February 2019 round up

Well, there has clearly been a mix-up behind the scenes here (and I can’t blame anyone but myself!). I’ve just discovered this post lurking in the drafts folder, when it was meant to be published on March 1. Whoops! Seeing as I haven’t made much progress yet with the short story reviews I promised for this week I’m going to publish this now, and save the short stories for next week.

What I have read

I’m still a bit behind schedule for my reading target. I’ve lacked motivation to pick up any of the books on my shelves or to-read pile. I’ve listened to some audiobooks, though, and read a few other things. I’ve found myself watching more TV (well, Netflix on my laptop anyway) as I’ve gotten into a few programmes and it’s nice to indulge sometimes!

What I have managed to read is:

  • Hetty Feather (Hetty Feather #1) – Jacqueline Wilson
  • The Fiery Cross (Outlander #5) – Diana Gabaldon
  • Too Much Information – Dave Gorman
  • Hairy Maclary’s Hat Tricks (Hairy Maclary) – Lynley Dodd
  • C is for Corpse (Kinsey Millhone #3) – Sue Grafton
  • Five Go Off in a Caravanreviewed here and here
  • D is for Deadbeat (Kinsey Millhone #4) – Sue Grafton

That means I’ve read 12 books, and I’m 4 behind target.

I’ve still to finish:

  • The Diary of a Bookseller – Shaun Bythell

I got through the epic 5th Outlander book, which at 1,400 pages is the equivalent of several (like 7 Famous Fives!) shorter books. I’m not letting myself borrow the next one until I have read something I already have sitting at home.

What I have watched

  • The rest of the Marie Kondo series on Netflix
  • Consumed which is another Netflix show about people who live with houses so cluttered they can’t use some of their rooms. It made me feel great about how tidy my house was in comparison!
  • Thanks to Netflix then showing related programmes as suggestions, I then watched a one-off documentary called World of Compulsive Hoarders. And after that I went on to Amazing Interiors, which is basically about homes with weird and wonderful things inside like enormous fish tanks or bespoke interiors on houseboats.
  • Only Connect
  • Hollyoaks
  • Call the Midwife, though I’ve fallen behind as I rarely find a whole hour to sit and watch what I’ve recorded!
  • A few more episodes of The Sinner

What I have done

  • More trips to the park
  • Continuing Organised Mum, Marie Kondo-ing and bullet journaling
  • Had my bathroom completely renovated, which wasn’t fun for the week but has been so worth it
  • Started playing Totem Tribe again
  • Unpacked some pretty great books from in storage at work, including a school atlas from 1853
  • Taken Brodie to Bookbug (aka rhyme time). I’m sad the library we use is closing for six months for refurbishment!


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Malory Towers covers through the years

Previously I have written about the Famous Five covers, the Adventure Series covers and the Secret Series covers. Now I’m going to look at the covers from Malory Towers, my favourite of the school series.

Inside and out with Stanley Lloyd

The original wrap-around dust jackets for the series were done by Stanley Lloyd, who also did the first internal illustrations. His internal illustrations are skilful and detailed but I sometimes think they are a bit washed out. I always get annoyed there are only six per book as well, so so many key scenes go unillustrated. Anyway, the covers are soft but less washed out as they are in colour.

Methuen 1946 / Methuen 1947 / Methuen 1948 / Methuen 1949 / Methuen 1950 / Methuen 1951

Seeing double?

Like the Adventure Series, Malory towers has two sets of wrap-around dustjackets. While Stuart Tresilian did both sets for the Adventure Series, the second set here were done by Lilian Buchanan (who also worked on the Five Find-Outers books).

All Methuen 1957

It’s interesting (to me) that while Last Form is extremely similar, and First Form reasonably similar, the others all show entirely different scenes. I really like Lilian Buchanan’s covers as they are that bit bolder and brighter.

Time for the Armada

Armada are yet again the first paperback edition for a series.

Armada 1963 / Armada 1963 / Armada 1963 / Armada 1963 / Armada 1964 / Armada 1964

Armada covers always look like Armada covers, despite all the different artists. These six have three different artists. First up is Dorothy Brook who did First Form and Upper Fourth, then Charles Stewart who did Second Form while the rest were done by Mary Gernat. Interestingly, there’s a variety within the internal illustrations, too. Dorothy Brook is inside First Form, but none of the others. Charles Stewart did Second Form, Third Year and Upper Fourth, and the last two books were by Dylan Roberts (I don’t think Mary Gernat did much, if  any, internal work.)

More Mary Gernat

Mary Gernat returned to do the next two covers for the series too. As is quite common it’s the same illustrations used two ways.

Alternating Dragon 1967 and Methuen 1970

The first are what I think of as an upside-down polaroid style, which Dragon books used a lot. Then as you can see the second are the same illustration but taking up the whole cover, though these are actually Methuen editions.

The next set are Dragons again, and using the upside-down polaroid too. Strangely, though, First Term is omitted. This time the covers were by Paul Wright. I have a certain fondness for all the polaroid-style Dragons as I had a few of them including Second Form with the Paul Wright cover.

All Dragon 1972

My era of Malory Towers books

Although I had one of the Dragon copies from 1972, that’s a bit before my time! I recognise more from the next four sets of books, even though some of them were still published before I could read. My local library had these editions, though, and that’s where I first read them.

First up are some nice hardbacks with very bold (and somewhat modernised) characters on them. These are 1981 Methuen editions. I remember Upper Fourth in particular and always marvelled at their fancy clothes, not realising it was their pyjamas!

The same illustrations were reused for the 1990 Dean editions, where I had In the Fifth. At least I recognised these clothes as pantomime costumes!

Alternating Methuen 1981 and Dean 1990

The two sets in between these editions are also ones which reuse illustrations. They are by Gwyneth Jones, the first being a straightforward scene and banner, and the second the scene is placed inside what looks like a school crest. I think it was these covers that made me realise quite how unattractive I find the Malory Towers uniforms! What’s interesting is these are Armada editions, they are so different from the classic 1960s ones.

Alternating Armada 1988 and Armada 1990

They show a strange amalgamation of scenes from the books, and yet I come away feeling I don’t know much about what goes on as it’s mostly quite generic. Last Term is about tennis, and girls carrying bags of rubbish?

Brodie was up for three hours in the middle of last night so I am going to stop there for now, and return another week with the rest of the books, which are all of the ‘very modern’ category!

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Monday #259

Malory Towers covers through the years


Short stories from Enid Blyton’s Happy Story Book

“Oh? You’ve got some brains then? That’s good hearing, that is. But I’m busy now, and can’t stop to talk about your brains, Master Frederick. There’s Big Things going on, see, and I’ve got plenty to do without wasting my time talking to you.”

Mr Goon briefly lords it over Fatty at the start of The Mystery of The Missing Necklace.

You Funny Little Noddy! is the 10th book about the little nodding man. It’s raining heavily in Toy Village, meaning Noddy’s taxi service is busy. Unfortunately he has a few accidents and ends up slinking off out of town in shame. Being a Noddy story, though, of course it has a happy ending!

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Enid Blyton’s short stories

Enid Blyton wrote a lot of short stories. I was planning to start reviewing some of them to encourage me to read more of them. But first, I thought I would just write a bit about her short stories in general. (Partly as a general introduction and partly because I haven’t gotten around to ready any yet.)

So how many is a lot?

A lot. So many there’s never been an accurate count done. It would be near impossible to do such a thing, because:

  • Many stories have appeared multiple times in different publications
  • Many others have appeared only once in collections by various authors; some of these under pen-names that are suspected to by Blyton’s but are by no means certain
  • Some stories have the same name as other stories but are entirely different; and some reprinted stories have had their titles changed!

So in order to get a precise (or even close) count you would have to be able to check every book and magazine she wrote or wrote for, and read at least the start of every story to make sure it wasn’t a repeat/retitled. It would be a gargantuan task, and certainly not one I would be willing to undertake. It would take forever and a lot of money just to source every short story collection and magazine with her name on it, without even considering the contributions she made to Teachers’ World, annuals, readers, books of verse and so on.

Types of short story

There are a few different types of short story Blyton wrote.

One would be short stories about a well-known character or characters. So the Amelia Jane, Mister Meddle, Mr Pink-Whistle, Mr Twiddle etc books would fit into this category; their books are a collection of short stories rather than a novel broken into chapters. Also, there are short stories about the Famous Five, Secret Seven Adventurous Four and other characters who have their own full-length novels.


Perhaps it’s strange but I rarely consider the Amelia Jane type stories as short stories. The Famous Five type definitely are, as they are very much shorter than the originals. Somehow the fact that the Amelia Jane type are published together in a single volume makes them feel like more of a ‘bitty’ or disjointed novel rather than a short story collection. For me this idea is compounded by the tiny details that do overlap, such as Amelia Jane promising to amend her ways at the end of one story, then it being remarked upon that, at the start of the next story, set not too long later she has forgotten her promise.

