Eileen Soper’s Five are the real Five to me. I grew up seeing her illustrations in lots of my Famous Five books and although I also had some Betty Maxey books too, I always picture Julian, Dick, Anne, George and Timmy the way that Soper shows them.
Of course Eileen Soper illustrates a whole lot of other books too, and she has such a recognisable style that you could insert some of her other illustrations into the Five books, or make up Famous Five stories of your own based on them.
Soper’s short story illustrations often depict children younger than the Five are in Five on a Treasure Island, and so I like to imagine what they might have been doing in that time.
For this first post I have looked through the Methuen Colour Story books; Red, Green and Blue (the Yellow one was illustrated by Kathleen Gell so wasn’t of any use here!).
Anne and the kitten
This is from The Clever White Kitten in The Green Story Book. The little girl is actually Elsie, but it could so easily be Anne. She would absolutely coo over a cute little kitten, and she does love her dolls.
Also in The Green Story Book is The Tale of Twinks and Dumpy. The dog in the illustration doesn’t have a name, but he belongs to Dumpy. I will just call him Timmy as he looks very much like George’s beloved dog.
George and Timmy
On the left is an illustration from The Poor Stray Dog in The Blue Story Book. The dog eventually gets the name Brownie, though the boy is never named. I think, though, that it could really be a girl who badly wants to be a boy.
On the right is another illustration from The Blue Story Book, this time from the story Peter’s Fire Engine. Only I don’t think it’s really Peter. I think that it’s George, and Timmy, and Uncle Quentin is about to come storming out of his study roaring that he can’t possibly work while George is ringing that fire-bell.
The Three’s first adventure
Before the three siblings met George and Timmy and thus became the Famous Five, imagine if they’d had a few adventures of their own. Here they are finding a hoard of stolen jewelry just like they would in Five Go off in a Caravan and Five on a Hike Together.
Hodder would like you to believe that this is Jim, Dickie and Martha as Enid wrote about in A Real Game of Hide-and-Seek in The Red Story Book. But we know better!
This is shorter than I had planned but I’m absolutely full of the cold. I will look through more of Soper’s books in the future and see what else I can find, though.
Never mind what Hodder wants us to think, I absolutely believe the Five are all represented in these illustrations. And Eileen Soper illustrations are the THE illustrations! Every time I think of the FF, I see them how Soper drew them. Anne looks like my mum did in the 50’s, same name too.