Fan fic Friday: Cunningham and Petrov: The Mystery of the Missing Aeroplane chapter 5

Previously, the children go missing on an unknown aeroplane and Bill and his men mount a search. The last instalment had Bill receiving a call to say that Philip had surfaced in Gairdon…

Chapter 5

Within half an hour two planes were ready, and had been filled with Bill’s chosen agents. It was regrettable that some of his preferred choices were already in Europe, on a wild goose chase it seemed, but he was happy enough with who he had. A few burly fellows, good for physical fights, one or two who excelled in scouting, one with a particular expertise in explosives, and the rest were good all-rounders. All of them were armed, dangerous and ready to face whatever was thrown at them.

The flight to the North-East of Scotland took an hour and a half, and they were lucky to be able to land at a private air-strip only ten miles from Gairdon, so the last part, made in a Scottish police-car seemed to take no time at all.

The landscape was rugged, the location remote. Snow topped the craggy mountains which loomed in the near distance, and Bill hoped the other children weren’t somewhere as inhospitable as that. They hadn’t been dressed for it at all.

He strode towards the police-station and was relieved to see that Philip was looking well, if rather filthy. Inside the police station Philip poured out his story…

Bill could hardly believe what he had just heard, and seen in the notebook Philip had presented to him. He had been shown to a telephone, and planned to make use of it, but first he needed a moment to digest Philip’s tremendous story.

So the children were in Austria. Not Scotland. He wouldn’t have to fire anyone after all, that was a relief. On the down side, it would be a few hours’ flight into Austria, and he’d need all sorts of clearances for it. He ran through a mental list of calls to make. He’d need to let Allie know that Philip was safe, and that he knew where the other children were too. He would need to let the two agents back at the planes know that they needed to be prepared for a long flight. He would need to speak to someone at headquarters, giving them an update. He would need to get clearance from the Austrians to enter their airspace, he didn’t want to have to waste time with evasive manoeuvres. And lastly, he realised, he could arrange to pick up a few agents if they could get themselves to a convenient point in Austria. He wanted Anatoly, for one. He deserved to be in on this, seeing as his information about Otto Engler had been spot-on. He felt sure that given another few days Petrov would have identified the children’s location.

So Bill set to work phoning everyone he needed to phone, starting with headquarters so that clearance for the flight and the requests to the Austrians could be put into motion as quickly as possible. He also asked headquarters to radio in to the agents already in Europe to get as many of them as possible to meet at a quiet airfield for a pick up to raid the valley. He’d need all the men possible, especially his best ones to search the valley. The question on his mind next was whether he should take Philip as well, and that he needed to call the boy’s mother.

Philip was absolutely adamant that he ought to go, and eventually Bill gave in. As he said to the boy, he really didn’t know what trouble he would get into if he was left behind. They would need to eat first, however, and Philip was in no way presentable enough to enter the local hotel, he would need at least two baths and a change of clothes for that, so they ate at the station.

In that time the wind picked up outside and a call came to inform them that there was a severe warning for gale-force winds, delaying their plans to take off for the time being. Bill used the time to show Philip their valley on a map, and was glad to have been available to take an update on Otto Engler, which he passed on to Philip too. He spared a thought for Anatoly also, chasing down Engler for no reason now.

The weather took a turn for the worse, and the next call was with the news that their flight would certainly not be able to take off until the next day.

“I’ve still to call your mother,” he said to Philip. “I’ll let you speak to her, of course, as she’ll be desperate to hear your voice. Just try not to tell her that you’re coming with me again? I’m not sure she would take that well…”

He placed the call to Allie with Philip waiting nearby. “Hallo, Allie,” he said warmly, glad he was finally able to give her some good news.

“Bill? This really had better be good news,” said Allie’s usually friendly voice. She was still very annoyed with him, Bill knew. He hoped that his news that Philip was with him, would lighten her attitude towards him somewhat, along with the information that the knew where the others were and that he was going to bring them back to her as soon as he could possibly manage. He wondered if he could arrange for her to be brought to the airfield when they knew they were flying back with all the children so she could meet them off the plane. He wasn’t entirely sure he could pull that one off, but as he was likely to get dragged over the coals for the fact that he children had been on the airfield in the first place, he didn’t see how one more person was going to completely ruin the trouble he was already in.

“It is,” he promised smoothly. “I have Philip safe and well right beside me, Allie. And I know where the others are, too. I’ve got planes ready to collect them, as soon as we can get flight clearance.” No point in mentioning they were grounded due to the weather.

“You have Philip? Can I speak to him?” Allie asked, all of a fluster. “And why aren’t the others with him?”

“I’ll put him on in just a minute,” Bill promised as Philip strained to hear what his mother was saying. “He managed sneak himself on a flight back here, but it was too risky for them all to do the same.”

“Oh my goodness!” Allie said, sounding a little overwhelmed. “Well at least let me talk to Philip now, Bill! Where are you anyway? Did he find his way back to London?”

“No, we’re in Scotland, actually,” he replied, motioning Philip to the telephone. “Mind you don’t say anything to worry her,” he whispered.

Philip nodded and took the receiver. “Hello mother!” he trilled. “Hope you haven’t been worrying too much, we’re all fine, though it was a bit of a shock when we realised we were on the wrong plane! We landed in an abandoned valley, and I managed to find a new pet, Dinah of course wasn’t happy about old Lizzy, but then she shouldn’t be so squeamish!”

Bill smothered a laugh; it was just like Philip to immediately start talking about one of his animals. He wondered if Allie would get any sense out of him at all. “She’s a lizard…” he heard as he wandered a short distance down the corridor to give Philip at least the illusion of privacy. The call didn’t last long, however, as Philip came to find him less than five minutes later to report that he had been cut off.

“Must be the weather,” Bill remarked as the wind positively howled around the station, making at least one loose shutter bang violently.

“We won’t be able to take off in this weather, sir,” remarked one of the men with Bill. “Should we sort out some sleeping arrangements?”

“Yes. Check with the hotel, see if they’ve rooms enough for us lot,” Bill said. “Davis and Murray will just have to bed down on the planes unless someone at the airstrip offers them something better.”

“It’s a shame we couldn’t stay in the police station, Bill! I’d love to try and sleep in a cell! After a week on makeshift beds, any sort of bed would do me. I’m also rather tired,” he admitted a bit bashfully.

Bill laughed. “Oh I’m sure that could be arranged. Actually, I’d feel rather reassured if I knew you were locked in a cell here, overnight. At least I’d know you’d still be here in the morning!”

It was just as well that Philip was so keen for a night in the cells. The hotel was a small one, and even with two men to a bed and several on sofas, there would only have been room for Philip if he slept in the bath.

Philip climbed sleepily into the cell bunk when he’d had some supper and had a wash at the small wash stand. He would have to sleep in the clothes he had arrived in as he had nothing else, but as soon as his head touched the pillow and the blanket was pulled over him, he was sound asleep.

Bill pulled the door of the cell shut, smiled wryly to himself and then had one last pipe before turning in himself, in the cell next to Philip’s.

To be continued…

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Malory Towers on TV – Episodes one and Two

I’ve heard positive things from anyone who’s managed to watch it before me, so I have my fingers crossed that this will be a positive review (a rare thing here, sometimes it seems!). I could also do with some cheering up seeing as we’ve just entered a state of ‘lockdown’, so escaping to Malory Towers is just what I need.

A general non-spoiler review

I’ll start with an overview of what I thought for those who haven’t seen it yet, and then I’ll talk in more detail about some of the plots so avoid the rest if you don’t want any spoilers.

Overall I thought the first two episodes were very good. I was pleasantly surprised, in fact.

As we already knew, it is set in the 1940s and the war is briefly referenced. This was absolutely the right choice – it’s always the right choice to me, which is why I think the 90s Famous Five is superior to the flared 70s version.

The building posing as Malory Towers looks very much like the illustrations in the book, and the outdoor pool looked magnificent. The indoor sets looked good as well, as did the costumes, and the language used is a good mix of old-fashioned quaint sayings as well as clear language that modern child viewers will understand.

