Monday #279

St Clare’s covers through the years part 2

and

On my bookshelf

I’m afraid of living alone, with my thoughts and memories, Lizzie. I’ve made a lot of mistakes in my like, and I remember them when I’m alone. I’m a lonely old woman, and I want life and friends around me – yes, even if people don’t want me, I still want to be with them!

Aunt Grace pours her heart out a bit to Lizzie at the start of House-at-the-Corner.

The Mystery of the Burnt Cottage is where the Five Find-Outers begin, when Fatty (and Buster) meets Larry, Daisy, Pip and Bets and they form their find-outing group. Their first mystery is trying to work out who set fire to Mr Hick’s workroom, not an easy task seeing as he has several people who are quite angry with him. And of course they are up against the magnificent Mr Goon, the local policeman. Unfortunately for him, he is magnificently rude and foolish and absolutely useless at mysteries for the most part, and is royally shown up by the children when they point the finger at the right culprit.

the-mystery-of-the-burnt-cottage

 

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St Clare’s covers through the years, 1940s – 1980s

Having already done The Famous Five, Adventure Series, Barney Mysteries, Malory Towers, the Secret Series and Mr Galliano’s Circus, I’m now going to tackle St Clare’s.

There are six books in the St Clare’s Series (if you don’t include the filler books by Pamela Cox – and I don’t!).


A 1940s boarding school by W. Lindsay Cable

I’ll admit one thing first – I get Stanley Lloyd and W. Lindsay Cable a bit muddled up sometimes. Lloyd did the covers and illustrations for the original Malory Towers editions, while Cable did the original St Clare’s. Most of their covers are quite unalike, but I think their internal illustrations are similar.

Anyway, It’s Cable we’re going to be looking at just now, and I will try not to accidentally write Lloyd.

The six original St Clare’s books were published by Methuen between 1941 and 1945, one a year except for 1944 when there were two (Second Form at St Clare’s and Claudine at St Clare’s).

What’s interesting is how different the first four books are to the last two. The first four are by no means identical, but all are pencil sketches with only a few parts picked out in colour. Then the final two look more like the covers we’ve seen for Malory Towers – full colour, full cover illustrations.

Methuen 1941 / Methuen 1942 / Methuen 1943 / Methuen 1944
Methuen 1944 / Methuen 1945

I wonder what prompted the change?

W. Lindsay Cable then re-did the first four books in the style of the last two, two coming out in 1945 and two in 1947.

Methuen 1945 / Methuen 1945 / Methuen 1947 / Methuen 1947

If you were to put the first editions of the last two books alongside the second editions of the first four they look like a complete series, despite three having dark yellow/green colour palettes and the others being more beige with blue/red/green.


Armada

Armada must have published hundreds of Enid Blyton titles in the sixties! Yet again they are the first paperback edition for a series.

This time they are a mix of Dorothy Brooks and Mary Gernat. They all have the typical Armada look, though, with bright colours and a real sense of movement and action.

Mary Gernat did books 1, 5 and 6, while Dorothy Brooks did 2, 3 and 4. They are not too dissimilar though Brooks’ characters look a little more modern and slender!

Armada 1963 / Armada 1964 / Armada 1964 / Armada 1963 / Armada 1963 / Armada / 1963

Armada also did a second set in 1988, in a style I don’t recall seeing on any other of Blyton’s books. Each has the illustration contained in a box, but with some of the girls’ belongings arranged outside as if they are bursting out from the world within.

Armada 1988 / Armada 1988 / Armada 1988

The O’Sullivan Twins at St Clare’s is the only one of the six to have the first part of the title in the larger font and St Clare’s at the bottom.


Dragons and Polaroids

In another familiar move, there was a 1960s full set of Dragons with their recognizable ‘upside down’ Polaroid style. These were all done by Mary Gernat, with new illustrations.

All Dragon 1967

Dragon then reused some of these for their next set. They skipped the first and fourth books, but reissued the second, third, fifth and sixth books with the same Gernat illustration as a full cover in the early 70s.

