Five Have Plenty of Character by Vanessa Tobin

Five Have Plenty of Character: A Personality Guide to Enid Blyton’s Famous Five is a self-published book written by Vanessa Tobin. The name tells you exactly what it is, an examination of the characters of the Famous Five.

The blurb reads:

The adventure, mystery and excitement are what attract readers to Enid Blyton’s ‘Famous Five‘. But what attracted me was their character. Blyton strives to show that good character wins the day and trials can be overcome by loyalty, friendship and courage. Blyton has been criticised for portraying two dimensional characters but this book seeks to show that the Famous Five are as deep, interesting and exciting as characters from the best children’s books. The Famous Five have influenced generations of children in making moral decisions and valuing good character. This book will, I hope, show why.

And the book is available in paperback and Kindle editions on Amazon.

Five sections for the Five

Unsurprisingly this book is divided into five chapters, one dedicated to each character.

In order we have Julian, Dick, Anne, George and Timmy (did anyone else sing that in their head and add the do-oog, or is that just me?).

Julian’s section is the longest at 77 pages, Dick has 45, Anne just 37, then George and Timmy have similar with 52 and 56 pages respectively. Yes – Timmy has more pages! However, with each page having footnotes giving sources for all the references in the text this leaves some pages much shorter than others and makes the page count less accurate. I suspect that without the footnotes the page count would be a little more even.

Notes on the footnotes

There are a whopping 2,281 references in this book. They comprise mainly of the 21 books and 8 short stories (with the books a chapter is given as well), plus some articles and other reference works.

The amount of work that must have gone into that is mind-boggling. It’s one thing to write about the characters and provide a lot of quotes, but it feels like Tobin quite possible included every last descriptive quote Blyton ever wrote about the Five, not to mention a substantial amount of dialogue, and then referenced every single one!

Many of the quotes were familiar to me (though not many of the ones from the stories as I’ve only read them a few times) but there was plenty from the books that I must have skimmed over or just not remembered.

About the Five

As Tobin is a Blyton fan it’s not surprising that the Five are primarily described in positive terms.

Julian’s bossiness gets several pages but thankfully she does not give him too much of a hard time over it, recognising that he has a great deal of other strengths and is over-all a good guy.

Dick’s temper is brought up – if asked to describe Dick’s character having a temper isn’t something I’d have said but the (well-referenced) evidence is on these pages in black and white.

There was nothing bad to say about Anne – how could there be, really? But it reminded me of all the great lines Anne gets as she describes places and situations.

George – well, we all know George’s foibles and these are of course described but in a very fair way.

And dear old Timmy, he’s like Anne and there’s nothing bad to say about him!

My thoughts

I enjoyed this. I consider myself fairly knowledgeable about the Five so there weren’t any big surprises in the book (and thankfully there were also no wild theories!) but there were some angles I perhaps hadn’t considered, and it was great to see so much information all in one place. When reading the books, even back-to-back like I did once upon a time, it’s so easy to forget details along the way. Blyton had in so many practically throw-away remarks and descriptions of the Five I don’t think anyone has ever listed them quite like this before.

It has definitely reminded me of why I love the Five so much!

As always I give a completely honest review – so with that in mind, I would have liked to have seen more opinion as the parts where Tobin expresses her thoughts were amusing and enjoyable.

I don’t want to make a big deal of my only criticism, and I don’t want to put anyone off, but I also have to say that I spotted rather a lot of minor errors when it came to the spelling, grammar, punctuation and typesetting. This is a self-published book and it has not been professionally proof-read so it’s entirely understandable, but I personally can’t help but noticing things like missing apostrophes, apostrophes where they shouldn’t be and the very unfortunate misspelling of Kirrin as Kirin (twice!). They make me go ack for a second and then I move on, so they didn’t spoil the book at all – but I know some people wouldn’t be able to carry on with a book after spotting mistakes which is why I mentioned them.

As I don’t want to end this review on a negative I will reiterate that I enjoyed this and I appreciate how much work went into it. Tobin’s goal was for  this book to show that the Famous Five are as deep, interesting and exciting as characters from the best children’s books and I can say that it definitely does that.

Five Meet Plenty of Character

The book ends by telling us that Tobin has another one in the works – Five Meet Plenty of Character – a personality guide to the children and animal friends in the Famous Five. I will be sure to get that one too, as I’d like to see what is said about all the various characters they meet along the way.

This entry was posted in Book reviews, Characters, Other Authors and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Five Have Plenty of Character by Vanessa Tobin

  1. pete9012s says:

    A great and very fair review of a book I have bought and intend to read while away around Easter this year. The next book planned by the author sounds very appealing too. Many thanks Fiona. Best Wishes Pete.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Dale Vincero, Brisbane Australia says:

    Thanks for the connection.
    I am going to order the e-book.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. jillslawit says:

    I sang the song in my head too.

    Liked by 1 person

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