So far it has stayed fairly close to the book; the main plots being Darrell’s friendship with Alicia and her disagreements with Gwen. Miss Grayling’s speech featured and although it was not word for word from the text, and in fact is rather shorter it quoted a few important phrases and was well-delivered.

Exams aren’t our only measure of success. A Malory Towers’ success is someone good hearted and kind, loyal and trustworthy, good sound women the world can lean on.Women unafraid to forge a new future. You will all gain tremendously from your time with us. See that you give a lot back.

Matron features several times and is suitable strict and a figure to be feared at times yet kind-hearted at others. She takes an instant dislike to Darrell and I think she will be on her case a lot.

The girls themselves are a more diverse bunch than Blyton wrote, and so far all the acting has been good.

From left to right (not including the girl with pigtails talking to the teacher) we have Darrell, Alicia, Sally, Gwen and Mary-Lou.

What happens in episode one

Episode one sees Darrell heading to Malory Towers for a ‘fresh start’ – this detail will be relevant later. She instantly makes friends with Alicia while Gwen sets off on the wrong foot by being a tell-tale and being difficult.

Alicia apparently loves a ghost story and tells them about about the ghost of Malory Towers, Gwen is completely sucked in but Darrell is not a believer. The girls have a midnight feast, but Gwen is not invited which causes a rift between her and Darrell, though Darrell doesn’t know that.

Gwen reads a letter Darrell has started writing home and is upset that she has named Alicia as the friend she has made. She confronts Darrell by the pool, they fight and she falls in. She uses this to blackmail Darrell – she will tell Miss Grayling that she was pushed into the pool and get Darrell expelled unless Darrell does her French prep.

Darrell does this initially but then tells Miss Grayling the truth to get it off her chest. We then discover that Darrell is the girl who’s rumoured to have been asked to leave St Hilda’s school.

What happens in episode two

Alicia steps up her ghost tales and leaves a spooky message on the mirror for Gwen. Darrell and Gwen’s gym shoes go missing right before lacrosse try-outs so that neither of them can take part, though Darrell is offered the role as a substitute. Sally Hope makes the team, and she tells Darrell emphatically that she doesn’t have a baby sister.

During an exam Darrell’s pen leaks and blots and in trying to write a few more lines she knocks her ink all over the page. She then gets to do the exam over, which Gwen makes a big deal of and calls her a cheat. Gwen then begins a campaign to find out why Darrell had to leave her last school.

This culminates in her going down to the village late in the afternoon (alone, against the rules) to telephone her cousin who went to St Hilda’s.

Darrell, despite her problems with Gwen, insists on going to fetch her and the rest of their dorm have to distract Matron so she doesn’t realise they are missing. Darrell finds Gwen who tricks her into admitting she was in fact asked to leave St Hilda’s, but we don’t find out why.

Some more thoughts

I jotted down lots of little things as I watched so here are some of them.

Darrell’s character is a little different from the book. She is rushing, late for the train at the start, she is shown as being clumsy and a bit careless even and she is not good at spelling. I suppose this gives her room to grow, however. I’m not sure at all about the story of her being asked to leave her last school. It’s such a departure from the story we know, but it will presumably give a plot line that will run through most of the first series as we wait to find out what happened.

Alicia is also a bit different. Alicia in the book is a joker, but she is also very very sharp-tongued and unkind at times. We don’t hear her ‘smooth voice’ or sharp tongue, really. Just all the spooky ghost stuff. She’s also got a Canadian accent which takes some getting used to.

The pool incident is a trifle disappointing as it really looks like an accident that Gwen fell in. They are both tugging on an end of Darrell’s letter and she just falls in. Darrell does not push her in a rage, but she instantly apologies in absolute horror. I suspect book Darrell might have pushed her in anger – even if she didn’t mean her to land in the pool – and would have needed a little time to cool off before apologising. She also would have been more dignified in her apology rather than over the top.

Also, Gwen swims out of the pool without any real fuss – not the water-hating Gwen we all know!

The midnight feast was a nice touch but the girls make a hell of a noise ‘sneaking’ out for it.

I do think that Matron is pretty great but she entirely over-reacts to a mouse in the dorm (I’m sure children would have thought that bit hilarious, but I found it over the top) and although clever and funny it seems unbelievable that she wouldn’t notice two girls missing from the dorm especially when she’s said several times that she’s marked Darrell as a trouble-maker and will be keeping an eye on her.

Miss Potts is very good, there is one scene in particular where she shines. She praises Darrell for a good essay and when Gwen asks how hers was, she clearly struggles to be tactful. Her facial expressions were wonderful.

I like Miss Grayling though she seemed a fair bit younger than I would have imagined. She was still very poised, kind but firm, and I liked the little hint we got that she had lost someone in the war.

Gwen and her mother saying goodbye was another scene that was probably over the top – it almost seemed like they were acting at being so upset but I actually enjoyed it and thought it quite funny.

Gwen is probably one of the best things about this adaptation, though Darrell, Matron, Miss Potts and Miss Grayling were all good.

There are some nice details such as Pamela featuring as head of games, and Emily sewing a tear in Darrell’s dress which tells me that the people making this really, really read the books and are trying to recreate as much of the world of Malory Towers as they can.

What’s next?

I expect we will see a bit more of Sally soon, to deepen that mystery, and as I said above I suspect they will draw out the mystery of Darrell’s last school for a while along with a campaign from Gwen against her. I’m not sure about the pool slapping, that may already have been replaced with the ‘push’, but we might get some more lacrosse and I’d like to see a bit more of Irene as so far she’s been very much in the background.

It’s a lovely change for me to heartily recommend an adaptation of Blyton’s books, but I really do. If you have access to the BBC iPlayer you should definitely watch this.

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Monday #264

I’m excited to watch the new Malory Towers adaptation which is coming to the BBC iPlayer today. It might make self-isolation that little bit more bearable. If it wasn’t for Brodie I would be devouring books – many by Blyton of course – but it’s hard to read over the cries of Mum, Mum, MUM, MUM MUUUUUUUUM.

Malory Towers, finally on TV


Fan fic Friday

Cunningham and Petrov: The Mystery of the Missing Aeroplane chapter 5

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.

Something a little more inspiring than my usual choices. This bit of advice comes from Mrs Brown, Jimmy’s mother. I’m not sure many of us feel like laughing at the current obstacles we are facing, but hopefully we can make the best of things and move on to better things in the future.


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Naughtiest Girl continued: The Naughtiest Girl Helps a Friend

A few weeks ago I reviewed the first Naughtiest Girl continuation book by Anne Digby. I didn’t think it was very good, but seeing as I borrowed all six and I can’t return them due to coronavirus self-isolation, I thought I might as well read some more. Maybe they get better as they go on?

The Naughtiest Girl Goes Off to Camp?

It is half-term at Whyteleaf and those who aren’t going home are getting to camp in the school grounds. We start right in the middle of this being set up and find out that Joan is a ‘tent monitor’ in charge of three other girls. These girls turn out to be Elizabeth (of course) the stuck-up Arabella and a junior called Teeny.

Joan’s strange behaviour

Joan is nothing like the sensible girl of the books. She is in the second form (how this qualifies her to look after Teeny who everyone expects to be coddled, though it’s not clear just how young she is, I don’t know) but she has becomes a weak, anxious and silly girl.

First she makes a terribly big deal about going to buy batteries and makes herself and Elizabeth late for kitchen duty. She receives a ticking-off from Miss Ranger about this and instead of taking it on the chin she just about falls apart.

It is obvious from about the second chapter that Joan is afraid of the dark. First, the panic over having batteries for her torch. Then insisting they sleep with the tent flap open even though it is cold. It takes Elizabeth until the last chapters to find out, however, and only because Joan tells her to her face.

