Monday #520

Until around 3pm on Saturday I was blissfully unaware that the clocks were due to change that night. Normally I’m counting the weeks until the end of March so that it’s finally light when I finish work on my late evenings, but I hadn’t thought about it for a few weeks at least. And then this weekend we had a birthday party at 10am Sunday. With the clock change that put us in a soft-play centre at what should have been just 9am.

Brodie had a great time and I managed to read a bit of a book on my phone while he played so it wasn’t all bad. Plus I’m feeling ready for bed earlier than usual which isn’t bad either.

Enid Blyton’s Holiday Stories then and now, part 2

The Five as you’ve never seen them before, part 4

They both wanted to their own way always. If they played pirates, then both Billy and Joan wanted to be captain at once. If they played burglars, they each wanted to be the policeman. If they played aeroplanes they each shouted that they must drive the aeroplane.

While I hope most children don’t end up slapping each other like these two do in The Two Silly Children (from The Red Story Book), this bit pretty much sums up a lot of young children – including my own!



Posted in Blog talk | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Enid Blyton’s Holiday Stories, then and now

In case you missed it, I’ve recently read Enid Blyton’s Holiday Stories – the 2015 Hodder collection – to Brodie at bedtimes.

This is the first in what will probably be a reasonably long series of posts as I half-review and half-compare the texts of the various stories in it.

I don’t have all the original stories but I expect I have a decent number of them – so I’ll begin by hauling all the potential sources off the shelves.

Holiday Stories

This is one of many recent Hodder collections which brings together around 30 stories with a particular theme.

This one has 26 stories, and below are the titles, where they were originally found and where my version comes from (if I have it). I tend not to collect anything published after Blyton stopped writing new material in the mid 60s, and most pre 1940s books are harder to find, so the bulk of my collection is from 1940-1964, which mostly explains why I’m missing the titles I am below.

At Seaside CottageAt Seaside Cottage – I don’t have this as it’s very hard (and also expensive) to find in the original form, though there’s one paperback reprint from 1969.

The Magic Ice CreamSunny Stories For Little Folks 222 – The Red Story Book

Wagger Goes to the ShowSunny Stories 407 – The Eighth Holiday Book

A Surprise for JimmySunny Stories For Little Folks 163 – The Astonishing Ladder and Other Stories

The Twins Get in a FixSunny Stories 138 – The Tenth Holiday Book

The Enchanted CloakSunny Stories 244 – Tales After Tea

Adventure Up a TreeSunny Stories 486 – The Twelfth Holiday Book

John’s HankyGood Housekeeping – I don’t have this (its only reprint pre 1975 was in The Big Bedtime Book 1951)

The Magic Watering Can Sunny Stories For Little Folks 227 – I don’t have this, it looks like pre 1997 it’s only in News Chronicle Boys’ and Girls’ Story Book No. 4 from 1936.

Peppermint RockSunny Stories 468 – The Eleventh Holiday Book

The Donkey on the SandsSunny Stories 192 –  I don’t have this but it was in three versions of Jolly Tales plus a few post 1960s collections.

In the Middle of the NightSunny Stories For Little Folks 245 – I thought I had this but it turns out that the stories by the same title in The Red Story Book and Tricky The Goblin and Other Stories are both entirely different tales.

A Bit of Blue SkySunny Stories 150 – The Happy Story Book

The Smuggler’s CavesSunny Stories 386 – The Sixth Holiday Book

Mr Gobo’s Green GrassSunny Stories 179 – The Third Holiday Book

Smokey and the SeagullEnid Blyton’s Magazine 4.15 – Not reprinted until 1991

Adventures Under the SeaMerry Moments Annual – I discovered a Blyton book I’d never heard of when looking for this one – it’s only pre 1989 reprint was in Tarrydiddle Town and Other Stories!

An Exciting AfternoonSunny Stories 417 – The Water-Lily Story Book

Lazy Lenny (originally titled Lazy Leonard) – Sunny Stories 310 – The Fifth Holiday Book

Pink Paint for a PixieSunny Stories 303 – A Story Party at Green Hedges

Shut the GateSunny Stories 424 – The Eleventh Holiday Book

Look Out for the Elephant!Sunny Stories 465 – The Tenth Holiday Book

Staying with Auntie Sue (Originally titled The Spoilt Little Girl) – Sunny Stories 399 – The Eleventh Holiday Book

A Puppy in Wonderland (Originally titled A Puppy in Fairyland) – Sunny Stories For Little Folks 95 – I don’t have this, it’s in the News Chronicle no4 and the Pitkin Pleasure Series which I haven’t collected

The Three SailorsSunny Stories 82 – The Gay Story Book

The Magic SeaweedSunny Stories for Little Folks 144 – The Little White Duck and Other Stories

That’s not bad – I have 18 of the stories out of 26.

How many books (and bookmarks) it takes to make up one new collection, and one series of blog posts.

At Seaside Cottage

This is an unusual inclusion for two reasons. First, it’s the only longer story in the collection and is actually split into three chapters. Perhaps if this hadn’t been included then there would have been 29 or 30 stories in total.

Secondly, this is the precursor to the Secret Seven, though that is not mentioned. Peter and Janet are a bit younger in this story, so they haven’t even thought up the Secret Seven yet. That comes in their second short book – The Secret of the Old Mill. Both of these are pretty scarce – the only copies I could see at the moment are going for £325 for Seaside Cottage and £98 for Old Mill.

Unlike in the later Secret Seven books there is no mystery in this short story, instead it’s a quintessential Blyton holiday tale, full of sand, sea, boats, ice-cream, rockpools, and of course beach caves. Granny’s cottage’s back garden has a gate that leads straight onto the beach, so close the winter tides sometimes splash up the garden path. I immediately wanted to go and stay right there (but perhaps not in the middle of winter).

Sadly the new collection is unillustrated and so we miss out on Eileen Soper’s beautiful work – but it’s all in the Cave.

Obviously without the original edition I can’t compare the text but this has probably been updated in places. They take the train to Granny’s and obviously at the time it would have been a steam train but there are none of the usual references to trains puffing into stations and so on.


Posted in Book reviews, Updating Blyton's Books | Tagged , , | 7 Comments

Five Are Together Again part 4

Finally, I have reached the post with the promised nitpicks, of which there are many.

Random points

This one’s set at Easter, as was Mystery to Solve so it’s a full year later. It makes sense for them to have Spring and Summer adventures as that’s when the best weather likely is, but Blyton’s propensity to have sequential holidays or skipped seasons at either time means the progression of the Five’s ages makes little sense. If it alternated, at least, they could have two adventures a year! Out of interest I looked it up and there are nine summer adventures, eight spring/Easter, one autumn, two winter, and one at Whitsun in May/June which you could count as either Spring or Summer I suppose.

While it’s often nice to see occasional characters again (such as Jo), I rather wish Blyton had brought back anyone but Tinker for their final adventure. Well, perhaps anyone but Wilfrid or Tinker. I’d much rather have had them go stay with Jo at Joan’s sister’s cottage, to visit Jennifer Armstrong, Nobby, Jock, even Richard Kent or the Lawdler twins. But alas, no, it’s Tinker. At least he only does his car-noises briefly at the beginning and end of the book.

Likewise, of all the locations we could have had why a regular house with a field next door? Event the tower lacks interest – no secret passages anywhere. They’re so close to Kirrin but we barely see it which is infuriating. The picture of Kirrin on the spine is a particularly dishonest bit of advertising. They are within a bike ride of Kirrin so there was nothing stopping them from taking Tinker there for a visit.

There have obviously been changes to the school plans since the earlier books. Firstly, Timmy is no longer at school with George, and apparently hasn’t been for at least a few terms. Is that a nitpick? Nothing is ever said to explain it. In previous books the pony and trap has been used to convey the Five from the station to Kirrin Cottage. This time they walk as if that’s always been the plan – except George who takes a taxi as Timmy isn’t there to meet her – and their trunks go on the porter’s van.

The pony trap in Five on Kirrin Island Again

Obviously Fanny couldn’t collect them as she is in quarantine, but do they still have the pony and trap? I can’t see them having bought a car somehow, even if it is 1963! Saying that, the pony never gets mentioned in between journeys – the Five never go to feed it apples or sugar lumps!

As with the reminder of George not answering to Georgina Blyton also reminds us of how she came to own the island. Of course each book is designed to be read alone, but these two somehow seemed a little obvious in their explanations.

Joan’s last appearance in the series is her being carted off to an ambulance as she has scarlet fever. We don’t even get to find out how she’s doing by the end of the book! All the short stories predate this final book so we never see Joan again.

Our only view of Aunt Fanny is her head sticking out the window and we don’t see Uncle Quentin at all. I imagine that he is not severely affected by the quarantine has he spends most of his time holed up in his study anyway, while it’ll be down to Fanny to arrange for food and anything else they need to be delivered (unless they plan to survive on the tins in her bedroom cupboard!). She’ll also have to do all the cooking and cleaning with Joan away. I found it odd that the Five never wondered how everyone was. Presumably if they’d come down with scarlet fever they would have called Big Hollow to tell them, but they spare not a second to worry. Julian and Dick go to collect the tents and bikes but there’s no report of them speaking to their aunt or uncle.

five are together again quarantine

Julian’s memory seems to be failing as he says that Tinker is unforgettable then adds he’s the boy that owns that old lighthouse at demons rocks, isn’t he? I mean, how many boys with monkeys does he know? (Yes, I know this is an explanation for anyone who hasn’t read Demon’s Rocks, but it’s poorly done).

