Let’s start with me admitting to something: I’ve never read this book before. I didn’t have it as a child, but at some point in the past few years I bought a copy (paid £13.50 for a first edition without dustjacket, which is rather a lot for me!) and yet I’m certain I’ve never read it.
So I’ll be looking at it with fresh eyes, ones mostly untinted by nostalgia.
There are fourteen stories in More About Amelia Jane!, so like last time I’ll do this blog in two parts. Here are the first seven stories.
AMELIA JANE’S NECKLACE
Here the Golliwog finds a box of acorns with holes through them, and he decides to make a necklace for the teddy who’s lost his neck ribbon. Amelia Jane interferes though, when they have trouble threading them onto string, and does it for them. She then takes the necklace for herself though, and ties it on so tightly it can’t be taken off. As is often the case, she gets her comeuppance, when after a few days of lazing around in the garden pond the acorns start to grow roots and the toys tell her they are worms (whether they truly believe they’re worms or not isn’t quite clear, but I think they might do.) Amelia Jane is naturally quite put-off by this development, but she just can’t get the necklace off.
I was expecting the toys to take pity on her and help her get it off, (the golliwog does try) but in the end the necklace just falls off when the string rots and the toys bury the acorns which grow into trees.
AMELIA JANE AND THE INK
As I went through the book taking photos of the illustrations (before reading it) I immediately thought Amelia Jane and the Ink might be one of those stories that critics would call racist, as it appears to involve Amelia Jane in “black-face.” So just a wee warning if this story might offend you.
The story starts out with Amelia Jane asking the golliwog “why is your face so black?” to which he replies “gollies are always black.” Amelia Jane then asks why he doesn’t wash the black off of his face, as she thinks a black face is silly and ugly.
The critics would be having a field day already I imagine, and would probably write off the whole story if not the book and the author as flat-out racist.
Golly’s reply is interesting though, and mirrors the sort of opinions and beliefs I believe Blyton held, as they are woven though quite a few of her stories. Golly says “only bad tempered faces are ugly… It doesn’t matter a bit if your face is white, pink, red, yellow, brown or black, if it’s a nice smiley, good-tempered face.”
Amelia Jane refuses to let go of the idea, and keeps on about washing his face. In the end she threatens to write to Santa to have the golliwog taken away, and so gets a bottle of ink down, only she spills it all over her face and makes it black.
She doesn’t like her reflection at all and so the golliwog says she’ll have to scrub it like she suggested to him. He helps, scrubbing very vigorously and getting soap in her eyes. She then has to clean ink off the hearth rug and give up some of her pennies so the children can buy more ink.
At the end it says she never again teased the golly about his face.
There are certainly elements of racism in the story, but the moral is quite clear. It’s not alright to pick on someone because of the colour of their skin. I would be interested to know if this story has survived the various updates I’m sure the books have had in the past twenty or so years.
AMELIA JANE’S BOOMERANG
In Amelia Jane’s boomerang, Amelia Jane finds, you’ve guessed it, a boomerang in the toy cupboard. I’m already thinking this can’t go well.
She has a good time for a while, throwing it around the nursery and knocking off the toy’s hats, decapitating flowers and all sorts of mischievous things until the toys are quite sick of her.
They find a pop-gun (the kind that fires a cork on a string) and use it on her, getting a bit of revenge. They persuade her to give up the boomerang, but foolishly give her the gun in return and of course she just starts shooting them. Cleverly the golly cuts the string though, and leaves her weaponless.
I wonder if, in this modern climate, the stories containing guns have been edited out?
AMELIA JANE AND THE SCRIBBLES
Amelia Jane finds a red pencil in Amelia Jane and the Scribbles, and uses it to write on the wall inside the toy cupboard. She writes very rude things, like “The golliwog is silly. The teddy bear is too fat. The clockwork clown is clumsy. The clockwork mouse is a baby.”
They then discover she’s written a note on the wall too, saying she will do what she likes, ‘so there’! the cheeky doll.
As is often the case, the toys come up with a plan for revenge, which this time means the golliwog waiting until Amelia Jane is asleep and painting a message on her forehead. He writes, “this is naughty Amelia Jane,” so that all the toys laugh at her. Well, the punishment certainly fitted the crime!
AMELIA JANE PLAYS POSTMAN
In Amelia Jane Plays Postman the naughty doll starts putting the toy’s belongings into a post-box shaped money-box on the mantle piece. Only she can reach it, so the toys can’t get their own back by doing the same to her. Or can they? They concoct another clever plan where they wrap up Amelia Jane’s favourite things and trick her into posting them herself, so she is stuck without them for a long time.
AMELIA JANE IS NAUGHTY AGAIN
Mr Up-and-To, a little wooden man with a nodding head comes to stay in the nursery in Amelia Jane is Naughty Again, and as the poor fellow’s not very bright he rather looks up to Amelia Jane and believes all the silly tales she spins for him.
Rather innocently she then teaches him to tie a knot in his hanky to remember things, but when he does to untie it later he can’t remember what he was supposed to. Amelia Jane grabs the opportunity with both hands and tells him he meant to clamber up to the sink to bring him a drink, and the daft toy believes her. Wickedly he then starts tying knots in his hanky for him, and telling him he meant to do all sorts of naughty things. The golliwog gets to the bottom of things eventually and the toys tie a very large knot in his hanky after and tell him it’s to remind him to give Amelia Jane a very large spanking…
AMELIA JANE GOES UP THE TREE
In Amelia Jane Goes Up the Tree the doll wants to collect birds’ eggs, and the toys are horrified as it’s such a bad thing to do (we get a hint to Blyton’s respect for nature here really.) She ignores them and uses the gardener’s ladder to climb the tree outside, collecting two thrush eggs. She dawdles rather a lot though, and the gardener takes away his ladder leaving her stuck!
She gets upset when it gets dark and cold, feeling like she’s being punished, and the pixie who lives in the tree tells her to get help from the thrush. Despite being very hurt by the loss of two of her precious eggs the thrush helps Amelia Jane climb up towards the nursery window, making the doll feel even more guilty, so guilty she admits her crime and expects the thrush to take some revenge. The thrust however, points out that two wrongs don’t make a right and Amelia Jane promises to be a ‘Good Doll’!
We shall see if she manages that in the next seven stories shall we? (I bet she won’t otherwise there’d be nothing for Blyton to write about!)
All illustrations are by Sylvia I Venus, and the pictures of them were taken by me on my camera.
Next review: More About Amelia Jane part 2