Their solution is for Joan to sleep in a culvert in the dried up stream every night – even though a big deal has been made by everyone about the importance of the tent monitor looking after the younger girls. She doesn’t do this, though, as Arabella catches them out of the tent and after a failed attempt at fake sleepwalking they are all caught.


Teeny Tina

As I said above we don’t know how young Teeny is. She a trembly, frightened child, however. There are hints that she might be being bullied, and I thought perhaps she has some complicated back story. But no.

She wants to join a club amongst the juniors but is too afraid to complete any of the dares they set as a condition of joining.

What else happens?

Almost nothing else happens.

There is a little arguing between Arabella and Joan/Elizabeth over the torch, the tent being open, a mirror and so on. There are two Meetings where these grievances are aired, and Joan temporarily loses her position as tent monitor, but within pages has it back when Arabella commits the enormous sin of letting Teeny out of her sight.

There are a couple of meals, a nature walk that is described in about fifteen words. Oh and the ‘dramatic’ rescue of Teeny at the end which takes all of two pages.

The illustrations

This is a different, newer, edition than the first one and so it is illustrated by Kate Hindley as was the paperback I compared to the original text recently.

The children continue to wear strange uniforms on their strange angular bodies.

I had particular issues with two illustrations, though.

Now I can’t draw to save myself but that’s supposed to be a circular bell tent with a central pole. Why, then, does the line where the tent meets the grass run in a rather straight line?

And that’s supposed to be a culvert at the end of a dried up stream, not a railway tunnel. Some culverts can be quite big but this one is described in the text as a tiny tunnel and a little tunnel into which only one girl could squeeze at a time. It’s supposed to take a tiny stream under a road – if that’s the case here then the road is about six inches deep, and has nothing to stop cars going right over the edge.

Why do I even read these?

Honestly, I don’t know. This was disappointing on almost every level.

Elizabeth was impetuous on occasion but never got into any real trouble, and was not as whole-hearted or determined as she normally is. Joan was ridiculous.

The reveal of the dare club was weak and a lame reason for Teeny’s behaviour. Their identity is shown by them turning up the collars of their shirts in a very 90s way.

A huge deal is made all the way through about Teeny needing looked after, and it really seems like a massive over-reaction. Yes she’s a shy little girl but she’s not a baby.

It’s not consistent with the original books and it isn’t even consistent with the previous one. In the original books the monitors sit around a table in front of WIlliam and Rita at meetings. In The Naughtiest Girl Keeps a Secret they sit six on each side. In this book they always sit behind the head boy and girl. It’s a silly little detail and Blyton wasn’t always known for attention to detail (just think of the James/Alf problem) but she was churning out a huge output over years and years.

Not a huge amount happens in the story and there is precious little in the way of the ‘filler events’ that give Blyton’s books their character. It’s almost as if these have been dumbed down for even younger readers than the first three books were for.

I do not recommend this book!

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Letters to Enid part 21: From volume 2 issue 9

Previous letters pages can be found here.

Letters page from Volume 2, issue 9.



 1. A letter from Judith Allen, 273 Saddlebow Road, King’s Lynn.
Dear Enid Blyton,
I get sixpence a week at school for washing up cups and saucers for my teacher. Fort en weeks I have been saving these sixpences, and now I send 5s. to help your Sunbeam Society.
Love From
Judith Allen.

(You’re a kind child, Judith, and I do thank you for all your hard work.)

2. A letter from Anite O-Connor, 87 Oldham Road, Ashton-under-Lyme
Dear Enid Blyton,
I would like to tell you a strange thing. Every time I am reading one of your books, I go completely deaf to anything that may be said while I am reading it. Don’t you think that is strange?
Yours sincerely,
Anite O’Connor.

(Dear me, yes, Anite! I wonder how many other children go deaf when their heads are in a book? I know quite a few!)

3. A letter from Carol Peare, 36 Frankfort Park, Co. Dublin.
Dear Enid Blyton,
I have an interesting hobby, breeding bantam hens and cocks. My champion game cock has won seven first prizes in Belfast. His name is King William (Billy for short). He is a very cheeky cock. One day he was very funny, he got up on top of the hen-house and started to crow. But the wind came alone and blew him off. Billy was very annoyed about this, and funnily enough I was laughing, and Billy chased me all round the garden because he thought I was laughing at him. He is now the happy father of five bantam chicks.
Love from
Carol Peare

(What an interesting letter, Carol – and what an unusual hobby you have. I like the sound of your Billy.)


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Monday #263

Letters to Enid part 21


The Naughtiest Girl continued: The Naughtiest Girl Helps a Friend

The dragon ought to be left to sleep as it is. If you stir it, there’s no telling what might happen.

Morgan Jones’ warning to the Five in the completely alternative reality as found in The Shuddering Mountain Game, based on Five Get Into a Fix.

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Fan fic Friday: Cunningham and Petrov: The Mystery of the Missing Aeroplane chapter 4

So far the children have gone missing and Bill and Anatoly have been trying to work out where they are. Now Anatoly’s in Europe, looking for clues, and Bill’s in London waiting for news.

Chapter 4

Anatoly sighed and sat down at his portable radio transmitter in the secure location in the Austrian town he had been assigned to, and waited for the precise moment he was supposed to radio in, to send his signal through.

In London, Bill was waiting by his powerful transmitter set. He had so far received six of the eight transmissions that he was waiting for. He had been out himself, doing some quiet investigating, but had returned at the allocated time to await his agents checking in. He badly wanted to be properly out there, looking, but he knew it was no good. He could only be in one place at a time, and with so little to go on he could easily be on the wrong side of the continent at a crucial moment. And so he had grudgingly accepted his own advice and stayed in London, ready to fly out at a moment’s notice.

So far all six messages had been negative. No sightings of the plane, of their two suspects, the four children, or anything at all untoward. He hoped that the last two, which were to come from Petrov and Yates respectively would be more illuminating.

He sat forward as a crackle intimated that a connection was being made. Glancing at the clock he noted that it was 7.05pm exactly; Petrov’s assigned time for radioing in.

“Rogers calling Smugs, Rogers calling Smugs,” Anatoly repeated down the radio as his watch read 7.05.

Bill picked up his headset and receiver. “Smugs receiving. Go ahead, Rogers.”
Anatoly cleared his throat.

“I may have found a lead for us, though I need to do a bit more leg work on it tomorrow.”

Bill sat forward and reached for a pen, “Report, Rogers!” he snapped, irritated by the delay even though it was mere seconds.

“I have had a quiet word with the local constabulary. They tell me that they have had a report of a local man going missing. One Otto Engler. He has a bad heart, so it is possible that he has collapsed somewhere and not been found… but…” he paused, trying to order his thoughts so he would make sense. He wasn’t sure if he was passing on useful information or idle gossip. He would need to let Bill decide. “The locals say that Engler once lived some distance from here, but his village was attacked by the Nazis and most of the people were killed. There is some talk of hidden treasure, but that might just be folklore. Unfortunately I have not been able to persuade anyone to give me the name of the village or even its general location. They seem to be quite superstitious about it.”

Bill took quick notes as Anatoly spoke and his brow furrowed the story.”It’s an interesting story, Rogers, we can’t prove anything, but it’s worth following up the best you can, not to mention trying to find the old man. He may be a lead,” Bill admitted, feeling a little like they were clutching at straws. “Do your best, do you need to be moved yet or can you last another day where you are?”

“I am quite secure,” Anatoly replied, pleased to think that he might have something useful after all. He was enjoying this opportunity to show off all his acquired skills. It was just a pity that nobody was there to see him flawlessly (in his opinion) camouflaging himself with his false identity. “If I move on I will send a message. The usual code?”

“Yes, do that,” Bill agreed. “And remember Rogers, be careful and don’t draw attention to yourself. We shouldn’t be operating that side of the iron curtain. You need to make sure that you don’t come to the attention of the KGB.”

“Yes sir,” Anatoly replied respectfully. For just a moment he felt a pang of loneliness and perhaps even homesickness but pulled himself together. “Rogers over and out.”

