The most misleading Famous Five covers

While doing the worst covers I almost chose several which actually had good or at least reasonable artwork. I was picking them as terrible because they don’t match what actually happens in the book. There are various very generic covers which could be from any book so I’ll stick to ones that really might mislead the reader and leave them wondering if they had somehow missed the scene on the cover. I had intended this to be a mix of series/books but there were so many from the Famous Five series alone that I’ll leave anything else for another time.

There are a lot of covers that I don’t think are right for the books, as in they depict the children wearing modern clothes or are done in a style that makes the books seem ‘whacky’ or ‘zany’ but (for the moment) I’m going to stick to books where the cover doesn’t reflect what actually happens in the book.

Five on a Treasure Island

The 1970s TV show didn’t film Five on a Treasure Island as the right to adapt it was still held by the BFI/CFF at the time. Instead they filmed Five Go To Kirrin Island, which was basically Five On Kirrin Island Again but the cousins meet for the first time at the start. Naturally, that poses a slight problem. There’s no stills or publicity shots for the book cover of Five on a Treasure Island. Personally I’d use any shot I had of the children at Kirrin, on the island or in George’s boat. Sounds reasonable, right?

What did Knight do in 1978? Used a picture from Five Go to Mystery Moor with train tracks in it. Extremely misleading.

Five Fall Into Adventure

Laura Ellen Anderson’s Five are absolutely not my (or most people’s it would seem) cup of tea, so she often features if I’m talking about terrible book covers. This is the first of two of her most misleading covers.

I’ve decided that this is misleading primarily because of the tone it sets. Yes there are cliffs and a tower in this book. However it is not set at night and the bad guys are not demonically evil.

In addition to that the tower is accessed by Julian, Dick and Jo by means of an tunnel from the beach that enters the courtyard. They are never on the top of the cliffs looking at the tower.

If that’s not enough that’s Anne, you can see her blue dress, with Julian and Dick when it’s Jo that goes along rescuing while Anne stays at Kirrin Cottage.

Plus George never has Timmy up in the tower with her.  (Also, the perspective is wild here and it looks like a giant tower top is resting on the cliffs.)

Anne also erroneously features on the covers of at least two of the other covers. Yes they go out in the boat together early in the book but both of these show them heading for the secret cave that leads to Red’s Tower.

Then there’s the problem of the cover from the wrong book. This belongs on Five on a Hike Together, and in fact an almost identical cover was used for Hike the year before. A drawing of the Five boating could be from multiple books, but they only use a raft in one.

Five On a Hike Together

To compound the mistake above they also swapped the cover that should have been on Five Fall Into Adventure onto the cover of Hike. While Hike features water it’s a lake, not the sea, and it’s the only time they are on the water when it’s not in a boat.

Five Go Adventuring Again

This is possibly my favourite bad cover for the sheer disbelief of DID YOU NOT READ THE BLURB? The book that’s a) set at Christmas, b) features snow and c) has so much snow that people are snowed into their houses.

What did Laura Ellen Anderson draw, then? The Five in their usual summery clothes in the woods. No coats but they have bikes, which aren’t in the book. The trees at the front are bare suggesting winter, but the sun and grass suggest spring or summer.

Both the 70s and 90s series also fail on the snow front, as both opted not to try to fake snow for their episodes. Their stills from the episodes are always posed outdoors ones rather than candid shots from actual filming, so I assume there were no indoor scenes they could have used.

Five Get Into a Fix

The Fix covers for the TV tie ins also suffer from a lack of snow, for the same reasons as above. You can also see that the children are wearing the same clothes in both the 90s covers suggesting that at least one isn’t from the right episode.

Five Go Off to Camp

Five Go Off to Camp has several covers that don’t quite reflect the book.

The 1970s TV cover shows the steam train puffing away in broad daylight when everyone knows that the spook train only runs at night.

The 1987 Knight also shows the spook train in daylight, but adds the entirely false idea that the children ever run down the tracks away from the train. In fact George and Anne never see the train coming out of the tunnel. George only finds it inside the hidden section and Anne never sees it at all.

After that the 1991 cover also shows the Five running away from the train, though at least it’s at night.

This is actually the cover that I had as a child and I’ll be fair and admit that it didn’t mislead me, but then I had a mix of books and more or less ignored the paperback covers as they didn’t have the Five looking like they should i.e. as Eileen Soper drew them.

Then there is a familiar cover from 2001 and Adrian Chesterman, a name which I think will feature a lot in posts about bad covers. In fact this cover for Camp already appeared in my last post on worst covers.

Again it shows running from the spook train including Anne who, as above, never sees the train.

Five Go Down to the Sea

As I said in my review, despite the title of the book being about the sea they barely visit the beach during the story. Yet the 1995 paperback shows the Five frolicking in swimsuits and playing in the sea.

And Laura Ellen Anderson again proves that she didn’t read the book and shows them building sandcastles and paddling.

