Inscriptions in books 4: Books given with love

These are some of my favourite types of inscriptions – ones where a book is given as a gift. There are lots of lucky children here, given books by their aunties, uncles, parents and possibly even friends. There are books given for birthdays, Christmases, Easters and other special events.

My previous posts look at prize giving labels, this book belongs to and confused ownership.

Books given for Christmas

The Wonderful Carpet and Other Stories was given  To Gill from Gran, Christmas 1945. It also reads Sally Drinkall and Sally Drinkall Donington, a contender for confused ownership.

Aptly The Christmas Book was From Marlene Xmas 1946. She doesn’t say who it was given to, however.

The Children of Willow Farm was received by what looks like Sudonil Emerson at Xmas 1948. Further down the page is from someone which I can’t make out. I actually missed it altogether the first time I looked.

The Secret Island was given to Pamela for Christmas 1949, from Uncle Wendy. That’s what it looks like anyway!

My Enid Blyton Bedside Book was also given in 1949, it reads; To Peter Xmas 1949 From Auntie Hilda & Uncle Reg.

More Adventures on Willow Farm is dated 1950 TO WENDY MERRY XMAS FROM AUNTY EVELYN + UNCLE GING. Wendy has then added her details: WENDY TURNER LITTLECOATS RD. GRIMSBY LINCS TELEPHONE. NO. 5176. Further to that there is a stamp – C.H. Turner & Co (GY.) LTD. RADIO & ELECTRICAL ENGINEERS  1&3 CORPORATION ROAD GRIMSBY LINCS PHONE NO. 23?1. I wonder why a radio and electrical engineer business would put its stamp in a book? My best guess is that Wendy’s father or other relative worked there and let her play with old stamps.

A non-Blyton now, Mystery at Witchend (The first Lone Pine book by Malcolm Saville) reads P HAMMOND 1951. It also has the inscription To PAT, Wishing you a Happy Xmas 1951 FROM DAD.

My one edition of Every Girl’s Annual (which contains one Blyton story) reads To Patricia With Love and Best Wishes From Christina + Jennifer x x x x Xmas 1951.

Enid Blyton’s Bluebell Story Book was also a gift for Christmas 1951. This time for Bridget, Happy Xmas from Hazel 1951.

A Bridget, (who knows, it could be the same one!) was given The Seventh Holiday Book the next year, it reads Bridget Xmas 1952 with lots of love.

And another one to Pat, this time The Sunny Story Book is inscribed To Pat, with best wishes for Christmas 1953. From Uncle Norman, Auntie Barbara and Alan in very neat writing.

The Ring O’ Bells Mystery was given To Bobby Happy Xmas From Peggy & Bill 1954.

The Happy Story Book has two different handwritings in it. First is Shirley J Price December 25th 1954 and then Off Aunty Masie and Uncle Frank for Christmas

Last Term at Malory Towers reads To Carole From Mam & Dad Xmas 1962

Enid Blyton’s Lucky Story Book has obviously been passed on at some point. First it reads- To Stephen From Lynne xmas 1965 xxxx. Then it says THIS Book now belongs to : – Julie Carole Batty, Mariners Flats Keadby Scunthorpe.

The Folk of the Faraway Tree isn’t dated but reads To Jean Dorothy Lyastin With Happy Christmas Wishes, from Auntie Beaty & Uncle Tim

Likewise Mr Pink-Whistle Interferes reads To Robin, With Best wishes for a very Happy Christmas from :- Margaret.

And lastly, also with no date, The Naughtiest Girl is a Monitor was for JEAN THORNE HAPPY CHRISTMAS FROM :- JOHN LIDSTONE.

Books given for birthdays

The Happy House ChildrenTo Gillian Happy Birthday from John. As with many inscriptions someone’s gone over this one with a pen.

More about Josie Click and BunTo My Dear Christine. Wishing you a Very Happy Birthday With love from Auntie Dora xxx 1948 The frontispiece has been coloured in and I wonder if it was Christine who did it.

Well Done Secret SevenWith Love From Elizabeth x Happy Birthday

Enid Blyton’s Magazine AnnualHappy Birthday Katherine, Love Mother, xxx. This one has an unusual inscription on the ends of  the pages reading Katherine Melling.

I’ll Tell You a Story‘s inscription is really hard to make out. To Miss Aan Keflich Wishing her many Happy returns of her Birthday. Love from Grandad is what I think it says but I’m really not sure about the name!

Books given just because?

Some of these might well be birthdays as they have dates written in them, but they could well be for other reasons too. At least one is for Easter.

From mummies and daddies:

  • Twenty Minute TalesHelen Emms With Love from Mummy, Happy Easter 1955
  • The Children of Cherry Tree FarmTo Patricia from Mummy & Daddy
  • The Secret of Moon CastleTo Christine With love From Daddy
  • The Sixth Holiday BookTo Susan from Mummy and Daddy
  • The Ninth Holiday BookTo Rosemary From Mummy xx 1955
  • Before I Go to SleepTo Karen with lots of love from Daddie + Mummie x x x x x x

From aunties and uncles:

  • The Second Holiday BookTo Jennifer Love Auntie Florrie
  • Enid Blyton’s Nature Lover’s Book – Pamela, with love and best wishes from your Auntie Dorothy & Uncle Leonard. June 27th, 1947.
  • The Buttercup Farm Family To Janice From Uncle George & Auntie Margaret Feb 28 1959. In pencil after it says aged 6 so this might have been for a birthday.
  • The Yellow Story BookTo dear Pauline with love from Auntie Kathleen Jan 1951.
  • A Picnic Party With Enid BlytonTo Christine from Auntie Hela & Uncle Ron June 1959
  • Down At the Farm with Enid BlytonTo Margaret From Auntie Flo & Uncle Arthur

From children to their friends or siblings, perhaps for a birthday. I could just imagine them arriving at a party clutching their gift-wrapped present to give to the birthday child.

  • Five On a Hike TogetherTo Leslie, From Jackie & John
  • Five Go Adventuring Again – To Michael, From Gary & Philip 1950
  • Claudine at St Clare’sTo Edna With best wishes from Rosemary Mar 1950 and also Edna Barton, Moat Farm, Barking, Nr Ipswich, Suffolk
  • The Bad Little MonkeyTo David From Michael
  • Jolly Little JumboTo Ernest from Michael 1944
  • The Pole Star FamilyWith Best Wishes To Pat. From. Michael and Susan Bainbridge
  • Six Cousins at Mistletoe FarmTo Pamela from Victoria and Janet July 11th 1949

Then there are a few I couldn’t quite work out:

  • The O’Sullivan TwinsTo (what looks like) Vallong (but is probably Valery?) from Daddy, Name’s Day 1950. I had no idea what name’s day is so I looked it up.
  • The Mystery of the Missing Necklace – To Dear Ann With much love From Mrs ? 
  • The Secret of Cliff CastleTo Jonnie With love from Auntie Glenys? and Uncle Astin? Xmas 1956
  • The Mystery of the Disappearing CatTo Jenna(? Jeane? Jenae? Jenny?) From Aunty, Uncle and Lynette

And lastly a strange little note inside Trickey the Goblin and Other Stories reads To Teddah.

And a bonus which is not an inscription but I just had to share, there’s a very colourful picture drawn inside the front of Run About’s Holiday. It looks exactly like the sort of thing I would have drawn as a child, though I would never have done it in a book!

So what have I learned from this project?

A lot of people liked to write in books! I’m not sure it’s so prevalent today. I buy plenty of second paperbacks from the 90s onwards and I don’t recall seeing many inscriptions. Perhaps the modern paperback is such a throwaway commodity that nobody bothers claiming ownership?

Of the books that were inscribed it was usually the tattiest ones, the ones missing their dust jackets and so on that were inscribed. I think this signifies how much those books were loved and read.

I enjoyed looking at all the different handwriting though some of it was hard to work out. Handwriting style has changed quite a lot over the years. It was interesting to see so many people write Xmas for Christmas as I’ve seen many people lament it as a ‘modern’ and ‘American’ term which is clearly rubbish. Also interesting is the prevalence of capital A written like a large lowercase a.

So after doing this project would I write in books? Brodie gets so many, they are so much cheaper now than in Blyton’s time, so probably not just because it would be so time consuming and not special like it was when children got a few books a year if they were lucky. He has a few inscribed books as I was given some as gifts from friends and family before they were born – all personal favourites of theirs – so that will be nice to look back on.

Do you write in your books or ones for your loved ones?

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What would Enid Blyton’s characters be unwrapping for their Christmas?

When I wrote my Enid Blyton Gift Guide I started wondering what the children in her books would be unwrapping on Christmas day. It was a very different world in the 1940s, 50s and 60s especially in the idyllic bubble Blyton’s characters inhabit. There was no care for consumerism or fashion – TV barely features so no incessant adverts for the latest toy or must-have gadget.

On the whole I think Blyton’s characters would get very wholesome gifts – and nowhere near as many as children get today. There would be home-made gifts, practical gifts, books, games, a few toys…

I won’t include ‘standard’ gifts like hankies and novels but here are some more specific presents that some of Blyton’s characters might have unwrapped once upon a Christmas.

The Presents of Adventure

My first thought is that Kiki would have to get something to eat. Probably a big bag of her favourite sunflower seeds. She does love raspberries but in the 40s they would have been seasonal and not flown into the supermarket from around the world! If she’s lucky Jack might let her peck one out of a jar of jam, though.

Jack himself would get film for his camera as he goes through that at a rate of knots, taking photos of birds. I could also see him getting at least one more bird book, and perhaps a new pair of field glasses.

With Philip’s passion for wildlife he might also get some field glasses, and a book about whatever animal he is currently mad about.

The girls were harder to come up with ideas for as they don’t have a hobby like the boys do. One year (and only once as she would go wild and punch him!) Philip might buy Dinah a book about insects – complete with lots of pictures. On the plus side she would never keep it and Philip would then get to enjoy it.

I rather thought Lucy-Ann might get a ship in a bottle once after the events of The Ship of Adventure, she did love the one Philip had. Or Jack might give her a framed photo of the family, as she’s very appreciative at having one.

related post⇒ The Ship of Adventure

Bill would get a steady stream of hats to keep his bald head warm (perhaps wonky knitted ones from Lucy-Ann) and Mrs Mannering/Cunningham would get treated to  what every mother would get – bottles of scent and other toiletries.