Dragon 1967 / Dragon 1970 / Dragon 1967 / Dragon 1973

Then in 1972 they did a new upside down polaroid cover with a Paul Wright illustration for the second, fourth and sixth books. How very, very confusing! I can only assume that they were selling out of some titles faster than others, and rights to covers/artwork had run out in the meantime.

All Dragon 1972

The final set of Dragons came in 1982, with covers by Michael Johnson. I had a couple of these and they did absolutely nothing to encourage me to read the St Clare’s series. The girls all look about 18, and look a bit like air-hostesses at times. That or they’re all French? as the blue, red and white banner at the top has been repeated in their clothing on all but one cover. I had Claudine at St Clare’s which looked so serious, and grown-up that I never read it. The Twins at St Clare’s is a bit better but I was still never moved to open it.

All Dragon 1982

Modern Methuen

The first Methuen appears to be a one-off, an edition of The Second Form at St Clare’s from 1973, reusing the same Paul Wright cover from the previous year’s Dragon edition. Something about it makes it look like it could be a hardback, that doesn’t make it any less random in my eyes.

Now, I rarely like covers past the 1950s, though I have a soft spot for the early 60s Armada’s, I suppose. I do like these 1981 Methuen hardbacks by Hilda Offen, though. She did a matching set for Malory Towers the same year. They are all brightly-coloured but retain a nice 1940s look. Saying that, the third book here has edged over to twee. Still, they are amongst some of the better covers for later books. These may be quite rare as the Cave of books only has these three – but the artwork is reused for other editions and you can see that in my next post.

All Methuen 1981.

I will stop there for now, and resume with the 90s editions next time. Modern Blytons can have some atrocious covers but there are some modern gems too.

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Letters to Enid volume 9

Previous letters pages can be found here.


Letters page from Volume 1, issue 18. November 11th – 24th 1953

OUR

LETTER PAGE

 1. A letter from a child in Northumberland, whose name I am not printing – but my prize goes to her this week.
Dear Enid Blyton,
I would like to become a Busy Bee because I love all animals. I want to tell you something. I have lost the thumb on my right hand, and in my Junior School like, I have been mocked and laughed at about it. Please could you possibly, in your magazine, as the children on behalf of any child who has lost any part of his body, not to mock or laugh at them. It does make them feel so unhappy.
Your faithful friend

E. R.

(I felt sad when I read this letter. I know that my readers will do what this child asks.)

2. A letter from Joy Meree Slader-Brown, 62 Wellington Road, Exeter
Please, I want to be a Sunbeam. I have put in three shillings, one shilling for the badge, and a shilling each for my two eyes, because I can see out of both of them. I went without some of my sweets to save it up.
With love from

Joy.

(A shilling each for her two eyes – what a lovely idea!)

3. A letter from CMaureen Harper, 1 Rudham Road, Syderstone, Norfolk
Dear Enid Blyton,
Will you please make me a Sunbeam, as I feel sorry for all the little blind children. I had an operation on my eyes in hospital, and had to have them covered up for eleven days. I am going to hospital again for the same thing, so I am sure I shall think of the little blind children when I have my eyes covered up again. I hope I shall get my badge in time to wear it in hospital.
From your most faithful reader

Maureen Harper

(Good luck to you, Maureen, from all of us.)


Three very worthy letters this week, from kind-hearted children. All girls again, though! I love how children feel they can confide in Enid Blyton, just from reading her books.

 

 

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Monday #278

St Clare’s covers through the years

and

Letters to Enid volume 9

I’ve been very useful to Inspector Jenks. You know I have. And you know I’m going to be the finest detective in the world when I’m grown up. I’m sure if you ring up the Inspector, Mother, he will tell you not to forbid me to do anything I want to. He trusts me.

Modesty is not one of Fatty’s skills in The Mystery of the Hidden House.

The Secret Seven nearly becomes the Secret Six in Shock for the Secret Seven, when Jack threatens to leave over a falling-out with Peter. He reunited with his friends after making a key discovering in a mystery about some missing dogs.