“Smugs over and out,” he agreed, hoping that Anatoly was honestly all right out there. He did know that he wouldn’t have sent Anatoly if he wasn’t ready for the mission. Having known the boy’s father, Bill knew that Grigori would have been upset with Bill helping Anatoly become an agent, but it was the best way he knew to look after him. Besides, if he had even half of his fathers’ genius he would be an absolute credit to his adoptive country.

He sat back and waited for his eighth and final report, and when that came in with no useful information he poured himself a stiff drink and lit his pipe. After a short period of brooding he picked up the telephone and dialled Allie Mannering’s number.

“There’s no new yet, I’m afraid,” he said hastily after identifying himself. He didn’t want to give her false hope. “But you know what they say, no news is good news. I was just calling to check in, and see how you’re doing.”

“How do you think,” Allie retorted. “I’m going out of my mind, Bill. It’s been two whole days and nothing! They could be anywhere. Anything could have happened to them. I know that they’re used to getting into scrapes but this is something else entirely.”

“Would you like…” he cleared his throat. “I could come over, keep you company for a bit.”

“I wouldn’t if I were you,” she replied. “If I see your face I might box its ears. I’m absolutely furious with you, Bill. This is all your fault!” He could hear that she was almost crying now.

Bill grimaced. “I’m sorry Allie, I honestly thought they’d gotten on my plane, you know I did and I’m doing everything in my power to get them back. I really hope you know that.”

“I do.” There was a long pause, so long that Bill almost thought that the connection had been lost. “Bring them home, please, Bill? I know they can be irritating and ridiculous beyond belief but I’m not sure that I could live without even a single one of them.”

“I understand Allie, and I will bring them home,” he promised. “I won’t let you down.”

There was an intake of breath as if Allie had wanted to say something but then the phone was put down and he heard nothing but the dial tone.

Bill sighed, replaced the receiver down and sat back with his pipe between his teeth. He read over all the notes he had made, especially those regarding Anatoly’s information, and consulted a few of the European maps that he had brought along with him. Well, it was worth a shot, he decided and placed a couple of calls to a few of the service archivists. Their responses held varying levels of disgruntledness, but he knew that each would be hard at work through the night tracking down tales of burnt-out Austrian valleys.

Around eleven he got up, stretched and lay down on the small camp bed in his office, wondering if he would get any sleep tonight. He needn’t have worried too much as with the stresses of the day he was sleep within the hour, his pipe on the floor. He dreamt that he was running after a plane with the faces of Jack, Philip, Dinah and Lucy-Ann peering worriedly out of the windows. Then he was blasted with alarms going off as the plane got too far away but he couldn’t find a way to turn them off.

It took longer than he would have liked to have admitted to wake up enough to realise that the sound was not in fact an alarm, but the shrilling of one of the telephones in his office. His pipe rolled awkwardly across the wooden floor as he staggered up and hit it with his foot. He ignored it, however, and answered the telephone with a curt ‘Cunningham’, seeing it was an internal call from the light on the base.

“Sir, sorry to disturb you, but we’ve had a call from one of our Scottish offices,” said a hurried voice. “They seem to have come across the lad Philip, sir!”

Bill sat up very straight. “Just Philip?” he demanded. “Is he all right?”

“Apparently he’s fine, sir. But is is just him, sir”

The agent continued, “The boy didn’t want to tell the local policeman anything because he wanted to wait for you to be there, sir.”

“Right. Where is he?” Bill asked. The reply came as Gairdon, which was then specified as being in the North-East of Scotland.

Scotland, bloody Scotland! Bill raged to himself. Here he was with agents all over Europe and the children were still on the same island that he was. How could they have gotten it so wrong? Anyone who had informed him that the plane couldn’t have landed on British soil would lose their jobs. Heads would roll.

That could wait, however. First he needed to get up to Gairdon with his men.

To be continued…

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The Five as you have never seen them before, part 2

Recently I posted some illustrations by Eileen Soper that look like members of the Famous Five but are actually from short stories. Here are some more, this time from the Hodder Story Books (Happy, Merry and so on).

Anne and George rescue Santa Claus

I’ve shared these illustrations before and probably mentioned that Betty and Fred (Santa Claus Gets Shock: Happy Story Book) resemble Anne and George. This obviously doesn’t fit with the canon as they didn’t know each other as young as they appear here. But then again if they’re rescuing Santa anything’s possible.

Dick finds some kittens

A young Jimmy aka Dick Kirrin finds a basket full of kittens in A Basket of Surprises in the Merry Story Book.

A skirmish between the Kirrin cousins

Looks like neither Julian or George came out well from this one, and Dick seems a bit worried about it all. According to the story (Hallo, Rabbit: The Gay Story Book) the boys are Timothy (at the back) and Bob and Peter.

A futuristic cross-over

This is from The New Little Milkman, in The Bright Story Book. What we apparently have is Freddie and his dog Tinker. But really, Eileen Soper has predicted the future and drawn George with Timmy as played by Toddy in the 70s TV series (see below).

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Monday #262

The Five as you’ve never seen them before, part 2


Introducing Fanfic Friday (because who doesn’t love alliteration!)

Cunningham and Petrov, the Mystery of the Missing Aeroplane

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 dropping wet. The snow-doll had disappeared.

I think we can guess what happened to the snow-doll in Amelia-Jane and the Snow-Doll from Amelia Jane Again!

Not an original Blyton location, but this week we will have St Andrew’s Castle, first built in the 1200s. It’s now a ruin, but it boasts the most complete example of a mine and counter-mine in all of Europe, and best of all, you can go down and explore it. With the sea on two sides it’s a very Bytonian setting, and I’ve just used it as the location of my new fanfic story, which I need to come up with a title for.



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Letters to Enid 20: From volume 2 issue 8

It’s been a while since I’ve done one of these, as I admit I’d rather forgotten about them!

Previous letters pages can be found here.

Letters page from Volume 2, issue 8. April 14th-27th 1954



 1. A letter from Lionel Scott, 88 Mather Avenue, Liverpool, 18
Dear Enid Blyton,
My Daddy is a plastic surgeon and lots of his work is putting new skin on badly burnt children. He has 15 boys and girls in hospital just now. I wish you would tell everybody NOT to touch fire-guards, NOT to play with matches, or go near the fire in their night-clothes.
Love from
Lionel Scott

(The best way I can tell them, Lionel, is by printing your fine letter. Thank you very much!)

2. A letter from Jillian Farrington, 31 Downs Road, Enfield, Middlesex.
Dear Enid Blyton,
I enclose £1 for the Sunbeam Society. My mother found it blowing along the street, and took it to the police station. No one claimed it so she gave it to me to send to you.
Yours sincerely,
Jillian Farrington

(What a lovely surprise, Jillian – and how kind you and your mother are!)

3. A letter from Jean Morris, 55 Monkmoor Avenue, Shrewsbury, Salop.
Dear Enid Blyton,
I have a rabbit called Patrick. Together we have earned sixpence, which I enclose for your Sunbeam Society. I helped to get it by running errands for Mummy, and my rabbit helped me by eating the dandelions in the garden for Daddy. With best wishes from Jean Morris (Busy Bee) and a twitch of his whiskers from Patrick the rabbit.

(Thank you, Jean and Patrick, for running errands and eating dandelions. I did like reading your letter!)

A rare letter from a boy this week.

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February 2020 Round Up

So that’s January and February done – oh for spring! There have been too many storms, too much rain, wind and freezing temperatures for most of us I think. I can’t wait for milder weather.

What I have read

Eleven books this month, making 22 for the year so far. That’s 6 ahead of schedule if I want to read 100.