I like to think that Gus would send a gift to the family after the events of The Circus of Adventure. Being a prince it would probably be a very extravagant gift like a huge hamper of Tauri-Hessia’s finest delicacies.

Five Go Shopping for Christmas Presents

Timmy’s was the most obvious – a great big smelly bone!

Uncle Quentin would get a new diary and calendar that he would a) forget to write in and b) forget to check.

Aunt Fanny would get token gifts from the children and probably nothing from Quentin as he would forget!

Anne would always be excited by a new doll, and later on she collected horse-brasses so those would make a good gift.

George would only want boyish things. To her mother’s dismay Julian, Dick and Anne might club together and buy her some hair clippers – or a gift voucher for a haircut.

related post⇒ The Famous Five short stories, part 1

Julian and Dick were actually harder to think of ideas for than the girls. Julian has expressed an interest in drawing and painting a few times so he could get some good pencils or paints. Other than that they would both get typical boys’ things like pen-knives and batteries for their torches.

“Oh a railway station! Just what I wanted! Who gave me this marvellous station?”

“A new doll – with eyes that shut! I shall call her Betsy-May. She looks just like a Betsy-May!”

“I say – what a whopping great book – all about aeroplanes. From Aunt Fanny! How decent of her.”

“Timothy! Look that Julian has given you – a collar with big brass studs all round.”

“Who’s this from? Oh – from Mr Roland. Look, Julian, a pocket-knife with three blades!”

“Who gave you that book about dogs, George?”

Some of the Five’s presents in Five Go Adventuring Again.

The Secret of the Christmas Presents

Prince Paul would be an extravagant gift-giver, like Gus. He would no doubt give everyone lots of wonderful Baronian chocolate, but he would also give the children anything they had expressed an interest in no matter the expense.

None of the children are materialistic but I can imagine Peggy or Nora admiring a fine coat in a shop window and Prince Paul buying it. The boys might lust after a Mecanno set or a model air plane and he would instantly snap that up too.

The children might have a harder time shopping for Prince Paul, I mean what do you buy for a Prince that has everything he could ever want?

The Land of Christmas Presents

Jo, Bessie and Fanny live in a very poor house so Christmas would probably be quite an understated affair. Moon-Face and Silky would certainly send some treats like google buns, toffee shocks and pop cakes their way, though. The Saucepan Man would likely mishear and send pheasants instead of presents.

In return the children would send some hand-made gifts. Jo might carve them something out of wood while the girls did some sewing – some pot protectors would make a good gift for the Saucepan Man!

The Mystery of the Christmas Presents

Fatty would be certain to get plenty of disguises – even if he had to buy them for himself.

related post⇒ Putting the Five Find-Outers in order

Buster  would be spoiled with dog biscuits, a bone  and perhaps one of those little tartan coats for dogs.

Fatty would get the other FFOs gifts to aid in their detecting. Sherlock Holmes stories for them to study, notebooks to write their clues and suspects in. He would buy Bets the nicest notebook and a pen to go with it, as she’s his favourite.

What else might our favourite characters get? Let me know in the comments!

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Monday #248

Just one more week until Christmas!

What would Blyton’s characters get for Christmas?


Inscriptions in books: books given with love

It is no good going down a factory chimney, because there are never any children below with stockings to be filled.

Wise words from One Christmas Eve – a short story where Father Christmas makes exactly that mistake thanks to some new reindeer and gets himself in rather a lot of bother.

Christmas Treats is another of those nice Hodder collections to have come out recently. This one has 29 Christmassy stories collected from various books.

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Five Go to Smuggler’s Top, part 2

In part one we saw Kirrin Cottage crushed by an ash tree and the children packed off to the mysterious Smuggler’s Top where they meet the Lenoirs and Block.

The problem of Timmy

Up until now Timmy has been hidden away at Smuggler’s Top, and aptly, being smuggled from the secret passage to George’s room at night and back again in the morning. Block, having seen them together in the town, however, is on to them.

When Timmy barks during lunch Julian swears Block reacts. Mr Lenoir, however, definitely does hear and quizzes the children. He isn’t impressed by the children’s silly suggestions as to what he might have heard instead of a dog. Of course none of them lie, not outright. They all with complete honestly say at that very moment they cannot hear a dog.

It’s Block that takes things further and hides himself behind some curtains in the hope of catching the children with Timmy. Sooty sees him first, though, and they pile on in the pretence they have caught a burglar. The best part is that Timmy gets excited and nips Block’s leg and Sooty is left pretending he did the biting!

related post⇒ Top 11 Famous Five moments

If that’s not bad enough, Timmy ends up trapped in his secret passage because Uncle Quentin is to stay in Sooty’s room, and the study is now being used by Mr Lenoir. On the up-side it really kick-starts the mystery.

First George gets herself locked up for sneaking into the study to try to rescue her beloved Timmy. George being George escapes via a rope ladder, and sees Block doing something strange (more on that later). That night, Sooty tries to rescue Timmy by sneaking into his room where Uncle Quentin is asleep – and both he and Uncle Quentin disappear!

The Mystery

So let’s backtrack a little – the mystery really began when Sooty tells them about lights that flash in the night from the tower and takes the boys to see them one night. It’s not the children’s favourite suspect, Mr Lenoir, as he’s snoring away in bed.

Then of course Sooty and Uncle Quentin disappear in the middle of the night.

Mr Lenoir threatens to – and does – call the police, which makes him look altogether more innocent than before.

Julian and Dick pull the ‘we are boys’ card and go off to poke around Mr Barling’s house only to discover he’s gone off on holiday. George, left behind as a girl (Julian tried to placate her by saying she is as good as a boy and therefore needs to look after Anne and Marybelle) gets one up on them when she searches Sooty’s room and finds another secret passage under the window-seat.

All about Block

There is something mysterious about Block from early on. After Mr Lenoir, he is the children’s top suspect though they think he’s just following orders.

After the boys see the flashing lights they check and Block is asleep in bed – but the man who was in the tower then walks into Block’s room and vanishes.

Then, on her escape from her room George passes Mr Barling’s house and sees Block there talking to Mr Barling. Firstly Block seems to be listening to Mr Barling and secondly he is also asleep in bed at the same time.

Does Block have an (even more) evil twin?

It seems likely when they see Block and Mr Barling in the catacombs later, while Block is in bed with a headache. For a servant Block spends a lot of time in bed during the day! His ruse is only rumbled when Mr Lenoir has Julian go to wake Block and Julian discovers what’s really under the bedclothes.

The return of Timmy

Timmy has been missing for quite a lot of the book and now it is time for him to make a triumphant return.

Firstly Uncle Quentin and Sooty are being held hostage in the catacombs by Mr Barling (there’s a few pages of mostly just conversation and expose) until Timmy shows up. Timmy does what Timmy does best when faced with enemies – he attacks and chases Mr Barling and his henchman off. So Sooty and Uncle Quentin are safe but still very lost. Timmy can’t seem to lead them back to Smuggler’s Top but instead takes them to the marshes edge and abandons them.

Why would he do that? Well, he just has a feeling that George is in trouble.

Timmy didn’t hear. He was too far away. But the dog suddenly felt uneasy. He stopped and listened. He could hear nothing of course. But Timmy knew that George was in danger. He knew that his beloved little mistress needed him.

His ears did not tell him, nor did his nose. But his heart told him. George was in danger!

He comes to her (and the others’) rescue, just like the did Sooty and Uncle Quentin. This time he fends off three men who are tying up George, Julian, Dick and Anne in the same cave Sooty and Uncle Quentin were in earlier.

In a twist of fate Timmy himself needs rescued not long after that – as he falls into the marsh. Usually once the children are rescued it’s all jolly times again, so it’s a change to have another heart-in-the-mouth few pages before the book ends. Uncle Quentin is, perhaps surprisingly, compassionate and risks his life in saving Timmy.

The book still isn’t over, though. There is still the Five’s triumphant reveal to the police that they’ve solved the mystery and Timmy escorts the  police to find Mr Barling etc in the tunnels – he scared them off so thoroughly the second time they got entirely lost.

My usual nitpicks, questions and observations

The Timmy’s name saga continues. His first mention is as Timothy, in Blyton’s narrative, the remainder of the chapter she calls him Timmy. Uncle Quentin is the only other one to call him Timothy. In the first chapter Julian calls him Tim, Fanny calls him Timmy, George calls him Tim, then Timmy twice and then Tim and Timmy both in the same speech. Not that it’s hugely important, they are all forms of the same name but it is interesting to see the gradual change from Timothy to Timmy. Past the first chapter or so he’s always Timmy.

Continue reading

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Enid Blyton Christmas gift-guide

The Enid Blyton brand has really been growing lately, with ‘new’ books coming out and there have been some tie-in products over the last few years as well. Here’s a guide of what to get for your Blyton-loving friends and family, or indeed, what to suggest they could get for you!

Books, books and more books

Books are always a good gift.

Why not go for one of the new Hodder short story collections which bring together seasonal tales into a single volume.

How about Christmas Treats or Winter Stories if you want to give something apt for the current season, or Springtime Stories or Summer Holiday Stories to give them something to read next year?

Christmas Treats £6.99, Winter Stories £4.99, Springtime Stories £6.99, Summer Holiday Stories £6.99 All from Waterstones.

Or, for those that find them funny there are even more Famous Five for Grown-Up books by Bruno Vincent. For those who enjoyed Five on Brexit Island there’s now Five Escape Brexit Island, and for those who liked Five Go on a Strategy Away Day they might also like Five at the Office Christmas Party.

Five Escape Brexit Island £5.99, Five at the Office Christmas Party £5.99, both Waterstones.

Related post⇒ Five Go on a Strategy Away Day

For fans of The Secret Seven there’s a new continuation book by Pamela Butchart Mystery of the Skull.

Mystery of the Skull £6.99 at Waterstones.

Also new is a Treasury of Bedtime Stories which is a chunky hardback book of over 300 pages. It is fully illustrated as well, and the illustrations look quite nice from what I’ve seen. Modern, but not as ‘whacky’ as some other recent ones. There’s also a Wishing Chair Collection containing

Treasure of Bedtime Stories £17.94 on Amazon

Of course you could always go with an old classic (or two). If you’ve got cash to splash a first edition of their favourite title would make a great gift.

