As you may remember I was fairly unimpressed with the first section of the book – Adventure Stories. My main issue was how some series had every conceivable character mentioned, while other series barely got two pages, as well as noticing several small errors and omissions.
Before I get myself all worked up again, let’s move on to the second part of the book.
The Naughtiest Girl in the School
The only other potential book for this section would be Mischief at St Rollo’s (originally published under the pseudonym Mary Pollock.) I’ve no issue with that title not being featured, it’s not particularly well-known.
I’ve only read the St Clare’s series once, so although I remember the general plots and most of the main characters, this could be a good opportunity for the book to remind me of what I’ve forgotten.
On reading the St Clare’s section it is obvious the author is very knowledgeable about the series and the characters. We not only get a description of their personalities – but we get several examples of their behaviour and escapades too. More minor characters get described much like in the Famous Five section, though there are not nearly so many. Also good are some of the parallels, coincidences and patterns noted – such as the various Blyton characters called Pamela.
Over all I think the St Clare’s section is really very good, and it shows how good the whole book could potentially have been (unfortunately this also makes the poor sections look even poorer by comparison.) I found the majority of the St Clare’s section very interesting, and found it all a very good reminder of the characters and the major plots in the series.
Unfortunately Rice gets rather carried away with some of her ideas. She speculates that Carlotta Brown of St Clare’s is also Lotta (from the circus the school girls see in the first book) who appears in Mr Pink-Whistle and the Circus along with her horse Black Beauty, as well as Jimmy and Lucky. That clearly makes her the Lotta we know from the Galliano’s Circus books though Rice doesn’t make that connection. We know Lotta’s parents (Lal and Laddo) are both circus performers with Galliano’s Circus whereas it’s said that Carlotta’s father is a gentleman who ran off and married a gypsy.
Rice also asks “was Blyton writing about the same circus every time she referred to one?” To which the obvious answer is no. I can think of at least five circuses in other books (The Circus of Adventure, Five Are Together Again, Three Boys and a Circus, Come to the Circus!, Boys’ and Girls’ Circus Book [reissued as Enid Blyton’s Circus book]) and none of them are about Galliano’s Circus. This is another example of a lack of knowledge about other series that spoils large sections of this book.
Another odd conclusion drawn is that Blyon’s ‘most unpleasant’ characters often have names beginning with E. The examples given are Elsie Fanshaw, Eileen Paterson and Erica. I’m not sure three counts as often (though if you add Edgar Stick perhaps you have a slightly stronger case.) I would say PC Goon is very unpleasant, as are many other characters whose names do not begin with E.
Likewise, we are told that “all of Blyton’s slightly wild and sharp-tongued characters have older brothers who encourage them in their mischief.” This seems based purely on Janet Robins and Alicia Johns. I’d say Jo from the Famous Five is sharp-tongued and slightly wild, as are Carlotta Brown from St Clare’s, Elizabeth Allen from The Naughtiest Girl and Lotta from Galliano’s Circus. None of these girls are known to have brothers older or otherwise.
The only omission I could identify in this section is the inclusion of Mr and Mrs Ray, the parents of pupil Felicity Ray who doesn’t get a section herself (perhaps worse is that a ‘Specialist from London’ who comes to see Felicity has his own section too.)
I’ve read the Malory Towers books several times so I know them much better than the St Clare’s stories.
The first problem I can see is in the introduction of this section. Rice states that Miss Grayling gets the best out of the girls that attend the school, and the girls flourish in the Cornish air etc. That’s all fine, and she says there are exceptions to this – you’d imagine she means Gwendoline Lacey, or Josephine Jones perhaps – but no, she lists Prudence Arnold and Eileen Patterson… girls from St Clare’s. Well, of course those two don’t do well at a school they’ve never attended. Also, Eileen’s surname has gained an extra T here, it was Paterson in the St Clare’s section.
Like the St Clare’s section, this one shows Rice does know a lot about the series and its characters, and again we see good descriptions of characters and events.
However, there is one rather large omission. Belinda Morris doesn’t have her own section. In fact, she only gets mentioned in passing twice: as the girl who did sketches of the two Mam’zelles at war with each other, and the girl who picked up Georgina Thomas’ suitcase. What’s worse is she’s named as Belinda Green both times – Belinda Green is a girl from Whyteleaf – the school of Elizabeth Allen, aka the Naughtiest Girl. Belinda Morris is a wonderful character – one of my favourites in the series. She’s as scatterbrained as her best friend Irene, and as talented at art as Irene is at music. She has a magnificent collection of scowls that she has drawn – most of which are provided by Gwendoline. I can’t understand why she’s not covered, she’s at Malory Towers from the second form right to the end.
There’s also a smaller mistake – Rice describes Darrell’s involvement in the invisible chalk trick but she says that Darrell chalks ‘OY’ on to Mr Young’s piano seat. That’s wrong, as it was Alicia who put the chalk on his seat (and it didn’t spell anything) while Darrell later chalked the OY onto Mam’zelle Dupont’s seat.
I feel that a distinction should have been made by Rice when discussing Jo’s theft of money from Matron. It’s said in Jo’s father’s section that Jo is caught stealing money from Matron. In the strictest sense, yes that is true. However, Jo was actually just trying to take back the three pound-notes Matron had confiscated from her, and accidentally took too many notes. Jo needed the money to fund her foolish plan to run away from the school with Deirdre from the first form. I don’t excuse Jo’s behaviour – she should have handed in her money to Matron in the first place, so Matron was quite right to confiscate it – but the situation isn’t quite as black-and-white or evil-sounding as it may sound from the description in this book.
I’m deliberating over whether there’s a grammatical error when Rice describes Jo Jones’ parents as “nouveaux riches,” which is the plural of “nouveau riche” (literally meaning ‘new rich’.) I’d use the singular “nouveau riche” as we’re talking about a single pair, a family unit, rather than a group of different newly rich people, but I will concede that some style guides might advocate Rice’s of the phrase.
THE NAUGHTIEST GIRL IN THE SCHOOL
The Naughtiest Girl is another series I’ve read several times, so I am fairly confident in my knowledge here.
This section starts off in a manner inconsistent to all the others so far – it doesn’t have a general paragraph of introduction, instead we jump straight into Allen, Elizabeth.
Rice states that the twelve monitors are present at the school’s weekly meeting and make decisions and answer requests in much the same way that teachers would in Blyton’s other school stories. I’m not sure that’s quite an accurate description of the monitors’ role. They do attend the meetings, and sit at the front, rather like a jury. However, it it William and Rita, the head boy and girl, who make the decisions and answer the requests. They do ask the opinions of the monitors often though, as they will often know the child/ren in question personally or have witnessed events relevant to the issue discussed.
Apart from those small issues, the Naughtiest Girl section of the book is generally good. It is similar to the two other school sections, in that it describes the characters and their behaviours, actions and friendships.
Overall the school section of the book is much better than the adventure one. It still has its inconsistencies, mistakes and omissions, but not as many as the previous section did. The style is also slightly different in this section, the characters are described with more context surrounding them which helps.
Who’s Who in Blyton’s School Stories could be a strong book on its own, if some of the silly assumptions were removed, two or three details were corrected and poor Belinda Morris added properly.