A Bit of Background
As some of you will know I reviewed The Queen Elizabeth Family last year, so the concept of Enid Blyton’s Family Series was not unknown to me. However I admit ignorance in the fact that I did not know, or at least comprehend which book started the series. I was aware on some level that The Queen Elizabeth Family book was somewhere towards the end of, what I like to call, a mini series, but I couldn’t tell you what order they came in, or even about the beginnings. So when I saw this omnibus edition of the Caravan Family stories in The Works, I thought “Bingo! I can read them all now!”
Alas, I was very wrong. The book contains four stories, The Saucy Jane Family, The Pole Star Family, The Seaside Family and The Queen Elizabeth Family. I hadn’t realised there were six stories, so for £2, I purchased the book hoping to have a bit of a bargin. However, the first and fifth stories in the series, The Caravan Family and The Buttercup Farm Family are not included in the bumper edition. How frustrating! I do, however have an early edition of The Buttercup Farm Family on my shelves.
So I started off reading The Saucy Jane Family I assumed it would go through all the introductions to the family and why they lived in a caravan. Gosh, how wrong was I?! And yes, that eye rolling and exasperated sighing you can hear is Fiona telling me I’m an idiot. (Until she reads this, she won’t know I did that either, so it’ll be very loud sighing!)
Anyway to spare you from the blunder I made, I’ve included a link to the series on the Enid Blyton Society Website so you can educate yourself on the titles you need to look for if you wish to take up this series to read for yourself or you children, grandchildren, or small humans in your lives. Which means that now, I’d better get on and tell you about the story itself! Tally ho and on we go!
The Saucy Jane Family
This is a relatively short read from Blyton, same as The Queen Elizabeth Family book, and condensed into a book with three other stories, under 60 pages in length. I managed to read it quickly and without much brain power needed, which is why I think it’s better for younger readers to enjoy. Make no mistake, I’ll be reading and enjoying these with my little nephew (Fiona’s baby) when he’s old enough to sit and listen to Auntie Stef go on and on about Enid Blyton, like his Mummy does; however, as its been mentioned before looking at these stories with an adult’s eye does make them seem rather simplistic.
Nevertheless the Caravan Family stories do make for sweet reading. The children don’t necessarily have ‘adventures’ in the sense of the Famous Five, Secret Seven, or Five Find-Outers but they do have delightful experiences with different aspects of living quarters and different lives. I get the feeling that Blyton might have used these to highlight some of the different houses, experiences and lives that people had. A lot of children wouldn’t have been aware of how different some of the experiences of others could be, and it was a good way to show them that people had different kinds of lives.
Ann, Belinda and Mike are not much older from the first book, according to reviews I’ve read but about a year seems to have passed. From The Queen Elizabeth Family book and a leap back in time to this one, they don’t even seem to have changed at all, even in moving forward and ‘ageing’. Anyway, so we get told that the children, along with Mummy and Daddy will have to leave the caravans for the summer so that they can be cleaned, repainted and repaired. They try to book in to go down to the sea, but everywhere is fully booked. Mummy luckily then has a letter from ‘Auntie Mollie’ who is leaving her house boat for a while and asks if they would all like to come and live on it while she’s not there.
It’s never really explained where Mollie goes, she just does, and the family get on the bus and go and look at the house boat and decide that yes, they want to live on the boat for the summer. Once this has all been arranged, the move in is fairly quick, things are packed, the horses summer planned – one horse to work on a farm and the other to stay in a handy field in case the boat needs moving. At this point I would like to point out that Blyton seems to like using the name ‘Clopper’ for horses. I must have read that not only in the Famous Five, but also in some other book that’s written by her. The name crops up everywhere. Does anyone know if she ever had a horse called Clopper, or imagined one when she was living in London? If you do know, I’d love to hear from you! Or even if you just have your own opinion to give me – bung it in the comments below!
The short chapters make for easy reading, and there is always a little excitement per chapter. Things like getting to go on a canal boat, and through a hill; learning to swim, falling off the boat and needing to be rescued. All these little things are very interesting and, for someone who loves the proper adventures, a little dull, but good for keeping littler children interested.
Mike, Ann and Belinda are rather two dimentional characters, with not a lot to flesh out their personalities, or anything like that. There are some ‘normal’ emotions in there, fear, for example when Ann doesn’t want to learn how to swim, but mostly they are just there to tell the story. God makes one of his minor appearences in the story (I say appearence, he’s mentioned) when Ann prays to him to make her braver. It was a long time into my Blyton reading career that I realised that she had worked at a Sunday school when she was a teenager.
Unsurprisingly though, what I don’t know about Enid Blyton could probably fill several books without question. Now I know of this, and am a former theology student, I can see the links to religion and think more deeply about them when I come across them in her books and I wonder about the time she was writing them and the influence from the church during that time on her society around her. That’s probably not as interesting to you as it is to me, so I’ll move on, but it’s interesting to note how something like a belief in God can shine through so clearly in someone’s work, especially when you know that its there.
Anyway I’ve rambled – I’m sure Fiona will tell me off now, but its just something I tend to find interesting. The Saucy Jane Family is an interesting little story, with very few faults. The language doesn’t even seem to have been changed that much either, however without an original to compare it to, I can’t really comment. Maybe Fiona can? That aside, once I got rid of my ‘adult’ head while reading this for the first time, the story is just a nice little stroll down the memory lane of society and history. Probably perfect for inviting children to ask questions about different parts of life, and history, rather like Ann, Belinda and Mike. The fact that these questions are posed and answered allows some fact taking as well and learning, which given Blyton’s job as a teacher is possibly what she was aiming for.
Needless to say, its a lovely little story and I’ll try and bring you some more reviews. Lets hope I can keep my ‘childish’ head on for those! Let me know what you think in the comments, I’ve love to hear what you think!