Gifts for grown-ups

Here’s one I’ve asked for myself – a light in the shape of a book. And not just any book – a book with Five on a Treasure Island as the cover. It’s a pity it’s not the original edition cover but I was just happy to find a Blyton one at all.

Classic Enid Blyton book light £44.95 at Klevercase. (They do lots of classic books as lamps, Kindle covers and file storage boxes. I want it all!)

Something else I’ve asked for is a card game:

By Jove! Entertainment For Kids – Five Go Parenting. It has 100 activities and games for children. I have no idea what to except if I get it, I mean it’s a game based on a book based on the Famous Five series.

There are two more games by the same company too. What Ho! After Dinner Games Five Give Up the Booze has 50 after dinner games and Dash It All! Trivia Quiz Five on Brexit Island has 400 British Questions.

By Jove! Entertainment For Kids £10, What Ho! After Dinner Games £10, Dash It All! Trivia Quiz Five on Brexit Island £10, all Amazon.

These are hard to find online anywhere if you’ve forgotten the names of the company or individual games. They don’t have Famous Five or Bruno Kay on them, and Enid Blyton card game doesn’t seem to bring them up either. Still, they are low in stock so someone must be finding them!

There are also some 250 piece jigsaws based on the Bruno Vincent books. Blyton jigsaws for Grown-Ups should surely be more challenging than 250 pieces? I’ve not asked for any of these mostly because it would only take me fifteen minutes to complete one!

Five Go Parenting Jigsaw £5.99, Five Lose Dad in the Garden Centre Jigsaw £5.99, Five on Brexit Island Jigsaw £5.99 all on Amazon.

There is the jigsaw I got last year, though, and that’s 1,000 pieces.Famous Five 1,000 piece puzzle £16.95 on Amazon

Gifts for children*

Beyond the obvious of any book Blyton ever wrote, there are some toys and games as well. They are pretty much all based on Noddy: Toyland Detective, though. You can get items from other series but they are harder to find, more expensive and liable to be more fragile as they are much older. I’ve found Noddy Fuzzy Felts from the 50s and 90s but I wouldn’t necessarily set a child loose with them.

related post⇒ Modern Noddy in Fuzzy Felt Toyland

There are some sticker/ activity books like Let’s Investigate and Fun With Friends.

Let’s Investigate £4.99, Fun With Friends £4.99, both on Amazon

Plus this year there’s a one-off edition of This Is Magazine, all about Enid Blyton. It comes with a few freebies including pencils and stickers, as well as having 200 pages of stories, puzzles and quizzes.

This Is Enid Blyton £4.99, DC Thompsons (also in WH Smiths etc)

Or there’s a Noddy floor puzzle and a set of four Noddy jigsaws.

24 piece floor puzzle £8.79, Noddy 4 in 1 puzzle £10.63, both on Amazon.

And as for toys there are various figurines and playsets like plush toys, friction cars, craft supplies etc.

Who What Where Tablet £19.99, Set of four 8 inch plush toys £14.95, Noddy Rev N Go Car £13.29 Jumbo chubby colouring crayons £3.25. All on Amazon – though I’ve found the car for £5 in-store at B&M Bargains, branded as Oiu-Oui (the French version).

Related post⇒How to get Blyton’s style: Baby edition

P.S. I am not affiliated with Amazon in any way, and I get nothing for posting links to their items. It’s just that a lot of this stuff is only available on Amazon (I did check Argos, Smyths etc for the toys).

*Or people of any age!

Big***Or people y

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Monday #247

Just two weeks till Christmas now!

Enid Blyton gift guide


Five Go to Smuggler’s Top part 2

[The tree] stood in the hall, with coloured candles in holders clipped to the branches, and gay, shining ornaments hanging from top to bottom. Silver strands of frosted string hung down from the branches like icicles, and Anne had put bits of white cotton-wool here and there to look like snow. It really was a lovely sight to see.

George’s first Christmas tree, though for her it’s spoiled as it’s provided by her nemesis Mr Roland in Five Go Adventuring Again.

Five Go Adventuring Again

Noddy Meets Father Christmas is one of those rare(ish) books that could be called Christmassy without being set at Christmas. Father Christmas, of course, exists all year around, and in this book he is visiting Toyland to start ordering toys for the next Christmas. Noddy takes Father Christmas to lots of villages and towns where he can discuss his needs for toys and even gives feedback on last years toys. It all becomes a bit meta when he reveals he has been asked for lots of N&B dolls which turn out to be Noddy and Big Ears dolls!

noddy meets father christmas

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The Famous Five covers through the years, part 1: 1940s-1990s

The Famous Five books have been in print for nearly 80 years now, and along the way they have appeared with a lot of different looks from the original Eileen Soper covers to TV tie-ins and famous illustrators.

We will all have our favourites – often based on whichever copies we happened to have as children – but let’s take a look at the various different designs.

The inimitable Eileen Soper

All 21 books we first published by Hodder and Stoughton (later called just Hodder) and had their original dust jackets (and internal illustrations) done by the wonderful Eileen Soper. I just love her work. Her depictions of the Five are just how I imagine them, and of course they are perfectly in-keeping with the era in which the books were written.

The first 10 books actually had two Eileen Soper covers – a first edition and then another from 1951. Five on Kirrin Island Again has three – an extra one to correct the direction of the telescope (George looks through it from the wrong end on the first edition cover). Five Fall Into Adventure is the only one where there aren’t two different scenes on the cover, it has the exact same illustration.

Hodder & Stoughton 1942 / Hodder & Stoughton 1951 / Hodder & Stoughton 1943 / Hodder & Stoughton 1951.
Hodder & Stoughton 1945 / Hodder & Stoughton 1951 / Hodder & Stoughton 1950 / Hodder & Stoughton 1951.

As you can see the title font and Enid Blyton’s name changes between the two versions (again except Five Fall Into Adventure which uses the same title font), from Five on a Hike Together they all use the second versions’ style. All the new versions of these covers were published in 1951, so I assume when Five on a Hike Together was to be published there was no point in doing two versions and they just stuck with the newer style.

Then, after various forays into other (and in my humble opinion inferior) artists, there are many later covers using the original Soper artwork.

Five on a Treasure Island uses the first edition illustration eight more times and the second impression another once. Only one is a facsimile with the full cover – the other add various borders and new text. As the series goes on there are less reprints (39 for Five on a Treasure Island, 23 for Five Go Adventuring Again and down to and 17 from Five on a Secret Trail onwards) but there are still at least three later Soper impressions for each book in the series.

Hodder 1997 / Hodder 1997 (hardback) / Hodder 2000 (colour edition) / BCA 2006 .
Birch Tree Publishing 2013 / Birch Tree Publishing 2015 / Hodder 2017 (hardback) / Hodder 2017.

With the first Birch Tree one I wonder why they bothered using the original artwork seeing as they cropped it so small!

Hodder & Stoughton 1954 / Hodder 1997 / Hodder 2000 / Hodder 2017.
Hodder & Stoughton 1955 / Hodder 1997 / Hodder 2000 / Hodder 2017.

I prefer the 2017 editions as they show more or less the whole cover illustration and I even quite like the subtle changes to the colours. It’s nice, though, to firstly see the books being republished so many times and that (for the moment) the series is bookended by Eileen Soper’s instantly recognisable work.

Betty Maxey

From Five on a Hike Together and onwards the second editions are Knight paperbacks with Betty Maxey covers (some have Betty Maxey internally, other retained the Eileen Sopers). Betty Maxey, in my opinion, is far better at covers than she is at internal illustrations.

Up to Five Have Plenty of Fun each book had three or four Betty Maxey Knight paperbacks, and then a Brockhampton edition with the same artwork. The Knights were sometimes the same design with different borders or text and sometimes there were two different designs. Five Go Down to the Sea and the following two books had two Betty Maxey Knights, and the rest had only one.

Knight 1967 / Knight 1969 / Knight 1970 / Brockhampton 1974.
Knight 1967 / Knight 1969 / Knight 1970 / Brockhampton 1974.

As you can see Betty Maxey’s style for covers is very different to that of her internal illustrations. They are much more timeless for a start, and they don’t feature people with missing body parts either! I would even go as far as saying they are quite skilled.

A few impressions later Betty Maxey was back with some new covers, these ones with The Famous 5 on them, and the children looking quite like the cast of the 70s TV series. Strangely she is only credited as having done five covers, from Five Go to Smuggler’s Top through to Five Get Into Trouble. The rest of the series was done in the same style, in the same year, but by an uncredited artist or artists.

All Knight 1983.

From what I can tell these cover illustrations were used twice, next by Hodder and Stoughton in 1986, but with a blue border. Very few of these seem to exist as very few have been recorded on the Enid Blyton Society website. Five Go Off to Camp is the only Maxey example there.

These Betty Maxey covers are definitely more 70s than the previous ones. As you can see, Anne looks a lot like Jennifer Thanisch, and even the boys’ stylish jackets from the TV show feature. They are different in style to her other covers, with sharper detail rather than being gently blurred.

related post⇒The Famous Five TV Series: Even more funny captions

TV Tie Ins

Both the 70s series and the 90s series have featured on book covers. Up to Five on Kirrin Island Again there were two 70s photo covers, one with a border (not all of them were red) and one which is styled like some of the 70s series annuals.

Knight 1978 / Hodder & Stoughton 1979 / Knight, 1978 / Hodder & Stoughton 1979.

As you might notice the same photo has been used for Five Run Away Together’s second cover and Five on Kirrin Island’s first one. They’ve just flipped it! I’m not sure which episode the photo is from as both feature George’s boat.

As I said above, there are a further sixteen covers with drawn children that look like the 70s cast, but not credited to Betty Maxey. As you can see they are very similar in style to Maxey’s. Again they all seem to have the blue border version, but few examples are available to prove it.

Knight 1983, Knight 1983, Hodder & Stoughton 1986, Hodder & Stoughton 1986

The 90s series also had a photo cover for each book.

All Hodder 1996.

related postThe Famous Five 90s Series: Some more (funny) captions

Five on a Treasure Island also had two very similar covers from the 1950s Children’s Film Foundation series.

Klett 1986 / Lektorklett 2009

With there being 21 books and between 17 and 39 different covers for each I’m going to split this into two posts. Next time; my era of Famous Five covers, truly modern covers and the famous illustrators series.

