Back in 2016 I reviewed my twenty-fourth Noddy book and proclaimed it my last. I wasn’t in a strop with Noddy, as irritating as he can be at times, I had come to the end of the main series. There are plenty of other Noddy books out there, picture books, strip books, board books and more.
So of all the Noddy books in all the world, why have I considered this to be the 25th? It doesn’t come sequentially after the main series, in fact it was published in 2009, more than 50 years after Enid Blyton died. But it is intended to be a continuation of the series, written for Noddy’s 60th birthday.
What makes it more interesting is that it was written by Sophie Smallwood, Enid Blyton’s granddaughter.
The book visually
I had seen the cover online before I got the book as a gift. It looks very similar to the classic Noddy books, but there’s one bizarre and quite major difference. It’s a completely different size! The other books are around a5 in size, while this new book is almost twice as big! So although it looks very much like the others it would look silly on the shelf which is why mine is on a different shelf with big annuals.
Blyton’s signature has been replaced with Sophie’s, and her name has been added at the top in smaller letters. Honesty about who actually wrote a book is always a good thing in my book! The characters in the train have also changed – the golly has naturally been removed – and the cows and bull fit the farm theme.
The train’s steam holds the words Illustrated by Robert Tyndall. Tyndall started illustrating Noddy books in 1953 with the 9th book (Noddy and the Magic Rubber, published in 1954). He then returned for book 14 and worked on most of the rest of the series. Originally the words on the steam read Pictures by Beek, and after his death books 8 though 24 read All aboard for Toyland.
Anyway, having one of the original illustrators helps greatly in making this fit with the series. It’s not crucial, but the next best would be a good illustrator who keeps to the same style.
The back has a different style – the original 24 had the train carriages across the bottom with a larger cloud of steam reading All aboard for Toyland. The top left would read Noddy Book and the number, while an image from the book would be at the top right. The new book has the train continue in a crescent shape up the book and features a blurb.
Inside instead of the classic endpapers showing Toyland there’s a farm scene at the front and a party scene at the back. The internal illustrations follow a similar pattern of small inset images and large full page ones with borders.
Noddy is busy ferrying customers around Toyland when he comes across a load of sheep in a lane. He and Mrs Noah herd them back to Farmer Straw’s farm, and discover his new tractor is in the pond. He then finds some wooly-pigs. Or are they oinking sheep? He isn’t sure. Also on the loose are Gobbo and Sly the goblins, but thankfully Big-Ears turns up to deal with them.
Mr Plod also assists, he bring back a herd of blue cows and the bull by train. With all the animals back there’s just the matter of Gobbo and Sly returning them to their usual selves, before the goblins are punished with a load of farmyard chores.
Overall it’s a decent story. There’s just two things I didn’t like. One is that we read all about Sly and Gobbo doing their mischief on the farm at the start of the book (I’m not sure that we get lengthy non-Noddy scenes in his other books?) when it could have made a nice little mystery and been far more surprising to us when Noddy finds sheep/pigs and there are blue cows roaming around. The second is that after being punished Gobbo and Sly get to join in the feast celebrating the return of the animals. I know I can be a vindictive sort of person but as far as I know Gobbo and Sly have no redeeming features whatsoever and are not friends of anyone in Toyland. There’s no reason to have them at the feast and they don’t deserve to be there!
I’ve yet to read a Blyton continuation that reads exactly like Blyton wrote it, and this book is no exception. To expect Sophie Smallwood to write completely convincingly as her grandmother is silly though, she’s no more Enid Blyton than Pamela Cox is. Sophie was born two years after Enid died, so she never even met her. She did grow up reading her grandmothers’ books and is obviously a fan and I think she has done a good job of writing a Noddy book even if it isn’t a flawless fit for the series.
Nothing major sticks out as being ‘un-Blyton’, and perhaps it’s just my adult mind looking for faults because I know it’s not the real deal. It doesn’t help that we have Gobbo and Sly as main characters as I associate them with the 90s tv shows (Gobbo first appears in a 1970s adaptation, with different looks and without Sly). I suspect that modern children wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between this and the updated versions of the original 24 books.