My library has partially reopened now, so I thought I should probably get around to reading some of the dozen books I still have out! I haven’t thought much of these Anne Digby continuations hence my lack of enthusiasm over reading any more.
This one is book seven if you go by the new numbering which includes the short story Here’s the Naughtiest Girl as book number 4. It is the third Anne Digby book coming after The Naughtiest Girl Keeps a Secret and The Naughtiest Girl Helps a Friend.
Where do I even start?
I honestly don’t know where to begin with this one other than to say it’s quite possibly even worse than the previous two which is saying something.
It has the same format, a main mystery and a secondary connected plot, as the first continuation.
The mystery is who pulled up the strawberry plants and dropped a silver blazer button as they did so. The connected plot is that the first form are to put on a play.
I’ll start with the play as that’s the slightly more believable part of the book. The play is A Woodland Adventure and Elizabeth immediately wants to play the main character, Fay. She thinks Julian will be perfect as Jonkin the goblin but he’s not too bothered.
Unsurprisingly she and Julian get the parts but both lose them to their understudies (Arabella and Daniel) in separate incidents. Elizabeth gets in a fight with Arabella about the role and – for some reason known only to Anne Digby – climbs up on a desk to shout at her. This doesn’t lose her the part, however, but as she is defending herself to Miss Ranger someone shouts COR!. Everyone thinks it is Elizabeth but she is adamant it was not her. Julian comes to her rescue by making one of his noises and lets everyone believe the COR was him, and loses his part in the play.
Elizabeth and Julian then fall out because they both think the other made the noise and neither will admit it.
Elizabeth loses her part later when she rings the fire bell at night having heard someone shouting fire, fire. There is no fire and Miss Ranger thinks it was a silly prank.
In the end Elizabeth gets her part back and the play goes ahead with her and Daniel in the main roles.
Some strawberry plants have been pulled up, presumably by someone looking for ripe fruit too early. A silver blazer button was found by the plants and Rita and William ask the culprit to come forward but no-one does.
Elizabeth and Julian decide they must investigate and go round checking everyone has the requisite three buttons still on their blazer.
At the next meeting William and Rita then ask the rest of the school to investigate the issue. There’s no way this would have happened if it was Blyton writing. William and Rita are supposed to be very wise and clever and would not pit the whole school against one another, asking them to point blame and so on. Plus, it’s a few strawberry plants, hardly the crime of the century.
As it just so happens, assistant matron then talks to Elizabeth about the blazer button she needs to hand in to her. All of a sudden, at this exclusive and presumably expensive school, there is a second-hand uniform sale at the end of the year.
Somehow Elizabeth entirely forgot that she had a loose button on her chest of drawers. Even when that button is then missing she doesn’t put two and two together. She doesn’t ever work it out for herself, Arabella presents her with the button and tells her it was found by the plants.
She speaks with William and Rita who think she must have dropped the button at some other time, but isn’t responsible for pulling up the plants, but Julian thinks someone has it in for Elizabeth what with the COR and the button.
By this time Elizabeth is also in trouble for the false fire alarm so she and Julian investigate that too. She thinks the shouts came from the floor above her dorm so they interrogate everyone who sleeps up there but come up with nothing other than Daniel being a bit shifty.
The ‘big’ reveal
Obviously this will contain spoilers, but I feel like I’m doing a public service by warning people off these books. Notice they don’t come under the If you like Blyton category!
Everything ties together near the end as Elizabeth hears someone shouting fire in the night again and goes to investigate. There is a small fire in Daniel’s room and she rescues him.
And the reveal, hold onto your hats guys because this is something else. Everything has been done by Daniel’s pet crow. Yes. A PET CROW.
At another meeting William and Rita tell us a long story about a boy who rescued an injured crow and took care of it. A crow which then flew all the way to Whyteleaf following the boy’s car. A crow which stole a button from Elizabeth’s room and then dropped it by the strawberry plants it pulled up. A crow which shouted COR outside Elizabeth’s classroom at just the right, or for her wrong, time. A crow which shouted fire so that only Elizabeth heard it, not once but on two separate nights.
Now crows can mimic human speech quite convincingly, and are also known to steal shiny things (while it’s a misnomer that magpies do that). It’s just a huge string of coincidences. A crow could shout COR, but why would everyone think Elizabeth said it when it came from outside the window and presumably her mouth wasn’t moving at the time?
I feel like a lot of people might be thinking so that’s not believable but Kiki is? And yes, Kiki is obviously fictional and not that realistic but she is written so well that it becomes believable just like in stories where there are vampires or Hobbits which we all know are fictional. Rookie (the crow) is barely in this book apart from as a back story.
The later editions of the book give away the fact there’s a crow involved!
Who is Daniel again?
I’ve mentioned Daniel a few times here and realise you might be wondering who the heck he is. He’s not a new boy (first I’ve ever heard of him, though!) but he’s suddenly prominently featured. The book goes to great pains to express how strange Daniel is behaving suddenly.
Normally he is quiet and has his nose stuck in a book, but also tells silly tales at meetings. He is not popular, as he doesn’t do any sports or activities and doesn’t mix with the other children.
Elizabeth is practically obsessed with how strange it is that Daniel has signed up for the play. How strange it is that he’s not that excited despite volunteering. How strange it is that he made a big deal about having something to ask at the meeting, but asks to help in the stables which isn’t an issue for a meeting. How strange it is that he then hangs around the stables but doesn’t really help or learn to ride, he mostly reads.
We are told that Daniel has his own single room in the attic – a point which I knew was going to become relevant later as these rooms are a new insert into the series.
It was obvious from the start that Daniel was going to be involved in the mystery somehow as he is a brand-new character whose only role was to do odd things.
This was a pretty rubbish book, if you hadn’t already picked up on that. Yet again the book was very short and filled with the same repetitive discussions about investigating things, and then discussing what they had investigated and their theories, and then discussing how the theory was right or wrong. Elizabeth didn’t do any lessons or play any music. She didn’t visit the town or go for a walk or have any arguments other than the ones that drove the main plot. There was no charm or humour, whatsoever. Elizabeth doesn’t grow as a person nor do any of the other characters, and while one or two of the crow elements were clever the rest was just silly.