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An updated round-up of Christmas posts

We’ve done this once before but have written a lot since then – so here’s a new guide to all our Christmassy posts from the past six years.

Book reviews

Enid Blyton’s Christmas Stories – one of Hodder’s short story collections.
Enid Blyton’s Christmas Treats – another Hodder short story collection.
Enid Blyton’s Christmas Stories Audio – the audio adaptation of the Hodder short story collection.

The First Christmas – Blyton’s retelling of the nativity story.
Noddy Meets Father Christmas – the 11th Noddy book.
The Christmas Book – a one-off novel about Christmas traditions.
Father Christmas and Belinda – a Collin’s Colour Camera Book.


Songs and poems

Christmas Gifts
Christmas News
In the Stable
Santa Claus Gets Busy
The Party


Guides and round ups

Blyton at Christmas – a guide to stories, books, poems, puzzles and more.

Winter and Christmas Reads – a guide to Blyton’s seasonal novels
Part 1
Part 2

Blyton Christmas Presents

We’ve been lucky enough to get lots of Blyton goodies for Christmas (and birthdays).

Birthday/Christmas 2017
Birthday/Christmas 2016
Birthday/Christmas 2015
Christmas 2015
Birthday/Christmas 2014
Birthday/Christmas 2013
Christmas 2012


Christmas just wouldn’t be Christmas without a ton of food!

Mince Pies
Gingerbread by Katie Stewart

Plus we have lots more recipes which can be found here – afterall, who says that treacle tart or shortbread can’t be devoured over Christmas?

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Monday #246

It’s December now, and you know what that means. It’s time to get festive!

A guide to all our Christmas posts


The Famous Five covers through the years, 1940s-1990s

“Now let me see,” said Father Christmas, taking out a fat notebook. “I want to go to Bouncing Ball Village. I hear that some of the balls I gave to children last year hadn’t got much bounce in them. I must inquire into that.”

Father Christmas is ferried around by Noddy, in Noddy Meets Father Christmas, to start putting in orders and requests for the coming Christmas.

Winter Stories is the latest Hodder story collection to come out. It has thirty stories about snowmen, sleigh rides, Santa’s elves and all sorts of wintry delights.

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November 2018 round up

What I have read

I have achieved my Goodreads target (again!) I’m on 84 books, so now I will see how many I can get. I’m not going to up the goal this time though, as I know I’ll be busy with Christmas soon.

  • A is for Alibi (Kinsey Millhone #1) – Sue Grafton
  • No Time Like the Past (Chronicles of St Mary’s #5) – Jodi Taylor
  • London Belles (Article Row #1) – Annie Groves
  • What Could Possibly Go Wrong? (Chronicles of St Mary’s #6) – Jodi Taylor
  • Ships, Stings and Wedding Rings (Chronicles of St Mary’s #6.5) – Jodi Taylor
  • Lies, Damned Lies and History (Chronicles of St Mary’s #7) – Jodi Taylor
  • The Great St Mary’s Day Out (Chronicles of St Mary’s #7.5) – Jodi Taylor
  • My Name is Markham (Chronicles of St Mary’s #7.6)
  • Home for Christmas (Article Row #2) – Annie Groves
  • Why Mummy Swears – Gill Sims

And I’ve still to finish:

  • Drums of Autumn (Outlander #4) – Diana Gabaldon
  • The Diary of a Bookseller – Shaun Bythell
  • Five Go to Smuggler’s Top – part one of my review can be found here
  • My Sweet Valentine (Article Row #3) – Annie Groves

I actually don’t think I’ve picked up Drums of Autumn since last month and I really need to get on with it! I’ve been too busy re-reading the St Mary’s Series. There are a few new ones I’ve not read and I felt the need to remind myself of what has happened.

What I have watched

  • Hollyoaks
  • Quite a lot of Cbeebies, Brodie now particularly likes In the Night Garden
  • More of Taskmaster
  • Lego Masters series 2
  • Only Connect

What I have done

  • Seen Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindlewald at the cinema
  • Started my Christmas shopping, but not done nearly enough of it!
  • Did an Armistice Day display at work
  • Uncovered some very interesting books at work and moved around a lot of very old books behind the scenes to try and get them organised
  • Took Brodie to feed the ducks in the rain
  • Trips to the park when the weather allowed
  • Been very pleased when Brodie slept through the night for the very first time, just a shame he’s only done it twice more since then.

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Inscriptions in books 3: It’s not her book, it’s mine!

My previous posts looked at books with one clear owner, be that evidenced by a nice prize giving label or hand-written names and addresses. I have, however, lots of books whose ownership isn’t quite so clear. Sibling arguments or second-hand ownership has been scrawled all over them and it’s difficult to even see who had it first!

My family are not innocent in all this

Many Enid Blyton books I’ve owned over the years have been handed down to me. First they were my owned by one of my mum’s older sisters, then they were my mum’s and her younger brother’s. Some of them then went to my cousins, then to me and the odd one to my sister. There has therefore been various pen and pencil disputes over who currently owned each book…

related post⇒ My childhood books, part 7

The Mystery of the Hidden House presumably first belonged to my aunt Elizabeth as her name is in green felt tip, sideways on the endpaper. My mum has then added her name to the title page in regular pen. That’s nice and neat, at least, some later entries will include a lot of scribbling and scoring out.

Bimbo and Topsy was first my cousin Shona’s, she’s put her name in red pen twice. Then it was my sister’s, possibly the only Blyton she owned and she’s put one of her little name stickers inside too.

Tales of Toyland is a bit more of a mess (it has no spine!) and that has Elizabeth’s name, then my mum’s name and address, her name in ‘bubble’ letters her name at least twice more, once scored out, and 25 1/2p.

I bet there’s more but I replaced the tattiest hardbacks and all the paperbacks in my late teens and early twenties. They now live in my parents’ loft, and as dedicated as I am, I’m not going up there and raking around for even more scribbles.

The least said about the mess inside Cliff Castle and Smuggler Ben, the better!

There’s no excuse for this – all my Mum’s favourite bands in crayon on the back endpapers. (She blames her brother, though!)

Some of those nice ‘this book belongs to’ labels have been spoiled by new owners, and so have one or two lovely prize giving stickers

Noddy Meets Father Christmas has belonged to Kenny and Brian, who I imagine were probably brothers. It’s impossible to work out who staked their claim first as names have been written and scribbled over a few times. Brian looks like he had the last word, though.

Secret Seven on the Trail was ‘shared’ three brothers. Philip Mutton pencilled his name in rather big writing on the endpapers. The ‘This book belongs to’ space has both Colin Terence Mutton and Cristopher Gordon Mutton, it looks like Colin’s name was the later addition. There’s also a  drawing of a ‘Cowboys and Indians’ scene on the endpapers, I wonder which Mutton boy was the artist.

Puzzle for the Secret Seven was first owned by Margaret and Maysia Sciepanow, 7b New Romny (I wonder if that’s meant to be Romney?). Perhaps Margaret and Maysia are twins, or just friends in the same class at school. Their names have been written in pencil and gone over in pen. Then the book was owned by Richard Timothy Smith, Leybury Way, Scraptoft Leicester. Age 10, 1974. He has scored out 1957 and added 1974. Just to make it completely clear the name label has Now Richard Smith above it.

Shock for the Secret Seven was originally in the possession of Andrew M Jobling Frendsham Vale, Gaywood, Surrey. He added ANDY Jobling above that, too. Jane Brighton has pencilled her name over Andrew’s at some point, but before or after ANDY was written?

The Queen Elizabeth Family was Awarded to Linda Williams in 1966 but this has been scored out and then in green pen Sarah Trewick has written her name and 1993.

Tales After Tea has another spoiled prize giving label. – I can’t tell who this was presented to for regular attendance at Sunday school, 1959. Loretta Joughin has written her name over it, and gone over the thin blue ballpoint writing below with the same thicker pen.

She has also written LORETTA M. M. E. JOUGHIN THIS BOOK BELONGS TO ME IF ITS LOST BOX ITS EARS SEND IT TOO ME. And, bizarrely, nylon Deborah allan, whatever that means!

What’s wrong with just neatly putting a line through a past owner’s name and then adding your own?

Not even personal messages to the original receiver are safe sometimes

Enid Blyton’s Circus Book has an inscription that can barely be read now, thanks to it being viciously scored out. I can make out To Michael but the surname is obscured, and with love from a name which might be Dorothy (thanks to Ellie for working that out) Baum. There’s no new name written in this book, so I wonder if this was a new owner or just that Michael no longer liked Dorothy.

And the rest, in various levels of book desecration

The Astonishing Ladder and Other Stories has a stamp on the endpapers reading B.M. Dodds, Edward Street, Jarrow. This has been neatly scored through with a single line and the name Joyce written above. I cannot make out Joyce’s surname, the closest I can get is Yiceymoug and I’m not sure that’s even a name!

Saucers Over the Moor by Malcolm Saville was once part of West Sussex County Libraries Junior Library and is stamped 8 Jul 883. Perhaps that was meant to be 1983? It then belonged to J Barron and S Barron who added that it was the 8th in the set. I hope they did own it later, and didn’t just write in a library book (pretty silly to use your own name in that case).

related post⇒ If you like Blyton: The Lone Pine series by Malcolm Saville

In the Fifth at a Malory Towers has Cynthia Lorrymann and H Reid written on the front endpapers, neither being scored out. Then This book belongs to Nicola Wood and is signed N. Wood. Both pages of rear endpapers also have the name Nicola Wood on them.

Don’t Be Silly Mr Twiddle has quite a lot of writing in it. The first front endpaper reads Carolyn Baldwin roman road. southwick. sussex. The second page reads Margaret Jackla in blue and Carol in red. Below these are some coin rubbings it looks like. The title page has Margaret Jackla 69 Eaton Place London S.W.1. 1953-59 1959 1969. School adress Our Lady’s Convent Oxford Rd Abingdon Berks. Carolyn Baldwin, Roman Road, Southwick is below all that scored out writing. The next page has This book belongs to Margaret Jackla. On top of all that there’s a drawing beside Mrs Twiddle’s face on the title page, I DON’T written at the top of another page and what looks like Lesley Rosebun at the top of another.

