In December 2018 a new magazine came out, all about Enid Blyton. It was a one-off, as part of a This Is series of magazines each of which has a different topic. The series has been published by DC Thomson – home of The Beano, The Broons, Oor Wullie and many more – who have their headquarters in my home town, Dundee.
At £4.99 it’s almost the price of a children’s book, but then I’ve noticed that all magazines are extortionate these days. Children’s ones in particular seem to all be at least £5 – proclaiming they come with free gifts. No, your price includes the piece of plastic tat! Saying that, the free gifts with this magazine are of decent value, and there are four of them!
About the magazine
The exciting adventures of The Famous Five and the mysteries of The Secret Seven feature in this one-off special magazine, celebrating the escapades of Enid Blyton’s best-loved characters.
Aimed at children aged 7-12, the 36-page magazine includes engaging features, quizzes, recipes and puzzles, a Famous Five mini mag with writing tips, stories and a how to draw Timmy section.
The magazine comes with four fantastic free gifts including pencils, stickers, an extra puzzle magazine, and a full Secret Seven book.
– From DC Thomson’s press release
Flip ‘n’ Twist
No, that’s not some sort of new-fangled dance move. This magazine has two parts, and two front covers. One front cover is Famous Five themed. Then if you flip the magazine over, and twist it 180 degrees, there’s another front cover with the Secret Seven on it.
The Famous Five side is the ‘real’ front cover as it has the barcode on it. Inside it explains this is a twist ‘n’ flip (note the swapping of the words) magazine and instructs readers to turn your magazine upside down and flip it over to meet The Secret Seven. So are we turning and flipping? Twisting and turning? Who knows…
The Famous Five half
Well, of course I started there!
We have Meet the Famous Five, a simple board game with challenges/questions, and how to draw Timmy. I’m almost tempted to have a go at that last one just to give you all a laugh. There’s a mention of drawing his dainty paws, which doesn’t sound Timmy-like at all. But actually this version of Timmy does have stupidly tiny feet, I’ve just never noticed before. I was probably too busy looking at the human characters’ never changing clothes.
The 2019 adventure goals were interesting. Some were great, easy and cheap ways to get children active. Some of the others are more problematic. Bike ride? Well, I can’t ride and bikes aren’t cheap. I sense parents are going to be driven mad with requests to camp in the garden, build a raft, visit a circus, go horse riding, ice skating… Only £4.99 for a magazine and potentially hundreds of pounds to tick all the boxes!
There is a competition for story writing, where you can submit any Famous Five based story or use their story prompts. By rolling a dice etc you get a character, their skill, an enemy, a location/mystery and an ending. Mine was:
Dr Pottersworth, the absent-minded professor
He can pick a lock in seconds.
Facing a super-spy, who could be anyone.
The old farmhouse was empty for the holidays. So why is a light signalling from the windows?
You save Christmas, hurrah!
Unfortunately they didn’t quite think it through when setting this up. To follow step 5’s instructions you’d have cut out letters to pick out of a bowl and that would cut up part of the entry form on the other side of the page!
I was a bit baffled by the ‘pull-out’ section at first as it just looked like it was stapled in the wrong way around. It’s been a long time since I’ve read children’s magazines so maybe this is common now but I’m not sure why it’s a ‘selling point’ or even useful to have to pull out the centre pages to read an article. (Different if it formed a poster or wall chart etc).
There are some interesting facts on the pull out nonetheless.
Enid kept a red Moroccan shawl near by as she wrote because she believed the colour red helped her to write – I hadn’t heard that before. Her stay at Seckford Hall with it’s haunted room isn’t often mentioned.
Despite being more Five Find-Outers than Famous Five invisible ink gets a mention. First up is white crayon gone over with a highligher pen (very modern!). Then there’s the more traditional lemon juice and heat, though only with an adult’s assistance (so not at all secret then!)
The Secret Seven half
I may be biased but I feel this half is not as good as the first. Meet the Seven is probably necessary but feels repetitive after meeting the Five. There’s a flow chart game instead of a board game and a guide to make a map. Then there’s some (in my opinion) highly unscientific claptrap about deducing personalities from handwriting.
Perhaps why I feel this part is not as good is there are two recipes which are lifted – illustrations and all – directly from Jolly Good Food by Allegra McEvedy though no credit is given. Having already seen them, it reduces the ‘new’ content for me.
Then there’s an interview with Pamela Butchart (who is also from Dundee) about writing the new Secret Seven book.
There are plenty of opportunities for the reader to draw and write their own ideas scattered through the magazine. As a child I’m sure I loved that sort of thing but as an adult I have an irrational need to keep the magazine neat and fresh. Plus my drawing is shameful!
There are also quite a few puzzles included which would make the reading last longer.
There are refreshingly few adverts (adult magazines seem 90% adverts these day, maybe children’s ones are generally lighter on the ad-front). One is for other DC Thompson magazines and the other is for the new Favourite Enid Blyton Stories book.
The first Secret Seven book, illustrated and all. It’s a cheap one (you can tell it’s a magazine freebie) but still a whole novel. I intend to use mine to compare the text to the original.
Pencils with phrases on, these are nice as they don’t scream ‘modernised and strange-looking Famous Five’.
Stickers – these are OK if you like the latest incarnation.
Secret Seven brain games. This is about the same size as the magazine itself. (It can’t be turned upside down/back to front though). This has all sorts of puzzles in it. There are several codes to learn/crack including Morse. There is spot the difference, fill in the blanks, word searches, mazes and more. On the back is an advert for a Secret Seven Brain Games with 100 fun puzzles available from Amazon so I assume this is an extract intending to drive sales.
I think it’s unfortunate that the title is confusing. When discussing this with fellow Blyton fans I saw it referred to as Flip N Twist Magazine, This Is Magazine and a few people thought this might be a series of magazines about Enid Blyton.
It is clearly aimed at children who are reasonably new to The Famous Five and Secret Seven. All the way through it has artwork by Laura Ellen Anderson and Tony Ross (plus Mark Beech on the recipes). Anderson first appeared on Famous Five covers in 2017, while Tony Ross has done internal and external work for the Secret Seven since 2013. These children (assuming they’ve been bought new copies and are not reading hand-me-downs from previous eras) will recognise and be familiar with these incarnations of the children.
I would have liked to see more variety, both in illustrations and series/characters. It could have been half mystery/adventure and half school stories for example.
If it was a slimmer magazine and had less freebies I think this would have made a great monthly publication. It packs a lot in but it’s a bit ‘samey’ with the content and style.