The local bus conductor knows the Five well, suggesting they use the bus regularly at Kirrin (but perhaps it doesn’t serve the train station, at least, not at the right times?). He also knows Professor Hayling as the bus goes past his house. Unfortunately he doesn’t tell any tales worthy of Old Great Grandad or Bill the Blacksmith etc, but he shares an amusing anecdote with them about Prof Hayling.

Prof Hayling’s house is called Big Hollow and is in the village of Big Hollow – making his address Big Hollow, (name of street?), Big Hollow… meanwhile Julian refers to Kirrin as home which makes me wonder does he consider the general area home as he lives near(er) by, or does he see Kirrin as home as he’s spent so much time there?

Interestingly the camping out idea is not the Five’s – or Tinker’s – rather it is Jenny’s as she has no mattresses for the spare beds (that’s a new excuse!)

When George suggests going back to Kirrin to get their own tents she says that Jim the carrier could fetch them. She says it as if everyone, including the reader should understand that, but I’m not sure who he is or what a carrier is! Is that like an odd-job postie? Anyway, I did wonder if they couldn’t just get the tents on the bus again – but they want to ride their bikes back as Blyton knew they’d be needed later in the story.

Mr Tapper is another animal charmer who is great with monkeys. Like Jo and Wilfrid before him he charms Mischief away from an unimpressed Tinker. Ironically he shares this skill with old Jeremiah Boogle, enemy of One-Ear Bill who’s ear was bitten off by a monkey. Mr Tapper is also missing an ear – but whether or not it was monkey related is never explained.

Two of Prof Hayling’s inventions are the sko-wheel and the electric trosymon. I wonder what on earth they were for!

The Five have the best of both worlds of camping out and having someone else cook them a hot dinner. As much as I like Jenny I wish they’d been off somewhere more rural and stopping in at inns and farms.

We know Big Hollow must be on the coast as it isn’t a long journey to go bathe in the sea. Is it on the way to Demon’s Rocks, or in the opposite direction?


This has already been a rather long post but I couldn’t make everyone wait for part four for them.

  • Is George expecting Timmy at the station or not? She asks, seemingly genuinely, if the others think he will be there, yet she’s panicking when he doesn’t show. Likewise Dick jokes that Timmy can’t read train timetables, but George confirms Timmy was at the station the last few times.
  • Fanny says she will sort out alternative accommodation for the Five but then calls Professor Hayling to prevent him from also turning up. This is convenient as they then go stay with him, but leads me to wonder why Fanny has allowed these arrangements given that there wasn’t apparently room for them all at the beginning of Demon’s Rocks.
  • Kirrin, or the area around is, is suddenly referred to as Little Hollow. We’ve never heard of Big or Little Hollow before, nor was it suggested that Prof Hayling lived so close to Kirrin in Demon’s Rocks. If he’s a short bus-ride away then he could easily visit daily to work on scientific things, and wouldn’t have had to come stay overnight.
  • The Five’s luggage is still sat at the garden gate but there’s no mention of it being dropped off by the porter’s van.
  • Fanny says that the bus to Big Hollow will pass in ten minutes, and they’d better run for it. Yet it passes right outside the front gate (after about two minutes of dialogue at most) and stops where when Anne flags it down. She also says to ask the gardener across the way to help with their cases, which are also right outside the front gate.
  • The Kirrins have a cat – I can’t remember any mention of them having a cat before? Julian’s family also had a never-before-mentioned cat in Mystery To Solve.
  • George is said to have always been afraid of snakes in the spring, yet this is news to me. She does mention a neighbours dog who was bitten which would explain her worry, but funny it’s never come up before if she’s always been afraid.
  • The Five leave school, take a train, arrive at Kirrin Station, walk down to the cottage, get a bus, arrive at Tinker’s and are still in time for lunch – how early did they leave school?
  • The Five discuss going back to Kirrin to collect the tents and bikes. Julian says he will bring back Anne’s bike. George leaves the house with them, and Anne and Tinker stay. Yet shortly after Anne and Tinker find George in the house. Of course she could have changed her mind about going, and asked the boys to bring her bike back but it’s just odd.
  • There’s an illustration of them all watching Prof Hayling unroll the document detailing ownership of the field but this happens while the boys are off to Kirrin.

  • Another illustration shoes Dick and George inside the donkey skin yet the back leg(s) are categorically not human! Julian asks How could [Jeremy] have known George was inside? Now he may be referring to the first time Jeremy hit the donkey but Tinker had clearly told him that Dick and George we inside before he hit them again. Besides, Jeremy his hitting the donkey as he thinks whoever is inside isn’t supposed to be there – and with Tinker, Julian and Anne standing there it wouldn’t be difficult to guess who was inside.

  • Anne is horrified at circuses treating chimps like family –  and nobody mentions Pongo who they all loved. She is also completely fooled by the donkey performance despite having seen Clopper at Tremannon Farm (and two men in a donkey suit not really looking all that much like a real donkey…)
  • Prof Hayling suggests they are rather far away for the police to come out to, yet they aren’t far from Kirrin where they have no problems summoning the police.
  • I’m probably getting silly now but Timmy wonders why they’re out for a night-time run. George usually tells him everything as she believes he can understand her. Mind you, if she had told him he would probably be wondering if there wasn’t a better way to go about it as he’s a clever dog.
  • Kirrin island has a tiny creek by the landing beach where George hides her boat. This has never been mentioned before, in the past they have hidden their boat by draping seaweed over it.
  • George pushes Mr Wooh’s boat out to sea, but I wonder if it wouldn’t just get caught on the ring of rocks around the island. It’s clear from Five on a Treasure Island that there’s only one channel deep enough to allow access to the island even at higher tides. It’s said to be floating out to sea, but I suppose a definition of ‘out to see’ could fit if the rocky ring is further out than I imagine it.
  • I was annoyed by further repetition from Tinker about the stolen clock literally a paragraph apart and in the same conversation –

I found it hidden in the straw in Charlie’s cage this morning!… It was the loud ticking that told me it was there in the cage!’


Nobody would be likely to get into the chimp’s cage and sit there with him—but I did this morning, and that’s how I found it. I heard it ticking, you see.

  • Surrounding that conversation there is more repetitive conversations about how Charlie carried out the theft.

 ‘But there were, of course, too many for old Charlie in the tower room. He wouldn’t be able to carry them all in his front paws, for he needed all his paws to climb down that steep wall—so he must have crammed as many as he could into his mouth.’

‘Well, as Tinker told you—my guess is that old Charlie must have put the little clock in his mouth then, along with the papers,’ said Dick. ‘He needed all his four paws, climbing—or rather slithering down that wall.

While I enjoyed one last adventure with the Five I think it’s obvious that quality of the writing doesn’t match the earlier adventures, nor does the location or actual mystery. That’s the problem with Blyton sometimes – she sets such high standards with the majority of her books than anything less is then rather disappointing in comparison!

Posted in Book reviews | Tagged , , , | 6 Comments

Monday #519

So let’s try that again! Last week I promised the last part of my Five Are Together Again reviews – the one with the nitpicks no less. I even had it all written and ready to go with the exception of a few points I needed to check. And then another bug hit our house (I swear we have caught everything going in the past year or so) and I did not open my laptop the rest of the week.

Five Are Together Again part 4


Enid Blyton’s Holiday Stories then and now

An oldish man with a beard—shuffling along, head bent forward—glasses on his nose—and large feet! Nicky brightened at once. “Might quite well be Uncle Bob!” he thought, and fell in behind him at once.

Of the other two, one was a postman with a large bag. He too had large feet, and was bent under the weight of his heavy bag. He had a small moustache, and mopped his face with a handkerchief as he went, giving a large sneeze as he passed the boys. They nudged one another.

“Bet that’s him!” whispered Ken. “You follow him and I’ll follow the old chap—just in case! I don’t think that other person’s any good. Small feet!”

Nicky and Ken go to meet Uncle Bob at the station in The Mystery that Never Was – but like Fatty, Uncle Bob might be in disguise…



Posted in Blog talk | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Monday #518

It’s ten pm on Monday as I write this, which is later than usual but at least it is still Monday.

Whether I get a Monday post written on Sunday as planned or not, I inevitably find myself trying to work out what I’m going to write that week. Having finished my reviews of the Famous Five (finally) I need to decide what my next series is as well.

Five Are Together Again part 4


Enid Blyton’s Holiday Stories then and now

“Right,” said Barney, finishing his breakfast. “That’s settled then. To-night about half-past nine. We’ll do the ‘This is the-House-that-Jack-Built’ business—move the picture that slides the panel that works the lever that frees the panel that opens the passage that lets us go down, that brings us to——”

“What?” cried the other three eagerly. But Barney shook his head. “That’s as far as I can get,” he said. “We’ll know the rest of our little story to-night, I hope.”