The Three Golliwogs is even worse. ELLEN FISHER. Tammys book. Miss Ellen Fisher, Westthorpe Road, Killamarsh, WB Sheffield S31 8ET. Telephone Sheff 482876. By Jane Fisher is all on the first endpaper. Jane Louise  Fisher, Simcrest Avenue, Killamarsh, Sheffield s31 8fd is on the second. Perhaps these girls were cousins and one inherited the book from the other? Or perhaps aunt and niece. The post codes don’t match the addresses, though. If you swap the 8s for 1s they do – I wonder if there was a big post code shakeup in Sheffield!

I have to add that despite my family’s bad book owning habits I have never scribbled over a book in my life!

Next time: Books given with love.

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Monday #245

This Wednesday marks the fiftieth anniversary of Enid Blyton’s death. She died on November 28th, 1968 at the age of 71.

As a child I just assumed she was still around, still writing, as I received new books for birthdays and Christmases. Being young and not yet having a great concept of how old my mum was or indeed how old the books she passed to me were (I didn’t read any boring parts like the publisher or published date!) it didn’t strike me as unlikely that an author would have written a Famous Five book in 1942 and more in the mid 1990s. Although some of the language was old fashioned the stories themselves were pretty timeless and to me, felt like they could have been freshly penned.

When I found out the truth I felt equal parts silly and upset. My favourite author was gone, she had died long before I was even born. That expanse of time between us was the worst bit – we had felt so close before. I got over it, though, mostly by throwing myself into reading all the books of hers that I possessed. She wrote so many that there are still a huge number I don’t have, more than I could hope for from any living author today.

So here’s to Enid Blyton, gone but never forgotten.

Inscriptions in books: It’s not hers, it’s mine!


November round up

The Family at Red Roofs is a heart-warming tale of a family rallying together during hard times. The Jackson family have two disasters in a short space of time – Mother is taken very ill and Father is lost when his ship sinks in the Atlantic. Mollie, Peter, Michael and Shirley, along with their housekeeper Jenny Wren somehow keep everything ticking over and paid for while Mrs Jackson recuperates and Mr Jackson is searched for.

Pat – and Isabel as you can’t have one without the other – O’Sullivan are the twins from which The Twins at St Clare’s gets its name. They are, to start with, snobbish and full of the idea that they are important somebodies. Attending St Clare’s rather quickly teaches them that they are actually rather nobodies. They don’t reach the rebellious heights of the bold, bad girl Elizabeth Allen but they don’t ingratiate themselves at first with the other St Clare’s girls. Pat in particular refuses to cow to the orders of the older girl.

Like Elizabeth they do both come around in the end and settle into life at St Clare’s, making lots of friends along the way.

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Five Go to Smuggler’s Top

Here we are at book #4 in the series and, as I’ve probably said a hundred times or more, this is my absolute favourite Famous Five book.

And yet I’ve never reviewed it (my review of the dramatised audio doesn’t count!) so I’m ready to change that today.

I haven’t actually read this in over six years (!) so it’s definitely time to put that right as well.

Five Go to Smuggler’s Top

Now, as much as I love the Kirrin-based adventures it’s exciting that the fourth book takes us somewhere new, after summer, winter and summer at Kirrin. They haven’t been at Kirrin since the summer of Five Run Away Together, and we are now at Easter the next year.

related post⇒Five Run Away Together

Smuggler’s Top is the perfect change of scenery for the Five and for us readers. Although it is also coastal it is as different from Kirrin as you can imagine. Instead of blue seas and clear skies there are miles of dangerous, misty marshes. Rather than a country cottage surrounded by moors and beaches Smuggler’s Top is a house perched on top of Castaway Hill and surrounded by a walled town.

The only way to get to Smuggler’s Top is via a narrow causeway road – step or drive off that and you will sink into the marshes unless you have memorised one of the narrow twisting paths that reportedly go from the mainland to Castaway Hill. Then, through the old archway and through the steep, narrow cobbled streets to the door of the large, brooding house which boasts at least one tower. I will leave the mysteries of what lies inside Smuggler’s Top for later.

It’s very old, built on the top of a queer hill surrounded by marshes over which the sea once flowed. The hill was once an island but now it’s just a tall hill rising up from the marsh. Smuggling went on there in the old days. It’s a very peculiar place, so I’ve heard.
Uncle Quentin.

Out of the slowly moving mists rose a tall, steep hill, whose rocky sides were as steep as cliffs. The hill seemed to swim in the mists, and to have no roots in the earth. It was covered with buildings which even at that distance looked old and quaint. Some of them even had towers.

The Five were supposed to be having Easter in Kirrin so why are they going to Smuggler’s Top? Because of what happens in my favourite Famous Five chapter. A huge ash tree falls on Kirrin cottage and nearly kills the girls – they are only saved by Julian waking up the household with moments to spare.

This scene is in my favourite moments and favourite quotes posts so I won’t go on about it for a third time. It’s a bit of a case of ‘be careful what you wish for’ as Uncle Quentin had initially thought of having a scientist colleague and his son to stay, but changes his mind after hearing how mad-cap the boy is. And then a very large (though Eileen Soper perhaps overdoes the size in her illustration!) tree falls on the house and prevents any guests staying.

The only problem is that Timmy isn’t allowed at Smuggler’s Top. George initially rages and insists she will go back to school with him, but curiously changes her mind not long after. Rather like in Five Run Away Together she hatches a secret plan and won’t say anything to her cousins. They don’t suspect much, but are puzzled that she didn’t make a fuss of saying goodbye to Timmy and doesn’t look very sad. In true George fashion she has arranged for Timmy to meet them (presumably aided by Alf) a short way along the coast and so he goes along with them anyway.

Smuggler’s Top, the Lenoirs, Block and Mr Barling

Smuggler’s Top  and Castaway Hill are inhabited by some strange people.

Mr Lenoir is a tall, thin, fair-haired man whose nose-tip goes white when he’s angry. He is a scientist colleague of Uncle Quentin, and that’s how they ended up invited to stay there. He seems affable, and laughs a lot but he smiles with his mouth and not his eyes, which remain cold.

Mrs Lenoir is a tiny ‘frightened mouse’ of a woman, and very quiet. Pierre ‘Sooty’ Lenoir is a friend of Julian and Dick from school, a class joker and nothing like Mr Lenoir who is actually his real father’s cousin. Sooty and most of the Lenoirs are dark-haired and dark-eyed but his step-father is fair. Fair Lenoirs are no good is apparently a known saying.

And lastly of the Lenoir family, there’s pale, blonde, timid Marybelle, who is ages with Anne.

Being a big house there are, of course, servants. Most of them are unimportant to the story as they stay in the kitchen and don’t have any part in the plot. Sarah (fat, round and jolly) appears to clean rooms and serve meals but most important is Block, Mr Lenoir’s man which I interpret as a valet/butler type role.

He had a queer face. “It’s a shut face. You can’t tell a bit what he’s like inside, because his face is all shut and secret.”
– Anne

“He’s deaf, so you can say what you like, but it’s better not to, because though he doesn’t hear he seems to sense what we say.” – Sooty

Sooty tells the Five about his step-father just after they arrive – saying that he’s a queer sort of man, who seems full of secrets. Strange people visit Smuggler’s Top in great secrecy, and lights shine in the tower some nights. He doesn’t think his father is a smuggler, however. That role if fulfilled by Mr Barling. Everyone knows him, apparently, even the police but they can’t do anything to stop him because he is so powerful. When the Five meet him Anne things that he’s long everywhere his hair, legs and feet, his eyes nose and chin. The Five dislike him, and notice that he seems to dislike Mr Lenoir as much as they do too.

So we have three interesting people there, any or all of them could be a baddie. Are they in on some smuggling ring together? Is one of them a red-herring who is secretly a police detective in disguise? We will have to read on to find out.

An exciting arrival and many secret passages

Luckily for George it is Sooty and Marybelle that answer the door when they arrive. Otherwise, had Mr Lenoir set eyes on Timmy, things would have not gone nearly so well. As is is she, Timmy and the others are swept up to Sooty’s room via the first of our secret passages at Smuggler’s Top. This passage starts in an oak panelled study, and is entered through a sliding panel much like the one at Kirrin Farmhouse. The passage is so narrow it must be traversed in single file up to the inside of Sooty’s bedroom wardrobe (another similarity to Kirrin Farmhouse!).

related post⇒ Five Go Adventuring Again

The next one they explore is the one that leads out onto the hill, and that is found in Marybelle’s room. They have to move the furniture back against the walls and lift the carpet (thankfully it’s not a modern wall-to-wall one!) to reveal a trap-door in the floor. I have to say I wouldn’t have liked a secret passage in my own bedroom as a child. Far too many scary thoughts there, of baddies and ghosts and monsters creeping down it in the dark of night! Anyway, the trap-door is basically a giant pit where they used to chuck people to get rid of them (according to Sooty, anyway). Not wanting to break any bones the children use a rope-ladder to get down, and Timmy is lowered in a big laundry basket.

They are in the catacombs at this point, with passages leading off every which way. There are other pits – including one that leads to Mr Barling’s house – and you wonder how Sooty manages to ever find his way into the town and back especially the first time. After climbing back up the hill and over the wall they wander the town and have a run-in with Block and meet Mr Barling.

Next time: The boys investigate a flashing light in the tower, Timmy bites Block and they are launched into a great big mystery. Also, I will look in detail at Uncle Quentin’s role in this book and have my usual nitpicks and observations for you.

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Inscriptions in books 2: this book belongs to

I’m not one for writing my name inside books. I’ve done it on a few over the years, or for a while I had little stickers, but I rarely felt the need to declare ownership. Perhaps I would have if my sister had been a threat to my collection but she had her own interests and only read a few of my books. We managed to share other books (like the Babysitters’ Club series) without serious arguments.

What’s in a name?

Some children simply wrote their name inside their books, perhaps at their parents’ request, to make sure they found their way back if lent to friends or left at school.

James Bramble wrote his name in Plays for Older Children and Mary Ann Binny wrote hers in The Secret of Killimooin.

Kay Reed used a stamp to put her name in The Book of Fairies. 

Sheila Gambles wrote her name on a scrap of blue paper and stuck that into Come to the Circus.

The Mystery of the Burnt Cottage belonged to Lynne Groves, Six Cousins Again to Kerry Shackleton and Five Have Plenty of Fun to Moira Jackson though her name was so faint it was hard to make out.