January’s books:

  • Rats – Pat Hutchins
  • Follow that Bus – Pat Hutchins
  • Old Leuchars with Guardbridge and Balmullo – Edward Robinson
  • Lady Killers: Deadly Women Throughout History – Tori Telfer
  • Katie Morag and the Riddles – Mairi Hedderwick
  • The Naughtiest Girl in the School – I’ve done a text comparison on this one
  • Sapphire Battersea (Hetty Feather #2) – Jacqueline Wilson
  • Misjustice: How British law is Failing Women – Helena Kennedy
  • The Naughtiest Girl Keeps a Secret – Anne Digby, reviewed here.
  • Just One Damned Thing After Another (The Chronicles of St Mary’s #1) – Jodi Taylor
  • Emily’s Own Elephant – Philippa Pearce

As always I’ve got some on the go that I haven’t finished

  • Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte
  • Child Whispers – Enid Blyton
  • Kidnap in the Caribbean (Laura Marlin Mysteries #2) – Lauren St John
  • A Symphony of Echoes (Chronicles of St Mary’s #2) – Jodi Taylor

The Pat Hutchins books and the Philippa Pearce one are books we had on tape as children and my sister bought them so we could relive them. It was funny to read them on paper for the first time and I definitely heard various parts in my head as I read.

I’m also on a bit of a feminist reading kick after reading Invisible Women last month, but I’m not sure what to read next in that vein. Maybe The Politics of Breastfeeding.

My re-reads this month are the Jodi Taylor books. I’ve read them twice and am now listening to the audiobooks which are very well narrated by Zara Ramm.

What I have watched

  • Hollyoaks
  • Only Connect
  • Buffy season 1 and some of 2 (I have lost count how many times I’ve seen these episodes)
  • The latest series of Call the Midwife, which is now finished.
  • Outlander season five is now airing on Netflix and I’ve started that.
  • The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina season 2

What I have done

  • Done some walking and exploring with Brodie
  • Been very cold while he has played at the park
  • Added another 17 games to my board game library
  • Visited the Wildlife Park again
  • Picked up a form for Brodie to start nursery in August (!)
  • Been to the library 
  • Eaten a lot of macaroons (for blogging purposes, honestly.)

What has your month looked like?

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Monday #261

A little later in the day than planned, but it’s still Monday at least.

February round up


Letters to Enid 19

The Magic Faraway Tree is getting a new installment next month, written by Jeanne Willis. It is called The Magic Faraway Tree: Silky’s Story. I didn’t recognise the name at first but Jean Willis is the author of the Doctor Xargle books which I absolutely love, and The Diary of the Naughtiest Girl which looks positively awful.

Anyway. The Amazon description reads:

The perfect introduction to the wonderful world of the Faraway Tree. Discover the magic! Explore the Enchanted Wood with Joe, Beth and Frannie and meet their very special friends, Silky the fairy, Moonface and Saucepan Man. When a runaway elephant visits the tree, there’s a lot of mess for the friends to sort out . . .

Which doesn’t exactly match the title. It is aimed at 3-6 year olds so younger than the main Faraway Tree books. I will reserve judgement until I’ve managed to have a look inside.

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The Naughtiest Girl continued: The Naughtiest Girl Keeps a Secret

As I covered in my post on Blyton’s prequels, sequels and continuations, there are six additional Naughtiest Girl books written by Anne Digby.

I’ve borrowed all of them (in two different editions) from my library and now it’s time to actually read them, having renewed them at least twice each.

Elizabeth intends never to be naughty again. But when John entrusts her with his secret, the naughtiest girl finds herself in deeper trouble than ever…

Well, that’s intriguing. I assume it refers to John Terry the boy who runs the garden at Whyteleaf (not the England football player), and I wonder what his secret is.

Interestingly the back cover also states that Anne Digby takes this favourite character forward in four new adventures. They must have done well enough then if they added a further two.


Refreshing my memory

I’ve read the main three books several times so I’m familiar with the storylines and characters, but I’ve had to grab my copy of Enid Blyton’s Omnibus to skim the story Here’s the Naughtiest Girl. I’ve only read that once, I think, and it’s counted as book #4 in the Naughtiest Girl series if you look at the Anne Digby entries.

When is this set?

I honestly can’t work out if this is supposed to be set in the 40s/50s or the present day. The weekly money is £2 as in the updated originals. Although money is rarely mentioned, the amount that are seem reasonable such as £5 for a bunch of flowers. There’s nothing glaringly modern like mobile phones or computers, but there are garages for the teachers’ cars. I suspect one or two of Blyton’s teachers may have had a car but not many of them, not enough to warrant a row of garages. But then the milk is stored in jugs in the pantry under muslin squares which is definitely a 40s/50s thing.

The language is an odd mix. There is some good use of classic language ‘ought to’ and so on but as usual it doesn’t capture Blyton’s writing. Again there’s no glaringly modern slang but the language isn’t entirely fitting with the 1940s or 50s either.

She has done a really good stint, and I am dead worried are a couple of phrases that do stand out.


There are a few inconsistencies when you compare details to the original three/four books.

In the first book Elizabeth goes to Rita’s study and remarks how nice it is, and Rita says that William’s is just as nice. In this book they share a study.

A whole passage is given to describing the platform in the hall, which was just built in the Easter holidays. Yet the platform is mentioned in the first book! It also describes how the monitors sit, six on either side of William and Rita. But before it was always William and Rita at a big table and the monitors around a small table – which would facilitate them discussing things much better than a long line. The junior class is also mentioned as sitting cross-legged on the floor. I assume these are the ‘babies’ which wear socks as mentioned in the first book though I don’t remember them ever being at meetings before.

I also wondered about Most of Elizabeth’s efforts to grow things so far had come to grief, usually because she had forgotten to look after them properly. It has been a while since I read books two and three so this might be accurate, I just don’t remember her being that bad. I remember her almost burning down the shed lighting a bonfire, and perhaps being a little slap-dash on occasion, but not failing to grow much through not taking care of her plants.

Slimy morbidity

A significant portion of this book is focussed on slugs. As the secret belongs to John and he spends all his time gardening, I expected something to do with plants but not this.

First he gives Elizabeth a blow-by-blow account of how to drown slugs in milk. They then examine all the dead ones in the bowls. Later Elizabeth goes to examine and poke the slugs in the rubbish heap which she declares are dead all right, they’re as dead as doornails. 

When caught she jokes It’s my secret hobby, I like playing with dead slugs. This isn’t a Blytonian joke at all, in fact it verges on sarcasm which she almost never used.

Also used is I’ve crossed my heart and sworn to die. 

The deads slugs are mentioned a further half dozen times after someone puts them in a tin to play a trick.

It’s all very not-Blyton.

The story

So the actual story! The secret is actually only half the story and it is probably the poorer half, though it ties in with the second storyline.

John’s secret [spoiler alert!] is that he’s entering a  competition in the village show and therefore has to grow his lettuces all alone to qualify.

He does let Elizabeth in on the secret, and she dithers about as to whether she should risk helping or not when John ends up in the san for a week. She doesn’t help in the end, and John recovers in time to do what he needs to.

The secondary story is about Julian’s cousin Patrick who appeared in Here’s the Naughtiest Girl. He has won a place in the second tennis team but someone is trying to sabotage him. He thinks it is Elizabeth as they do have a bit of a rivalry, but Elizabeth and Julian work together to find out who it really is.

Elizabeth gets a bit of a hard time as Arabella and her little friends spread rumours about Elizabeth being guilty of the sabotage, not helped by some of Elizabeth’s actions in trying to help John.

What was good or bad?

Unfortunately this book is mostly bad. It’s probably worse than the Malory Towers continuations, as being so short there is little material beyond the two weak storylines. It also comes across as being written for a younger audience than the original books were.

The good points are that there are the two separate stories which on occasion tie together cleverly. Elizabeth is reasonably well written and mostly behaves as I would expect her to, likewise with Julian. Arabella is turned a bit of a one-dimensional ‘baddie’ however. There is one time that Elizabeth does something very dishonest, she steals a jug of milk from the kitchens then doesn’t own up to having done so. Her logic is that she’s only trying to help John and she can’t admit that without telling his secret. Elizabeth has done some pretty bad things at Whyteleaf, but never theft. She also never lies. She always stands up and admits her wrongdoing. Like in the first books she admits to spending the money from her uncle, but says she cannot say why as it would break a confidence.