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Malory Towers on TV

I’ve thought before about the possibility of Malory Towers being adapted for screen, small or big! It’s something that appears in our search terms now and again, and I’ve written about various adaptations that could be made, which included Malory Towers.

And now it seems that it’s actually going to happen!


Really going to happen?

Well, I can’t guarantee anything. A Faraway Tree movie has been in the works for about the past five years, apparently, but with no sign of anything actually happening. This could, obviously, go the same way, but I’m hoping it doesn’t!

Me falling out of my chair in shock at the news.


So what do we know?

So far, not an awful lot.

  • It has been commissioned by the BBC for CBBC.
  • It will have thirteen episodes.
  • Production begins in Canada this month before it moves to the UK.
  • It should be shown at some point next year.

Perhaps most importantly, it is going to be set in the 1940s!

Me at the news it’ll have a 1940s setting


What do I think?

I think that is absolutely the right decision to set the show in the 1940s. While I think the 70s Famous Five series doesn’t suffer too much from being modernised, a Malory Towers full of mobile phones, selfies and the Kardashians would just be horrific.

Interestingly, there is supposedly going to be a “contemporary twist”. I cannot think what that’s going to be, but I hope it doesn’t detract from the period setting.

The focus is said to be on bullying, peer pressure, self-doubt and shifting cliques. That sounds like Malory Towers, all right. Though crushes are also mentioned, which isn’t something that crops up at Malory Towers. It will be interesting to see how they handle these sorts of storylines for children with modern sensibilities. The Malory Towers girls sort out an awful lot of their issues themselves, doling out their own sorts of punishments. Sending girls to Coventry wouldn’t be a popular move nowadays – even I think it’s a pretty awful way of dealing with someone to have their whole class blank them.

The head of content for CBBC, Cheryl Taylor, has said:

Malory Towers set the template for popular British boarding school stories and we’re delighted to bring this classic title to CBBC. Darrell Rivers is a truly iconic character – sparky, independent and a fierce warrior against injustice. She shone a bright light on the potential of all girls at a time when expectations were very limited. The books have inspired generations of young readers and we can’t wait for our audience to meet Darrell and her friends.

Statements like that always give me a lot of hope, but I’ve been let down many times before by self-professed Blyton fans who claim to have brought us something new which is also respectful to the original.

I’m slightly concerned about only thirteen episodes. That’s only two (and a bit) per book – unless it’s going to cover the Pamela Cox books too. Then it’s only one, probably half hour, per book! So much is going to get cut!

Then there’s the question of the cast! I’m sure it will (quite rightly) be more multicultural than Malory Towers was. It would be nice to see a famous face or two, as well.

We will have to wait and see if this adaptation delivers!


What do I want to see?

I definitely want to see things that have been cut from the latest paperbacks – like Darrell slapping Gwen. I’d also love to see them playing lacrosse. My favourite characters after Darrell are Belinda and Irene so I hope they appear with all their forgetful ways (and Belinda’s scowl notebook) but I imagine they might amalgamate them into one forgetful character. I suspect they may only have one Mam’zelle, too.

Story-line wise Mary-Lou rescuing Daphne from the cliffs is an absolute must as it’s probably the most thrilling bit of the book. That and June’s rescue of Amanda from the sea.

I’m sure they will include some tricks on the mistresses, but which ones? The hair-pin stealing magnet? The pinging bubbles? The sneezing powder? I’d like to see the pink chalk OY, myself.


P.S. thank you to Rebecca Lewis who brought this to my attention by sending me a link to her article.

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June 2019 round up

I completely forgot about doing a round-up for June last week!

