I’ve already reviewed one book by Gillian Baverstock about her mother, Tell Me About Enid Blyton, but I borrowed this one from Stef recently, as I planned to review as many biographies as I could get my hands on. It’s part of the Telling Tales series by Mammoth. I can’t see much information about the series after a quick Google but I’ve found there’s a book about Jacqueline Wilson in it.
The book itself is a slim paperback from 2000. In a way it is similar to Tell Me About Enid, in that it is written from the same viewpoint, using similar easy-to-understand language. I would say this book is aimed at a slightly older child, though, as the stories told go into slightly more detail, and some of the direct quotes from Enid contain a few more difficult words.
Both books cover Enid’s father leaving when she was 12 but this one talks about it in a bit more detail, it also covers her difficult relationship with her mother slightly more. Gillian talks a little about her mother’s declining health in this book, and it’s quite sad where she mentions how Enid said she’d rather lose her physical abilities rather than her mental ones.
There are plenty of interesting details in the book, there were things I’d either not known or had forgotten about. I was interested to read about her Irish grandmother who told her about banshees, and how Enid considered some of her ‘gifts’ to come from the Irish side of her family. The reference to banshees made me think of The Mystery of Banshee Towers, actually.
My mother was sure that the talent for music that came out in the next three generations of the Blyton family, as well as her own gift for story-telling, was inherited from her Irish ancestors. (page 2)
The book is split into headings with short sections for things like animals, teaching, music, school, reading, etc. There are some pictures, but not as many as in Tell Me About. The pictures are all small black and white ones, but there are plenty that most people probably won’t have seen before.
What’s interesting is this book is really two books in one. Half of it is Gillian telling us her mother’s story and the other half is by Sheila Ray, the author of The Blyton Phenomenon which is a look at the various changing attitudes about Blyton and her works (a book I don’t have but would like to read). Ray’s part of the book is a brief look at some of Blyton’s main works, introducing us to the first book in each. She also discusses some issues like Blyton’s apparent racism, sexism and classism, and thankfully she explains how Blyton’s attitudes were a product of the times, as well as pointing out some ways she goes against them – like the the tomboyish George. Ray also covers the main genres she wrote in and her first forays into writing. It’s a good addition, and there are some interesting points raised, like the character development in the Barney Mysteries and the Adventure Series compared to the Famous Five etc.
Overall, this is an interesting book that I’m sure children will enjoy. It tells us enough about Enid, her life and her books without ever becoming dull or overly complicated.