I didn’t like that John didn’t find an opportunity to warn Elizabeth that bad weather could lead to slugs. She did rush away as she had promised Patrick she would watch his match, but John should have understood. He could have laid the milk traps himself or found Elizabeth in the evening to warn her instead of letting all her lettuces get ruined.

It seems quite contrived that John must not have help, and that he also refuses to tell anyone what he is doing so that is a surprise. If he was more sensible about it all then he wouldn’t have had any problems. The people involved would have understood him asking someone to take over for a few days while he was unwell. It fits with Blyton’s characters being pathologically honest that he wouldn’t do anything he considered cheating, however.

Also very contrived is the sudden introduction of Mam’zelle’s need to eat oat biscuits constantly to stave off her dyspepsia. I thought it an odd thing at the time then rolled my eyes when I read the part about a trick being played with snacks in a tin being replaced with slugs.

The resolution to the secondary story-line is exceptionally rushed. The wrong-doer is identified, sees the error of his ways, his father also realises instantly that he is at fault and promises to make everything better all in about two pages.

Lastly, I find it a bit hard to believe that John [spoiler alert!] would still win despite entering his poorest specimens. I know we need a happy ending but yeesh.

Final thoughts

I had thought this might have been an OK book from the first couple of chapters. Then John revealed his utterly lame secret. I hoped that the more interesting subplot, the mystery of the tennis saboteur would save the book, and at first it was genuinely interesting. Unfortunately it is not done half as well as the similar stories from First Term at Malory Towers or The Naughtiest Girl is a Monitor.

The book also suffers from having no ‘padding’. The main stories aren’t very strong and lack in interest but there is very little background either. No tricks played on teachers, no excursions. The tennis matches are not described beyond who played and who won. My hardback of the first Naughtiest Girl book has 184 large pages, this book has 152 much smaller ones with a larger font and larger line spacings, so far far less words.

I have done a rough word count in fact. I estimate that The Naughtiest Girl in the School is around 55,000 words. The Naughtiest Girl Keeps a Secret is only around 28,500.

I would class this as no style and no substance. I do not recommend. I just hope the rest aren’t so bad as I have five more in my pile!

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Cunningham and Petrov: The Mystery of the Missing Aeroplane chapter 3

So far we have posted two chapters of our new fanfiction which takes a look at what happened to Bill, and Anatoly, once the children board the wrong plane.

In chapter one we saw the scene at the aerodrome, and chapter two saw some plans being made.

Chapter 3

Later that day Bill marched back into the office, issuing orders and demanding reports of all the surveillance and intelligence they had from any of their strategically placed agents on where the plane may have been heading.

He commandeered a board room to dole out orders and people to bring him any intelligence they received. He looked around as the door was closing, and noticed one face was missing. Irritated, he bellowed, “SOMEONE FETCH ME PETROV!”

Anatoly barrelled in two minutes later, paperwork flapping and a triangle of toast hanging from his mouth. He had managed to have a wash and shave and a fifteen minute catnap between running around between the qualified agents, but had only just found something to eat.

“You sent for me, sir?” he said as soon as he had put down his bundle of papers and removed the toast from his mouth.

Bill nodded at him to sit down. “What have you got for me so far? Has anyone found the planes’ direction? I very much doubt they would have permissions to enter some of the airspaces they might pass through, which could give them real issues. They might even be… shot down,” Bill faltered at the thought that the children may have been in a plane crash because the pilot may have not been requesting permission to enter other countries’ air spaces.

“Well,” Anatoly hedged, taking a seat and feeling everyone’s eyes on him. He put his toast surreptitiously, uneaten, on the table and shuffled his papers. Why was Bill asking him all the important questions? “We have ruled out South America, despite the men’s links to several countries there. They would have needed to stop and refuel on one of very few islands with runways and refuelling capabilities by now, and they have not.” He paused and cleared his throat. “So, er, we suspect that they have been headed for mainland Europe. Perhaps flying with false credentials. One good thing is that we have had no reports on any plane of that size being shot down or challenged by any European authorities.”

Bill nodded along as Anatoly spoke, wondering if the young Russian knew that he had been given an important role in bringing together all the information gathered by other agents and putting it together to form a hypothesis. He was every bit as brilliant an analyst and strategist as his father had been, and Bill had known he could handle the role, despite not being a qualified agent yet. If he decided that active service wasn’t the right world for him, then he could easily land a job in his father’s former department.

Everyone listened and took notes, checking off places and theories as they went.

“I reckon we are looking at middle Europe,” said an experienced colleague of Bill’s who had worked with him on many previous cases and had met the Cunningham-Trent children on one of them. “There are plenty of suggestions that Nazi gold, stolen from various places is still missing and the likely place is somewhere in the Alps. Plus we believe that various Nazis escaped to the South American continent. The two we apprehended, and who stole the plane, were being detained as we found they had links to escaped Nazis. We hoped to fly them Nuremberg for their teams to interview them to find out exactly which Nazis they could identify.”

Bill tapped his pen on the desk, a sure sign he was getting frustrated.

“I have got junior trainees searching the aerial photography of remote locations on the continent where a plane could be landed,” Anatoly interjected. “Then we can look at putting agents in the most likely places.”

“Yes. I suppose that is our best plan for the moment,” Bill said, a little despondent. He knew if the plane had been spotted he would not have had to wait for this meeting to find out, but he had still hoped for something a little more concrete. He would personally pore over all the logs Anatoly had compiled for him, though he didn’t expect to find anything. “Dismissed.”

Anatoly hung back for a moment when Bill dismissed the room. He didn’t quite know what he wanted to say but he knew that Bill might want someone to talk to.

“Sir, were you serious about sending me?” he asked a little hesitantly. This would be his first mission and surprisingly enough he was a little nervous about flying solo. There seemed to be a lot riding on this, his job, Bill’s job, children’s lives, Nazis. It was beginning to look like a very complicated situation.

“I’m certainly not in a mood for joking around,” Bill replied, already drawing Anatoly’s stack of papers towards himself, ready to examine them. He paused before getting stuck in and looked at Anatoly carefully. “Do you have a problem with me sending you? If you do, you need to speak up now.”

“No, no problem at all, boss,” Anatoly said hurriedly. “I am glad you think I am ready, I thought it would be a while until I was sent on field work this important.” He looked at Bill and swallowed a lump that had suddenly appeared in his throat. He wasn’t sure how exactly to ask his boss about the lost children or where to start. He hedged slightly. “Where do you think that plane may have gone, sir?” he asked. “My thought that it was probably more towards Austria and Czechoslovakia,  deep into secure Nazi territory, if that is the lead we are going with.”

Bill read to the end of the sheet he had started on. “Honestly, I wish I knew. If the Nazi link proves to be the right one, well, then I think your guess is probably right. I just hope we’re not missing something else.” Normally Bill was a decisive man, he had to be. It was different, though, when you had a personal stake in the job at hand. He was very fond of the four children. They were each smashing in their own way. Philip with his love of animals, Jack and his bird obsession. Dinah and her fiery temper and Lucy-Ann with her sweet nature. He would never forgive himself if anything had happened to them.

Anatoly shrugged, “It is as good as any, boss.”

He shuffled his papers a bit and bit his lip. “I will go and get kitted out then, sir? Head down for a new identity and weapons? I assume that even with the children in this, I am allowed to take a gun.”

“Yes, I want you armed,” Bill confirmed. “Nothing too high-powered, though. Armstrong will advise what’s appropriate for your level. No shooting at aeroplanes taking off, though.”

Anatoly flushed. “I would not have done that, sir, if I had even thought for a second that the children were on the plane!”

Bill put down the map he had been studying. “Children or not, it’s unwise to shoot at a fuel tank from such close quarters. When we get back I want a report from you, outlining where you went wrong on that one and what learning you have done to ensure you don’t make the same mistake again.” He felt bad for giving Anatoly a hard time over it, but he wouldn’t make agent without learning a few hard lessons along the way.