Martin, Susan and Lesley equally shared Well, Really, Mr Twiddle! and the name Sandra Foley Suzanna Steven (which I assume is actually two names) is in The Mystery of Tally-Ho Cottage.

Five Go to Smuggler’s Top, Five Have a Wonderful Time and Five Fall Into Adventure all have my mum’s name in them, and the last one also has a pretend library lending pocket stuck in the front.

Bright Story Book had just Leeds UTD written in it, but I suspect that meant the owner was a fan not that Leeds United owned the book!

  • The Secret SevenDavid Norman
  • First Term at Malory TowersElizabeth Moulton
  • House-at-the-CornerR Grinwade (very faintly)
  • Snowball the Pony – Kathleen Erherington (twice, once in nice alternating coloured writing)

A few non-Blytons just for fun:

Peggy wrote her name on the board cover(!) of The Gay Dolphin Adventure by Malcolm Saville, while another Saville, Wings Over Witchend belonged to M. Broom.

Sometimes children like to write the date or their address and/or phone number and other important details:

(Where house numbers were given I have omitted them just in case the people happen to still live there! Otherwise they more or less as written but with capitals and commas to make them easier to read.)

V.E. Wallis wrote his or her name in Treasure Trove Readers Happy Stories in 1946 and Sylvia King added September 1949 to her name in Enid Blyton’s Treasury.

A piece of white paper has been stuck over the inscription in The Blue Story Book but I worked out that it said M Redding of Worple Road, Wimbledon, London SW19, 1945. I wonder who covered it up? A new owner? Someone trying to make it look tidier for selling? Someone who just hated inscriptions in books?

Some strange numbers are in The Jolly Story Book which belonged to Monica Woodcolt. She wrote 21600 1305 07980030105 Dorchester. Is this a secret code?

Both The Mystery of the Spiteful Messages and The Mystery of the Strange Bundle belonged to Deborah Gardner, Corner Cottage, Oving Lane, Whitechurch, Bucks. I couldn’t find Oving Lane on Google maps but I wonder if it’s one of the unnamed roads off Oving Road.

Andrew Worth of Ashley Rd, St Albans, Herts once owned The Fourth Holiday Book and he (or perhaps a later owner) added what might be a phone number – 415 840 – and the note Horses show on T.V.. Lee Barratt of Albert St, Windsor, Berks, England also included a note – KARATE is the Best to A Second Book of Naughty Children.

Below are the more straight-forward names and addresses I found:

  • The Adventurous FourStephen James Lloyd of Bath Road, Cheltenham.
  • The Green Story BookJohn Porter of The Greenway, Enfield
  • A Story Party at Green HedgesSarah Harkess of Elliot Road
  • Merry Story BookMary Lovatt of Centurion, The Avenue, Bognor Regis, Sussex
  • My Enid Blyton BookJoy Kirkton of Pembroke Rd, Bulwark, Chepstow
  • The Rilloby Fair Mystery Helen Daw of Ashton Close, Oadby Le2 5wh
  • The Rubadub Mystery – David Lake of Rosebery Ave, Poringland, Norwich.
  • Summer Term at St Clare’sSheila Gambles, Bundle Road, Nether Edge, Sheffield .7.
  • Four in a FamilyThis Book Belongs to Miss Susan Joy Bateman, Chester Rd Hudley Stoke-on-Trent, Staffs
  • The Naughtiest Girl Again – J.M. Camoll? Jersey Road Wolverton.
  • The Neglected Mountain (Malcolm Saville) – MARION WEATHERHEAD 079477 (is that the start of a mobile number?)

J. M. Camoll?

I’ve learned a lot of new place names doing this, and Poringland was one of many I had to double-check I had gotten right! I also had to very carefully check the spelling of Carol Riggs’ address which was Lon-y-mynydd, Rhiwbina, Cardiff  and appeared in Five Run Away Together.

Most disappointingly nobody went past their county, except Lee Barratt who included England. I love it when children add Scotland, Great Britain or The United Kingdom, the World, the Universe… and so on.

But Children of Kidillin belonged to Ann Call who added that she was in Form 2c. I wonder if that was because she was at boarding school and wanted her book back should another girl borrow it. Miss Barbara Lane went one further and put her full address, phone number and the name and address of her school! This book belongs to :- Miss Barbara Lane. St Annes Rd East “Cottesloe” St Annes-on-Sea, Lancs. Telephone St Annes 24432. School. Elmslie Girls’Senior School, Whitegate Drive, Blackpool, Lancs.

I even found one with the shop selling it stamped inside: Hollow Tree House had BOOKS & BYGONES, RIVERSIDE, COURT WEST LOOE, 1/2 PRICE EXCHANGE inside. I had to double check that it did read Looe, which turns out to be a real place. That shop no longer seems to be there, though. I suppose they hoped readers would be reminded of their business and return to them.

Others liked to make it very clear that ‘This book belongs to:’

In The Mystery of the Missing Man is written (caps and all): THIS Book Belongs to Stephen HARMAN, HoldenHurst RD, Bournemouth, Hants. I like the emphatic capitals but I’m not sure what Hants means – Bournemouth is in Dorset. I did not know that until I looked it up, and it turns out that it’s not that far from Poole Harbour and Brownsea Island.

related postBlyton’s Britain part 2

Five Have a Mystery to Solve and Five on a Treasure Island both read This book belongs to: Alison Smith. I think I bought these together in a charity shop in St Andrews.

The Friendly Story Book features a bit of a puzzle as part of the page has been torn away:

This book bel  (ongs to)
Alan Ship-
43 Holly
Tofts Grove Fold
Brighou (se)
Yorks (hire)

The missing parts of a few lines weren’t hard to work out but I won’t ever know the rest of his name for sure. I suspect it may be Shipman. The year could be any of the ten years of the 1950s. Perhaps, also, Alan used to live at 43 Holly something and forgot he had moved? 

The same Deborah Gardner from above owned The Second Form at St Clare’s. In that she put her name and address as before, but with Aylesbury before Bucks. She also added My name is: Deborah Gardner and I live at: Corner Cottage [etc]. This book belongs to me. I find it really interesting that I’ve ended up with three of Deborah’s books and I would love to know more about her!

Inside The Eleventh Holiday Book is This book belongs to Wendy Bridgewood.

Many children took advantage of the books that have ‘This book belongs to’ already printed, with a space for their name

The Secret Seven books and the main Noddy series both had one in almost every book. Most of them were filled in in my collection.

  • Secret Seven Mystery –  Lesley Adams, Garfield Rd, Newtown, Gr Yarmouth
  • Secret Seven Fireworks – Susan Woodford, 1C GREENHILL SCHOOL, TENBY
  • Good Old Secret SevenMartyn Gull, Norton Grange, Brynhaford Drive OWESTRY
  • Fun For the Secret SevenPaul
  • Noddy Goes to ToylandKim Ackfod
  • Hurrah For Little Noddy and Noddy Gets Into TroubleAncellon Hughes, Byrnedon Road, Taylorstown
  • Here Comes Noddy Again – Nigel & Russell Owens
  • Noddy and the Magic Rubber –  Carol Wakks
  • Noddy and Tessie BearAlice Steek
  • Be Brave Little Noddy, Noddy Has an Adventure and Noddy and the AeroplaneHannah Parish. I think I got these in a second hand bookshop in Alton. 
  • You’re a Good Friend NoddyDonna and Joanna
  • Noddy and the BunkeyDonna House write in pen
  • Noddy Goes to the FairGraham
  • Mr Plod and Little Noddy (actually on the on endpaper and not in the space provided!) – Mark Bonnington

I said above that most had them filled in and that’s true – the rest I will be using in a later post about disagreements over book ownership.

Also with ‘this book belongs to’ spaces filled in were

  • Enid Blyton’s Story Book – Charles Andrews 14 I am 710
  • The Big Noddy BookDavid Snow
  • The Troublesome ThreeMalcolm Parkin

Some books belonged to schools or libraries and had their name written or stamped inside:

  • Plays for Younger ChildrenSt Vincents Open Air School St Leonards on Sea (there were no dates stamped on the library sheet stuck inside, though!) I looked this one up and it looks like it had an interesting history.
  • Trouble for the TwinsClass 1A Juniors
  • The Enchanted WoodDuncan House School
  • Treasure Trove Readers In StorylandPROPERTY OF ANTRIM COUNTY EDUCATION COMMITTEE (this one was stamped).
  • Treasure at Amory’s  (Malcolm Saville) – Manchester Public Libraries ’64 674 DI
  • Rye Royal (Malcolm Saville) – Derbyshire County Library 25FEB1970 N.W. Withdrawn 1/07 School Library Service 


related post⇒Birthday Presents and Boots’ Libraries

What have I learned so far from this exercise?

Mostly that I’m awful at reading cursive writing!

Despite many of of my books having been bought in Scottish charity or second hand shops all the addresses are for England and Wales, and mostly England at that.

Children love declaring ownership of their books and feel that their address is also important presumably in case they lose their treasured book.

I have surprisingly few ex-library books, given my low budget for books. I thought I’d have had more.

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Monday #244

Inscriptions in books: this book belongs to


Five Go to Smuggler’s Top

Dick Kirrin on seagulls:

If they can mew like cats, there’s no reason why they shouldn’t bark like dogs.

– Five Go to Smuggler’s Top (seeing as I had it to hand!)

Mam’zelle Rougier is one of two French mistresses at Malory Towers. Her job role is the only thing she shares with her colleague, however. While the other Mam’zelle (Mam’zelle Dupont) is short, fat and jolly, Mam’zelle Rougier is tall, skinny and sharp. The girls always hope for Mam’zelle Dupont for their French lessons, though Mam’zelle Rougier does show a well-hidden sense of humour after Belinda draws cartoons of the two Mam’zelles at war with each other.

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Inscriptions in books 1: Introduction and prize giving labels

Inscriptions in books are a divisive topic, or so I’ve found.

Some people absolutely hate them, to the point of refusing to buy an otherwise perfect and affordable copy of a cherished title just because it says ‘Mary Smith’ inside the front cover. Some say it just ‘wrecks’ a book to write anything in it at all, and they can’t understand why anyone would do such a thing.

On the other hand, there are other people who positively love them.