Reading about Ring O’ Bells Mystery in the latest Enid Blyton Society Journal reminded me just how good it is. I love all the fairy-tale elements woven into the adventure and of course there’s a secret passage!

ring o bells mystery



Posted in Blog talk | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Five Are Together Again part 3

Between two posts I have managed to cover the bulk of the plot already. I had completely intended for this to be the final part and include the nitpicks but sadly you’ll have to wait until next week for those as the post was in danger of hitting 4,000 words and becoming too unwieldy for words.

George as a boy

I was thinking how this might be the last time that I write that heading, but maybe I should go on to actually review the short stories rather than just summarise them.

I found George (or perhaps Blyton) to have forgotten a bit about her preference for boyish over girlish but she returns more to form in this book.

Blyton reminds us that:

George had always longed to be a boy, but as she wasn’t, she made up for it by trying to speak and act like one, and would never answer to her full name of Georgina.

And Julian thinks

How much she looked like a restless boy just then, with her short, curly hair, and her determined expression.

Mind you – she has an uncharacteristic outburst of sobbing early in the book. While I don’t believe that boys/men don’t or shouldn’t cry George certainly does. She is also not terribly prone to tears naturally, unless they are tears of rage! Yet she is devastated when her mother and father are in quarantine for  scarlet fever and their holiday plans are thrown into chaos. Typical of George she’s not all that worried about her parents, just her plans!

Julian and Dick soon sort her out by playing up to her own prejudices.

“Well, REALLY, George!” he said. “You’re acting just like a weepy girl. Poor Georgina! Poor little old Georgina!”

Of course it works.

George stopped sniffing immediately and glared at Julian in fury. If there was one thing she really hated it was to be told she was acting like a silly girl! And how awful to be called by her real name, Georgina! She gave Julian a hefty punch, and he grinned at her, warding her off.

“That’s better,” he said. “Cheer up! Just look at Timmy staring at you in amazement. He’s hardly ever heard you crying before!”

“I’m NOT crying!” said George. “I’m – well, I’m upset about Joan. And it’s awful to have nowhere to go!”

Moving on from that, the Five chip in at Big Hollow – the boys carry the trays and the girls wash up, or everyone cleans up and the girls wash up. By now it seems that George has more or less accepted her role as washer-upper.

It’s only Anne, though that stays behind later to help Jenny.

There’s only one compliment for George (out loud, anyway) when Julian says

“George can help me – she’s as good as a boy any day!”

George grinned. She loved to hear anyone say that!

Mind you, later he also thinks (just we well he doesn’t say it out loud)

After all, she was only a girl!

Blyton even agrees with him to an extent –

Yes, Julian, she is—but, as you’ve often said, she’s just as brave as a boy. Don’t be too sure about tonight!

Unusually Mr Wooh knows that George is a girl, though I couldn’t see that said in front of him. His companion on the island is shocked she is a girl, even after Mr Wooh has said it to him twice.

‘It’s the girl who’s come—I shouldn’t have thought that the boys would have let her,’ said Mr Wooh, astonished. ‘I am . . .’

‘A very brave and determined young lady!’ said Mr Wooh, bowing solemnly to George.

‘Do you mean to tell me that’s a girl!’ said the other man, amazed.

Lastly, Julian thinks that

George should have been a boy not a girl – the things she does.

I’m sure George would have thought that a compliment if he’d said it to her – but all I can think is that she doesn’t have to be a boy as she proves that girls can do anything boys can!

Missed opportunities

I always like it when characters link things back to previous adventures, but they miss out on several references here.

One-Ear Bill and Jeremiah Boogle are not mentioned, despite Mr Tapper being a one-eared monkey charmer.

Clopper is never mentioned despite Dick and George donning a donkey costume – I’d have loved for Julian to say No, never again – don’t you remember what happened last time we dressed up as a farm animal?

Although built out of a different material and for a different purpose Prof Hayling’s tower is reminiscent of Uncle Quentin’s tower on Kirrin Island – as it has strange spindly tentacles coming out the top and makes a humming sound.

Despite having seen Jo scale a partially ivy-clad tower they don’t give more than a second’s thought to the possibility of anyone climbing this tower.

The food

Not the greatest selection but most meals were provided in a house rather than out camping or at inns.

Their first meal is dinner (lunch) A large and delicious stew with carrots, onions and peas swimming in the gravy, and plenty of potatoes and a big steamed pudding with plenty of raisins in it.

Jenny serves a cold supper – a meat pie – cold sausages – a cucumber and lettuce hearts and tomatoes from the garden, rolls – and apple and bananas.

This is the only full-length Five book that has bananas in it – poor Pongo obviously never had any. There were few (if any) bananas to be had between 1940 and 1945 due to the war amongst other factors, and even after that they were heavily rationed until 1952. Yet it took Blyton eight years years to introduce them back into the Five’s world as one appears in Five Have a Puzzling Time (1960, and eaten by a monkey, not even any of the Five!) despite them not suffering from rationing in any of their books.

They drink lemonade and orangeade. They do a bit of shopping for their camp but don’t appear to have any camp meals – tinned meats and fruits, fresh rolls, tomatoes and apples and bananas.

Lastly they have a tea of slices of ham, and salad, and fruit to end with.

Professor Hayling

Despite them being at his house for the entire story we don’t see much more of Prof Hayling than we did in Demon’s Rocks. And this time he doesn’t have Uncle Quentin amplifying his confusion and temper.

It is perhaps ironic given Blyton’s declining memory Prof Hayling has no idea who the five are when they arrive, denies inviting them and denies he’s ever stayed at Kirrin. Maybe it’s because he didn’t eat breakfast and now it’s nearly lunch time.

He tells the children they can camp out then two seconds later can’t fathom what they would want tents for. Tents he later trips over in the hall as he doesn’t think to ever look around in case his surroundings have changed.

Tinker knows his father well and urges him not to hide the remaining papers after the theft as he will forget where they are. The last time he hid them up the chimney and they nearly got burnt. But the prof knows better and goes to hide them in the coal cellar. Only he hides the day’s papers and leaves the real papers in the unlocked tower. I love that Tinker and Jenny just decide to buy new newspapers to fool him into not realising his mistake.

And that’s about it – apart from looking around the tower at night with Jenny, and getting out the old charter to confirm the circus has the right to stay I don’t think he appears at any other point in the book.

Blyton talking to the characters and the reader

There are several clear examples of this, and a few which are less obvious.

To Tinker –

Dull, Tinker! You needn’t worry! There is far too much excitement waiting for the Five—and you too! Just wait a bit, and see!

To Charlie? –

And off they all went to the great cage. CHARLIE! CHARLIE! Wake up, you’re wanted! CHARLIE!

The lack of quotation marks here presumably means Blyton is summoning the chimp, rather than the Five shouting that.

To the reader and then the characters –

There they go, over the fence, handing the food one to another. Take your paw out of that basket, Mischief! That’s right, Timmy, nibble his ear if he’s as mischievous as his name! You’re all going to have some fun tonight!

As above, she speaks to Julian about George, and then to Tinker again –

So there goes Tinker, with Mischief on his shoulder, to find his father, down the hall—up the stairs—along the landing—into his father’s bedroom . . . r-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-r! Tinker, you sound like a motor-scooter going up a steep hill! Parp-parp! Don’t hoot like that, you’ll make your father so angry that he won’t listen to a word you say!

But the Professor did listen—and soon Jenny heard him telephoning the police. They’re coming straight away, and that means that Mr Wooh the Magician is in for a most unpleasant time, and his magic won’t help him at all! He’ll have to give back the papers that he made Charlie steal—and plenty of other things, too! There he is, marooned on the island, quite unable to escape, waiting fearfully with his companion, for the police!

This one’s really bizarre and annoying – firstly it’s not even the end of a chapter which is where Blyton normally reserves for her direct speeches, but secondly it wraps up the whole story from a distanced position by saying it will happen in the future.

And lastly, the book ends with –

So did we, George. Hurry up and fall into another adventure. We are longing to hear what you and the others will be up to next. How we wish we could join you! Good-bye for now—and take care of yourselves, Five. Good luck!

This is particularly gutting as we know there will be no more adventures for the Five, not until we start back at book #1 of course.

I can’t be certain as I don’t think I have recorded each and every one of these little speeches all the way through, but they seem to have gotten more frequent in the latter books and particularly in the final two. I wonder if, with her mental faculties beginning to decline Blyton used this technique more to move the story on, not being able to think of anything else?

That’s enough for today – the nitpicks will come next week, I promise!

Posted in Book reviews | Tagged , | 2 Comments

Roald Dahl vs the Sensitivity Readers

Enid Blyton’s books have been being updated for decades now, and while there is often complaints amongst the fans it is generally a muttering on forums and in Facebook groups. After all, it has been happening for years and it’s no longer big news. However, the changes to Roald Dahl’s books have absolutely taken the world by storm.

Acclaimed authors, the Prime Minister and even Queen Camilla are weighing in with their opinions, and now it’s time for me to do the same.

What’s happened?

