Finally, I hear you cry, she’s found and read the first book in the series! Now perhaps she can tell us what happened in the beginning (assuming that you haven’t already read them in order like you’re supposed to! What a topsy-turvy reviewing process we’ve been through with this series. At least now we can say they have all been done! With that said, lets have a look at the very first Family Series book.
The beginning of the Caravan Family
Mike, Belinda and Ann have been staying with their mother and grandmother in their grandmother’s house while their father has been ‘away’ for two years. Having just looked at the year the book was published, it was the end of the Second World War, so Enid Blyton could have been referring to the children’s father being away at the war, which would strike a chord with many of the children reading these serialised books in magazines. No reference beyond that of Daddy coming home is made again, but if it’s anything like the Blyton books we know, she will have wanted them to be far removed from reality so the children could enjoy themselves. This is partly why the Famous Five books never mention the war, and they have amazing food, because Blyton wanted children to remember happier times, I assume.
Anyway, after coming home, Mummy and Daddy decide that they need to move out of Granny’s house and that they would quite like a country cottage somewhere, but it turns out that they can’t afford the ones they like. Daddy doesn’t have much money – which begs the question how can he afford the trips away, and the trip on the Queen Elizabeth later on, so I assume he gets a brilliantly paid job or one with lots of benefits, so the children and their mother can live in relative comfort.
Soon it becomes clear that the little cottage in the country is out of their reach and, while they are walking to go back to Granny’s, the children spot some old, run down, gypsy caravans in a farmers field. After some discussion the Farmer agrees to sell them to the family, and the children are overjoyed. There is a snag however, that this will only be temporary until school starts again and Mummy and Daddy can find somewhere else for them to live.
After a spell of cleaning, repairing and repainting the caravans, they all move in on the farm where the caravans stand, given that there are no horses to pull them at this point. The children are soon running around the farm helping and becoming very sensible, which surprises their mother who often found it quite hard to get them to do chores while they were living at their grandmother’s. Now they are making beds, tidying, washing up, cooking, fetching wood for fires and not to mention all of the other things they get to do on the farm! The children grow more respectful of the world around them and little Ann gets over her fear of cows and geese, and helps as much as the other two do.
There’s a lovely little part when they move into the caravan for the first night and Mike ‘dictates’ where everyone will sleep. Unusually for the eldest he doesn’t demand the topmost bunk, but says he will sleep at the bottom because he’s the eldest. Belinda is then to sleep in the middle and Ann at the top. I don’t know why but I felt this was very sweet and well meaning of him, because in books such as the Famous Five, Julian would very much demand the top bunk but Mike seems to be a less demanding older brother. What a nice change.
As we move on through the book, we meet Uncle Ned and Aunt Clara, who also own a farm and the children all pitch in and help get the harvest done, and the horses, Davey and Clopper also help pull the machines. It’s nice to get some context of Uncle Ned and Aunt Clara and I think it finally answers my question as to why they don’t stay on their farm. The school that Mummy and Daddy want to send the children to is a long way from the farm so they have to move the caravans for the children to be able to attend, and it ends with the caravans being pulled off into a sunny day (well it looks like a sunset in my edition, but I don’t think the caravans would be moved at night time. Not these ones anyway!)
What I thought of it
Actually this whole little story is very sweet and endearing! The development of the children, the finding the caravans and them the whole life on the farms. You get a feel for the animals and the farm as Blyton manages to transport you to these amazing places in technicolor. Although we love her mysteries and adventures, I feel her real forte was nature and animals. Her writing does seem to come alive with them and that is what makes The Caravan Family such an engaging read.
Belinda, Mike and Ann are very sweet as well, skipping about, wanting to help and getting stuck in with the chores. I know it sounds strange, but since my first reading (at the end of the series) where I had no real idea about them, they have grown on me as young innocent things who are very much young people who are beginning to understand and take on the world. I suppose now that I have all the books – even though some of them are new text editions – I will have to read them through the proper way around to really get a proper feeling for the characters and any growth in the children. The amusing thing is though, that they do feel as though they don’t get much older. They always seem to stay around the same age, which is a tactic employed very well by Blyton and other authors, where despite the passing seasons the children refuse to age. How I wish I had that superpower!
Anyway, all I think I can say now is that you need to read this quiet gem of a Blyton series. Yes, some of them aren’t as good as others and I may have been hasty in some of my first opinions, but you know, I reckon they’re well worth the reading time!
Let me know what you think in the comments below!