Five Go to Mystery Moor

The 90s series is in the doghouse this time, for putting what is obviously a shot from Five on Finniston Farm – with the Harries – on onto the cover of Mystery Moor. They filmed Finniston Farm so there’s no excuse for this!

Then there’s Peter Bailey’s effort which just baffles me. At no point during the book does Timmy stick his head out the window of a ruin. In fact I can’t think of any book where that’s an important enough scene to feature on a cover.

Five Go to Billycock Hill

Two names that will just keep cropping up are back again, Richard Jones and Adrian Chesterman.

Jones concocts a scene where the boys are somehow right under a plane as it takes off.

While Chesterman decided to have them opening a door to an aircraft hanger.

Even my beloved 90s series didn’t do that well. They tried to go generic but have the children in front of a castle, instead of using a shot from the two-parter they did of Billycock Hill.



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9 Responses to The most misleading Famous Five covers

  1. Suzy Howlett says:

    Oh, my goodness! And to think people were paid actual money to design these covers!


  2. chrissie777 says:

    You forgot the Eileen A. Soper cover from “Five on Kirrin Island again” with the telescope pointing the wrong way.


  3. Stephen Poppitt says:

    The steam train covers from ‘Five Go Off To Camp’, with the train emerging from the tunnel and the children on the actual railway tracks, suggests that the artist was basing the cover on some familiar images from the 1970 film and tv series of ‘The Railway Children’. There was no Blyton tv series in the 1970s, but the film starring Jenny Agutter was quite well known, and these covers do remind me of that film. I suppose ‘Railway Children’ was the most obvious visual reference for a cover that needed to feature some kids and a steam locomotive.


  4. Dale Vincero, Brisbane Australia says:

    Talking about the original dust covers on the 1950’s original books here – My most ‘unfavourite’ covers are :
    1) Camp : where the closeups of Julian and Dick are too much ‘in your face’. I would have drawn the boys from back a bit to show more interesting railway background detail.
    2) Plenty of Fun shows the team staring at a boat disappearing from Kirrin Island. Well I thought there was plenty of scope to draw another scene from this book rather than this rather bland depiction of a rather small event from the book.
    3) Fall Into Adventure : The dust cover showing George lowering Timmy down to the beach on a rope, was such a small event from an excellent book, I would have drawn something else more exciting, but drawn from the events of the book.

    Fiona, you mentioned the The 1970s TV show, “Five Go To Kirrin Island”. Nothing to do with front cover illustrations here, but the opening scene from the show has Kirrin Cottage on a sign with it being spelled “Kirren Cottage”. An obvious blooper but no one picked that up and it just went to air with a spelling which anyone from this website would immediately spot as being in error.

    Thanks for an interesting article Fiona. I agree a lot of those modern covers you mentioned were grossly in error, coming from the wrong book in may instances. Not good. Maybe they were contract artists who never read the book, but were just told to quickly and cheaply come up with a front cover of 4 kids and dog and that’s what happened.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Stephen says:

      I understand that it’s pretty common in the book publishing trade for the illustrator to be given a specific brief by the publisher, describing in writing exactly what the publisher requires for the subject of each illustration. The illustrator is given free reign as regards style, but the subject matter is usually precisely specified. It is not usually the policy to require the illustrator to read the book, because he or she will not be chosing the subject of the drawing. That’s an editorial decision. As is the final choice of which volume to use any particular cover illustration on. A publisher might prefer a very bland cover image, because it could then be used on any volume in the series, even though it seems to us to be an inappropriate choice.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Fiona says:

        Perhaps I am apportioning too much blame on the illustrators sometimes here, then. Going by your insight the publishers are providing information that is either lacking in detail or just plain wrong.

        If I wanted an illustrator to illustrate a cover for a book and had a specific scene in mind I would be a) sending them the page or two of the book so they could read the scene and b) add details of the character’s looks and or/the layout/looks of the location if they weren’t included in the extract.

        Liked by 1 person

    • Fiona says:

      I think that the reprint cover you refer to for Camp is better than the original – as it shows the spook train and not just a tent (though the colours in the sky on the original are nice)

      I’m not sure that I even noticed the boat on Plenty of Fun… but I like the colours and the view of Kirrin Bay on that one.

      Fall into Adventure is very brown and a it’s a shame we only see Jo (I assume it’s Jo and not George due to the lack of shoes, I can’t remember who it is in the text) and a lot of the cliff and plain background.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. MJE says:

         I had no idea that so many gross inaccuracies had occurred on covers. Of course it figures that it occurs on those appalling recent child’s-scribble covers, and not on Eileen Soper’s wonderful covers.
         The very idea of running away from a train is absurd – all you’d have to do is to run sideways, away from the tracks, to be sure the evil train can’t possibly catch you – as against running away along the tracks, as they seem to be doing in at least one cover picture I saw.
         And what was the spook train going to do to them if it caught them? Gobble them up or something? The very idea of basing covers on a theme of running away from a train is just silly.

    Liked by 1 person

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