I’m far closer to the second camp. I wouldn’t say that I love inscriptions but I do like them quite a lot. Of course, some inscriptions are nicer than others. The best kind are neat ones on otherwise blank pages. Some terrible people write on picture end-papers, though, or over title page text and others scribble over everything! The worst kind of people are the ones that colour in thin paperback pages with felt tips, though.

Related post⇒ My childhood books, part 2

I think it’s so interesting to see who has owned a book before, especially if the child has written their age and location – I’ve seen someone say they put the location into Google maps to see where that book was enjoyed for the first time, and I admit I have ended up doing that while trying to check spellings of some of the addresses given. It was just too tempting!

I particularly like when there’s a message saying who the book was given by, and for what special occasion. Those ones can also make me feel a little sad, though. It’s not so bad when you can assume the child is long grown up and has therefore parted with their books, but when I find a one or two year old book in a charity shop with a loving message inside I do feel bad. But then I’m very sentimental and I hate giving away anything I’ve been given as a gift.

When I read very old inscriptions I always wonder what happened to the child that had once written their name inside their book. Did they give away their books once they outgrew them as a teenager? Or did they keep them and pass them on to their children and grandchildren? How many other owners have come in between them and me? I sometimes see new owners have viciously scored out the previous one’s name – ‘it’s not YOUR book any more, it’s MINE!’ – and that makes me laugh.

Anyway, I thought I would have a look at the books I have with inscriptions in them, to see what they say.

As it turns out I had no idea I had so many books with inscriptions. I probably have more with than without and so this took way longer than I expected it to. I’m also terrible at reading handwriting and agonised over trying to work out names in particular. Some I just couldn’t fathom so I will include photos and see if anyone else can enlighten me.

There are so many inscriptions (and  I just couldn’t pick and choose and leave any out) that I will have to split this into a series of posts.

Prize giving labels

Some children were awarded books by their school or church, and these books have those nice ‘awarded to’ labels inside and often lots of detail.

I’ve shared this before but The Rockingdown Mystery has one of those labels, made out to my aunt, Elizabeth. The book was later claimed by my mum, though, and also has her name written in the front.

Related posts⇒ My childhood books, part 4

Smuggler Ben was awarded by Donington Methodist to Richard Drinkall in Nov 1956.

Secret Seven Win Through was awarded to John Todd for attendance – 52 weeks out of 52 in 1960. This was from another Methodist church, this time Barton – Le – Willows Methodist Sunday School.

And a third Methodist one – The Further Adventures of Josie, Click and Bun was awarded to Ruth Addington by Methodist Sunday School, Cardington on February 8th 1953.

Yet another Methodist label (those Methodists really love their books!) Mischief at St  Rollo’s was awarded to David Holliday as a ‘first prize’ by Tadcaster High Street Methodist Sunday School in February 1955.


The Teddy Bear’s Party was from Wendron Church and presented to Helen Maclaren for Epiphany 1946.

St James’ Church Sunday School gave Hollow Tree House to Pauline Swan for Advent 1949.

A few non-Blytons now, The Harveys See it Through (a 1969 book by Phyllis Gegan) was presented to Helen Sang for 2nd prize 1971/72. This is interesting to me as it was from Strathmartine Parish, the same name as the church I was christened in and went to Sunday School at. It would be an awful coincidence if it was the same church but Google doesn’t bring up any others with the same name!

My other Phyllis Gegan book is A Mystery for Ninepence and that was presented by Dunlop Primary School to Jimmy Stephenson for Attendance in 1964.

Torridon’s Surprise (1961) by Marie Muir was presented to Grant Begg, 4th in ‘Pr V’ – which I take to mean primary five! That was from session 1967-68 at Auchmore School and signed by Mary S. MacIntosh the headmistress.

Katesgrove Junior School, Reading filled out a very detailed label in Three Cheers Secret Seven

This Prize is awarded to
Shirley Buckingham
Best Girl
in Class 2
Class Teacher: F. J .P. Harvey
Head Teacher: P. N. Bailey
Date: July 1958

I don’t remember if I was ever awarded a book from either my Sunday school or regular school. It would have been my dream, though. Books are the perfect award, prize or gift.

I would have had a couple more to share but at least two books have just the edges of these pretty labels, the rest having been torn out! Below is an example from a book by Angela Brazil. It looks like it was the same pattern as the Wendron Church one above.


My next post is on ‘this book belongs to’ inscriptions, where children have vehemently declared their ownership in varying levels of neatness.

P.S. Brodie really wanted to get involved in this project as he just loves books! Here he is desperately trying to flick through A Mystery For Ninepence and getting in the way of my photo! Just as well he’s cute ♥.

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Jack Arnold, part 2

Previously I looked at Jack’s origins and all his clever ideas for running away.

Jack the captain

Being the oldest and most responsible Jack is quickly declared captain of the little group. The children obey him without question and, in good nature but without mockery, salute and say aye aye, sir when he issues orders.

The Arnolds’ father is actually called Captain John Arnold, so it is almost as if Jack (especially with Jack being a common nickname for John) is considered a father figure to the other children.

As above he has lots of clever ideas to help them survive and he instructs the other children in how to build willow house, how to best take care of the hens, how to skin fish and so on.

He chivvies them on when the other children, particularly Nora, are being lazy and can be hard on them when he needs to be. He comes down hard on Nora when she doesn’t check the hen-yard properly and allows the hens to escape, as he knows she just hasn’t done her job properly.

“Nora, what do you mean by doing your job as badly as that? Didn’t I tell you this morning that you were to look carefully round the fence each time the hens were fed to make sure it was safe? And now, the very first time, you let the hens escape! I’m ashamed of you!”

“I shall talk to you how I like. I’m the captain here, and you’ve got to do as you’re told. If one of us is careless we all suffer, and I won’t have that! Stop crying, I tell you, and help to look for the hens.”

Mike suggests that Nora be relieved of that duty if she cannot be trusted but Jack disagrees, and says that Nora will have learnt her lesson now and will be extra conscientious in future. And he is right.

“Had I better see to the hens each day, do you think, instead of Nora?” Mike asked Jack. But Jack shook his head.

“No,” he said. “That’s Nora’s job – and you’ll see, she’ll do it splendidly now.”

Jack is the wisest of the group, I always think. He is a little older than the others of course and has clearly been self-sufficient for a while.

Although it’s quite sad, one of my favourite things Jack says is that the Arnolds have suffered much more than he has as he has never know better but they remember the wonderful life they had with their parents.

“You are much worse off than I am. I have never had anything nice, so I don’t miss it. But you have had everything you wanted, and now it is all taken away from you.”

I always think that Jack is very brave in the end to tell the Arnolds where the children are. Of course it’s the right thing to do, he cares for the other children and knows how much they miss their parents. He also knows that the island life is hard on them in the winter. However, he must also know that by reuniting the Arnold parents with their children that their time on the island will end. He never so much as considers not doing the right thing, though. He never thinks about the consequences for himself, despite not knowing that he will be taken in by the Arnolds.

I don’t know if anything else would happen to him; there are of course people searching for the children but it seems to be mostly the Arnold children. Obviously by the end of the book we know it is because their parents have returned, but before then we and the children assume it is because Aunt Harriet and Uncle Henry have reported them missing. I don’t think anyone is looking for Jack on his own, but because he is with the others or knows where they are. He could reasonably be worried about getting into trouble from the police for running away and evading capture/arrest etc.

Jack in the later books

From The Secret of Spiggy Holes onwards Jack is a part of the Arnold family and attends the same boarding school as Mike. A very short summary of the previous book includes the information that Jack has been taken in by the Arnolds, and having lived with the children for months he fits in perfectly with them. I do wonder how well he does at school, though, as he probably hadn’t been in a very long time!

The Arnold parents are absent of the majority of the remaining four books of the series, necessary for the children to have their adventures, but from what we can see Jack is treated the same as the other children.

He is shown hugging Mrs Arnold twice in The Secret Mountain. Once when they all kiss and hug before the adults fly off at the start of the book, and then when they are reunited in the mountain. His backstory isn’t mentioned at the beginning of the book but it comes up at the time of the second hug.

Mike, Peggy and Nora were Mrs Arnold’s own children, though she counted Jack as hers too, because he had once helped the other when they were in great trouble. Jack stared at Captain and Mrs Arnold in joy. He flung his arms round Mrs Arnold, for he was very fond of her.

Jack remains the children’s captain when embroiled in adventures but he and Mike are on more of an even footing as the boys of the family, and of course both have to listen to Ranni and Pilescu. Jack takes charge a little more than Mike but he’s no longer having to provide for everyone or ensure their survival.

Jack is at his most interesting in the first book, in later books he blends in more. In fact, by The Secret Mountain you could be forgiven for forgetting his origins, though as above they are briefly mentioned and a sentence or two reminds us of this fact at the beginning of both The Secret of Killimooin and The Secret of Moon Castle. Prince Paul is the newest addition to the group in that book and Jack is just a regular member of the Arnold family. Below E.H. Davie’s The Secret of Spiggy Holes illustrations show him dressed in the same clothes as Mike.

And that, in a very large and lengthy nutshell, is Jack Arnold.

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Monday #243

Jack Arnold, part 2


Inscriptions in books

“Gosh,” said Irene again, with a comical air of dismay.”I’m nuts! I go and interrupt my own bit of composing, and rush off to do a job I’m not supposed to do till nest week.”

Irene at her forgetful best in In the Fifth Form at Malory Towers.

Enid Blyton’s Nature Lovers’ Book is a nice, big volume containing 24 ‘nature walks’ where John, Janet and Pat accompany their ‘Uncle Merry’ (really their next door neighbour whose name is Mr Meredith) on rambles where he teaches them all sorts of things about plants and animals. Then there are a dozen poems, six interesting things to do, a long detailed list of common flowers, trees and birds, some famous nature related poems including ones by Keats and Wordsworth, and finally, five short nature stories.

As well as many illustrations of the plans and animals that feature in the stories the book has 16 lovely colour plates by Noel Hopking.

Enid Blyton's Nature Lover's Book


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Noddy and the Case of the Amazing Eyebrows

Another very un-Bytonian episode title from Noddy, Toyland Detective. I have previously reviewed episode #1 The Case of the Broken Crystal Memory Game and episode #29, The Case of the Toyland Mischief Maker. Mischief makers are not unexpected in the original Toyland at least, even if crystal memory games and amazing eyebrows are not. I am almost expecting fashion dolls with ‘on fleek’ eyebrows (yes that’s a thing apparently… I don’t belong to the same world as people who have five or more products just for eyebrow grooming, though, so I’m not entirely sure what it’s all about.) Anyway, it’s more likely to be about false eyebrows being stuck around Toyland or something, but I’d better watch and find out.