Just in case anyone’s managed to miss all the media coverage – Sensitivity Readers (I had no idea that was their title) have made edits to several of Dahl’s most famous and popular books on behalf of Puffin the publishers and Netflix the copyright holders.

The Twits, The Witches, Matilda, George’s Marvellous Medicine, James and the Giant Peach, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Fantastic Mr Fox, The BFG, The Enormous Crocodile and Esio Trot have all been named as updated but it’s not clear if any others have been changed, or if the other titles simply haven’t been reprinted yet.

In a similar vein to updates to Blyton’s books while the stories remain largely the same, the language has been changed to avoid any potential offense and to modernise some out-dated opinions.

The uproar

As usual as soon as anyone mentions new updates or modernisations people got pretty mad. There have been plenty of reasonably complaints and criticisms but sadly also a lot of people screaming censorship, slippery slope, snowflake, wokey cokey and so on.

Now – I don’t actually agree with the vast majority of the changes, and I’ll get on to some specifics shortly. But I have to say that as always, some of the more vociferous complaints makes nasty reading. Vehemently anti-woke people are out in force demanding their rights to say anything they want and calling everyone else snowflakes.

To be honest nobody comes out of this all looking good. In my opinion the sensitivity readers have gone too far and make a lot of unnecessary and downright odd changes, which unfortunately make those that are more left-leaning look overly easily offended. Meanwhile many who are towards the right (to overly simply matters) are making themselves appear rather racist.

Why I (mostly) disagree

As I said above, I disagree with the majority of the changes that I have seen – but not all, and not for necessarily the same reasons as those hammering their keyboards with the caps locks on.

I’ve been a big Dahl fan since a child. His books have been on my shelves for thirty years now, some bought new, others purchased for pennies from the library sales trolley. They were read to me by my parents, my teachers and then I read them by myself. I’ve now read them all to Brodie and he has been just as entranced as I always have been.

Reading them to Brodie has been a different experience, of course. Reading them aloud and reading them to a five year old means my brain is working differently and I did have a couple of issues with the writing – but the vast majority of it I read exactly as written.

One thing I changed is Dahl’s frequent use of ‘female’. To most people that’s interchangeable with woman, and that’s probably all that Dahl ever intended it to be. However female isn’t a great way to describe women and has increasingly been adopted as a deliberate derogatory way to refer to women, particularly by the self-declared incel community.  As an adjective female is usually fine, as is male – we use male or female to highlight when that gender is less common in a role for example male nurse or male midwife, or when important in identifying someone – a male or female suspect. But it’s unlikely someone would say  something like the males in the office wear suits yet you do see people using females in that manner.

So with that in mind am I upset that this is a change that has been made to Dahl’s books? No, I’m not. But equally I wouldn’t go campaigning for this change or boycotting his books over it as they were written in a different time.

The other issue is a few pages in Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator. The US President is trying to reach the premier of China on the phone, but gets various other Chinese homes and businesses first. The joke being about ‘winging the wong number’ as there are so many people with the names Wing and Wong. Is this horribly offensive? Probably not but combined with what else is on these pages it adds up to make a very uncomfortable read – and led me to hurriedly trying to make up my own wording as I read it to Brodie.

Firstly, there’s the stereotypical broken and mispronounced English spoken by the characters. The ten o’clock tlain no lunning today. People from various Asian counties can have difficulties differentiating between L and R depending on the sound they make and their position in words, but was it really necessary to highlight that by the spelling of the words? If we did that every time a character had an accent vast portions of their dialogue would have alternative spelling. An author makes a choice to include spellings that highlight accent and dialect – for flavour, authenticity, and generally it is very carefully done. The only reason for it here seems to be for poking fun at the Chinese. The assistant-premier calls himself the assistant-plemier and his name is Chu-On-Dat, while the premier is How-Yu-Bin. Again, names chosen to poke fun.

Comedy is subjective, and can often be quite mean. Someone, something or someplace has to be the butt of the joke, and as adults we can choose to engage with or ignore humour depending on whether we find it funny or not. However I think the line has to be drawn a lot more quickly when it comes to any content that’s made for children. I don’t think children should be reading jokes that deliberately make fun of things that people can’t change – particularly when it comes to race, gender and so on.

I think it’s relevant as well that in this book these jokes are not all made by characters, where you could argue then don’t reflect the author’s opinions but instead are in the narrative as well. So it’s strange that this hasn’t been a topic of conversation – has this (admittedly vastly inferior) sequel just been quietly dropped?

So far this section hasn’t done a very good job of showing why I disagree with most of the changes so let’s get on to that.

First up – a lot of them just make no sense at all.

Whilst I am used to Black people no longer being black in Enid Blyton books, I am baffled by the farmers’ black tractors (Fantastic Mr Fox) and the BFG’s black cloak losing their colours. Neither are symbolically linked to people of colour, or suggest that black objects have negative connotations in comparison to white objects, so this seems as if they ran a ‘search and delete’ function without looking at the context.

Various references to fatness have been removed (much like for Fatty in the FFO) but many of these characters are still described as enormous. To be honest I’d rather be called fat than enormous! By leaving enormous we are still commenting (negatively) on their size so removing ‘fat’ seems rather redundant.

Hag is changed to crow, and cow has been changed to shrew. As insults go they are all pretty much on a par with each other, surely?

Frumptious freaks – a wonderfully alliterative made-up phrase has been replaced with beastly Twits, words which have been used various other times across the book and thus add nothing new.

Attempts have been made to modernise attitudes towards women, the sort of thing I normally champion but they seem silly here. A witch is no longer likely to be working as a cashier in a supermarket or typing letters for a businessman she is instead working as a top scientist or running a business. In a book written today I’d probably have issues with the limiting job suggestions for women – but these were pretty average for the early 1980s. And besides, there is nothing wrong with being a cashier or a secretary. Likewise the chambermaid becoming the cleaner.

Some characters (like Mr Fox’s children) become girls instead of boys – again in modern books I’d expect to see a mix of genders unless important for plot reasons, but the Fox family having unnamed boy foxes is hardly offensive.

Random changes that serve no purpose include changing adorable to lovely (when describing a dress) – racking my brains I can only think that adorable could be construed as infantilising the woman wearing the dress, but that’s an reach of epic proportions.

A flock of ladies becomes a group – now I’m not a fan of calling women birds, but it’s an enormous reach to suggest we can’t use flock.

And on and on it goes. Some of them I can see a reason behind, even if I don’t agree with it. Yes, some of the descriptions are unkind but Dahl’s books are, as various articles have described them, spiky. They are dark, they are disgusting, and children delight in all that.

You can see a full list of changes here (if you’re not a subscriber you could try Googling ‘twelve foot ladder’ and then it’s up to you what you do with that).

Dahl wasn’t averse to changing his own books – he changed the Oompa Loompas from African Pygmies to characters from a made-up land – and I’d like to think he wouldn’t mind the odd change to the most offensive parts of his writing now.

However, I’m pretty sure he would not approve of hundreds of meaningless changes being made to his books – especially when the changes lose any shred of originality. The new phrases no longer have Dahl’s style or sense of linguistic fun and they also ignore the fact that these books were written up to seventy years ago when attitudes were different.

So to cut a long story short, I think that the odd update is usually fine but changing a ton of phrases in an illogical manner is definitely not. The exact same as I feel about updates to Blyton’s books, then!




Posted in Other Authors, Updating Blyton's Books | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

Monday #517

As you can see I’m going to share my thoughts on the whole updating Roald Dahl’s books furore this week. I’m a bit late to the party (as usual) but I have many thoughts (also as usual) so I’m going to get them down before the whole thing is completely forgotten.

Roald Dahl vs the Sensitivity Readers


Five Are Together Again part 3

Jenny is not a character I’ve thought of much, I have to admit – but having just re-read Five Are Together Again I now hold her in rather high esteem. As housekeeper to Professor Hayling she must be a saint, having to put up with the number of idiotic things he does. Fanny puts up with Quentin, but he’s her husband. I can only hope that Jenny is well-paid.

To add to it she is absolutely right about there being a burglary, about someone climbing the tower, and is even bright enough to start investigating herself – but it doesn’t prevent her from ensuring the Five and Tinker are well-fed at every meal.

Posted in Blog talk | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Five Are Together Again part 2

Last time we had 90 pages of nothingness before the tiniest sniff of a mystery.

Things finally kick off

After running his mouth off to Mr Wooh Tinker is upset at his telling off from Julian and goes to sleep in the house instead of camping out with the rest of them. This is completely irrelevant to the story, however.

The witness to the first exciting thing to happen is Jenny the housekeeper. It’s unusual (as far as I can recall) to have a POV from anyone but the Five, beyond the odd single line where Mrs Kirrin sighs and thinks how difficult George is, or suchlike.

We get at least a full page with Jenny, though, as she wakes in the night and sees a dark shadow on the wall of Prof Hayling’s tower, and hears whispering and a slithering sound.

She raises the alarm – most loudly  and enthusiastically though Tinker doesn’t wake. The Professor does and he is inclined to think she just dreamt it but she persuades him to go out to the courtyard with him to have a look as she is convinced the tower room has been burgled.