For that reason, as well as having already reviewed Amelia Jane and Famous Five short story books, I won’t review this type now. I might review Mr Meddle/Pinkwhistle/Twiddle etc but as whole books.

Anyway, the other type of short story (which I will review) is the standard tale about a one-off character or characters. These form probably the larger part of her output of short stories, and are the ones I have read far less of.


I find it’s harder to care when you’ve only been introduced to Pam/Sally/Belinda/Jane or John/Graham/Kenneth/Michael one page 1, faced with their triumph or tragedy by page 6 and they’ve gone never to be met again by the end of the story. Saying that, the general message of the story is often more important than the person it is about. Blyton used her general short stories to convey lots of good messages about kindness, honesty, hard-work and generosity. The good children are almost always rewarded and the bad children punished or later rewarded when they amend their ways.

There are also a few types of picture-book short stories, like the strip books and so on. These are perhaps short books as they are a single story per publication so I may (or may not) include them in this series of reviews.

What short stories do I have?

At one point I was making a note of all the short stories I had, adding them as I bought new collections. I quickly gave up, though, as it took forever.

I know what collections of short stories I have, though. Not including the Amelia Janes etc, I have around 70 short story collections and books which contain stories amongst other content.

My collection is made up of:

  • 20 (ish) miscellaneous story books
  • 10 Sampson Low Holiday books (I’m missing #1 and #3)
  • 8 Hodder Happy/Jolly etc books
  • 7 Macmillan Story Readers
  • 4 Enid Blyton Magazine Annuals
  • 4 Methuen Colour books
  • 3 Macmillan Nature Readers
  • 3 Foyle’s Flower books
  • 2 Hodder Party books
  • 2 Evans Day books
  • 2 Methuen Naughty Children books
  • 2 Werner Laurie books


As I said earlier I had, at one point, kept a note of the short stories within the books I had. I’ve just checked and there are about 850 listed across just 43 of my books. So if the average book has 20 stories and I have about 70, I probably have in the region of 1,400 stories though of course many will be duplicated. But maybe that gives you an idea of the scale we are dealing with when I said ‘lots’.

I definitely won’t be reviewing hundreds of short stories but I will probably dip in and out of various books and do whatever stories take my fancy!

What’s your favourite short story?

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Monday #258

Enid Blyton’s short stories


February round up

“This is a real secret passage. A really proper one. Golly – isn’t it fun!”

Brock says what they’re all thinking in The Secret of Cliff Castle.

The Mystery of the Burnt Cottage is the first Five Find-Outers book. It’s not only their first mystery but the first time the group exists too. Fatty and Buster meets Larry, Daisy, Pip and Bets in the first chapter and although they don’t like each other much at first, they soon make friends and start detecting. This first mystery sees them trying to work out who set fire to Mr Hick’s workroom, and going up against Mr Goon the policeman for the first time.

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Five Go Off in a Caravan part 2

We left off on an almost literal cliffhanger at the end of my last post, with Julian and his caravan about to be pushed off the hill by Tiger Dan and Lou the acrobat. Shall we see what happens next? (And see all the nitpicks and ‘interesting’ points I can raise as well).

Well of course he doesn’t plunge to his death

I don’t think that’s really a spoiler, is it? There wouldn’t be sixteen more books if Julian had pegged it on (or rather off of) Merran Hill. I mean they could have brought in a distant cousin or a surprise sibling, but it’s Enid Blyton, not a soap opera.

Dan and Lou stop short of the edge of the hill, obviously their plan was not to destroy the caravan. But what is their plan? Why move a heavy caravan just to get at a heathery patch of ground exactly the same as the surrounding heathery ground? Well, Julian up on the caravan roof is just as intrigued, especially when they seem to disappear all of a sudden.

Julian falls asleep (poor show!) and wakes when they reappear with two sacks. He has no idea where they went, and neither will we, for a while.

Going deeper underground

Of course the Five investigate under the caravan, managing between them and Nobby and Pongo to move it.

“Look! Boards under the heather!”
“Laid neatly across and across. What for?”
“Pull them up!”

Well, there’s only a flipping secret tunnel smack-bang underneath the boys’ caravan! The first foray is a brief one – Julian and Nobby go down to retrieve Pongo but Julian’s torch gives out.

But the Five aren’t easily dissuaded, and gamely buy a new supply of torches. Underground it’s a simple matter of following a few dropped cigarette butts and matches to find a haul of stolen goods, and of one page worth’s discussion for them to work out the whole scheme Dan and Lou employ for stealing and hiding the stuff.

What’s not so simple is getting back above ground again…


In a chilling moment the Five and Nobby discover the hole has been covered over while they’ve been exploring. I blame George and her insistence at exploring a bit further instead of heading back to report everything to the police.

They spend an uncomfortable afternoon/evening in the caves, broken only by trying to escape down an underground stream and a visit from Pongo, before Dan and Lou come to collect the goods.

The children are herded along into a further cave while the men start removing the stolen items, and then it’s Dick’s turn to do the brave thing. While Pongo has the men distracted in a brawl Dick escapes the caves and tells the others to hide away. He closes the hole over as best he can and races off to the farm to summon help.

As a part of the series

So far we have had summer, winter and spring in Kirrin, and then a spring not-at-Kirrin. This is the first summer away from Kirrin. As much as I love Kirrin it is nice to have them explore new places – there’s only so many secret passages you can reasonably put in one place. Books one, two and four are set so that there are ‘safe’ adults around regularly, keeping the children from doing anything too wild or dangerous. The third book we lose the safe adults but they are still close to home. This is the first book they are off completely alone for any length of time.

It’s the first idyllic travelling/wandering book in the series; later they will go on bike rides, hikes and camps that will echo the pattern of warm days, lazy picnics, bathing in lakes and streams and exploration.

This story could be split into either three or four parts. Part one while they are at Julian’s home and their time travelling to Merran Lake (that could be divided into two as they are quite different), part two would be the initial camping and run ins with Dan and Lou and part three covering the underground portion and the resolution.

Signs of the times

All the Famous Five books are very ‘of their time’ when you think about it. Aunt Fanny picks the children up in a pony-trap from Kirrin Station, there are galoshes, cars with luggage-holes, and of course a lack of modern technology!

I did notice quite a few things in this book that very much marked its place in time, though.

The Five borrow a horse from the milkman to pull one of their caravans. Milk delivery is not that common in the UK today (though I think it’s making a come-back in some places, due to people wanting to use glass bottles instead of plastic) let alone milk delivered by a horse and cart. Likewise, the children then lend the horses to a farmer to help with the farm-work, and the police use a horse and cart to transport the stolen goods back to the station at the end of the story.

Julian’s father gives them a little book containing a list of farms which will sell eggs, milk and other supplies and allow people to camp on their land. If this was published today it would have to be a list of farm-shops and official camp sites, rather than a list of farmer’s wives selling goods in her kitchen and then pointing to a grassy field where there’s no charge for camping.

The children arrange for the nearest post office to Merran Lake to take in any post that arrives for them. I bet they didn’t have to fill in forms or pay for such a convenient service either.

George’s gender

George’s ‘I’m as good as a boy’ attitude isn’t constantly in the forefront of all the stories, despite being an important facet of her character. It crops up now and again – mostly when people mistake her for a boy and she is pleased or when Julian tries to put her in her place as a girl and she is furious.

Five Go Off in a Caravan makes a few references to her perceived gender, though she doesn’t make a big deal about any of it, though it comes in useful near the end.

The text notes that she packs like a boy, as she says they’ll want to take nothing but night things.

She insists on driving caravan as it’s ‘man’s job’, (though Anne points out she’s a girl, not even a boy let alone a man). She doesn’t bother about washing dishes or other household chores, says Anne. George notes she does feel guilty about this especially when Anne says (she’s bragging really) about all she does for them in the caravans. George hasn’t even made her own bed.

Interestingly Nobby recognises George as a girl and calls her a lady when speaking to Pongo, and she doesn’t correct him. I noticed then that Timmy refers to her as mistress in his doggy thoughts, and has done all along.

Lou mistakes George for a boy and she is pleased, never mind the serious situation they’re in at the time! To be fair it muddies the water. They’re looking for two boys and two girls plus Nobby. They have what they think are two boys, one girl and Nobby. They’re not expecting a girl to have escaped or gone off alone. Though Dan and Lou have met the children a few times, and would have noticed there were apparently three boys and a girl. Anyway, at the end Lou demands an explanation from Nobby:

“So there was only one girl!” he said. “What did you want to tell me there were two boys and two girls for?” he said to Nobby.

