A few weeks ago I reviewed the first Naughtiest Girl continuation book by Anne Digby. I didn’t think it was very good, but seeing as I borrowed all six and I can’t return them due to coronavirus self-isolation, I thought I might as well read some more. Maybe they get better as they go on?
The Naughtiest Girl Goes Off to Camp?
It is half-term at Whyteleaf and those who aren’t going home are getting to camp in the school grounds. We start right in the middle of this being set up and find out that Joan is a ‘tent monitor’ in charge of three other girls. These girls turn out to be Elizabeth (of course) the stuck-up Arabella and a junior called Teeny.
Joan’s strange behaviour
Joan is nothing like the sensible girl of the books. She is in the second form (how this qualifies her to look after Teeny who everyone expects to be coddled, though it’s not clear just how young she is, I don’t know) but she has becomes a weak, anxious and silly girl.
First she makes a terribly big deal about going to buy batteries and makes herself and Elizabeth late for kitchen duty. She receives a ticking-off from Miss Ranger about this and instead of taking it on the chin she just about falls apart.
It is obvious from about the second chapter that Joan is afraid of the dark. First, the panic over having batteries for her torch. Then insisting they sleep with the tent flap open even though it is cold. It takes Elizabeth until the last chapters to find out, however, and only because Joan tells her to her face.
Their solution is for Joan to sleep in a culvert in the dried up stream every night – even though a big deal has been made by everyone about the importance of the tent monitor looking after the younger girls. She doesn’t do this, though, as Arabella catches them out of the tent and after a failed attempt at fake sleepwalking they are all caught.
As I said above we don’t know how young Teeny is. She a trembly, frightened child, however. There are hints that she might be being bullied, and I thought perhaps she has some complicated back story. But no.
She wants to join a club amongst the juniors but is too afraid to complete any of the dares they set as a condition of joining.
What else happens?
Almost nothing else happens.
There is a little arguing between Arabella and Joan/Elizabeth over the torch, the tent being open, a mirror and so on. There are two Meetings where these grievances are aired, and Joan temporarily loses her position as tent monitor, but within pages has it back when Arabella commits the enormous sin of letting Teeny out of her sight.
There are a couple of meals, a nature walk that is described in about fifteen words. Oh and the ‘dramatic’ rescue of Teeny at the end which takes all of two pages.
This is a different, newer, edition than the first one and so it is illustrated by Kate Hindley as was the paperback I compared to the original text recently.
The children continue to wear strange uniforms on their strange angular bodies.
I had particular issues with two illustrations, though.
Now I can’t draw to save myself but that’s supposed to be a circular bell tent with a central pole. Why, then, does the line where the tent meets the grass run in a rather straight line?
And that’s supposed to be a culvert at the end of a dried up stream, not a railway tunnel. Some culverts can be quite big but this one is described in the text as a tiny tunnel and a little tunnel into which only one girl could squeeze at a time. It’s supposed to take a tiny stream under a road – if that’s the case here then the road is about six inches deep, and has nothing to stop cars going right over the edge.
Why do I even read these?
Honestly, I don’t know. This was disappointing on almost every level.
Elizabeth was impetuous on occasion but never got into any real trouble, and was not as whole-hearted or determined as she normally is. Joan was ridiculous.
The reveal of the dare club was weak and a lame reason for Teeny’s behaviour. Their identity is shown by them turning up the collars of their shirts in a very 90s way.
A huge deal is made all the way through about Teeny needing looked after, and it really seems like a massive over-reaction. Yes she’s a shy little girl but she’s not a baby.
It’s not consistent with the original books and it isn’t even consistent with the previous one. In the original books the monitors sit around a table in front of WIlliam and Rita at meetings. In The Naughtiest Girl Keeps a Secret they sit six on each side. In this book they always sit behind the head boy and girl. It’s a silly little detail and Blyton wasn’t always known for attention to detail (just think of the James/Alf problem) but she was churning out a huge output over years and years.
Not a huge amount happens in the story and there is precious little in the way of the ‘filler events’ that give Blyton’s books their character. It’s almost as if these have been dumbed down for even younger readers than the first three books were for.
I do not recommend this book!