Their logic – or at least the explanation of it – is rather baffling. There are three locked doors – one to enter the tower, one to enter the room at the top and another in between and all should be locked. Prof Hayling still has the keys so it seems reasonable to believe that nobody can have gone through the doors. It would also be reasonable to believe that if Jenny saw someone on the wall, then they must have gone in via the window.

But they decide to check the doors and say that if the inner door(s) are locked then the thief can’t have gone in that way. But if the outer door is locked then either a) the thief didn’t go in that way and there’s no need to check any further doors or b) the thief had picked the locks and/or copied the keys and relocked the door(s) behind them.

The illustration above does show some other windows lower down in the tower so it’s possible a thief could have climbed into one of those, then gone up the stairs and through the two inner doors but nobody ever mentions these other windows.

So it’s a shock to them when Prof Hayling discovers that his room has been broken into and some of his papers – along with a little clock – have been taken, while other papers are left on the floor, perhaps missed if the thief dropped them, though the random pages ripped from notebooks aren’t really mentioned.

The FF are not the FFO

Now I love the FF and enjoy their books more than the FFO but the FFO would have made a much better job of solving this mystery.

The Five are adventurers and explorers rather than detectives and it shows. Despite their forays into copying footprints and tire treads they make a poor show of investigating this theft.

“Your father says nobody could have brought a long ladder into that courtyard. Not without us seeing it, anyway, or hearing some kind of noise when it was dragged in. But it might have been a sliding ladder, mightn’t it?”

Jenny begins the idea that a ladder was used, which is not unreasonable. But then everyone gets very hung-up on the idea that nobody could have used a ladder because it would have left marks. A small group of experiences thieves could surely carry a ladder quietly and put cloth around the top/bottom to avoid noise and marks.

Not to mention the idea of using ropes, acrobats, lock picks and so on.

Anyway, she and Tinker look for marks and find none, this beginning a further repetitive back-and-forths about ladders and marks.

See if we can find the marks where the ladder was dragged in… I didn’t hear any dragging noises… The slithery noise might have been made by the ladder when it was dragged along… I don’t believe there was a ladder, either! There would be marks on the paving-stones of the courtyard if there had been a ladder.

Meanwhile Prof Hayling wants to hide his remaining papers and Jenny surmises that he’ll be silly enough to hide them in his room where the thief will just climb his ladder and take them. The ladder that couldn’t possibly have been used.

Tinker lets the Five know about the theft later – they’ve been obliviously in their camp the whole time.

They do come up with a good idea to make some false papers to trick the thief should he come back, and it’s a shame they don’t follow through on them as Mr Wooh spots them inside their tent.

This is rather another case of them being right by accident rather than logic. They already assume Mr Wooh could be dodgy and when he has a funny look on his face after seeing the fake pages that cements the idea. In reality, he could well have been innocent and been thinking that the Five were the thieves!

Their other idea is far less clever. Tinker suggests they hide the papers on Kirrin Island, something that can only be done at night lest someone see them rowing over and realise what they’re up to.

I could sort of see George making that suggestion as she’s (understandably) obsessed with her island. But the rest of them? Surely there are dozens of better places to hide some papers. Assuming nobody knows that Tinker has them up his jumper he can wander into the house and secretly deposit them somewhere that his father isn’t going to accidentally discover them. They could be taken in the bottom of a shopping basket to the police station. The Five could keep them in their tents.

What’s worse is they fear they’ve been overheard and yet they stick with the plan!

But before that they go ladder hunting in the camp – ladders are mentioned more than thirty times in the story despite everyone being fairly convinced that it would have been impossible for a ladder to have been used in the first place.

George finds out who is responsible for the thefts by finding him on her island, while Tinkers finds out who did the thieving by complete accident.

George alone

I might be reading too much into it all but the fact that George goes off to her island alone does sort of nicely bookmark the series – she’s a loner in the first book and she and Timmy go off to her island all the time.

Julian is not impressed, however, and rather rages about it all. All I could think was that THEY’RE ALL CHILDREN and he’s being a bit arrogant to think that he was guaranteed to do a better job and be safer than George. Interestingly she goes such a good job that he pretty much forgives her for disobeying him.

Arriving at Kirrin George sees a light on the island and hides the papers in a fisherman’s boat. Yet she still goes across just to turf the trespassers off. That’s wild even by George’s standards – remember it’s the middle of the night and she knows it’s a thief or thieves who think she’s got the papers they want.

On the island she sees Mr Wooh and another man, who conveniently have a nice bit of expositionary conversation explaining everything but who did the actual thieving. I don’t really understand George’s actions as she them tells them to leave, knowing they can’t as she’s let their boat float away. She and Timmy push them into the water – so perhaps she had that plan in mind the whole time?

I have my long list of nitpicks and other points ready for next time, but sorry, Pete, there are no Maxey illustrations in the Cave for me to use!

Posted in Blog talk | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

February 2023 round up

Being a short month February has ended already!

What I have read

I have been reading like mad this month which is great for my reading goal, but as I have been devouring a series I have read before (a good ten years ago, so I barely remember a thing about it which is great) it’s not so great for my new-to-rereads ratio.

What I have read:

  • One Last Stop – Casey McQuiston
  • Better than Fiction – Alexa Martin
  • The Bookshop Sisters – Alice Hoffman
  • The Nightingale Girls (Nightingales #1) – Donna Douglas 
  • The Nightingale Sisters (Nightingales #2) – Donna Douglas 
  • The Nightingale Nurses (Nightingales #3) – Donna Douglas 
  • The Edinburgh Skating Club – Michelle Sloan
  • An Argumentation of Historians (St Mary’s #9) – Jodi Taylor
  • Nightingales on Call (Nightingales #4) – Donna Douglas 
  • Five Have Plenty of Character – Vanessa Tobin (reviewed here)
  • A Nightingale Christmas Wish (Nightingales #5) – Donna Douglas 
  • Enid Blyton’s Holiday Stories 
  • Hope for the Best (St Mary’s #10) – Jodi Taylor
  • Nightingales at War (Nightingales #6) – Donna Douglas 
  • Nightingales Under the Mistletoe (Nightingales #7) – Donna Douglas 

And I’m still working on:

  • Parnassus on Wheels (Parnassus #1) – Christopher Morley
  • The Death of Captain America – Larry Hama
  • Plan for the Worst (St Mary’s #11) – Jodi Taylor
  • Practice Makes Perfect (Larkford #2) – Penny Parkes
  • Five Are Together Againpart one of my review

What I have watched

  • I’ve carried on with Richard Osman’s House of Games, Only Connect, and George Clarke’s Amazing Spaces and Call the Midwife which has sadly just ended, and there’ll be no more until Christmas!
  • I finished Smack the Pony and so my new show is The Good Witch. It turns out that it follows on from a bunch of TV movies but it is the start of a new story arc so it’s not essential to have watched the movies. I picked it because I like witches and also James Denton, but I’ve only watched a few episodes because most nights I am picking up a book instead of switching the TV on. I squeezed in the new season of Dream House Makeover, though, but they are short episodes and a short season!
  • We have been watching iZombie at weekends, which while no Buffy, is still fun, plus The Lost Boys
  • Tuesday nights films were John Tucker Must Die (a new one for me) and 10 Things I Hate About You which I have seen before but could only recall about one scene. We had intended to watch the ‘seminal’ 90s version Little Women but it’s not on any of the streaming services we have. Plus She’s All That which I had watched just a few months ago but my sister wanted to revisit anyway.
  • Brodie and I watched Ice Age 2 together, and the hilarity at the poor squirrel continued.

What I have done

  • My mum gave me a big pile of jigsaws to donate to the library but of course I had to do them first, so my first was the vintage toy shop one.
  • Have been very busy at work organising and promoting Cyber Scotland week and also a 3D printing session I’m running for British Science Week. I also had my first experience of taking apart one section of the 3D printer to clear a massive blob of hardened plastic – only burnt one finger tip slightly so I think I can still count it as a success.
  • We went to Dundee Comic Con so Brodie could meet his heroes and make slime,  and visited the Botanic Gardens and the St Andrews Aquarium for the first time in a while.
  • We discovered a very unafraid fox in our back garden one evening, but we haven’t seen it back again. Something has been eating the dog snacks we’ve been leaving out but it could be anything!
  • We also went up to Carnoustie to do their Book Trail, some of the shops had really gone all-out in decorating their windows for it.
  • Built the Lego Eldorado Fortress that I’ve had for more than ten years but never put together. It took me more than twice as long to find all 500 odd pieces amongst the ton of Lego I have than it did to actually build it. And then Brodie immediately commandeered it for his Lego Avengers to play in.



Posted in Personal Experiences | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Monday #516

I find myself slightly less baffled by the passage of time, as I know that February is a short month and have been willing it to be over.

Before we know it, it’ll be March! The crocuses (croci?) are out in abundance around us – with Brodie pointing out (rather hopefully) – ‘the flowers are all coming out because it’s getting warmer!’. We did actually have a few unseasonably mild days – which I wasn’t ready for and didn’t dress accordingly – the past week but then it was back to being very cold again today.

