As I mentioned in my Secrets of Blogging post, this is one of my go-to resources when blogging. I actually got it for free when it came out!
WHAT EXACTLY IS IT?
The introduction describes it as showing the mechanics of the Blyton writing formula but it’s not the sort of book I could read cover-to-cover. I use it mostly when I need to know if and when something has featured in the Famous Five books, and occasionally I run through the index and randomly look up anything that interests me.
Liam Martin, the author, has with what can only have been a tremendous amount of work catalogued every mention of dozens if not hundreds of words and phrases from the 21 books. It covers pretty much everything from grass to thunderstorms and beetroot to measles. Idioms and phrases are in there, countries, days of the week, jewellery, types of transport… as I said, pretty much everything.
It would take me all day to list them all so I’ll just list some of my most recently used ones.
Society>Health>Food>Cakes (I wanted to check who had eaten chocolate cake for Stef’s blog).
Society>Health>Food>Gingerbread (again, to see who had eaten it and when for Stef’s recipe blogs).
Society>Health>Illness> (to check if I had missed any instances of measles or such – and oops, I had)
Also squeezed into the book are some facts about the lengths of each book, Blyton’s style of writing, her success (or lack of) in America and other bits and pieces.
SOME RANDOM FACTS FROM THE BOOK
- The moon is out in eleven books (#s 3, 4, 6, 8, 10, 11, 13, 14, 17, 20 and 21.) It even helpfully, notes the chapter and paragraph. So the moon is out in chapter 19, paragraph 14 of Five Run Away Together.
- Cabbage is mentioned in three books. As pickled cabbage in Hike, once in Wonderful Time and as a joke in Billycock Hill.
- There are only two books which don’t feature cake – Five Get into a Fix and Five Are Together Again.
- Television is featured only once (in Kirrin Island Again, of course) but is mentioned seven times in that book.
- It is only ever Thursday twice in the series. (Well, twice that it is stated that it is a Thursday, really).
- November is never mentioned and nothing ever happens in November.
If I were to start being critical I would say there are two main flaws with the book.
One is that the primary sources were 2001 editions of the books. As we know these are not the same as the original – though earlier editions are said to have been consulted. I don’t think the updates by then would have dramatically altered the use of the words/topics listed but it’s possible that in updating somethings that this book isn’t entirely accurate for the early editions. The page numbers are also not going to be accurate; but the chapter and paragraph noted should lead you to where you need to go.
The other is that it is not completely exhaustive. At the front it states that instances of a word used ten times or less will have all of those identified. If there are more, only a sample is given. I have (so far) found that this is enough – there are times where 11 books are named, and where all but this book/these books is used (obviously that then lacks the location within each book) but if you are looking for each and every instance of a particular word you may find it lacking. I don’t think this makes the book useless, not by a long shot. It would probably become too long and cumbersome if every instance was meticulously listed and I think it finds a good balance between giving us a lot of information and giving us too much.
I think this is really useful resource for a blogger, or indeed anyone who has a burning desire to work out how often the Five drank gingerbeer (if you include ginger-pop they have it in ten books) without reading all 21 books.
It works best on a computer or a kindle touch (it may work on the older Kindle but I haven’t tested that) as I imagine it could be tedious to find things otherwise. On a computer you can browse the contents and click on 03. Plants, which takes you to chapter 3, a break down of the entries associated with plants. From there you can click on cornflower and you’ll end up in chapter C, which is part of the full alphabetical listing.
Or you can bypass that and search the book for a word or phrase. If you had a real book you would have to use it more like a dictionary and flip through to find the Cs and cornflowers. Not the end of the world, certainly, but the index on a computer makes it easier to browse and look up random subjects of interest.