“Because there were,” answered Nobby. He pointed to george. “She’s a girl, though she looks like a boy. And she’s as good as a boy any day.”

General questions, comments and nitpicks

This is the first time we ‘meet’ Julian’s mother. Father is mostly absent but he contributes the farm map/booklet ‘off’ screen’. Mother helps them plan/pack/organise their trip and would like to go along (a half-joke).

It takes them five days to reach Merran Lake, and presumably would take five days to get back as they didn’t laze around an awful lot at all. I assume it’s a long holiday, as if it was just a fortnight they’d spend less time at Merran Lake than one leg of the travel! I suppose the travelling is half the fun, camping up at a different place each night.

The children make a point of saying they would only take drinking water from a spring, not a stream. I’m not 100% sure of the difference between spring and a stream that appears from underground – or how you would definitely identify them! Similarly I struggle with the term hollow when not meaning a hollow tree or a hollow victory. It seems to be one of those words used in certain regions – there are plenty of camps and places with hollow in the name. I guess it’s a dip or depression creating a sheltered space but I find it hard to imagine.

Hollow or no hollow I end up picturing the camp set up totally wrongly. The books says At the front of the hollow was a rocky ledge, hung with heathery tufts. That clearly describes (as pictured below) a flat rocky ledge at the edge of the hillside, overlooking the lake. I imagined a rocky bench, complete with a back to lean against running alongside the caravans and it’s hard to shift that mental picture.

I wonder where Nobby’s boat comes from? Surely they don’t lug a boat around all year, or use it as a circus prop! I also thought it a bit far that Nobby recognises and remembers the Five from their brief meeting over a week before. Surely lots of children hung over gates to watch the circus go by and talked to him. I did like Nobby signalling a twist on the baddies doing it. He uses a white shirt for ‘everything’s ok’ and he and Pongo waving red things meaning double danger.

Anne eats shredded wheat for breakfast, the first time I’ve noticed a specific product mentioned. It’s not a trademark or anything (not like she ate Frosties) but it seemed odd, to name a mass-produced product from a box when normally it’s generic sausages, porridge, vegetables etc.

Barker’s almost instant reaction to eating poisoned meat seems a bit suspect. I know snake bits etc can be rapid but he’d have to eat the meat, let it travel to his stomach, start to digest it and have the poison enter his bloodstream. There are some things like bleach that would affect you if you ate it – but generally you would notice pretty quickly and stop eating!

Pongo is as good as (or maybe better than) Timmy in terms of defending the children. He is strong, can bite, and can throw stones with great accuracy.

George has broken her torch and Julian’s runs out two minutes into exploring underground – that’s a poor show for the Five!

I asked myself this time was Dick smart or foolish to trap the men underground? He prevents them getting away so the police can catch them but in doing so relies on the others hiding long enough to keep safe. We know Dan and Lou have dreadful tempers, and crucially, a gun! Imagine what they could have done to the children upon finding themselves trapped underground!

Saying that is is a pleasing sense of deja vu as the men find themselves trapped in the exact same way the children did earlier.

A last nitpick: the text in my (1959 11th impression) reads that Dick Woke up the Mackie’s. I wonder when that mistake crept in because I can’t imagine Enid Blyton making such a heinous mistake with an erroneous apostrophe.

There are also quite a few funny moments in the story.

Julian runs straight into Dobby’s side when he and Dapple disturb the girls by bumping into their caravan in the night, and then the echo of that when Dan and Lou walk right into the caravan a few nights later.

Pongo is hugely funny. He tries shaking hands with Timmy’s tail, he hides behind his hands pretending to be chastened, and steals sweets from pockets. His looking for the ‘light’ which has ‘dropped’ out of a broken torch is funny and yet so believable too.

This is in my top 10, it’s in fifth place if you want to be exact. It balances plenty of gentle fun and enjoyment with some very hairy moments. Dan and Lou are nasty baddies while Nobby and Pongo are good sidekicks.

How do you rate the book?

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My top Blyton locations

I had, initially, intended this to be a top ten. But knowing how they almost always turn into top elevens, example A (top Famous Five moments) and example B (Top Adventure Series moments), I missed the number out of the title. Which is just as well, as I came up with eleven locations in the end!

11. Malory Towers

While I’m not convinced I would love boarding school life (I like my privacy and being stuck in a dorm with a bully sounds like hell) if I did do boarding school I don’t think it could be in a better place. The building itself sounds pretty decent with a lovely sunny courtyard in the middle, but the real selling point is the coastal location. Overlooking cliffs and the sea, there must be amazing views. I also love the idea of the swimming pool filled by the sea as I love sea swimming.

10. Peterswood

Peterswood is a pretty normal 1940s village – a bakery, a butchers’ shop, post office, a police station/house, grocers’ boys on their delivery rounds, buses rumbling by on their way to market… but it’s a charming and wholesome place all the same. Full of interesting local characters and quaint old-fashioned stores – many with free daily deliveries – it’s a lovely slice of a time long past. The fact it was based closely on Bourne End is the icing on the cake as you can really walk along some of the paths taken by the Find Outers – or at least look at photos of them!

9. Craggy Tops

Lacking many comforts even by the 1940s standards, Craggy Tops isn’t my idea of the perfect home, and yet here it is on my list. There’s just something appealing about that old, imposing house built into the cliffs and being lashed with sea spray. Of course it has a tower room with occasional views of the elusive Isle of Gloom, a secret passage and a beach out front.

8. Finniston Farm

Finniston seems like an average working farm at first glance, but it’s the history that makes it more interesting. The long-lost site of a castle (which of course the Five find, because that’s what they do!), the old chapel-turned-grain-store, centuries old Oak-Tree Field, Hangman’s Copse, Tinkers Wood Field, Faraway Field… the place is steeped in history. There’s hidden treasure in the old castle dungeons as well, but even without that it’s a great place. I love the details like the old castle door now in the farmhouse kitchen leading to the yard.

7.  The Valley of Adventure

The valley doesn’t have a name, but what it does have are a lot of interesting caves and underground passages. The ruined and burnt out village is quite melancholy but the trees, flower-filled meadows and huge waterfall quite make up for it. Being entirely shut off from civilisation (apart from the odd aeroplane) it’s a very tranquil place, perfect for hiking and exploring.

related post⇒ The Valley of Adventure travel brochure

6. Puffin Island

Puffin Island is only the nickname the Mannering/Trents give the island from The Sea of Adventure, and it’s accurate as it is covered in puffins. I would love to visit a puffin island with my camera and capture all their antics.

5. Demon’s Rocks

The whole Demon’s Rocks area sounds so interesting. Like Finniston Farm it’s steeped in history – this time of wreckers. Caves and passages under the sea, a quaint village and an old lighthouse, what more could you ask for?

related post⇒ Demon’s Rocks holiday Brochure

4. The Secret Island

You’d be spoiled for choice on the secret island. Sleep in the heathery bedroom? The caves? Willow house? Explore and pick wild strawberries, paddle in the lake or take the boat out for a row? There are so many fresh foods to pick from, new-laid eggs, fresh creamy milk, runner beans, raspberries, you couldn’t go hungry either.

3. Old Thatch

This is the only real location I’ve included. There are a few other real places associated with Enid Blyton but either they don’t exist any more (like Green Hedges) or I haven’t yet visited (Corfe Castle, Poole Harbour etc). Old Thatch was her home in Bourne End and had beautiful gardens around it. I was lucky enough to visit it on a couple of occasions when it was open to the public and it was such a tranquil place.

2. Smuggler’s Top / Castaway Hill

A house full of secret passages, built on a hill full of secret passages. How could this not feature? The quaint old town with its great surrounding wall would be fascinating to explore, all those little old houses with the diamond-paned windows would be so picturesque. Then the big old house right at the top would have wonderful views especially from the tower. I’ve always wanted a house with a tower.

1. Kirrin

Ah, Kirrin. The most idyllic of idylls. Warm, welcoming Kirrin cottage just a stone’s throw from a glorious sandy beach. Moors out the back, ancient arrowheads in the old quarry… and that’s before we even mention the rugged island with it’s own castle, cave, dungeons, wrecked ship, sandy beach, rabbit population, jackdaws and undersea tunnel to the mainland. It’s the kind of place you could holiday in over and over, and the Five do exactly that.

Some of you may have noticed I have missed out locations from my favourite books. I considered a few and dismissed them, for various reasons. I love Five On a Hike Together, and Two Trees / Gloomy Water is an excellent setting but too – as the name suggests – gloomy and depressing what with the house being burned down. The Circus of Adventure doesn’t have a single amazing location, rather it’s a sum of several interesting ones. I suppose I could have chosen the titular circus but that’s more of a community than a place. Tremannon Farm (Five Go Down to the Sea) was also scored off a mental list as we don’t know much of the farm itself, the joy of the story comes from the wreckers’ cove and the visiting barnies.