I’m sure you’ll have seen that the Roald Dahl publishers have caved somewhat (or was it just a big marketing ploy all along?) and are going to publish the original books alongside their ‘sensitive’ versions. It would be excellent if the Blyton publishers would do the same but I think it is extremely unlikely. I have many thoughts on the Dahl saga – so may I didn’t even get them down on paper before the semi U-turn, but I may still post something about it all soon.

Anyway, for this week…

March round up


Five Are Together Again part 2

“Do you think Timmy will be on the station to meet us, barking madly?”

“Don’t be an ass,” said Dick. “He’s a clever dog, but not clever enough to read railway time-tables.”

One of the bits of banter between the Five that make reading the first half of Five Are Together Again more enjoyable than it might otherwise have been.


Posted in Blog talk | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Five Are Together Again

So here we are – just 4.5 years after beginning the series – with the final book.

I’ve always been very open about finding this one the weakest of the series and I’d like to see if I can identify exactly why in this review.

The end of an era

I’ve always felt really sad when it comes to reading this book. Back when I would devour the whole series one after the other, often more than one in a day, I wouldn’t want to pick this one up and read it as it’s the last one and there would be no more Five. At least until I picked up the first book again. I still feel like that today, even if it takes me nearly five years to read them all.

Funnily enough the short stories never felt like the counted the same when I was younger, or even now. It’s surprising as even now I will feel really sad when I’ve finished a favourite book series, or TV series, and go looking for another fix of it – be that short stories or just reading people’s reviews.

Anyway, this sadness at the series ending could well contribute to my negative feelings about the book as a whole.

The title I don’t think helps as it feels rather maudlin. If Five were together again in the middle of the series it would merely be an uninspiring title. As a title for the very last book ever (sob) it gives it a feeling of a reunion, a final hurrah.

 90 pages of nothingness

That’s a bit of an exaggeration, clearly something happens or there wouldn’t be words on the pages, but very little happens. The book is only 182 pages! There are other Fives that have slow starts but generally they benefit from glorious weather, lovely journeys, interesting people…

The one thing I can commend this one for is the banter (I don’t think I can pull off using ‘bants’ so I won’t try). The Five have lost none of their charm and I have enjoyed the time spent with them as they tease each other and make jokes.

Beyond that, though… There’s a brief bit of tension as we discover the quarantine situation at Kirrin, then rather a lot of ‘nothing’ as they take a bus and settle in at the Haylings’ house. There are a few run-ins with Prof Hayling – nothing out of the ordinary but I will talk about Prof Hayling in another post. Interestingly nobody wonders how Aunt Fanny and Uncle Quentin – or poor Joan – are getting on, but meanwhile Tinker goes about being annoying with his car noises.

five are together again quarantine

The circus actually shows up on page 44, just as the Five plan to camp in that field but it’s page 104 before they’re settling down in their tents that night. I’m actually not sure what filled the 60 pages in between. Tinker has a run-in with Mr Tapper and his grandson. Prof Hayling confirms they have a right to use that field. The Five manage to make setting up their camp into a cumbersome three stage project with a ton of loose parts. The boys taking the stuff into the garden after Prof Hayling trips over it, then they take a break for tea. Then the four of them move it from the garden into the field, then they have a chat with the circus folk before carting it across the field to their chosen spot to assemble it all. It’s as if nobody ever packed their camping gear into backpacks and went off travelling. Meanwhile they say at least a dozen times how they must get their tents set up so it’s rather annoying the way they keep delaying it!

Anyway, they do finally get things sorted so they can then see a rehearsal of the circus show and eat dinner with the circus folk. They meet Mr Wooh at dinner and there’s a hint of something perhaps being up, as Tinker runs his mouth off about his father’s secret works, but that’s it for adventure or mystery.

Again, several other books haven’t really set into a mystery by the half-way mark, but at least they aren’t normally camping at the bottom of the garden. We haven’t even had Anne setting up a larder anywhere as clearly she just plans to pop over the wall and into the house to see Jenny and her real larder!

I think the location is definitely a draw-back here. It’s a house with a field beside it, it’s really not that interesting. It’s also annoying them being within a bike ride of Kirrin. So close but we don’t get to see it.

And I will stop there for now, next time we will get to the actual mystery and then on to the nitpicks of which there are already a lot.

Posted in Book reviews | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

The Noddy covers through the years part 2

Last time I looked at the first editions and their half-dozen artists, plus some mystery editions using the same artwork.

This time we jump on to some more modern styles… I would say that you have been warned but actually these are all fairly inoffensive which makes a nice change!

The odd one out

In the mid 1980s Macdonald Purnell produced the series in square hardback with very bright covers by Edgar Hodges – though it appears that only the first 20 titles were printed. 24 books is quite a long series, to be fair, but it’s still a shame.

I actually rather like these – the covers anyway – they are quite appealing in their brightness and Noddy doesn’t look too different from his original incarnation.

This post isn’t supposed to be about the contents but I have to add that these particular editions are rather heavily abridged. I assume they are aimed at even younger children than Noddy normally is. I have two of them and one day hopefully I’ll do a text comparison but I think it will be quite hard as so much has changed!

From childish to grown-up

Strangely the remaining books all have the slightly more grown-up format of a standard-sized paperback (ie taller and thinner than the originals). Of course children read paperbacks but they are the size/format you associate with books for children of 5 and above, whereas the original Noddys were closer to the board book format for younger children. There’s also something about the solid colours and more white/cream that age these up.

The first set are are 2008 Harper Collins paperback editions where the original cover (or sometimes internal) artwork has been used, but only the characters appear without their background. I think you rather lose some of the context there, and they are much less appealing despite the attempts to add colour and interest with the coloured lettering and the banner at the top and bottom.

Strangely books 14-24 were omitted (according to the Cave, anyway, which is normally extremely accurate), and even more strangely so were books 5 and 11.

Then there are some 2010 Harper Collins paperback editions, even fewer of these appear in the Cave so presumably it is another much reduced series. This time they only did books 1, 3, 6 and 7. Perhaps these were the most popular from the previous set?

These again use original artwork cut out from their backgrounds (the same pieces as the previous set on 3 of the 4). This time they are placed on solid-colour backgrounds though if you look closely you can see the Enid Blyton signature repeats faintly rather like a watermark. Although these are more colourful than the last I think these look rather cheap – a quick copy and paste job!

And lastly we have the Hodder 2016 set which I believe are hardbacks, and also use original artwork. They use a fuller piece of artwork from the internal illustrations along with Noddy in coloured letters and a different coloured spine.

This set comprises books 1-9 and 12.

These are probably the most attractive of the modern sets as they have used the most original artwork.

And that’s it – Noddy has had surprisingly few redesigns  given his popularity, but then, perhaps they just didn’t want to mess with a good thing! It’s nice to see the original illustrator(s) work being reused so many times as well. Van Der Beek certainly created an iconic style that couldn’t be bested.

Posted in Illustrations and artwork | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Monday #515

My laptop seems to have recovered from its troubles last week – though I did a hurried backup of all my files just in case – so I’m planning to see how long it will keep going before I have to replace it.

Brodie now refers to it as Mummy’s broken laptop which is a bit unfair. It’s not that bad. The casing just happens to have come apart a little at one side. On the plus side that means if I sneeze or otherwise move it when it’s on that side doesn’t press the off button and interrupt whatever I’m doing! Modern technology is great and all but I bet Blyton never had to worry about sneezing when she was typing at her trusty typewriter!

Noddy covers through the years part 2


Five Are Together Again

In The Three Sailors Tom, Joan and Eric have been taken out to sea on an upside-down table that was really only pretending to be a boat. They’re horrified and shouting for help but Daddy just shouts to them to get out and wade to shore.

Tom put one leg over the table into the sea. He clung hard to the table-leg and let himself go into the water. Splash!

What a surprise for him! Although he was so far out from the shore the sea was only up to his knees.

I have to admit I wasn’t expecting that so I did think Daddy was being a bit cruel by laughing. We read this in Enid Blyton’s Holiday Stories but I also have it in The Gay Story Book where the lovely Soper illustration below can be found. Incidentally I’m certain the children’s names have been changed for Holiday Stories but I can’t for the life of me remember what they are now.



Posted in Blog talk | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Five Have Plenty of Character by Vanessa Tobin

Five Have Plenty of Character: A Personality Guide to Enid Blyton’s Famous Five is a self-published book written by Vanessa Tobin. The name tells you exactly what it is, an examination of the characters of the Famous Five.

The blurb reads:

The adventure, mystery and excitement are what attract readers to Enid Blyton’s ‘Famous Five‘. But what attracted me was their character. Blyton strives to show that good character wins the day and trials can be overcome by loyalty, friendship and courage. Blyton has been criticised for portraying two dimensional characters but this book seeks to show that the Famous Five are as deep, interesting and exciting as characters from the best children’s books. The Famous Five have influenced generations of children in making moral decisions and valuing good character. This book will, I hope, show why.

And the book is available in paperback and Kindle editions on Amazon.

Five sections for the Five

Unsurprisingly this book is divided into five chapters, one dedicated to each character.

