Blyton by others: A guide to unnecessary retellings of Blyton’s work

I recently wrote a guide to continuations of Blyton’s series, whether they be prequels, sequels or gap-fillers.

While looking for all the possible things to feature I ruled out several books by other authors as they didn’t “continue” a story but rather, they rewrote or retold it.

So here is a look at novels which are retellings of the original works.

Books based on the TV series

There are two sets of novels which although they retain the original titles [with one exception, being The Woods of Adventure which replaced The Castle of Adventure on TV and in book], have entirely different contents. One set is The Adventure Series and the other The Secret Series 9, and both are stories written following the plots of the respective TV series made by Cloud 9 in New Zealand.

These feel wholly unnecessary as they are basically books based on a TV series which was based on some books!

I have reviewed all the TV episodes already, and found them to be quite ridiculous. They didn’t follow the books in large chunks and instead made up silly plotlines of their own. As they were set in the 90s they have worked in lots of technology (and evil monks…). You can read my reviews of the Adventure Series on TV here (scroll to the bottom of the list to start with Island, Castle at the top belongs to a different series) and the Secret Series on TV here.

There are two of the Adventure Series books – Island and Sea – in one of the branch libraries so of course I requested them to see what they are like. I haven’t had time to read either in full, but I will do at some point. I have flicked through, however, to get an idea of the content.


The novelisation of Island seems pretty close to the TV series (when compared to what I wrote in my review) though it misses off the opening credits scene. Being a book it gives us a slightly better insight into the characters, including, for example, the detail that Lucy-Ann has come along to the summer camp because there is no-where else for her to go, she doesn’t really like it but would do anything to stay near Jack.

I will have to watch the episode again to refresh my memory and read the book in full then.

The Diary of the Naughtiest Girl by Jeanne Willis

This is set in the present day and, although it begins with Elizabeth about to be sent to Whyteleaf, the story is unrecognisable for the most part. Miss Scott’s role is taken by a woman called Kesi, and although Elizabeth still pins a stocking to her skirt she then goes to Tesco and it gets caught on someone else’s trolley in the cheese aisle. Hannah has fat cheeks and gets named Hamster, and other girls are Ellie, Joanna, Mei Ling, Melinda, Shauna (formerly Nora)… The head boy (William) has the surname Murricane and the head girl is Rebekah Shah. Apart from all that, it’s just full of super-modern slang (which will a) date very quickly and b) probably be embarrassing to any children because adults never get these things quite right).

It looks so bad from my quick dip into it that I have borrowed it with the intention of doing a full review.

The reason this is unnecessary? One, it’s absolutely dire and two, there is a perfectly good book called The Naughtiest Girl in The School already. which tells the exact same story but a hundred times more skilfully.

The Riddle series / Young Adventurers

Originally these books were published as stand-alone titles each featuring a different set of children. Now they all feature the same children and form a series. This seems unnecessary as there is nothing wrong with stand-alone books, and no reason that they would need to be edited to form a series.

The books were:

  • Holiday House
  • The Adventure that Never Was
  • Adventure of the Strange Ruby
  • Hollow Tree House
  • The Treasure Hunters
  • The Boy Next Door

In 1997 they then became:

  • The Riddle of Holiday House
  • The Riddle that Never Was
  • The Riddle of the Raja’s Ruby
  • The Riddle of The Hollow Tree
  • The Riddle of the Hidden Treasure
  • The Riddle of the Boy Next Door

And in 2004 they were published as:

  • The Young Adventurers at Holiday House
  • The Young Adventurers and the Mystery that Never Was
  • The Young Adventurers and the Raja’s Ruby
  • The Young Adventurers and the Hollow Tree
  • The Young Adventurers and the Hidden Treasure
  • The Young Adventurers and the Boy Next Door

I can sort of understand some of this. It has been a while since I read Holiday House, The Mystery that Never Was and The Mystery of the Strange Ruby but I can imagine that it wouldn’t have taken a huge amount of rewriting to rename the main children and make the stories form a series. Even The Treasure Hunters and The Boy Next Door, I can see being able to fit in. What I don’t understand is Hollow Tree House. It’s not a typical mystery/adventure story. There is no mystery or riddle, and it’s only as adventurous as two children running away from misery and abuse could be. I absolutely love Hollow Tree House and I hate to think of it being butchered.

