again, On the Track of Something as usual?

Mr Goon is rather upset to discover that Fatty has been quicker to follow the clues than he has in The Mystery of the Strange Bundle.

Jeremiah Boogle is a fine example of Enid Blyton’s elderly and knowledgeable men characters. He appears in Five Go to Demon’s Rocks, sitting by the harbour, ready to tell them all about old One-Ear Bill and the wreckers that once plagued the area. He doesn’t just tell, however (many of her old men are rather stuck in one place and are purely there to tell tales) he even gives them a tour of the underground tunnels and caves where a treasure is reported to be hidden. Despite being elderly he is a former sailor and quite capable of handling himself.

jeremiah boogle demon's rocks

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The Naughtiest Girl in the School covers through the years

Previous covers through the years : The Famous Five, The Adventure Series, The Secret Series, Malory Towers, The Barney Mysteries, Mr Galliano’s Circus, St Clare’s

There are only three Naughtiest Girl books if you are counting the original novels; The Naughtiest Girl in the School, The Naughtiest Girl Again and The Naughtiest Girl is a Monitor, but with 12-14 reprints of each there are still plenty of covers to look at.


The first editions

Despite only having three books there are two different illustrators. W. Lindsay Cable (illustrator of the original St Clare’s books) did the covers and internal illustrations for the first two books, while Kenneth Lovell did the final one.

Lovell has done his cover in a very similar style to Cable, and used the same uniform colours etc so it is not a jarring or obvious change.

George Newnes 1940 / George Newnes 1942 / George Newnes 1945

Lovell’s characters perhaps don’t have quite the same air of movement but then they appear to be indoors and under the eye of grown-ups!


The ubiquitous Armadas

Unusually for an early, popular series, there are no new hardback editions. Not every series had those but both Malory Towers and St Clare’s have a second set with new dust jackets.

This series goes straight to paperback (though later impressions of the first edition had a few alterations to the spine design) and of course the 1960s paperback publisher of choice is Armada.

There are two Armada sets, in fact. The first in 1962/62 and the second in 1971/72.

The 1960s set come with the usual Armada look with the brightly coloured backgrounds and illustrations by Dorothy Brook.

Armada 1962 / Armada 1962 / Armada 1963

The 1970s set also have bright backgrounds but a different look; both to the previous covers and to each other! They are not the most disparate covers I have seen, but the sky background in particular between the two orange/yellow ones looks odd. They are by an uncredited artist.

Armada 1971 / Armada 1971 / Armada 1972

The bold and the dull

From 1967 to 1990 we saw a variety of publishers and styles. Merlin, Dean, Beaver and Red Fox all did their own covers, some more than once.

The first was Merlin in 1967/68 with some rather drab and dark covers. I’m never fond of Clyde Pearson’s work it has to be said. His covers are always quite serious and his internal illustrations are often strange. I mean why such dark cloudy skies? Why such dark green uniforms in a grey and green school yard? Why so many black uniforms and details?

Merlin 1967 / Merlin 1967 / Merlin 1968

Dean’s first set (in hardback) in 1972/73 is one of the brightest with the almost fluorescent yellow, bright red and shocking pink along with very stylised cartoon schoolgirls by an uncredited artist. Deans 70s hardbacks are not usually known for their realistic or toned-down covers. These are so stylised they probably get away with it – it helps that there is a ‘vintage’ air to them now as well. It’s just a pity they chose a reddish font for the last book as it’s a bit headache inducing to read!

Dean 1973 / Dean 1972 / Dean 1973

Their second set (also from an uncredited artist) is from 1989 and is very much darker both in colour and content. This set uses their ‘upside down Polaroid’ design which features on so many other series, with a sad selection of brown and beige backgrounds. As for the dark content I refer to ‘sad girl on swing at night’, ‘lonely girl at bus station with pile of belongings’ and ‘two almost drowning children’. The first must depict Elizabeth before she kicks out at Robert though it lacks a sense of anger or suggestion of movement. I can’t remember if Elizabeth gets the bus to school, if so it’s hardly an integral part of the plot. I mean, would these really stand out on a shelf and attract readers?

All Dean 1989

Beaver also have a bright set and a more neutral one, though neither has a cover for the second book.

The bright set is from 1979, and reminds me a bit of Grange Hill for some reason. I think it’s the yellow background and the almost comic strip image. These covers were by Martin Aitchison.

Both Beaver 1979

Beaver’s second set was in 1986, with a very different look. I have a nostalgic fondness for this as my first copy of the Naughtiest Girl was the Red Fox omnibus which reused the illustration from the first book here. Elizabeth reminds me of someone but I cannot think who. I like her cheeky grin anyway.

Beaver 1986 / Beaver 1986 / Red Fox 1995

Speaking of Red Fox they reused these covers for their 1990/92 set, with the cover for the second book done by, I presume, a different uncredited artist as Elizabeth looks quite different. Older and more stylish, perhaps. She also reminds me of someone, an actress perhaps.

Red Fox 1990 / Red Fox 1992 / Red Fox 1990

There is also a sneaky Armada cover in amongst all those – in 1987 they released a new paperback of The Naughtiest Girl Again. This comes under the ‘drab’ category for me!