In order we have Julian, Dick, Anne, George and Timmy (did anyone else sing that in their head and add the do-oog, or is that just me?).

Julian’s section is the longest at 77 pages, Dick has 45, Anne just 37, then George and Timmy have similar with 52 and 56 pages respectively. Yes – Timmy has more pages! However, with each page having footnotes giving sources for all the references in the text this leaves some pages much shorter than others and makes the page count less accurate. I suspect that without the footnotes the page count would be a little more even.

Notes on the footnotes

There are a whopping 2,281 references in this book. They comprise mainly of the 21 books and 8 short stories (with the books a chapter is given as well), plus some articles and other reference works.

The amount of work that must have gone into that is mind-boggling. It’s one thing to write about the characters and provide a lot of quotes, but it feels like Tobin quite possible included every last descriptive quote Blyton ever wrote about the Five, not to mention a substantial amount of dialogue, and then referenced every single one!

Many of the quotes were familiar to me (though not many of the ones from the stories as I’ve only read them a few times) but there was plenty from the books that I must have skimmed over or just not remembered.

About the Five

As Tobin is a Blyton fan it’s not surprising that the Five are primarily described in positive terms.

Julian’s bossiness gets several pages but thankfully she does not give him too much of a hard time over it, recognising that he has a great deal of other strengths and is over-all a good guy.

Dick’s temper is brought up – if asked to describe Dick’s character having a temper isn’t something I’d have said but the (well-referenced) evidence is on these pages in black and white.

There was nothing bad to say about Anne – how could there be, really? But it reminded me of all the great lines Anne gets as she describes places and situations.

George – well, we all know George’s foibles and these are of course described but in a very fair way.

And dear old Timmy, he’s like Anne and there’s nothing bad to say about him!

My thoughts

I enjoyed this. I consider myself fairly knowledgeable about the Five so there weren’t any big surprises in the book (and thankfully there were also no wild theories!) but there were some angles I perhaps hadn’t considered, and it was great to see so much information all in one place. When reading the books, even back-to-back like I did once upon a time, it’s so easy to forget details along the way. Blyton had in so many practically throw-away remarks and descriptions of the Five I don’t think anyone has ever listed them quite like this before.

It has definitely reminded me of why I love the Five so much!

As always I give a completely honest review – so with that in mind, I would have liked to have seen more opinion as the parts where Tobin expresses her thoughts were amusing and enjoyable.

I don’t want to make a big deal of my only criticism, and I don’t want to put anyone off, but I also have to say that I spotted rather a lot of minor errors when it came to the spelling, grammar, punctuation and typesetting. This is a self-published book and it has not been professionally proof-read so it’s entirely understandable, but I personally can’t help but noticing things like missing apostrophes, apostrophes where they shouldn’t be and the very unfortunate misspelling of Kirrin as Kirin (twice!). They make me go ack for a second and then I move on, so they didn’t spoil the book at all – but I know some people wouldn’t be able to carry on with a book after spotting mistakes which is why I mentioned them.

As I don’t want to end this review on a negative I will reiterate that I enjoyed this and I appreciate how much work went into it. Tobin’s goal was for  this book to show that the Famous Five are as deep, interesting and exciting as characters from the best children’s books and I can say that it definitely does that.

Five Meet Plenty of Character

The book ends by telling us that Tobin has another one in the works – Five Meet Plenty of Character – a personality guide to the children and animal friends in the Famous Five. I will be sure to get that one too, as I’d like to see what is said about all the various characters they meet along the way.

Posted in Book reviews, Characters, Other Authors | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

The Noddy covers through the years

Noddy is probably Blyton’s most famous and recognisable characters. The majority of the merchandise, DVDs and games that have been produced from her work are of Noddy. There have been more Noddy adaptations for TV than any other book series. And yet there are relatively few editions of the books.

I can only assume that Noddy was such an attractive and easy-to-sell character that they didn’t feel the need to change or update the books in the same way they did for other series. I’m only talking about the main 24 book series (1949-1963), here, though it appears that few few of the other Noddy books were ever reprinted at all.

Interestingly, though, despite every edition you could imagine being in the Cave of Books (minus some omnibus editions) I have two versions of Noddy books that are not in there.

First editions

It can be hard to tell what’s a true first edition with Noddy books as they are undated – but we can look at the first design all the same. They are all published by Sampson Low (though there are other names listed there too, which vary slightly).

The illustrator most associated with Noddy is Harmsen Van der Beek – Pictures by Beek is even written in the train’s steam on the covers of the books he illustrated – but he only illustrated seven of the twenty-four main books. Beek died in 1953, and so from book 8 onwards there were four other artists including his assistant Peter Wienk.

Of course it’s not an unfair association between Beek and Noddy as he illustrated 82 titles in total – including record sleeves and so on.

Anyway, he set the style for Noddy in the first seven books.

Every book in the first run has the same format. A square picture of events from the book on a bright single-coloured background. The title of the book is always in different coloured letters, though the colours vary presumably based on how they look against the colour of the background. The train is always present but the carriages change colour, again, probably depending on the background. The occupants of the train remain largely the same, but there are a few changes in the Beek books. On one Noddy and Big Ears are not waving, on another the middle carriage has two policemen in it with the Golly and so on.

As noted above the steam on the front reads Pictures by Beek, and on the back reads All aboard for Toyland. Noddy book and the number, plus a character or two are also on the back of each. It’s also worth saying that these books (and all subsequent of the 24) had dustjackets – but underneath the boards had the exact same design only on a shinier surface.


Moving on to the post 1953 books, and although the illustrator(s) change back and forth regularly the style does not. This is not at all like what we see in some of the other series with multiple illustrators where each artist is responsible for a book or consecutive set of books, and often taking an entirely different style while they are at it.

Or to put it in the words of Monty Python:

The [book covers] have been completed in an entirely different style at great expense and at the last minute.

I swithered (more than was probably reasonable as it really isn’t very important) over how to present the information regarding who illustrated what.

In the end I am going for a winner’s tally, as I like a good ratings chart.

Robert Tyndal – 10
Harsem Van der Beek – 7
Peter Wienk – 6
Robert Lee – 3
Mary Brooks – 2

Mathematicians amongst you will note that those figures add up to 28 books, and there are only 24. That’s because four of them were joint efforts, namely Tyndall/Wienk (#9 and #17, and Tyndall/Lee #15 and #16).

Tyndall/Wienk on the left and Tyndall/Lee on the right.

Brooks was the first replacement doing #8 and 11. Wienk on his own did #10, 13, 18 and the final book, 24, while Lee’s only solo book was #12, and Tyndall alone did all the rest, being #14, and 19-23.

Brooks, left, and Wienk, right.

Lee, left and Tyndall, right.

Still with me? I’m not even going to get onto the fact that there’s at least one book with different internal illustrators to those doing the cover!

The only change to the covers after Beek’s death is that the steam on the front and the back then both read All aboard for Toyland. Everything else stayed the same, or, changed in the same manner as before, re the colours and the passengers on the train.

I’m no art expert but I think that all the later illustrators do a brilliant job of emulating Beek’s original work and it’s pretty much a seamless transition back and forth between the other artists. I doubt anyone would really notice if they hadn’t been told.

Mystery paperbacks and other hardbacks

These are the two versions which are not in the cave.

The paperbacks are still Sampson Low (etc). They have almost the exact same cover design as the hardbacks, though they are slimmer volumes and also narrower and shorter. This difference in size means the train is shorter (missing the last carriage). As I only have 2 (I think – one is on my bookshelf as I don’t have it in hardback and there’s definitely one in Brodie’s room, but I could have more…) I can’t say if this is the same across them all, but on the ones I have either Noddy Book #– is removed, or just reads Noddy Book.

Although I only have 2 I’ve no reason to believe that the whole series wasn’t done. They are undated but the prices are certainly post-decimal being 35p. I would guess that that puts them in the 70s as I have various paperbacks from the 80s and 90s and they were more expensive than that.

Then the hardbacks, are again, a mystery. I have just the two of them – School and Aeroplane. Both are published by Sampson Low etc. The differences are small – the title on the boards is a different style with a black background. On one the writing on the back is black rather than white.

Noddy and the Aeroplane

Confusingly my copy of School has a dustjacket with the original title style – I wonder if this is a mistake made by whoever sold it and it’s a jacket that should have gone on an earlier edition. Yet it has no price on the inner flap like the other early editions.

Again they are undated but the spines are just that bit squarer suggesting they are more modern, again perhaps 70s or 80s.

I (perhaps foolishly) thought that having few reprints would make this a short post. It did not so I will continue with the other editions another time.

Posted in Illustrations and artwork | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Monday #514

There has been a short gap since my last post as last week another lurgy hit our house (I swear primary schools are an absolute cesspit of germs!) and then this week my laptop encountered the blue screen of death. It has been on its last legs for about a year so I’m amazed it’s still going, but I probably should get a new one sooner or later. It may not come back to life the next time…

Noddy covers through the years


Five Have Plenty of Character by Vanessa Tobin

Long ago there were snugglers hiding things in caves, thousands of years ago, and then they all died.