Anatoly nodded, “I was not thinking, sir. I just wanted to help down the plane”. He knew it wasn’t much good in telling Bill this when he wanted a report, but he felt it was unfair that this seemed to be a sticking point from the night before.

“I know. You had good intentions. There’s a lot to be said for acting on instinct, but you need the backup of knowledge so that your instincts don’t steer you wrong. I wouldn’t dwell on it too much, we all make these sort of mistakes when we’re learning to handle weapons. The important thing is that Yates stopped you, and that’s why we put an emphasis on team work too. Now, off you go and get yourself kitted out.”

Anatoly saluted and finally left Bill alone with his paperwork.

To be continued…

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Monday #265

I’ve rather lost track of the days but I think it’s Monday now!

Blyton’s best jokes and pranks


March round up

As you know I’ve been watching the CBBC adaptation of Malory Towers. I’ve also discovered there is a novelisation of the series, written by Narinder Dhami who has already written more books for the Wishing Chair series and a short story in the recent Malory Towers collection.

It might be worth a look if you’ve enjoyed the series. I rather like reading books based on TV series as it can often give a deeper insight into character motivations and so on.

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Monday #260

Cunningham and Petrov: The Mystery of the Missing Aeroplane chapter 3


The Naughtiest Girl Continued: The Naughtiest Girl Keeps a Secret

A mystified garage mechanic had been called after Enid had made repeated, unsuccessful attempts to start the engine. She remembered four days later, after the car had been thoroughly overhauled and sparking plugs renewed that she had ‘poured paraffin oil into the car battery instead of water’.

A little anecdote from Enid Blyton A Biography by Barbara Stoney. Clearly Enid’s mind was on her next book at the time!

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The Five as you have never seen them before

Eileen Soper’s Five are the real Five to me. I grew up seeing her illustrations in lots of my Famous Five books and although I also had some Betty Maxey books too, I always picture Julian, Dick, Anne, George and Timmy the way that Soper shows them.

Of course Eileen Soper illustrates a whole lot of other books too, and she has such a recognisable style that you could insert some of her other illustrations into the Five books, or make up Famous Five stories of your own based on them.

Soper’s short story illustrations often depict children younger than the Five are in Five on a Treasure Island, and so I like to imagine what they might have been doing in that time.

For this first post I have looked through the Hodder Colour Story books; Red, Green and Blue (the Yellow one was illustrated by Kathleen Gell so wasn’t of any use here!).

Anne and the kitten

This is from The Clever White Kitten in The Green Story Book. The little girl is actually Elsie, but it could so easily be Anne. She would absolutely coo over a cute little kitten, and she does love her dolls.

Timmy misbehaves

Also in The Green Story Book is The Tale of Twinks and Dumpy. The dog in the illustration doesn’t have a name, but he belongs to Dumpy. I will just call him Timmy as he looks very much like George’s beloved dog.

George and Timmy

On the left is an illustration from The Poor Stray Dog in The Blue Story Book. The dog eventually gets the name Brownie, though the boy is never named. I think, though, that it could really be a girl who badly wants to be a boy.

On the right is another illustration from The Blue Story Book, this time from the story Peter’s Fire Engine. Only I don’t think it’s really Peter. I think that it’s George, and Timmy, and Uncle Quentin is about to come storming out of his study roaring that he can’t possibly work while George is ringing that fire-bell.

The Three’s first adventure

Before the three siblings met George and Timmy and thus became the Famous Five, imagine if they’d had a few adventures of their own. Here they are finding a hoard of stolen jewelry just like they would in Five Go off in a Caravan and Five on a Hike Together.

Hodder would like you to believe that this is Jim, Dickie and Martha as Enid wrote about in A Real Game of Hide-and-Seek in The Red Story Book. But we know better!

This is shorter than I had planned but I’m absolutely full of the cold. I will look through more of Soper’s books in the future and see what else I can find, though.

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Blyton by others: A guide to unnecessary retellings of Blyton’s work

I recently wrote a guide to continuations of Blyton’s series, whether they be prequels, sequels or gap-fillers.

While looking for all the possible things to feature I ruled out several books by other authors as they didn’t “continue” a story but rather, they rewrote or retold it.

So here is a look at novels which are retellings of the original works.

Books based on the TV series

There are two sets of novels which although they retain the original titles [with one exception, being The Woods of Adventure which replaced The Castle of Adventure on TV and in book], have entirely different contents. One set is The Adventure Series and the other The Secret Series 9, and both are stories written following the plots of the respective TV series made by Cloud 9 in New Zealand.

These feel wholly unnecessary as they are basically books based on a TV series which was based on some books!

I have reviewed all the TV episodes already, and found them to be quite ridiculous. They didn’t follow the books in large chunks and instead made up silly plotlines of their own. As they were set in the 90s they have worked in lots of technology (and evil monks…). You can read my reviews of the Adventure Series on TV here (scroll to the bottom of the list to start with Island, Castle at the top belongs to a different series) and the Secret Series on TV here.

There are two of the Adventure Series books – Island and Sea – in one of the branch libraries so of course I requested them to see what they are like. I haven’t had time to read either in full, but I will do at some point. I have flicked through, however, to get an idea of the content.


The novelisation of Island seems pretty close to the TV series (when compared to what I wrote in my review) though it misses off the opening credits scene. Being a book it gives us a slightly better insight into the characters, including, for example, the detail that Lucy-Ann has come along to the summer camp because there is no-where else for her to go, she doesn’t really like it but would do anything to stay near Jack.

I will have to watch the episode again to refresh my memory and read the book in full then.

The Diary of the Naughtiest Girl by Jeanne Willis

This is set in the present day and, although it begins with Elizabeth about to be sent to Whyteleaf, the story is unrecognisable for the most part. Miss Scott’s role is taken by a woman called Kesi, and although Elizabeth still pins a stocking to her skirt she then goes to Tesco and it gets caught on someone else’s trolley in the cheese aisle. Hannah has fat cheeks and gets named Hamster, and other girls are Ellie, Joanna, Mei Ling, Melinda, Shauna (formerly Nora)… The head boy (William) has the surname Murricane and the head girl is Rebekah Shah. Apart from all that, it’s just full of super-modern slang (which will a) date very quickly and b) probably be embarrassing to any children because adults never get these things quite right).

It looks so bad from my quick dip into it that I have borrowed it with the intention of doing a full review.

The reason this is unnecessary? One, it’s absolutely dire and two, there is a perfectly good book called The Naughtiest Girl in The School already. which tells the exact same story but a hundred times more skilfully.

The Riddle series / Young Adventurers

Originally these books were published as stand-alone titles each featuring a different set of children. Now they all feature the same children and form a series. This seems unnecessary as there is nothing wrong with stand-alone books, and no reason that they would need to be edited to form a series.

The books were:

  • Holiday House
  • The Adventure that Never Was
  • Adventure of the Strange Ruby
  • Hollow Tree House
  • The Treasure Hunters
  • The Boy Next Door

In 1997 they then became:

  • The Riddle of Holiday House
  • The Riddle that Never Was
  • The Riddle of the Raja’s Ruby
  • The Riddle of The Hollow Tree
  • The Riddle of the Hidden Treasure
  • The Riddle of the Boy Next Door

And in 2004 they were published as:

  • The Young Adventurers at Holiday House
  • The Young Adventurers and the Mystery that Never Was
  • The Young Adventurers and the Raja’s Ruby
  • The Young Adventurers and the Hollow Tree
  • The Young Adventurers and the Hidden Treasure
  • The Young Adventurers and the Boy Next Door

I can sort of understand some of this. It has been a while since I read Holiday House, The Mystery that Never Was and The Mystery of the Strange Ruby but I can imagine that it wouldn’t have taken a huge amount of rewriting to rename the main children and make the stories form a series. Even The Treasure Hunters and The Boy Next Door, I can see being able to fit in. What I don’t understand is Hollow Tree House. It’s not a typical mystery/adventure story. There is no mystery or riddle, and it’s only as adventurous as two children running away from misery and abuse could be. I absolutely love Hollow Tree House and I hate to think of it being butchered.