The Hodder years

From 1997 Hodder took over and have published four full sets of the three books, plus an extra one of the first.

The 1997 set are quite nice in my opinion. They are a little like the modern Hoddern Famous Five covers, and look almost as if they’ve done the same in taking an original cover and giving it a new banner etc. These are by Max Schindler. These are reused in 2000 with a ‘full colour’ badge added, also like the Famous Five. The first cover is also reused for the 2010 70th anniversary edition, cropped, flipped, and with a big border.

Hodder 1997 / Hodder 1997 / Hodder 1997 / Hodder 2000 / Hodder 2000 / Hodder 2000 / Hodder 2010

Then in 1999 they went very modern with two school covers and one that looks like it belongs on a Nancy Drew book, drawn by Paul Davies.

All Hodder 1999

In 2007 they went even more modern (and awful) with covers by Teresa Murfin that make you suspect the children are not altogether human at this school. I have an irrational dislike of the devil horns and tail they’ve added to the font. She’s a school girl acting out, firstly because she doesn’t want to be sent away from home and later because she has a very strong sense of right and wrong but a poor control of her temper. She’s not a devil.

Hodder 2007, Me 2019, Hodder 2007

The middle one is how I see these sort of covers. That’s the School of Roars cast (a series on CBeebies with the voice of Kathy Burke for those of you without toddlers).

Here’s how it really looks, not that different!

And in 2014 the children are also very modern but also angular as drawn by Kate Hindley.

All Hodder 2014

Here’s the Naughtiest Girl

Published as a stand-alone book in 1997, Here’s the Naughtiest Girl was first published in Enid Blyton’s Omnibus. It’s a short story rather than a novel but it’s now printed as a fourth book in the series.

Its first edition is the attractive Max Schindler one,

Then it got new covers in line with the other three books: bright Paul Davies, demonic/monstrous Teresa Murfin and angular Kate Hindley.

Hodder 1999 / Hodder 2007 / Hodder 2014

I’m not going to include covers from the Anne Digby continuations, but they had two sets each. One by Paul Davies and the other by Teresa Murfin. It’s probably sufficient to say they are entirely in-keeping with the style of the ones shown.


As usual, the best covers have to be the originals. Followed perhaps by the modern ones masquerading as old ones. Everyone has a soft spot for their childhood covers, no matter how bad, though!

 

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September 2019 round up

It’s September now, and judging by the sudden plummet in temperatures, Summer is firmly over!


What I have read

  • The Devil Wears Prada – Lauren Weisberger
  • The Well of Lost Plots (Thursday Next #3) – Jasper Fforde
  • When Did You Last See Your Father? (Chronicles of St Mary’s #10.5) – Jodi Taylor
  • The World I Fell Out Of – Melanie Reid
  • Revenge Wears Prada – Lauren Weisberger

And I’m still working on:

  • The Foyles Bookshop Girls at War (The Foyles Girls #2) – Elaine Roberts.
  • Bridget Jones’s Diary – Helen Fielding
  • Something Rotten (Thursday Next #4) – Jasper Fforde

I’ve taken a few new books out of the library this past week so I’d better get reading! I’ve slacked off this month so I’m only two books ahead of schedule now.

 


What I have watched

  • Hollyoaks
  • ER season 14 and some of 15
  • Only Connect
  • Series 6 and 7 of Call the Midwife which have recently come to Netflix.
  • Yet another series of Taskmaster
  • The Letdown, a Netflix original comedy about parenting. I cringed through the first episodes but it’s strangely relatable.
  • The Secret Garden (the 90s version with Maggie Smith)
  • Lots of episodes of the 90s Famous Five series on YouTube.
  • Smuggler’s Gold, the Famous Five Musical which I then reviewed.

What I have done

  • Stef came up to stay for the week, and after a bad start because we were all either ill or recovering from a stomach bug, we made two trips to St Andrews. We packed in the shops, (though we didn’t buy any books!!) the beach, the botanic gardens, cakes, and lots of walking.
  • We visited our local wildlife park and Brodie did his monkey noises when he spotted the gibbons and fed the goats some grass.
  • Went to a bookbug session in the big library as my local one was still closed for refurbishment.
  • Went for a walk/play in a country park and played at another centre with a huge maze/
  • Played at a few parks and fed the ducks.
  • Celebrated my 16 (!!) year anniversary with Ewan, (that is, quite literally, half my life!) by going for lunch and a walk along the Arbroath cliffs.
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Monday #239

 

September round up

and

The Naughtiest Girl in the School covers through the years

Far below the waterfall resolved itself into a winding river that curved round the foot of the mountain. The children could not see where it went to. The tumbling water shone and sparkled as it fell, and here and there rainbows shimmered. Lucy-Ann thought she had never seen a lovelier sight.

The Adventure Series children see the huge waterfall in the valley for the first time in The Valley of Adventure.

The Little Tree-House is the first of five books about Josie, Click and Bun. Josie is a doll, Click is a clockwork-mouse and Bun is a baby rabbit. They meet when Josie and Click run away from their unkind owner, and find Bun who has been left out by his family. They decide to start a home together and move into an empty home inside a hollow tree.

The books are all picture-strip style with four large illustrations per page with a short piece of text underneath.

 

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