What’s your favourite (real or fictional) Blyton location?

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Monday #257

My top Blyton locations


Five Go Off in a Caravan part 2

To his enormous astonishment he saw two Mr Larkins on the ground. Two faces with straggly beards and shaggy eyebrows and thick glasses looked up at him, blinking in the light of the lantern.

Mr Goon gets a bit of a shock in The Tally-Ho Mystery. It’s just as well that all three Mr Larkins weren’t running around in the night at the same time, I’m not sure he could have coped with that.

Faynights Castle features in Five Have a Wonderful Time. It is a bit like Kirrin Castle in that it is a ruin, with one remaining and inaccessible tower. The big difference is that there’s a turnstile and a charge to enter! The outer walls are eight feet thick, so it’s lucky there’s a missing brick that gives access to a secret passage in the middle – otherwise the Five couldn’t find their way up into the tower where they’ve spotted a mysterious face.



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Secret Series covers through the years

I recently looked at the different covers used for the Famous Five books and The Adventure Series.

One series. Five books. Four cover artists.

The Secret Series is perhaps unusual due to how many different cover artists the series had. While the Famous Five’s first editions all had Soper covers, and The Adventure Series had ones by Stuart Tresilian, the Secret Series had four different cover artists – for just five books!

It’s not unheard of for a series to have different artists doing the covers, for example the Find-Outer books had three artists across fifteen books, but for only one artist to return must surely be an anomaly?

The artists in question were: EH Davie (Island external and internal and Spiggy Holes internal), Harry Rountree (Spiggy Holes external and Mountain internal and external) Eileen Soper (Killimooin internal and external) and Dorothy Hall (Moon Castle internal and external). This variety perhaps makes it harder for us to get a good mental image of the characters as they change from cover to cover cover, cover to insides, and insides to insides.

Anyway, let’s see how they all look.

Basil Blackwell 1938 / Basil Blackwell 1940 / Basil Blackwell 1941 / Basil Blackwell 1943 / Basil Blackwell 1953

I think the first and last are reasonably similar in style and colour palette, and the remaining three are somewhat alike too. Spiggy Holes probably stands out a bit with it’s very bold colours and I’ve seen several people mention the incongruity of the moonlit background and the sunny foreground!

Armada strikes again

As I said in a previous post (link) Armada published a lot of the first paperback editions of Enid Blyton books. In The Secret Series case, Armada did four runs of paperbacks, all in very different styles.

The first ones had covers by Mary Gernat and are what I think of as typical Armada covers. They tend to have the title in the top right or left corner, with one or two words per line so rather than all in a row. They also generally have a fairly solid background colour. Even though there are several different artists on these covers they still feel like they all belong together.

Armada 1965  / Armada 1965 / Armada 1965 / Armada 1965 / Armada 1966

Peter Archer then did two different runs of paperback covers.

The first ones are of a style also used for the Adventurous Four, Six Cousins, The Naughtiest Girl and probably many more besides. They have the book’s title in the middle, taking up two lines, Enid Blyton’s signature below and the Armada logo above.

All Armada 1971

I have no idea where the fancy ship comes from on Killimooin!

The second set remind me of the 1993 Award Famous Fives, though each one has a different colour border and only one is yellow.

All Armada 1978

The last Armada set is by an uncredited artist. These make me think of jigsaw puzzles or board game boxes, perhaps due to all the Secrets, or rather S ⋅ E ⋅ C ⋅ R ⋅ E ⋅ Ts that runs around the edge of the cover. These have a mode modern and cartoony look with the scenes being viewed from some unusual angles.

All Armada 1986

Award covers

Not covers that have won awards (that I know of) but rather covers on books by Award Publications.

After four lots of Armada paperbacks, there are four lots of Award ones. A nice neat split!

The first Award set have covers by Dudley Wynne (and internal illustrations too). These have a boxed illustration, and a coloured border which extends up behind the title.

All Award 1992

Spiggy Holes is red and Mountain yellow, so it strikes me as odd to have the three others so similar in colour. They also suffer from a lack of continuity with the titles. Secret should be small on them all (in my opinion!) as of is such a small word it doesn’t have a huge impact on the layout of the titles.

The next two have uncredited covers by the same artist. These are interesting as it is clearly the same illustrations used for both sets, but most have one or two small differences as well as being a close up. The book titles obviously change too, the first set being inconsistent with colour and layout, the second having added purple banners and a logo.

Top row all Award 2002
Bottom row all Award 2007

Take a look at the girl in pink on the cover of The Secret Island. The first time she has bare arms and the later cover her top has long sleeves. On the Spiggy Holes cover both the boys’ backpacks change colour. Mountain has Ranni’s (or is it Pilescu’s?) gun change into a walking stick. I can’t see any changes to Killimooin, but the moon has been moved on Moon Castle.

And the last Armada lot have covers by Val Biro, the author and illustrator of the Gumdrop the Vintage Car series. I used a copy of The Secret Island from this set to do the comparison against the original.

All Award 2009

These are quite nice covers, I think. They are not too modern or cartoony. The only flaw is this is when they renamed The Secret of Killimooin to The Secret Forest!

When five become four

The latest versions for the series are from 2016. They are by Hodder and have covers by Sarah Warburton. The obvious thing about this set is that there is one book missing! The Secret Mountain has not been republished, and probably won’t be again until Blyton’s work enters the public domain in 2038.

All Hodder 2016

While these are quite striking with their greyscale textured backgrounds I’m not sure they’re a great fit for the series. They make the books seem quite dark and depressing, which they are not. In addition, The Secret Island looks like an epic about children lost at sea, while Spiggy Holes could be mistaken for a sci-fi adventure about a wormhole.

Choice of scene

What I think is always interesting is looking to see if the covers feature the same scenes. On the whole, these do.

The Secret Series has 8/9 books with children in a boat, Spiggy Holes sees 6/9 covers of children shining torches up cave-stairs (and two of boys climbing ropes), and 8/9 Moon Castle books have the children outside with torches.

Mountain has a bit more variety, but 5/8 covers still have the children walking/climbing towards/up the mountain. Killimooin/Forest has 5/8 covers of the children on horses though on different parts of their journey so they look more unique.

So, what covers do you like? My favourites are, of course, the originals, (though it’s a pity there is such a variety of looks in just five books), yet I have a certain fondness for the first Armada set too.

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Happy Valentine’s Day

Romance is rare in Enid Blyton’s books. I can’t think of many scenes or plots that lend themselves to romance or love. There are lots of married parents, of course, but few weddings.

Bill and Aunt Allie get married, of course, between The Ship of Adventure and The Circus of Adventure. Although seeing as Bill’s idea of a proposal is saying so what about it, Allie? when Lucy-Ann suggests they wed, I’m not sure we can call it a true romance. They are very fond of each other, though.

Mary Mouse has a brief courtship with a gardener mouse in Hallo, Little Mary Mouse.

Melisande and Jane appear to have a bit of a crush on a well-to-do local boy with a beautiful horse and Jane even goes to the bother of washing and dressing more neatly to impress him.

We’ve injected a bit of romance into our fan fiction covering what Julian Kirrin, Sally Hope and Darrell Rivers got up to after the events of the Famous Five and Malory Towers.

You can find part one here, and part two here.

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Noddy loses his clothes, artwork by Gina Parr

While searching for information on who steals Noddy’s clothes in one of the books (for the latest search terms post) I stumbled upon something a bit random and surprising. Now that’s not that uncommon with the amount of stuff on the internet, but I thought this was worth a post.

Noddy loses his clothes

Noddy loses his clothes is a painting by an abstract artist called Gina Parr.

The piece is from a series called Major New Dramas, and according to the Riseart website where I found it listed for sale, the series is partly inspired by Parr’s previous work as a designer for TV.

Noddy loses his clothes in particular is based on the a childhood memory of a Noddy story where he is left vulnerable and alone in the woods, having had his clothes stolen. Parr has said that those are feelings that commonly return to us all as adults, at some point in our lives.

The information above is only available on a cached version of the site found here (for how long, I don’t know.) The current Riseart page doesn’t explain the inspiration for the piece.

The specifics

The painting is acrylic on canvas and is 1.2 metres by 1.2 metres, so quite large. It’s actually from 2007 so it’s not even new, just a little bit obscure perhaps!

Here’s what it looks like:

What do I think?