What I have read

Last month I got through:

  • Can You Keep a Secret? – Sophie Kinsella
  • Five Go Off to Camp – reviewed here and here
  • Written in My Own Heart’s Blood (Outlander #8) – Diana Gabaldon
  • Hope for the Best (Chronicles of St Mary’s #10) – Jodi Taylor
  • Noddy and the Farmyard Muddle – Sophie Smallwood (reviewed here)
  • J is for Judgement (Kinsey Millhone #10) – Sue Grafton
  • The Ghost Train (Funny Bones) – Allan Ahlberg
  • Old Broughty Ferry – Alan Walter Brotchie

And I made progress on:

  • Seven Stones to Stand or Fall (Outlander short stories) – Diana Gabaldon
  • Russian Roulette (Mirabelle Bevan #) – Sara Sheridan
  • Spark Joy – Marie Kondo
  • Sustainable Home – Christine Liu
  • Outlander (Outlander #1) – Diana Gabaldon (audiobook)

I have run out of new Outlander books and the next one probably won’t be out until next year so I’ve ended up going back to the start on audiobook, though the first one is 32 hours! There also won’t be another Jodi Taylor book for a year or so, though there’s a short story due in September. I hate waiting for new books in a series, which is why I often wait until one is finished before starting it. I guess I’m just used to binge reading Famous Fives!


What I have watched

  • Hollyoaks
  • Murder She Wrote season 4
  • The latest series of Taskmaster
  • Outlander series 4

What I have done

  • We have had some decent weather at last and have made the most of it.
  • We’ve been to the beach three times to paddle, build sandcastles and examine interesting-looking rocks and stones.
  • We’ve been to dozens of parks, spotting some Oor Wullie statues along the way, visited the wildlife centre, transport museum and science centre.
  • We’ve also had day trips to a few children’s ‘play farms‘.
  • I wasted several hours on different days waiting around for jury service only to be sent home and dismissed along with everyone else because our service was over despite none of us actually sitting on a jury.

 

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Monday #277

June round up

and

Malory Towers on TV

Hey, Timmy – you look like Queen Elizabeth the First in a fine big ruff!

Uncle Quentin makes fun of Timmy and offends George so much that she goes off to camp by Kirrin Common and stumbles into another adventure.

 

Eunice Tolling is the daughter of a coleopterist, in town for a beetle conference. She and her father are staying with the Trottevilles in The Mystery of the Missing Man. Eunice is a most forceful young lady who speaks her mind and leaves Fatty hardly able to get a word in edgeways. He’s used to being the smartest one around but Eunice manages to make him look quite silly rather too often for his liking.

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Miss Grayling’s Girls 6 – her best teachers

This should really be titled Miss Grayling’s Ladies, I suppose, but as all the other parts have girls in the title I stuck with consistency and not accuracy! Previous parts, about the various girls that attend Malory Towers, can be found here.


Miss Potts

First form mistress, and head of North Tower, Miss Potts has to be Miss Grayling’s most helpful staff member.

She is always in charge of the new girls when they get the train to Malory Towers.

A keen-faced mistress. This must be Miss Potts. Her eyes twinkled – but there was something determined about her mouth. It wouldn’t do to get into her bad books.

Although named Potty by the girls she is anything but. She sizes up all the girls that pass through her care very quickly, and she’s almost always right about them.

She had already sized [Gwendoline] up and knew her to be a spoilt, only child, selfish and difficult to handle at first.

A nice, straightforward, trustable girl. [Darrell] can be a bit of a monkey, I should think. She looks as if she has good brains, I’ll see that she uses them.

She sees through malingerers like Gwendoline, suck-ups like Daphne, and as she knows the girls better, often discusses their progress with Miss Grayling and offers sound opinions.

She has wise advice for her students too,

Work hard this term, and you’ll find the exams easy. But slack this term, and I can promise you I shall hear some groans and grumbles next term!

When Darrell goes to her at the end of her first term, she has some very good advice;

You have come to ask me how it is that you are nearer the bottom than the top when you could so easily be among the top ones? There are people like Alicia who can play the fool in class and waste their time and everyone else’s, and yet still come out well in their work. And there are people like you, who can also play the fool and waste their time – but unfortunately it affects their work and they slide down to the bottom…

I shouldn’t copy Alicia and Betty too much if I were you, Darrell. You will be a finer character if you go along on your own, than if you copy other people. You see, what you do, you do whole heartedly – so if you play the fool, naturally other things will suffer. Alicia is able to do two or three things quite well at one and the same time. That certainly has its points – but the best people in this world are the whole-hearted ones, if they can only make for the right things.