Brodie’s summary of The Smuggler’s Caves from Enid Blyton’s Holiday Stories went from super-cute (snugglers isn’t a typo!) to a bit dark very quickly.


Posted in Blog talk | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Enid Blyton references in memoirs

I have managed to put together two posts so far, detailing all the references to Enid Blyton and her works which have turned up in other works of fiction. Now it’s time for all the ones I’ve found in memoirs. I’ve been keeping note of these references since long before I had the idea to turn them into blog posts (in some cases long before the blog even existed) so it took some work to track down the right books – I had taken photos of the pages but made no attempt to record the title!

Fictional references part one and part two

Bath Times and Nursery Rhymes – Pam Weaver

The honest memoirs of a nursery nurse in the 1960s is the tagline to this memoir and more or less explains what the book is. 

Books which talked down to the children were frowned upon, which is why we didn’t have a single Enid Blyton book in any of the council nurseries. It didn’t matter that the children adored her books. I had been one of them. I’d read all the Famous Five books and the Secret Seven but in the early 1960s, probably because she had dominated the children’s book market for so long, the professionals were quick to voice their disapproval. Later, when I moved on and became a nursery student my college teacher, Mrs Davies, quoted from Enid Blyton. Apparently she once told a reporter, ‘I sit at the typewriter and it just drips from my fingers.’

I’m sure if she did say such a thing, Enid Blyton meant it in an entirely different way but Mrs Davies wrinkled her nose in scorn and said, ‘well, that sums up her writing skill perfectly.’

It’s interesting that the council in this case thought that Enid Blyton talked down to children, whilst many others accused her writing of being too simple!


This is Going to Hurt – Adam Kay

At 8 a.m. one of the night sisters bleeps to tell me I did really well tonight and she thinks I’m a good little doctor. I’m willing to overlook the fact that ‘good little doctor’ sounds like an Enid Blyton character, because I’m pretty sure it’s the first time I’ve had anything approaching a compliment since I qualified.

An unexpected reference here as there’s nothing jolly or cosy about Adam Kay’s memoirs about his time as a junior doctor.

A Spoonful of Sugar: A Nanny’s Story – Brenda Ashford

Brenda Ashford’s memoir is practically peppered with references!

From virtually the minute she emerged from the womb, Granny Brown was expected to be obedient, dutiful, honest, hard-working, stiff-upper-lipped and emotionally self-contained.

And by golly she was all these things.

Little wonder when you consider her childhood reading.

Whilst I was raised on Enid Blyton, Granny Brown would have read something far more fear-inducing.

On her time at boarding school:

There was a strange sense of comfort in the unchanging daily routine but even so, boarding school was a bewildering place with many unspoken rules to learn and observe. As a spirited girl you could be sure I was always in trouble, even if it was more Enid Blyton’s Malory Towers than St Trinian’s. I was always one for fun and doing things I shouldn’t, especially when I fell under the spell of a beautiful but mischievous Egyptian girl called Leilah. In our dorm of five girls, as soon as lights went out the high jinks began – midnight feasts, dares and the like.

Quotes are included at the beginning of each chapter, from the fairly obscure –

‘Dear heart
And soul of a child,
Sing on!
‘The Poet’ – Enid Blyton

As far as I can tell this is a poem for adults that was only published in The Poetry Review 1919, so it’s a bit of an odd choice!

Chapter 4 headed The Matron uses this better-known one

The best way to treat obstacles is to use them as stepping-stones. Laugh at them, tread on them, and let them lead you to something better.

Mr Galliano’s Circus

Chapter 7 – We’re All in it Together begins with the quote

Friendship – loyalty – staunchness in the face of danger.

The Sea of Adventure

Around the Village Green – Dot May Dunn

This one’s also well summed-up by its tag line The Heart-Warming Memoir of a World War II Childhood.

Mother is not well for most of November. Throughout the month, I return home from the market to find her and Karl sitting and talking in front of the fire.

‘You should pay attention to Karl’, says Mother. ‘He was at the university before he got called up. He knows more about our language than most of your teachers.’

Karl and I struggle through a few Enid Blyton books together. He is very patient and with his help, reading becomes not only possible but enjoyable.



Posted in General bookishness, Other Authors | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Monday #513

I have reached the end of my list of ideas that I had at the start of the year, but I managed to come up with enough for this week without too much trouble. I need to get my thinking cap on for the next few weeks, though!

Enid Blyton references in memoirs


Five Have Plenty of Character by Vanessa Tobin

And then a dog walked into the ring all by himself! The children gasped.

Selected because this also got a genuine gasp from Brodie the other night as he hung on my every word. For context Wagger – the dog who walks in – has been left outside the dog show as Mummy says he’s an ugly mongrel (rather harsh!).

The illustration below is from The Eighth Holiday Book, but we are reading it in Enid Blyton’s Holiday Stories. It’s not illustrated so when I paused after those lines Brodie made his own guess that it would be Wagger – while the illustration in the Holiday Book (and presumably in Sunny Stories where it first appears) actually gives it away. Mind you, so does the title – Wagger Goes to the Show – but I hadn’t read that out and he can’t read yet!





Posted in Blog talk | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

The Faraway Tree on the Nintendo DS

Christmas 2020 I got a Nintendo DS game of the Adventure Series which I reviewed here. Although it wasn’t brilliant I think the DS games are interesting, and are a rare example of Blyton’s works being adapted as video games with the exception of Noddy who I think has had a couple.

So, I asked for the Faraway Tree version and got that for Christmas 2021. My DS has been out the cupboard and being used more often lately as Brodie got some second-hand games for his Christmas (Fireman Sam, Postman Pat, Timmy the Sheep – sadly the Peppa Pig game didn’t work). Having waited until he was in bed I borrowed it back.

An interactive reading experience

Like the Adventure Series ‘game’ this is more of a fun way to read than an actual game. It is populated with many of the same interactive features, but also some new ones.

There are various pieces of text in bold which either opens an illustration of the character, or plays a sound effect. Much like with the Adventure Series game the often the same sound was used over and over (an owl hooted identically four times across two pages, or a chicken clucked identically for a sound described as a soft cluck and a loud one), though were was a reasonable variety over all. They were not very well spread out, though, even given the limit of needing the right sort of action on the page to require a sound. Sometimes there were dozens of pages with nothing then there would be several all very close together.

There were a few missed opportunities, I thought. There were some songs or tunes mentioned – so there were music notes that moved at the top/bottom of these pages but sadly no sound effects. The wisha-wisha-wisha was also pretty disappointing, rather a generic wish-whoosh which was just repeated every time.

The illustrations were much worse than the ones for the Adventure Series. I think the only positive things I could say was that they were not split awkwardly over two pages, and some had an interesting effect where there was movement in them. Time for a game of guess the character!

As below, the Angry Pixie opens his window.

In addition to these were some effects which were prompted just by turning the page. Water bubbles or splashes (with sounds) appeared whenever Dame Washalot or the Angry Pixie was hurling water about, leaves floated across the screen, and a couple of times a sprinkling of sand came across the right hand page and you had to wipe it off with the stylus. Having seen that in the second book I wondered why they hadn’t employed that for the water and leaves as well as it’s really quite fun.

The other interactive thing was collecting items. There were 64 mushrooms to collect in each of the three original books. They came in four different colours, with 16 of each. They were done in order, so first 16 red ones which unlocked the first piece of bonus content at the end, and so on. I think it would have been more fun if they were all different colours. Having done one colour per group they also ran out of ‘nice’ colours, having to resort to brown and grey. One plus point is that a few were actually hidden in the illustrations making them trickier to notice (at least if you were flicking through at speed like I was.)

The Elise Allen books had feathers to collect, I think 9 per set as those are shorter books. I only flicked through the first few pages of one but actually thought that it was better done – the illustrations matched those in the books and included the character profiles. It just seemed to be a better fit – the books being published in the same era the game was made.

The bonus content

While the Adventure Series books had a few quizzes, and then a puzzle at the end if you had collected all the pieces, these books have activities instead. Not gaming activities, which is what I expected.

No, instead, the first book allows you to unlock four baking recopies, the second four paper crafts, the third other making activities. The first Elise Allen book unlocks four felt-friend crafts.

I honestly think that’s a total scam. You play the game and unlock some very brief and uninspiring instructions which you then need to have various ingredients or materials to do. Even in 2009 you could easily find better instructions for free online.

A younger audience

Given that the books are for a younger audience than the Adventure Series books/game it’s not surprising that the game seems set up for a younger audience.

There’s what I’m going to call the previously cat at the beginning of each chapter – suggesting that it’s meant to be read in shorter chunks, either due to screen time limits or attention spans of younger children.

As above the illustrations were also of the very brightly-coloured and cartoony style to attract young audiences.

Honestly updated

Being based on a modern reprint the names (and presumably other things) are of course updated, but at least the game acknowledges that the text is from 2007 unlike the Adventure Series game which said ‘The Island of Adventure as published in 1944’!

Despite the various flaws in the game I will probably read at least some of the books to Brodie as I know he will enjoy tapping for the effects and collecting the mushrooms.


Posted in Toys and Games | Tagged , , | Leave a comment