It’s not what I expected from the title. I can see a tree in the middle, a great dark one with branches reaching up, and trees in the background. Beyond that, though, I’m not great at interpreting abstract works. It’s certainly dark and scary. It’s not a sunny warm woodland scene with flowers and cute animals. There are may be shadowy figures and faces hiding amongst the branches. The orange and white stripes sort of suggest a lot of movement? Like blurry creatures rushing around. On a second look maybe the orange is actually sunlight filtering through the trees? (This is why I’m not the biggest fan of abstract art – I like to know what I’m looking at!)

I can sort of see the inspiration from the Noddy scene (from Here Come Noddy Again), but it isn’t the sort of piece that has an instantly recognisable connection to Noddy let alone a specific book. If someone was asked to guess what the painting was of I wouldn’t be surprised if they said a nightmare in the woods, but I doubt they would ever get Noddy. There’s no (that I can see) suggestion of clothing, Noddy’s colours of red and blue, Toyland, Blyton…

Related link⇒ Here Comes Noddy Again – How has Blyton’s text fared in a modern edition?

But then art isn’t always about showing us what we recognise. This piece is clearly about an individual’s memory of that story and much more about the emotions of the story than what it actually looked like.

Below: the original artwork for the story, and the modern version with the gollies changed to goblins. Both feature dark trees in the background.

here comes noddy again

I love seeing anything inspired by Blyton because it shows how big an impact she had on the children that read her books.

One last thing

The price of the painting is £4,550. Ouch. Or you can rent it for £342 a month if you’d prefer.

What do you think of it?

Apologies for the brevity of the post but Brodie is full of the cold and gaining about six new teeth at the moment. Sleep is rather lacking, and with a new bathroom going in time is short.

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Monday #256

A piece of Noddy artwork


Secret Series covers

The Second Form at St Clare’s is not, as the title suggests, the second book in the St Clare’s series. Rather, it is the fourth. After three books focussing on the first form Pat and Isabel O’Sullivan have finally moved into the second form. There’s a new form mistress and a new drama teacher and, in a plot point that is echoed in Fifth Form at Malory Towers, two girls have been left down from the previous second form. These two, Elsie and Anna, become co-heads of the form and along with new girl Mirabel provide a starting point for arguments and bad feeling. Besides that there’s the usual tricks and jokes from Bobby and Carlotta, midnight feasts, a concert and lacrosse.

Well we’ve had Mr Twiddle, so how about poor old Mrs Twiddle? She’s the one who returns to a disaster in her home most days, and has to pick up the pieces from whatever mess her silly husband has gotten himself into. I feel sorry for her, but then again she’s clearly spent many decades enabling him to be so useless!

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Five Go Off in a Caravan

Five Go Off in a Caravan is the fifth Famous Five book. The Five are a well-established group now and they had their first non-Kirrin adventure in the last book, Five Go to Smuggler’s Top. This time they go off in two caravans, not a caravan as the title suggests, and find themselves embroiled in another adventure (naturally).

Why caravans?

Well, why not caravans? I mean apart from the lack of space, the lack of amenities, the shaking every time someone walks around… (I actually loved [static] caravan holidays as a child – my parents don’t seem to look back so fondly, though).

The Five get the idea for a caravan holiday when a circus goes past – on its way for a short break between performances – and the brightly coloured caravans look an appealing way to travel.

It’s too hot for walking, Anne can’t cycle as fast as the others and a hotel would mean too many adults. George doesn’t want to go to Kirrin as she was home at half-term and Father was just beginning one of his experiments – and you know what that means. If we go there we’d have to walk about on tiptoe, and talk in whispers, and keep out of his way the whole time.

Anne adds that she likes Uncle Quentin but she’s afraid of him when he’s in a temper. This is more like the Uncle Quentin we normally expect, rather than the suddenly interested one we got at the start of Five Go to Smuggler’s Top.

So caravans it is! They are not quaint and brightly coloured circus-style caravans though. They are shiny modern, streamlined, ones which can be pulled by horse or car.

Each van had a little chimney, long, narrow windows down the two sides, and tiny ones in the front by the driver’s seat. There was a broad door at the back and two steps down. Pretty curtains fluttered at the open windows.

There are bunks along the side, a sink with running water, a proper stove and a gadget for heating water. Though, as we would expect, the Five spend most of their time cooking and washing outside anyway!

Their days in the caravans are a typical Blyton idyll, meandering down lanes in glorious weather stopping only to eat and camp for the night. They stop at farms along the way for supplies and to get permission to camp, and it’s after four or five days’ travel that they catch up with the circus.

The circus

Blyton loved her circuses and wrote them into several of her series as well as basing whole books on them.

Related post⇒ The Circus of Adventure

I love Blyton’s circuses as she paints a warm and loving community who all look after each other and live comfortable yet exciting lives. Ok so it’s probably a far cry from the reality of the situation, but not all fiction has to be gritty and realistic.

The caravans were set round in a wide circle. Tents had been put up here and there. The big elephant was tied by a thick rope to a stout tree. Dogs ran about everywhere, and a string of shining horses were being paraded round a large field nearby.

Most of the camp is jolly and friendly. There’s Nobby who they saw when the circus passed, his terriers Barker and Growler and Pongo the chimpanzee. Then there’s Larry and Old Lady the elephant who plays cricket, more terriers that play football and Rossy with his horses including Black Queen and Fury. Not to mention Lucilla and her troupe of monkeys.

But then, of course, there is the darker element of Tiger Dan and Lou.

Tiger Dan and Lou the acrobat

Dan is Nobby’s uncle (well, later Nobby reveals he’s just the man his parents had asked to look after him before they died). We first see him driving his caravan past the children at the start of the book. Nobby points him out and says he’s the chief clown.

The children stared at the chief clown, and thought that they had never seen anyone less like a clown. He was dressed in dirty grey flannel trousers and a dirty red shirt open at an equally dirty neck. He didn’t look as if he could make a single joke, or do anything in the least funny. In fact, he looked really bad tempered, the children thought, and he scowled so fiercely that Anne felt quite scared.

Later Anne says she just can’t imagine Dan as a clown because clowns are always so merry and gay and jolly. Dick points out that it’s just an act, and that a clown needn’t be the same out of the ring as he has to be when he’s in it. If you look at photographs of clowns when they’re just being ordinary men, they’ve got quite sad faces. I love Dick’s insight there. I wonder how Blyton would make of modern-day performers and celebrities who have to be ‘on’ all the time.

Dan is worse than just sad, however, according to Nobby:

He’s worse than a tiger when he’s in a temper. They call him Tiger Dan because of his rages.

Lou the acrobat isn’t much better.

Lou was a long-limbed, loose-jointed fellow with a ugly face, and a crop of black shining hair that curled tightly.

He too is bad-tempered, scowling and unfriendly. He sees the children and comes over to ask what they’re doing messing around. He calls them posh (as an insult!) and tries to kick Timmy before threatening that he has ways of dealing with bad dogs.

Related post⇒My top three baddies

Julian had already made up his mind to have as little to do with this pair as possible but Lou and Dan run into them – literally – that night.

They are chatting in the night (a distance from the circus – that’s a mark of suspicion against them already) and walk straight into the girls’ caravan in the dark.

They are not best pleased to find out the children are so close and tell them to clear out in quite a nasty stand-off.

Those who have read this book before will know that Lou and Dan are up to some illegal doings, which of course the Five get caught up in. They clearly hate anyone ‘snooping’ around their camp and thus want rid of them, but they should have been careful what they wished for…

Are they coming or going?

So Lou and Dan are keen for the children to clear out, and clear out they do. There’s no point in staying where they aren’t wanted and aggravating the situation.

They head up into the hills – though Lou and Dan expect them to be travelling on past the hills – and on the advice of the farmer they set up camp in a shady hollow which is complete with a burbling spring and a lovely view of the lake.

Incidentally, Julian had always planned to camp away from circus in case it was noisy or smelly.

After a hot and lazy day they decide to go down for a swim in the evening and lo and behold, bump into Lou and Dan half-way down the hill. The men enquire whereabouts they are camping and suggest it’s better back down at the bottom of the hill. How curious, considering how keen they were to get rid just the day before.

On their way back up – with Nobby – they discover Lou and Dan are hanging around their caravans. They two men are trying to be amiable – and warn them they want to exercise some animals in the area so the children would be better off moving. In fact, they even say they can come and camp back by the lake! What a change of attitude.

“Yes, you come,” said Tiger Dan to the children’s growing astonishment. “You come, see? You can bathe in the lake every day, then – and Nobby here can show you round the camp, and you can make friends with all the animals, see?”

Nobby has already told the children he was beaten for talking to strangers so he is just as shocked. When he expresses his amazement Dan roars at him to shut up before Lou reminds him with a nudge to be friendly.

