I borrowed this book from the library some time before the pandemic started, and it has been sitting behind the sofa in a pile of my ‘to reads’, along with some other Blyton continuation books I borrowed around the same time. I hasten to add that it isn’t technically overdue as I have just kept renewing it!
The reason I hadn’t read it was that I was sure it would be terrible. Was I right? Let’s see…
Enid Blyton’s Enchanted World
This is a whole new series, based loosely on the Enchanted Wood books. Bizzy and the Bedtime Bear is book 5 in the series so I have obviously missed some things along the way but it wasn’t too difficult to work out roughly what the overarching plot was.
I say loosely based as although the Faraway Tree and a few of the characters we know appear, the tree is only in the first chapter.
There is also a small matter of the characters. There are five fairies, Melody, Petal, Pinx, Bizzy and Silky. It’s not explicitly stated that Silky is the same Silky as from the original books, but it would be a bit of a coincidence otherwise. The problem with that is the continuity, though.
Silky in the original books has no wings and never flies. Silky in later reprints has wings in the illustrations, but still doesn’t fly. Silky in this new series has wings and flies.
Book five has a bit of an explanation at the beginning about the tree (and I assume that appears in all the book) ending with the paragraph:
Of course, not everyone explores the Lands for pleasure alone. Five fairies have been asked do so for the ultimate cause: to save the life of the Faraway Tree and make sure the doorway to the Enchanted World remains open.
And yes, that’s exactly as it appears in the book. I think the general meaning is clear despite the mistake, though.
The blurb on the back also says that:
When Talon the evil Troll tries to steal the Talismans that link the Lands to the Tree, the Enchanted World is suddenly in danger.
After the opening chapter which is a party designed to introduce us to the characters and the tree, a new land appears at the top of the tree.
The Land’s Talisman is the Bedtime Bear: the ultimate stuffed toy. Its embrace gives the gift of peaceful slumber to anyone who wishes for it. You should go now; we don’t know how long the Land will be at the top of the Tree…
I only hope that you remain focused and can return safely with the Talisman. And please be careful of Talon; I know you left him locked away in the Land of Giants, but he is strong and clever. If he has found a way out, he’ll be after the Bedtime Bear… and all of you.
Those few sentences more or less explain the plot of the series. It seems like the fairies have been tasked with collecting 7 talismans from different lands in order to save the tree and keep the door to it open. I assume the first book explains it all a bit more. I have only read 2 of the Faraway Tree books but I’m fairly sure that the idea of each land having a special talisman is a new device for these books, and I’d be interested to know how stealing talismans from the lands is a good thing (beyond keeping them out of Talon’s hands).
The land (no I won’t be capitalising land every time like the book does) the fairies go into is Sleepover Land, where hundreds of identical girls (the “sleepees”) are having sleepovers in groups of eight. The whole land is made up of room after room set up for sleepovers, and the day lasts just a few minutes, then a new sleepover begins. The goal is for the girls to have fun and stay up all night, then switch to a new room for a differently-themed sleepover.
Anyone who disrupts that fun is called a party-pooper and gets locked away in the first convenient place (naturally the fairies run into trouble here a couple of times).
The idea is interesting, but more sci-fi like than the whimsy of the lands Blyton had us visit. Why are all the girls identical? How can they survive without sleeping, ever? Is the land supposed to be less sinister but the talisman has changed it? None of these questions are quite answered, though at the end the talisman is returned to the vault so my theory holds some water.
The largest part of the book sees the fairies trying to find the Bedtime Bear and then persuade the girl who has it to give it up, then there are a few chapters at the end where Talon turns up to try to steal it himself and has to battle the fairies.
This is where the secondary plot comes in, that of Bizzy’s lack of confidence. The party at the start was a way of showing her messing up a few spells, so when it comes to the battle at the end she is not confident in casting any more but the other fairies convince her she can do it. I expect that as the books have a different main character each time (Silky and Melody have two books each) that there is a subplot about a personal struggle of theirs each time too.
There is not a single thing about this book that says Blyton. If you changed the references to the tree to, say, taking a boat ride or climbing a hill to enter a portal to a different world then nobody would ever guess that it was based on a Blyton book.
Firstly there’s an irritating amount of capitalisation. I know the original books had Google Buns and Toffee Shocks, and sometimes capitalised the Tree (but not Land on its own) but that seems a style of the time, whereas in a book from 2009 it just seems like an affectation. What’s more is that it takes the trend to new ridiculousness by having phrases in capitals like Perfectly Prodigious Party Pastime, Zany Zonked-Out Zombie, Basic Bizzy Blunders and Spectacularly Splashy Sleepees Surprise.
The idea of girls having sleepovers with pillow fights, make overs, pink and black zebra-print rugs, funky-shaped lamps, ball pits full of lime green balls and so on is very 2006 (thus already a bit dated) and not at all in keeping with the original books. Being 2006 its also still full of girly stereotypes with the sleepees all wearing pink and purple pyjamas, doing makeovers, all but one fairy wears pink and they all have on makeup, jewellery and impractical dresses (not great for when you’re flying above people’s heads, I’m sure) except for the one wearing leggings underneath. The cover is sparkly and has bubbles and feathers on it, though they have no relation to the story. The talismans they collect are the teddy bear, a rainbow feather, a harp, candles, two kinds of jewellery and a flower. All sickeningly girly.
It’s a shame particularly as Blyton was so good at writing books that appealed to both boys and girls. Almost every book she wrote had a mix of boy and girl characters and even though the girls often took a back seat, due to societal expectations of the time, the books still appealed to all readers. I honestly don’t think that creating an all-female series of books is that great an achievement when you then try your hardest to make them super pink and girly so that they wouldn’t be read by a majority of boys.
I gave this one star on Goodreads. You can’t give a book no stars, but I think it has earned the one star as the general idea behind the story is good. The original books are episodic adventures, so I quite like the idea of a ‘big bad’ and seven talismans to collect across seven books. I just hope that the last book has a suitable ending to round off the story. It also has illustrations which seem exceedingly rare in post 2000 children’s book.
Unfortunately as it’s aimed at younger readers, the idea is not developed very well. Add to that five fairies who are pretty interchangeable, Annoying Alliteration And Avoidable Capitals plus the stereotypical girliness it’s just a big let down.