What’s the amazing eyebrow story?

In short, this is a straightforward tale of stolen goods. Fuse (the robot) is to be awarded a prize for most helpful toy. Pat-Pat (the panda) gives him some eyebrows she’s made so he can look smart, and suggests everyone dresses up for the ceremony.

But the eyebrows get stolen, as does the prize ceremony banner and then the award itself. Each time a bell like Noddy’s is heard and the mayor more or less accuses him of the thefts. So Noddy has to investigate to clear his name.

OK, so these eyebrows.

I feel disingenuous calling them eyebrows as that suggests two pieces of facial adornment. It’s not, it’s a monobrow. Definitely not on fleek, no matter how on trend thick and heavy  eyebrows are at the moment!

Also, what a weird present. Maybe robots are hard to buy for, but eyebrows? The little label on them (with a panda logo) is a nice touch, though, and I thought it was great attention to detail. The label actually becomes important later on, as we will look at in a bit.

Noddy’s investigation

Noddy starts by visiting the scene of the crimes, that’s when the third one occurs, making it look even worse for himself.

Luckily he trips over a jingle bell, the bell that must have come from the thief. It has a little panda label on it, just like the eyebrows. That leads him to Pat-Pat, and from Pat-Pat to the Naughticorns we met in The Case of the Toyland Mischief Maker.

The Naughticorns have the eyebrows, the banner and the award and Noddy tells them they must return them.

The dodgy morals of the Naughticorns

The Naughticorns are naughty by name and naughty by nature. Blyton wrote about naughty children and creatures, but normally they either get their comeuppance or turn over a new leaf. The Naughticorns do neither and yet are still treated the same pleasant way as all other toys.

Related post⇒ Naughty Amelia Jane

When Noddy catches them they explain that Hoof wanted to be a winner and therefore they took the three things so he could be one. He does acknowledge that it’s not as much fun when you’re just pretending, but doesn’t recognise how much he’s upset the toys he stole from.

He is quite happy for Noddy to continue taking the blame, he won’t get into much trouble if they return the items. He only grudgingly agrees to tell the truth when Noddy argues about it.

Then to top it all off Hoof gets a special award at the ceremony for truth telling!!

Maybe I’m over invested in this but the Naughticorns have no redeeming features and Hoof doesn’t deserve an award.

Other random thoughts

I wondered why everyone thought Noddy was guilty. I know the bell would make them think of him but they surely know Noddy is a good and honest toy. He gets accused of a few things in the books he is far more trouble-making in the books compared to the TV series. To be fair the Clockwork Mouse, the Mayor, did the investigating/accusing in absence of any police toys, clearly she’s better suite to mayor duties rather than policing.

Related post⇒Noddy Gets Into Trouble

Despite the moral/logical failures of the series, there are some good things as well. The animation is generally very good, a lot of the toys look very real and solid, almost like models at times. There are also nice little touches like the jigsaw background for the song.

The problem with Netflix

Initially I was pleased this had come to Netflix as it would have made it easier for me to watch it.

The first problem is that Netflix groups two episodes together so I had to fast forward or skip through until I found the start of the second episode. There’s no theme song that way so it feels less of a complete episode for reviewing purposes.

The second thing is that they are showing the American version, despite it being UK Netflix. The British version has a British voice cast including Andy Serkis’ son as Noddy. The American version has, unsurprisingly an American voice cast (though Big-Ears is British in both and Fuse seems to have the same voice, but more robotic for the British one). Maybe I’m just used to Louis Ashbourne Serkis’ voice but I found the alternative one a bit annoying.

Some of the wording is different between the two versions as well. They are fancy eyebrows in America and dress up eyebrows in Britain. Then there’s award ceremony vs prize giving, extra smart and ultra smart, and fabulous instead of incredible. Those are just the few I noticed in a couple of minutes of comparing the two, there are probably more. I could understand if it was sidewalk and pavement or mail and post, but those seem pointless alternatives.


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Jack Arnold

I had initially intended to just feature Jack Arnold as my character of the week a few Mondays ago (and in fact I did) but I wrote so much for what should have been a 2-3 hundred word paragraph that I realised I could and should write a whole post about him.

Which Jack is this?

There are many Jacks in Enid Blyton books. The Secret Seven, The Adventure Series and The Secret Series all boast Jacks as a main character, and there are other Jacks to be found in other books, too.

Jack Arnold is the Jack from The Secret Series (though when we first meet him he is just “Jack”. No last name is given, and I wonder if he even knows what it should have been.)

related post⇒ A completely un-confusing guide to names in Blyton’s books

Jack (far right) with the Arnold children at the start of The Secret Island

Jack’s origins

We actually don’t know very much about Jack when we meet him. We don’t know, for example, how old he is. Jack himself does not know that. We know he lives on a farm with his old grandfather. We don’t meet this grandfather, but Jack mentions him once or twice.

“I must go now, or Granpa will be angry with me, and perhaps lock me into my room so that I can’t get out of again to-day.”

Jack and his grandfather must be poor as their farm is described as ‘tumble-down’ and Jack has no shoes and only tattered clothing. After running away with the Arnold children, from whom he will get his surname later, he returns to the farm for his belongings. The farmhouse, we discover then, has only two rooms. His ragged collection of clothing amounts to three shirts, a few vests, an odd pair of trousers, an overcoat, a pair of old shoes and a blanket. (If you’ve not read The Secret Island before we have various posts about it here but if you want a review then you’d be better off here or here as we haven’t reviewed the book ourselves).

Jack illustrated by E.H. Davie wearing a ragged shirt and trousers, and no shoes.

There is no love lost between Jack and his grandfather, despite the old man taking Jack in. Jack says that he doesn’t remember anyone but his grandfather, so he must have been taken in at a young age. I had assumed Jack’s parents were dead but perhaps they had gone to prison.

I have seen a suggestion that his grandfather is struggling with dementia by the time the events of The Secret Island take place.

The inference here is that the grandfather is suffering the onset of dementia, an irony when you consider what happened to Enid and it is the aunt who is unconcerned for Jack, as she has no extra room for him along with his grandfather and considers him, in keeping with those times, old enough to look after himself

– From a review by David Cook.

I imagine you could ascribe the state of Jack and the farm to his grandfather’s mental decline, though there are a few things that don’t add up for me with that theory. It is entirely possible that being elderly Jack’s grandfather is not physically up to running a farm any longer and is happy to move in with his daughter in order to be cooked for and have someone do the cleaning and so on.

Jack states that he isn’t bothered by a lack of material goods or family as he has never had those things to miss, whereas the other children had good lives until a year or two before and struggle to adapt to their new miserable existence. To me, this says that his grandfather has never provided well for him and he has always had to look out for himself. It is said that Jack ‘worked as hard as a man’ on the farm, and his skills in fishing, rabbit catching etc imply that he has been supplementing his and his grandfather’s diet over the years and earning his keep.

He knew how to catch rabbits. He knew how to catch fish in the river. He knew where the best nuts and blackberries were to be found. In fact, he knew everything, the children thought, even the names of all the birds that flew about the hedges, and the difference between a grass snake and an adder, and things like that.

The only kind or generous thing his grandfather seems to have done is ‘give’ Jack a cow and some hens of his own. However it is easy to tell a child that one cow of a herd and a few chickens of a coop are ‘his’ without any real generosity – it could have been a ploy to get him to do the milking and egg collecting. If it had come to selling off the dairy herd I bet he would have sold Daisy with the others, just as Quentin Kirrin intended to sell Kirrin Island despite his wife ‘giving’ it to George.

The other thing is that Jack’s aunt has clearly never cared about him either. She won’t take him in now as she has no room and thinks him old enough to live on his own (implying he must be around 14 or 15) but she doesn’t care that he will have nowhere to live or money to live off of. But what about when Jack was young? It is surprising that an aunt would not have taken him, or helped out with him. I think this could hint to a family feud way back when, that was never resolved as Jack’s parents died. (It puts me in mind of the Potters vs the Dursleys before Harry is orphaned in the Harry Potter series.)

But Blyton doesn’t consider any of that important: Jack is an orphan, his grandfather is moving away and he has friends that also want to escape a bad home. That’s all we need to know, and that gives them more than enough impetus to run away to the island without needing any detailed backstory.

Jack’s ideas

Although only one qaurter of the cast Jack is the catalyst for most of the first book of the series. It is Jack’s idea to run away to the Secret Island. He is the one who knows of its existence and has visited it before, and it is he who sees its potential as a secret place to live.

Once on the island (having used Jack’s boat to get there), it is Jack who guides the setting up of their homestead. Obviously knowing the island already he is best placed to suggest a spot for their bedroom and where to keep their stores.

Jack is responsible for the bulk of their food; that is anything that didn’t come with them from their homes when they first ran away.

His ideas for sustenance include:

♦ Planting beans and peas in small discreet patches
♦ Bringing over his cow and hens for milk and eggs (and keeping the milk cool by keeping the pail by the spring)
♦ Catching fish and rabbits (he sets the lines and traps and mostly prepares the meat).

It is also Jack’s idea to gather various berries, nuts and mushrooms to sell in villages on the mainland, in order to buy things they cannot scavenge or grow themselves. It is he who does the selling, although Mike accompanies him as far as the edge of the lake. Jack keeps a count of the days so he can go selling on market day to increase his profits, and he is responsible for keeping a mental shopping list and coming back with the things they need, all without getting caught.

Jack’s other great idea is the building of willow house, and he teaches the children how to construct a house that will keep them warm and dry.

Related post ⇒Blyton’s homeliest homes

With the arrival of trippers on the island it’s mostly Jack’s plans they put in place to hide themselves, and he instigates their larger-scale plans for hiding should anyone search the island. He comes up with the idea of luring Daisy (the cow) through the caves with a turnip to make sure she goes easily and he makes the others do drills to practice their hiding plans.

And I will stop there for today.

In Jack Arnold, part two, I will look at Jack’s role as captain on the island and what happens to him in the subsequent books in the series.

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