Julian sees through this performance though and says You’ve got other reasons for making all those suggestions. George is adamant she’s not moving her caravan for anyone. And so, they stay.

Things start happening

The four children have a lovely day playing around the circus but discover than Tiger Dan often disappears at night (suspicious marker #2) and has a cart which is often full of secret things and is sometimes half-empty (suspicious marker #3).

Timmy, meanwhile, has been left to guard the caravans and is barking madly when they return that evening. Nobby, Barker, Growler and Pongo are with them, and Barker eats some raw meat that’s been left out. When he takes ill they realise the meat has been poisoned, which is why Timmy and Pongo wouldn’t go near it.

But who would try to poison Timmy? Could it be Dan and Lou who clearly want the children out of that hollow and were conveniently missing from the circus camp all day?

Highly suspicious of Dan and Lou, Julian comes up with a plan to find out why they are so interested in their camp. After shouting to Nobby that they’re all off to town for they day they board a bus. Julian gets off at the next stop and doubles back, hiding himself on top of one of the caravans.

After a time Dan and Lou show up and – for some unfathomable reason – go underneath the caravan Julian is on. Then they start pushing the caravan towards the edge of the hill.

Do they push it right over? Does Julian plummet to his tragic death?

Considering this is an Enid Blyton book and there are another seventeen books in the series the answers are most likely to be no, but it’s a tense moment all the same.

Come back next week to read the rest of my review!

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January 2019 round up

What I have read

I have set a new target of 100 books for 2019. I haven’t started out very well, though. I got quite a few books for my Christmas but I haven’t started any of them yet. I’m doing that thing where I suddenly worry I won’t like them after all and so put off reading them. So I’ve read 5 when I should have read 8, putting me 3 books behind schedule!

What I have managed to read is:

  • The Drums of Autumn (Outlander #4) – Diana Gabaldon
  • The Undomestic Goddess – Sophie Kinsella
  • No Waste Like Home – Penney Poyzer
  • The Steam-Pump Jump (The Chronicles of St Mary’s #9.6) – Jodi Taylor
  • The Illustrated Mum – Jacqueline Wilson

And I’ve still to finish:

  • The Diary of a Bookseller – Shaun Bythell
  • The Fiery Cross (Outlander #5) – Diana Gabaldon
  • Hetty Feather (Hetty Feather #1) – Jacqueline Wilson

So you can see I have picked up another 1,400+ page Outlander (borrowed from the library) instead of tackling my to-read pile at home. I also borrowed Too Much Information by Dave Gorman as I love his Modern Life is Goodish but haven’t opened it yet. And I’ve been recommended the Thursday Next series by Jasper Fforde, but I’m refusing to even think about borrowing the first one until I’ve made headway on the pile by the sofa.

What I have watched

  • Hollyoaks
  • More Cbeebies
  • Only Connect
  • Call the Midwife‘s latest series
  • Back in Time for School
  • Sinner on Netflix
  • Tidying Up with Marie Kondo also on Netflix

What I have done

  • Finalized the details of my new bathroom
  • Started bullet journaling (we will see how that pans out…)
  • Made our usual visits to the park, our local zoo and rhyme time at the library
  • I’ve not mentioned this before but since November I’ve been following The Organised Mum Method for housework. Honestly, my house has never looked better.
  • Inspired by Marie Kondo I’ve also done a bit of clearing out. I’ve tackled my jewellery so far. I find it so hard though as I hate sending thing to landfill. I will give what I can to charity, but I still struggle with ‘wasting’ anything.

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Monday #255


January round up


Five Go Off in a Caravan

“Who is he, Jack? Who is the prisoner?” cried Nora impatiently.

“Well,” said Jack, turning to them, “he has just spelt out on his fingers that he is Prince Paul!”

Jack gives the others some surprising news in The Secret of Spiggy Holes. 

Five Go Off in a Caravan (which I mean to review this week) is the fourth book in the Famous Five series. This time they leave Kirrin for a caravanning holiday and end up embroiled in a fight with two unpleasant circus-folk who have an bizarre obsession with the ground directly under the boys’ caravan.

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This Is Enid Blyton Magazine

In December 2018 a new magazine came out, all about Enid Blyton. It was a one-off, as part of a This Is series of magazines each of which has a different topic. The series has been published by DC Thomson – home of The Beano, The Broons, Oor Wullie and many more – who have their headquarters in my home town, Dundee.

At £4.99 it’s almost the price of a children’s book, but then I’ve noticed that all magazines are extortionate these days. Children’s ones in particular seem to all be at least £5 – proclaiming they come with free gifts. No, your price includes the piece of plastic tat! Saying that, the free gifts with this magazine are of decent value, and there are four of them!

About the magazine

The exciting adventures of The Famous Five and the mysteries of The Secret Seven feature in this one-off special magazine, celebrating the escapades of Enid Blyton’s best-loved characters.

Aimed at children aged 7-12, the 36-page magazine includes engaging features, quizzes, recipes and puzzles, a Famous Five mini mag with writing tips, stories and a how to draw Timmy section.

The magazine comes with four fantastic free gifts including pencils, stickers, an extra puzzle magazine, and a full Secret Seven book.

– From DC Thomson’s press release

Flip ‘n’ Twist

No, that’s not some sort of new-fangled dance move. This magazine has two parts, and two front covers. One front cover is Famous Five themed. Then if you flip the magazine over, and twist it 180 degrees, there’s another front cover with the Secret Seven on it.

The Famous Five side is the ‘real’ front cover as it has the barcode on it. Inside it explains this is a twist ‘n’ flip (note the swapping of the words) magazine and instructs readers to turn your magazine upside down and flip it over to meet The Secret Seven. So are we turning and flipping? Twisting and turning? Who knows…

The Famous Five half

Well, of course I started there!

For the most part this is quite standard fare – nothing we haven’t seen before in the Famous Five Annuals from 2014, 2015 and 2016 for example.

We have Meet the Famous Five, a simple board game with challenges/questions, and how to draw Timmy. I’m almost tempted to have a go at that last one just to give you all a laugh. There’s a mention of drawing his dainty paws, which doesn’t sound Timmy-like at all.  But actually this version of Timmy does have stupidly tiny feet, I’ve just never noticed before. I was probably too busy looking at the human characters’ never changing clothes.

The 2019 adventure goals were interesting. Some were great, easy and cheap ways to get children active. Some of the others are more problematic. Bike ride? Well, I can’t ride and bikes aren’t cheap. I sense parents are going to be driven mad with requests to camp in the garden, build a raft, visit a circus, go horse riding, ice skating… Only £4.99 for a magazine and potentially hundreds of pounds to tick all the boxes!

There is a competition for story writing, where you can submit any Famous Five based story or use their story prompts. By rolling a dice etc you get a character, their skill, an enemy, a location/mystery and an ending. Mine was:

Dr Pottersworth, the absent-minded professor

He can pick a lock in seconds.

Facing a super-spy, who could be anyone.

The old farmhouse was empty for the holidays. So why is a light signalling from the windows?

You save Christmas, hurrah!

Unfortunately they didn’t quite think it through when setting this up. To follow step 5’s instructions you’d have cut out letters to pick out of a bowl and that would cut up part of the entry form on the other side of the page!

I was a bit baffled by the ‘pull-out’ section at first as it just looked like it was stapled in the wrong way around. It’s been a long time since I’ve read children’s magazines so maybe this is common now but I’m not sure why it’s a ‘selling point’ or even useful to have to pull out the centre pages to read an article. (Different if it formed a poster or wall chart etc).

There are some interesting facts on the pull out nonetheless.

Enid kept a red Moroccan shawl near by as she wrote because she believed the colour red helped her to write – I hadn’t heard that before. Her stay at Seckford Hall with it’s haunted room isn’t often mentioned.

Despite being more Five Find-Outers than Famous Five invisible ink gets a mention. First up is white crayon gone over with a highligher pen (very modern!). Then there’s the more traditional lemon juice and heat, though only with an adult’s assistance (so not at all secret then!)

The Secret Seven half

I may be biased but I feel this half is not as good as the first. Meet the Seven is probably necessary but feels repetitive after meeting the Five. There’s a flow chart game instead of a board game and a guide to make a map. Then there’s some (in my opinion) highly unscientific claptrap about deducing personalities from handwriting.

Perhaps why I feel this part is not as good is there are two recipes which are lifted – illustrations and all – directly from Jolly Good Food by Allegra McEvedy  though no credit is given. Having already seen them, it reduces the ‘new’ content for me.

Then there’s an interview with Pamela Butchart (who is also from Dundee) about writing the new Secret Seven book.


There are plenty of opportunities for the reader to draw and write their own ideas scattered through the magazine. As a child I’m sure I loved that sort of thing but as an adult I have an irrational need to keep the magazine neat and fresh. Plus my drawing is shameful!