The edits were done by Gillian Baverstock, Enid’s younger daughter and so have hope that they were done with care and respect.

The Fabulous Four

This is another series formed from stand-alone titles. The books keep their original titles this time, though they were edited by Jenny Cooke.

  • Four in a Family
  • The Birthday Kitten
  • The Very Big Secret
  • The Four Cousins
  • The Hidey Hole

I have read all but The Birthday Kitten, and I suppose it wouldn’t be to too hard to make these form a series. I just wonder how much rewriting was required for The Very Big Secret which only had two child characters. Did they shoe-horn in the two extras to make the Fabulous Four, or were the cousins away on holiday at the time?

These are unnecessary for the same reasons as above.

Don’t you just wish they could leave Enid Blyton’s books alone? I would hate to think of a child picking up one of these and judging all her works based on what they’ve just read.

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4 Responses to Blyton by others: A guide to unnecessary retellings of Blyton’s work

  1. This is the fault of Enid Blyton’s estate. The publishers normally don’t own the copyright in the stories Enid wrote, her literary executors will typically own all of the copyrights now, and therefore the books cannot be reprinted in any form except with the permission of the executors.

    No doubt the executors believe that allowing these changes to the text will generate sales of the books, by making them seem less old-fashioned.

    Anyone can write a new novel using the characters, but reprinting the original text, with or without changes, needs permission of the executors. Are they ever likely to turn down a chance to keep the books in print? Inevitably, they will be guided by whatever strategy the publisher thinks will help the books to sell.

    And no child will be aware that these books had a slightly different text in older editions, because children are not like literary critics, nor are they established fans of the original stories. So a child will most likely buy the new versions without being aware of any of the things which we might dislike.


  2. Sorry — I forgot to answer the question!

    In fact, I do wish – very much so – that the publishers would print the original text of the stories. In my opinion, a young child reading the original stories would not be put off by the fact that the children don’t own mobile phones, because, as I said, children are not literary critics!

    I can understand why the publishers want to remove the word “shilling”; but I can’t see any point to making other changes merely because the change appeals to the publisher. I don’t believe a child would be bothered by the original text, and I do believe the only changes which are justified might be ones which appeal to the child reading the book. And I’m not convinced that a young child, reading the original text for the first time, would want any other changes.

    If you introduce mobile phones, you kill the suspense. A child in trouble in the story can telephone the police, or their parents, or their friends. But if you don’t introduce cell phones, you have a story about children who use telephone boxes and live in the 1940s.

    All changes have the potential to damage the storyline, and the inconsistent replacement of the amounts of money is a good example, where the publisher can’t decide whether a reference to a one pound note in the text ought to become £5 or £20, but in fact ought to be £60 (in terms of the amount of goods it can buy in the story).

    These are books for young children. Most likely, they will not even notice that the stories are old-fashioned, so what is the point of trying to “bring them up to date”. Whatever you do, you can’t escape the fact that Enid does not include cell phones, or pocket computers, or references to the Starship Enterprise.


  3. Dale Vincero, Brisbane Australia says:

    I, too, watched the New Zealand series of TV shows very loosely following the Adventure series by EB. Didn’t enjoy them one bit. Quite boring actually!


  4. I actually really enjoyed Diary of the Naughtiest Girl. Maybe I’m just a jaded millennial who is so scornful about the values moving on that I react with joy at a modern retelling. I didn’t really think they needed to keep shipping John Terry with Elizabeth, though, although to be fair, if Harry wanted to really get to Elizabeth, pinning a notice saying that instead of pinning something everyone already knew about her was probably the best way to do it. If you read it without constantly comparing it to Naughtiest Girl books, it stands up a little better.
    And like I said, I adore picking apart everything wrong with Blyton’s writing. Mainly her black and white words (never changing your mind is always weak, so is crying no matter how bad your situation get) and her classist, sexist and ageist things. I can forgive the first two because they’re products of the time, but were schoolgirls really so ageist that they think girls a year younger than them are “babies”? Did they consider themselves babies last year? It doesn’t help that at St Clare’s, the younger girls are expected to wait on the older girls. I don’t mind that, but the older girls are so rude to them and don’t even bother to say “please” or thank them for doing those jobs.


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