Later she makes the hard decision to demote Darrell as head of the Upper Fourth, after she shakes June in a rage. While she knows that June’s owning up to being at the midnight feast is most likely not out of any sense of moral obligation (I am inclined to take your ‘owning up’ with a pinch of salt), she knows that Darrell cannot remain in position.

If you can’t control yourself, Darrell, you certainly can’t control others.

Continue reading

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Letters to Enid volume 8

Previous letters pages can be found here.


Letters page from Volume 1, issue 17. October 28th – November 10th, 1953

 

OUR

LETTER PAGE

 1. A letter from Gillian Broadhurst, 270 Kings Road, Kingstanding, Birmingham, 22c
Dear Enid Blyton,
I am sending you some pictures from your magazine. I drew them – well, I did in a way. I will tell you how to do them. Get a candle and rub it over a piece of paper. Then put the paper, waxed-wide downwards, on to the picture which you want to take the drawing from. Get a pencil or a spoon and rub over the paper. Take the paper off and you will see you have a nice picture on the waxed side.
Love from,
Gillian Broadhurst.

(What a good idea, Gillian! We’ll try it!)

2. A letter from Jean Whitter, 30, Snape Street, Radcliffe, Lancs.
Dear Enid Blyton,
I have been getting your magazine ever since it came out, and I enjoy every single page of it. I have got nearly all the Five Books. I want to tell you that lat Christmas my uncle gave me a Bible made of olive wood from the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem, and I wonder if any of your readers have a Bible like mine?
Yours sincerely,
Jean Whitter.

(If any reader has an unusual Bible perhaps he or she would like to write to Jean.)

3. A letter from Christine Harrington, Mole Hill Green, Felstead, Essex.
Dear Enid Blyton,
My sister and I read your magazine. I am nearly six. When I went to Clacton-on-Sea, I went in the life-boat house and saw the life boat. It is very large. The blackberries on the hedges near our house are ripe. I go to school and Sunday-school.
With love from
Christine Harrington

(I do think this is a very good letter from someone who was not six when it was written. The writing is just as good as the letter! Well done, Christine!)

DSC02500


Another warning from Enid Blyton!

I forgot to include this last time, but this message was in the newsletter at the back of issue 16.

Don’t forget that I never choose a letter sent specially in for this – I only choose from the ordinary letters you send me, because that is the fairest way. If you try to write a letter for the letter-page your letter is often no longer natural. Nobody ever knows when he or she will find their letter, or part of it, on that page, and if they do see it, they can be quite proud! To be able to write a good, natural letter, as most of you do, is an admirable thing.

It makes me wonder what children were writing. Dear Enid Blyton, please choose my letter for your letter page, I do love your books… 


Is it just me or do the ‘instructional’ letters come across a little bit rude? I thought that about the letter from Jilly Peters about the match stick puzzle too. It’s probably just a mix of formal writing style and childish exuberance!

It’s funny how children exclaim over long-term loyalty that is actually not very long at all. I have been getting your magazine ever since it came out, that’s seventeen issues over 7 months. Then again, if Jean is only 7 or 8 that’s at least a tenth of her life so far. Everything seems to take longer to children, I think. Nearly all the Five Books made me smile as well. There were only 12 at the time.

It’s nice that Enid featured Christine’s letter, as although very good for a five year old, is not as good as many of the other letters she must have recieved.

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Monday #276

I didn’t end up doing jury duty last week, but I’ve got to attend again today at 10 – on my day off no less! Thankfully three of Enid’s fans have done the bulk of the work for Wednesday’s post already, some sixty six years ago no less. All that’s left for me to do is transcribe the letters and organise the photos!

Letters to Enid volume 8

and

Miss Grayling’s Girls part 6

It was a good thing he had no more money to spend or he would have bought a black dow a white cat, two mice and a parrot that would say “Pass the salt, please,” and then cackle loudly just like a hen that has laid an egg. Meddle thought it was wonderful.

Mr Meddle does some window shopping before getting lost in the fog in Meddle in a Fog, found in Merry Mister Meddle.