There are also quite a few puzzles included which would make the reading last longer.

There are refreshingly few adverts (adult magazines seem 90% adverts these day, maybe children’s ones are generally lighter on the ad-front). One is for other DC Thompson magazines and the other is for the new Favourite Enid Blyton Stories book.

The freebies

The first Secret Seven book, illustrated and all. It’s a cheap one (you can tell it’s a magazine freebie) but still a whole novel. I intend to use mine to compare the text to the original.

Pencils with phrases on, these are nice as they don’t scream ‘modernised and strange-looking Famous Five’.

Stickers – these are OK if you like the latest incarnation.

Secret Seven brain games. This is about the same size as the magazine itself. (It can’t be turned upside down/back to front though). This has all sorts of puzzles in it. There are several codes to learn/crack including Morse. There is spot the difference, fill in the blanks, word searches, mazes and more. On the back is an advert for a Secret Seven Brain Games with 100 fun puzzles available from Amazon so I assume this is an extract intending to drive sales.

Final thoughts

I think it’s unfortunate that the title is confusing. When discussing this with fellow Blyton fans I saw it referred to as Flip N Twist Magazine, This Is Magazine and a few people thought this might be a series of magazines about Enid Blyton.

It is clearly aimed at children who are reasonably new to The Famous Five and Secret Seven. All the way through it has artwork by Laura Ellen Anderson and Tony Ross (plus Mark Beech on the recipes). Anderson first appeared on Famous Five covers in 2017, while Tony Ross has done internal and external work for the Secret Seven since 2013. These children (assuming they’ve been bought new copies and are not reading hand-me-downs from previous eras) will recognise and be familiar with these incarnations of the children.

I would have liked to see more variety, both in illustrations and series/characters. It could have been half mystery/adventure and half school stories for example.

If it was a slimmer magazine and had less freebies I think this would have made a great monthly publication. It packs a lot in but it’s a bit ‘samey’ with the content and style.

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Search terms 8

I like doing posts about our search terms so much here’s the 8th one for you!

Good questions

Can you read Famous Five in any order? > You can, as each story is complete in itself – Blyton says this in several of her notes to readers at the start of each book. In my opinion it’s better to read them in order, though, to appreciate them fully. The children grow up during the series and a few characters appear more than once.

related post ⇒ Putting the Famous Five in order

Where was The Mystery of the Burnt Cottage setting? > It is set in Peterswood which is loosely based on Bourne End.

What islands are in Sea of Adventure by Enid Blyton? > The Islands aren’t named (other than by the children who nickname them) but they are in the north of Scotland.

Who stole Noddy’s cothes in the hobgoblin wood? > Well, I’m struggling to find reference to Hobgoblin wood specifically. In Here Comes Noddy Again he goes into the Dark Woodand has his clothes and car stolen. The original text features golliwogs, the modern reprints have changed this to goblins. It could be that a TV episode based on this story named the wood as Hobgoblin Wood, and I would then suspect goblins of being the guilty party.

Why is Big Ears called Mr Squeaks in America? > I don’t know the answer to this, but it’s a good question! Lots of things get renamed for the American market. The Island of Adventure, for example, is Mystery Island over there.

Which Blyton book sees George in bed on Christmas day not being able to eat? and George in the Enid Blyton book says imagine not being able to eat on Christmas day and being in bed which book was this from? > This person was interested enough to ask twice! Five Get Into a Fix has Dick say something about how that Christmas was the worst they’d ever had as they’d spent it in bed not being able to eat. That’s why they get sent off to Magga Glen in the new year, to recover.

Where does Uncle Quentin live? > Mostly in his study at Kirrin Cottage.

What typeface is on the cover of Enid Blyton’s Famous Five books? > There are different fonts on just about every edition.

Advantages and disadvantages of shoe house described in Magic Faraway Tree > This is a hypothetical question, I assume. I think it would depend if it was a waterproof shoe or a holey old trainer! One advantage might be that you could make it walk somewhere else if your neighbours started annoying you. A disadvantage might be if a giant came along and stole your home to keep his foot warm.

What would Peter from the secret seven look like? > I’m not sure Peter (or any of the Seven are described in great detail). I know he would be neat and tidy (unless in the middle of dressing as a guy or crawling around caves) and he would have a bossy and leaderish expression on his face.

Strange Questions

Answer of the story the blue shoes for party by Enid Blyton. What’s the question?

Explain Timmy character in famous five novel. He’s a dog.

Difficult words in the book Claudine at Saint Clare’s. What difficult words? Unfamiliar ones because they are no longer used, such as galoshes or sou’wester? (probably not those but I couldn’t think of better examples that might be in a school book). Or long-and-complicated?

Why is The Mountain of Adventure a good book? Read it and find out!

Summary of The Mystery of Pantomime at Railway Station. Is this an as-yet undiscovered Five Find Outers’ book?

Five Findouters fat shaming. Fat-shaming just wasn’t a thing when Blyton was writing.

A dog in a parishute alown. I assume this is meant to read a dog in a parachute alone. I’m still not sure what that has to do with Enid Blyton, though. That’s not the searcher’s fault, of course. To my knowledge, before today, we have never used parishute (a parish parachute?) or alown on the blog!

Proper book review on Secret Seven first book. What makes a proper review? Or indeed, what makes an improper one?

Famous Five 14 Kirrin Cottage. This looks like a street address, but Kirrin Cottage isn’t a street/block of flats. The 14th book – Five Have Plenty of Fun – is set in Kirrin and Kirrin Cottage, perhaps that’s what they meant?

Milly Molly Mandy books Enid Blyton. The Milly Molly Mandy books are actually by Joyce Lankester Brisley. This search leads to the blog, though, because I’ve suggested that you might like the Milly Molly Mandy books if you like Enid Blyton.

milly molly mandy

The Famous Five Fanfiction Anne injured and The Famous Five Fanfiction Anne hurt. I’m not sure if this person is thinking of a particular story they’ve read or heard of, or just really want to read a story about Anne getting hurt. We’ve previously had searches for Anne being kidnapped in fan fiction.

Famous Five without Timmy. What would the Famous Five be without Timmy?? Well, they wouldn’t be Five, for one. And they probably wouldn’t be famous because they’d have failed to get out of many a sticky situation without Timmy’s fierce protectiveness.

Why did Enid Blyton write firework night? Enid Blyton wrote about lots of different subjects, about anything that took her fancy. Sometimes it was just subjects she was interested in, other times she hoped to reach out to her readers to educate them. She was very devoted to animal welfare so it make sense that she would write this poem to educate children about keeping their pets safe on bonfire night.

Enid Blyton Frederick Arnold Trotter. So close! It still spells FAT… but his middle name is Algernon and his last name is Trotteville. And that leads us neatly to the last section:

That’s not her name

Enid Blyton seems such a difficult name to get right!

Small poem in English Enid Bliyon and their summary. I suppose this sounds similar if you’re someone who doesn’t clearly pronounce their Ts.

Enid Baytown movies and tv shows. I checked, there’s no hits for anyone called Enid Baytown on Google, except for one where the person is clearly also talking about Enid Blyton!

Craggy Tops Enid Bluton. Nope.


Enud Blyton films. Still nope.

This Is Magazine Euid Blyton and This is Euid Blyton Magazine. Putting the title in a different order doesn’t turn a U into an N.

It’s Raining poem by Enid Blighton. Real poem, not a real author.

An obsession with spanking?

There’s almost always a few searches about spanking (or spankijgs which I assume is just a typo!).

Amelia Jane first edition spankijg

Spanking in Blyton’s books

There we go, that’s some of what people wanted to know about recently!

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Monday #254

Enid Blyton search terms part 8


This Is Enid Blyton Magazine

The Rat-a-Tat Mystery is the fifth Barney mystery. This one has the children staying at Rat-a-Tat house in the middle of the country. It is even more isolated at the time of the book due to prolonged heavy snow. The lion’s head door knocker bangs (or rats) when no-one is there. Strange footprints have been made in the snow. A snowman goes walk-about. A face appears at the window. A mysterious glove, too large for any of the children, is found outside.

This is not one of the best Barney Mysteries – it comes rather late in Blyton’s writing career – but it has some good moments still. Snubby’s bear-fight with some crooks is a particular highlight for me.

the rat a tat mystery

The character of the week does not have to be a nice character, a character we like or look up to. It doesn’t even have to be the sort of character we love to hate. It can be someone we just hate because they are awful. Aunt Margaret from Hollow Tree House is one who can only be hated. She has taken in her husband’s niece and nephew (Peter and Susan Frost) as their parents have died. She does not, however, show them any kindness or sympathy. In a similar situation to the Arnold children, she has Peter and Susan slave around the house whenever they are not at school. They do not have nice things or get to go nice places. They are harangued, accused, slapped, guilt-tripped and scolded whenever Aunt Margaret is within reach. She truly resents the children and the additional ‘work’ they make for her. With a work-shy husband her life cannot be easy but it’s no excuse for the vicious way she treats the orphans in her home.

