In what has become an ‘annual’ tradition I will look at the current year’s annual in two parts. (Apologies for the bad pun.)
You can see my review of the first annual from 2014 here and here, and then the 2015 one here and here.
So this year’s annual fits perfectly with the previous two. The cover this time is from Five on Finniston Farm. It’s a much closer up view this time, and there’s no background unlike on the other two annuals.
The content list looks interesting as always, nicely fitted onto an illustration from Five Go Down to the Sea.
THE FAMOUS FIVE AND ME
Our first article is a slightly unusual one – as it’s a personal piece. It is by ‘a fan and author’ called Hilary McKay (someone I’ve never heard of). I found this quite hard to read and understand thanks to the (endless) sets of brackets, LOTS OF SHOUTING CAPITALS and lots of short sentences. Lots. Of. Them. At the end it tells us that Hilary McKay has a new book out now, and hardly surprisingly it turns out to be published by Hodder. Oh – and it is “perfect for fans of Enid Blyton’s family stories”. Imagine that.
THE FAMOUS FIVE PLAY
This is all about the first Famous Five Play from 1955. It gets four pages and it’s a very interesting read as it covers the play from when Blyton first announced it in her magazine to its second run in 1956. I was aware of the play but I didn’t know the first run was an evening performance (very grown up as Blyton notes) with a Noddy matinee in the afternoons. Nor did I know that Ronny Corbett performed in both!
CAVES, SECRET PASSAGES AND TUNNELS
This is the sort of thing that makes me annoyed. (We all remember how much I hated Eva Rice’s book, yes?) We have a two page spread dedicated to underground features of the books (but not dungeons, fair enough) and it is woefully incomplete. They do know that though, and ask “have we missed any other(s)?.. There are dozens.” In a word, yes. They have included the Kirrin Island cave, the caves on Mystery Moor, The Billycock Hill Caves, The Wreckers’ Caves at Demon’s Rocks, the catacombs under Smuggler’s Top, the passage from Kirrin Island to Kirrin Quarry, (which is badly explained as leading from the fireplace into some caves then to the tunnel, when really it forms part of the dungeons – remember they knew there were two entrances to the dungeons but could only find the one under the large stone in the courtyard), and finally the passage in the thick walls of Faynights Castle.
So what’s missing, they ask? The vast caves in the hill above Merran Lake, the passage from Uncle Quentin’s study to the bedroom at Kirrin Farmhouse, the passage through the cliffs to Red Tower’s house, the cave system near the Roman dig on Kirrin Common, the underground tunnels in Magga Glen and the passage that led from Finniston Castle to the nearby chapel. So just a few, then!
TWO FAMOUS PASTIMES
Camping and Caravanning. Again I don’t think this is in any way complete. There’s no mention of them camping in the book with Camp in the title for a start!
WELL DONE, FAMOUS FIVE
I made notes on paper when I read the annual and the first thing I jotted was hideous. Extremely modern illustrations (possibly Jamie Littler’s?) and lovely updates like idiot for ass, and binoculars for field glasses. Worst of all it’s only a taster of what was already a very short story. If you want to know the rest you’d better get out and buy the relevant Hodder Colour Reader!
WHICH FAMOUS FIVE BOOK SHOULD I READ NEXT?
A short quiz to help you decide (if you’re not the sort to insist on reading them in order).
FINNISTON FARM REVISITED
This is about the illustrations as there are two shown which Eileen Soper reworked (at Blyton’s instruction).
A FAMOUS FIVE GAME
Taken from the back endpapers of Enid Blyton’s Magazine Annual No 1. It has been made larger which is nice, would make it easier to play!
THE FAMOUS FIVE MUSICAL
Information on the musical mentioned in the earlier section about the play. The musical (which I’m sure I’ve seen on DVD) was performed in 1996.
HAPPY CHRISTMAS, FIVE
Another extract, this one with the same strange illustrations from previous annuals (remember that bathing suit post?)
Probably the least well-known of the three Pepys Famous Five games, this one asks you to spot the deliberate mistakes in some Eileen Soper illustrations. It is extremely hard! Thankfully the answers are given at the back of the annual.
And that’s the first half of the annual. I will leave the rest for another day.
Next post: Famous Five Annual 2016 part 2
Great review as always, Fiona :)! Looking forward to read part 2. The last Soper illustration at the bottom must be the one where Aunt Fanny discovers that Quentin has not eaten his soup. They are on Kirrin Island once more and this time Quentin has built a strange looking tower.
I would think you are right, Chrissie. I can’t think of any other occasions that Aunt Fanny picnics with the children.
Another excellent review, Fiona – they certainly could have done with input from you on the caves and tunnel section. Your eye for detail is exceptional. Glad there are at least a few Eileen Soper’s illustrations – I just love them and see the children just as she drew them. Do you see them in this way too, Fiona?
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Very interesting, thanks. I must admit I was completely unaware that there is a Famous Five play. What role did Ronnie Corbett play? He would have been 25 in 1955 so too old to play one of the children but too young to be, say Uncle Quentin.
I’m afraid it doesn’t give any other information. It just says that “some of the adult actors appeared in both plays and Ronnie Corbett remarked in his autobiography that he was in Noddy in the afternoon and the Famous Five in the evening.”
I guess that one possibility is that because Ronnie Corbett is so short, he played a child. On Wikipedia it says: “he started his career by playing schoolboy roles in films. At 5 ft 1 in (1.55 m) tall, Corbett was suited to playing younger than his years ….” but it goes on to say that “his first stage co-starring appearance he was billed as Ronald Corbett at Cromer, Norfolk, in Take it Easy in 1956”. But of course perhaps his 1955 appearance in The Famous Five was not a starring role (and, anyway, Wikipedia is not completely reliable). Wikipedia also says “He has worked in film, television, and on stage since the 1950s” so that is compatible with him appearing in the 1955 FF play. Perhaps we will never know!
Good deductive work there. I wonder if any more detail was given in his autobiography or whether that small quote was the entirety of the matter.
Actually, we could probably just ask him:
c/o Mandy Ward Artist Management
73-74 Berwick Street
London W1F 8TE
I might do so if I get a minute
Please do! I would love to know the answer.