Peep-Hole is the home of Miss Dimity – or Dimmy as she’s often known – who often takes care of the Arnold Children during the school holidays. It is a funny, crooked sort of house with a tower on one side. It looks out to sea from a hollow in the hills, and that’s why it’s called peep-hole as it peeps out to sea.

It’s said that smugglers used to signal from the tower of Peep-Hole to the tower of a big old house further back on the cliffs. The children discover a secret passage at Peep-Hole that leads not only to the big house, but also to the Spiggy caves that give the book – The Secret of Spiggy Holes – its name.

 

 

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Letters to Enid volume 7

Previous letters pages can be found here.


Letters page from Volume 1, issue 16. October 14th – 27th, 1953

 

OUR

LETTER PAGE

 1. A letter from Busy-Bee Geraldine Ann Wall, 99 Bloomfield Road, Blackwood, Mon.
Dear Enid Blyton,
I have something to tell you that thrilled me very much. I was walking down a street in Weston-Super-Mare when I saw a white van across the street. I saw that it had the letters P.D.S.A. on it (People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals). I was so excited to see a van that had to do with the work of the Busy Bees that I ran to take a look. The door was open so  I stole a look. Inside there was a bull-dog with a cut on his head, and beside him a man was tending him. It was lovely to see the man’s gentle hands at work.
All my love,
Geraldine.

(How many more of my readers have seen one of these wonderful vans?)

2. A letter from Ella Maunder, Lower Kilcott Farm, Meshaw.
Dear Enid Blyton,
I want to tell you how much all my family enjoy your magazine and book. My sister had your magazine, and when I am away at school she sends it to me and I pass it around my dormitory. My father likes reading your Brer Rabbit and Twiddle stories, and my grandfather is reading a Twiddle book. My grandmother likes reading Amelia Jane. Will there be any more Five books?
Yours sincerely,
Ella Maunder.

(Yes, Ella there will be plenty more!)

3. A letter from Carole Fitch, Sheriffmuir, East Horsley.
Dear Miss Enid Blyton,
On Saturday we organised a small show. We acted a play I had written, sang songs and did a dance. Brumas, my little poodle,  wore a little hat and carried a small box for collecting the enclosed ten shillings for your Sunbeams.
Yours affectionately,
Carole Fitch

(Please give Brumas a grateful pat for me, Carole!)


Another three letters from girls but it’s interesting that Enid has now started adding little replies to the letters.

I wonder how much Ella’s family liked her revealing to the world that they all read children’s books?

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

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


The World of Children’s Books

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

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

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

 


What does it say about Enid Blyton?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Illustrations are up next for Blyton;

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

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

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


What isn’t said

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

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

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

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

This I very much agree with.

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


 

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Monday #275

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

Enid Blyton in The World of Children’s Books

and

Letters to Enid vol 7

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

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

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

janet and miss kennedy

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

 

 

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

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

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

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


The book visually

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

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

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

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

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

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

 


The story

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

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

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


The writing

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

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

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

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

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


Three, or is it eight or nine?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


What else is there?

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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


 

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Monday #274

Enid Blyton in the Ultimate First Book Guide

and

Noddy and the Farmyard Muddle

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

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

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

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

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

rubadub mystery

 

 

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Five Go off to Camp part 2

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


The big adventure

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


George is as good as a boy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Questions, comments and nitpicks

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

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

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

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

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

Some of my random observances;

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

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

anne, five go off to camp

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

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

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

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

I also have a lot of questions and nitpicks…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Come tomorrow,” said Dick.

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

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

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

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

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


Final thoughts

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

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Letters to Enid volume 6

Previous letters pages can be found here.


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

OUR

LETTER PAGE

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

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

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


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

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

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

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Monday #273

Letters to Enid volume 6

and

Five Go Off to Camp part 2

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

noddy and the tootles

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

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Five Go Off to Camp

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

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


A story in three parts

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

This one I’ve split a bit differently:

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

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


All about Mr Luffy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Jock, Mr Andrews and Mrs Andrews

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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