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The Adventure Series covers through the years part 2

Last week I wrote a great deal about the Stuart Tresilian covers for this series. In my defence there are three different covers for six of the books and two for the other two. That’s twenty-two different designs!

Anyway, after the Tresilians we launch into a wider variety of paperback covers so let’s get stuck in.

A battalion of Armadas

As with quite a few series the first paperback editions of the Adventure Series were published by Armada. (A quick check tells me this applies to the Secret Series, The Five Find-Outers, The Naughtiest Girl, The Adventurous Four, St Clare’s, The Barney Mysteries, Malory Towers… and more.)

First up there are Armada covers for Circus and River (by Mary Gernat and Peter Archer, respectively). These were done six years after the Thames editions, which missed these titles. I assume Armada ‘filled the gap’ with these two editions before they went on to reprint the whole series in 1969/70.

The font for Circus makes me think of old westerns but it’s similar to the font used by Merlin on some of the Galliano’s circus books so it must be a circus-font. The cover for River reminds me of the Armada cover for The Secret Island as it is a similar colour and has a similar scene with a boat.

related post⇒ My childhood books part 3

The full series of Armada covers are actually uncredited I have no idea if they were by the same uncredited or several uncredited artists.

Island’s cover strikes me as pretty similar to the cloth cover on the Macmillan edition, the Castle one is not too dissimilar either. I had Valley and Sea in these editions so I instantly identify with their look and think fondly of the stories within.

Ship and River are rather alike, enough that they could be confused at first glance (in fact I did confuse them when looking at thumbnails!) – Ship could have had the cruise ship more prominent. I think the one for Circus looks more like it should be a Famous Five cover – perhaps for Five Go Off in a Caravan. It doesn’t really suggest ‘circus’ to me at all.

The rare Piccolo examples

I don’t know how rare these editions are, but Piccolo is rare as an Enid Blyton publisher. They did the whole Adventure Series once in 1975, and the only other Blyton books I can even see mention of as having Piccolo editions are The Christmas Book, Birds of Our Gardens, two of the five books about Josie, Click and Bun and The Three Golliwogs.

The Piccolo Adventure Series covers are all by Juliet Stanwell-Smith. I find them a bit pale and wishy-washy both in terms of the colour scheme and the languid poses of the children. What’s strange about the  children as well is how tall and thin they look! Some of the scenes used are quite boring, too. Looking at a map in a cabin on a ship doesn’t give any sense of the adventure they’re embroiled in.

They also feature that odd combo of long sleeves with (very short) shorts. I think they do give a 70s vibe but it’s not over the top.

The Repetition of Adventure

One thing I’ve noticed is how often a cover image is re-used. Sometimes they’re entirely reused but made darker/brighter/more blue, or have a different font for the title. Other times they are cropped and used alongside frames, lines and text.

Macmillan did the next two editions for the series, using the same cover image with different text. These covers are by Pamela Goodchild and the children are dressed in 80s fashion, with jeans and bright t-shirts.

Not long after that, Piper published a paperback edition, with covers by Peter Mannim which Macmillan then used on their hardbacks (I wonder if Piper and Macmillan are linked, somehow, like Hachette and Hodder).

These are very obviously of the 90s with jeans, trainers and big puffy jackets!

In between those two sets of repeating covers were another set by Piper with covers by Lynne Willey.

They all had the logo of Kiki beside the titles, and are generally bold and distinctly 80s.

The super modern

Just like the Famous Five books, the Adventure Series then has some crackingly weird covers. While the Famous Five (Hodder) had the children from the waist up making strange facial expressions, Macmillan have gone with extreme facial close ups for this run of editions. In some cases we don’t even get a whole face. They tell you almost nothing about the book other than there’s one child wearing a hood or in water. They all seem to be set in the dead of night and I assume the black background is meant to be dramatic? The artist is Larry Ronstant and he is a digital artist who has done some impressive covers for famous books. Perhaps unsurprisingly these ones don’t feature on his website gallery!

Sticking with the black-and-dramatic theme (and Macmillan), the next lot have the children looking strained/confused and as if they’re not even all in the same place. This is below the title, which is filled with an image related to the story. The artwork is by Melvyn Grant who has moved from oil paints etc to digital painting. I wish I could see the original work that was then turned into a cover, as I’ve seen that some of the original Famous Five illustrations were much better in their original form.

The top inch or so of the book is entirely blank, yet the children’s legs and feet are cut off at the bottom. They always make me think of Shipwrecked (The reality TV show) – well, Island really does, but the rest have a reality TV likeness too.

I mean The Isle of Gloom is not a tropical island!

The newest full series

At the time of writing the most recent set of covers were by Rebecca Cobb for Macmillan in 2014.

I don’t dislike these exactly, but I do think they are a bit childish both in terms of style/skill and who they look like they are aimed at. This sort of style better suits books for younger children, fantasy/magical books in particular.

These four are probably the best. They are quite brightly coloured and a bit ‘vague’ on detail but they capture the general settings of the books.

And here’s where it gets silly. I don’t remember any part of The Mountain of Adventure featuring a volcano? I mean how is Bill Smugs meant to land his helicopter on top of the flat-topped mountain when it’s suddenly all craggy and spurting lava?

Related post⇒ My top 11 Adventure Series moments

Ship’s not so bad except for the extremely crude smoke coming from the funnel. I actually like the bright colours on Circus as they are entirely fitting, unfortunately the scale is rather off and there’s no way all those tents and vehicles could fit so closely. I also seem to recall horse (and possibly elephant) drawn cages and not modern lorries…

And one last one

Like Five on a Treasure Island, as the first in the series The Island of Adventure got more reprints than the rest. Only two more rather than over a dozen, but still.

The most recent cover of all is the last for The Island of Adventure and it’s a repeating-motif one.

Which is your favourite style of cover? (You can admit it if it’s not a Tresilian one, I understand the power of nostalgia!)

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Five Go to Smuggler’s Top part 3: a focus on Uncle Quentin

Unlike the 70s TV series in the books Uncle Quentin doesn’t turn up at the end of every adventure (only a slight exaggeration) to resolve everything. Normally he is to be found skulking around Kirrin Cottage slamming doors and shouting when other people are noisy. I have reviewed the book in general in two parts, here and here but I wanted to have a look at how Uncle Quentin is portrayed and what we learn about him as he has perhaps his largest role so far in Five Go to Smuggler’s Top.

Uncle Quentin in the first three books

Uncle Quentin will have a big role in Five on Kirrin Island Again but isn’t for another two books yet.

He’s only had a handful of important scenes so far in the series – selling Kirrin Island and putting George in her place about it, catching them throwing the wreck’s box out the window (and sleeping through the retrieval) and promising the children whatever they want at the end of the first book. He is present in Five Go Adventuring Again; mostly arguing with George and even accusing her of damaging and stealing things from his study. He is also briefly in the start and end of Five Run Away Together. This is the first book where he’s really integral to the plot and not just an interfering adult.

related post ⇒Blyton’s Fathers

A new role for Uncle Quentin

I suspect Blyton tries to ‘ingratiate’ Quentin to us from early on in this book, almost priming him for this new role by including him more, and having him be a little kinder now and again.

When the Five first arrive in Kirrin Aunt Fanny informs them that Uncle Quentin plans to do very little work these hols and join the children on walks instead. This is completely the opposite of what we would expect. It does him good to have a bit of young life around him she says. The children are not convinced, and with good reason based on his behaviour in previous books. Julian privately thinks that Uncle Quentin has no sense of humour and they will be bored stiff all round. George says that Father doesn’t mean to, but he does spoil things, somehow and Anne’s opinion is that He’s not very good at laughing. He’s too serious.

Uncle Quentin himself says I’m quite glad your mother and father are away, Anne, because now we shall have you all here once again!  This is rather laughable based on his much he hates the house being full of children, normally, and the fact that that very evening he roars Shut that door, one of you! How can I work with that noise going on! because a door is banging upstairs. His first statement does, however, serve as a way to mention why they can’t go to Anne’s home after the tree disaster.

Similarly he stays in the lounge earlier that evening, though his inability to play card games means that nobody bothers to start a game. His presence gives Blyton a chance to bring Sooty into a conversation and introduce him to the reader, but I do think it’s also a part of including him more in preparation for later.

Continue reading

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