The edits were done by Gillian Baverstock, Enid’s younger daughter and so have hope that they were done with care and respect.

The Fabulous Four

This is another series formed from stand-alone titles. The books keep their original titles this time, though they were edited by Jenny Cooke.

  • Four in a Family
  • The Birthday Kitten
  • The Very Big Secret
  • The Four Cousins
  • The Hidey Hole

I have read all but The Birthday Kitten, and I suppose it wouldn’t be to too hard to make these form a series. I just wonder how much rewriting was required for The Very Big Secret which only had two child characters. Did they shoe-horn in the two extras to make the Fabulous Four, or were the cousins away on holiday at the time?

These are unnecessary for the same reasons as above.

Don’t you just wish they could leave Enid Blyton’s books alone? I would hate to think of a child picking up one of these and judging all her works based on what they’ve just read.

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Monday #259

A guide to unnecessary retellings of Blyton’s works


The Famous Five as you’ve never seen them before

The wind howled round and shook the tree violently. Something fell from the tree and hit the raging man full on the shoulder. He dropped down at once, shouting, clutching at his shoulder. Jack sped off into the wind. He  turned and looked back. Pepi was trying to get up, groaning. The wind howled again, and the big tree spat out something else that hit Pepi on the head. He fell back and did not move.

This is one of those little moments from The Valley of Adventure that I just love. The cases were put up earlier, to hide them, and now they’ve come back into the story in such a funny way.

Not a book by Enid Blyton this week but a book about her. Enid Blyton a Biography by Barbara Stoney is the most important biography. So many newer books purporting to be an authority on Blyton have consulted this book (and many just repeat what they have read amongst their new and entirely unsubstantiated claims).

Over three years Barbara Stoney talked with Gillian and Imogen, Blyton’s daughters, her brother Hanley and other relatives, Blyton’s friends and former staff, the people she worked with at different publishing houses and many more people to give a very detailed and wide-ranging biography. 

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The Naughtiest Girl in the School: How has Blyton’s original text fared in a modern edition? Part 6

There are only four chapters left so this should be the final part! Part one looked at chapters 1-4, part 2 chapters 5-8 here, part 3 chapters 9-12, part 4 chapters 13-16 and part 5 was chapters 17-20.

I am comparing the 1944 5th reprint by George Newnes (which should be more or less identical to the true first edition) to a 2012 edition by Hodder and Stoughton.


This is a good example of why I hate title case. Why doesn’t arrives get a capital!?

Enid goes a bit queer mad in this chapter and naturally they are all changed. (They didn’t even miss one like in chapter 10). There are four queers and one queerly. Queerly becomes strangely, one queer becomes odd and the rest become strange (as in previous chapters). Again, not exactly widening the vocabulary which is one common criticism of Blyton’s frequent use of queer.

Italics are removed once, from She thought you had sent her those presents. The line makes almost so sense without the emphasis on you. It is all about how Joan thought her mother (the ‘you’ referred to) had sent the presents and was wrong.

The two strange little changes for no apparent reason (maybe the editor was bored). She’s asleep is changed to She is asleep, and I was so very sorry becomes I was so sorry. Neither change the meaning, though the loss of very removes a little of the original flavour.

Lastly one (or two depending on how you count it) corrections are made. In my copy Harry exclaims sin surprie which is amended to in surprise. I wonder how many editions/impressions that mistake appears in?

Despite various attempts to update this book the school still has maids.


I’m not a fan of all caps but it has to be better than random uncapitalized words like talks. If it’s always Five Go and Five Get why on earth isn’t it Rita Talks? (I’ll stop now).

Little of consequence is changed in this chapter.

The original has an usual partial italics of a word – exactly – which is changed to exactly. After all the italics they have removed it seems odd to see them adding some now.

The one instance of queer becomes odd.

References to the pound and that pound become the ten pounds and that ten pounds respectively.

An arm-chair becomes an armchair.

And lastly the construction of one sentence is changed. I have to admit the original is a little odd. It reads Rita and I are the judges of what can be told the Meeting. I have seen similar structures where you feel like a word is missing but that’s usually in local dialects. It could have been altered to read what can be told at/to the meeting, but the editor has made it Rita and I are the judges of what the Meeting can be told.

The last illustration is in this chapter, and here’s how it compares to the scene in the original.


Ok, so fights, not Fights?

The only changes this chapter are more removal of italics. They go from Oh yes I do and will change my mind.

That second one comes after

But am I really so silly? Am I really so feeble? Can I really spoil my happiness here… No I can’t! I’m stronger than I thought. I can change my mind.

So will change my mind fitted perfectly. I have no idea why they removed the italics there.


Again some italics are removed, this time from: What are you doing?, Mrs Allen was very much astonished and she will be the best girl in the school.

And lastly, Elizabeth’s dorm which she says is number 6 becomes number six.


That was the last chapter but the paperback doesn’t end there.

There is a timeline of Blyton’s life, though as it only runs to two pages it isn’t very detailed or comprehensive, and a few photos. Then there is a couple of ‘chapters’ about Enid as a writer, followed by an extract of What they did at Miss Brown’s school, which appears in 12 parts in Enid Blyton’s Book of the Year.

Apparently the next book in the series, The Naughtiest Girl Again also contains information about Enid’s writing career and more of Miss Brown’s school.

The count

Already counted:

Roman numerals to words
Case change for chapter titles
Removal of hyphens from good-bye, to-day, etc
Removal of italics for emphasis
Extra word capitalised at start of chapter
Quotation marks
Dash length
Two shillings = two pounds

Queer to odd/strange

Unique changes:

Sin surprie to in surprise
She’s to she is
So very sorry to so sorry
What can be told the meeting

Total this post: 4

Over all total: 45

Where does that place in the updating ranks?

I have written a comparison of all the books I had done before this one, so here’s how this book would fit in.

By total changes:

  • The Naughtiest Girl in the School 45
  • The Secret Island  59
  • The Twins at St Clare’s  83
  • Five on a Treasure Island  117
  • The Island of Adventure 128
  • First Term at Malory Towers 133
  • The Mystery of the Burnt Cottage 187

Per chapter:

  • The Naughtiest Girl in the School 1.8
  • The Secret Island 3
  • The Twins at St Clare’s 4
  • The Island of Adventure 4.5
  • First Term at Malory Towers 6
  • Five on a Treasure Island 7
  • The Mystery of The Burnt Cottage 10

And based on word count:

  • The Naughtiest Girl in the School 55,000 words and an edit per 1,214 words.
  • The Secret Island 63,000 words and an edit per 1,062 words.
  • The Twins at St Clare’s 55,000 words and an edit per 662 words.
  • The Island of Adventure 68,000 words and an edit per 531 words.
  • Five on a Treasure Island 51,000 words and an edit per 435 words.
  • First Term at Malory Towers retains 49,500 words and an edit per 372 words.
  • The Mystery of the Burnt Cottage 43,500 words and an edit per 232 words.

The numbers aren’t the only factor

I would like to applaud this book for being so lightly edited. However the edits that are there are equal parts baffling and frustrating.

The money, as you will have guessed from my lengthy rants, is idiotic. Firstly there was no real need to decimalise it. Secondly, if decimalisation was deemed absolutely necessary then it has to be both sensible and consistent. It was neither.

One shilling has been equal to twenty pence, forty pence, fifty pence, one pound, two pounds fifty and goodness knows how many other amounts depending on the whims of the editor.

One pound has bought a present for someone’s gran, two pounds has bought a red handbag and five pounds is wanted for an expensive spade.

Ten pounds is far too much money to spend in one afternoon and a huge waste.

It’s completely idiotic, the whole lot of it. And so I can’t be particularly pleased that they’ve left most of the book alone when they have mangled the bits they did touch.

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