Enid Blyton for Halloween?

I’m sure I’ve said this before, but Enid Blyton didn’t really do Halloween. She wrote about most other holidays, but Halloween perhaps wasn’t a big thing in Britain when she was writing. Despite that, here are some Halloween-themed Blyton things!


Books

Hodder have tried to cash in with three sets of short story collections. None of them say Halloween, but it’s clear they are in that theme.

Stories of Wizards and Witches came first in September 2017, then Stories of Magic and Mischief in September 2018, and then Tales of Tricks and Treats in September of this year. All just in time for Halloween!

Broomstick rides and bubbling cauldrons, Perfect for sharing at Halloween, and Who will be on the receiving end of a trick, and who will win out with a treat? are just a few of the phrases used to describe these books so nobody can deny they’re trying to link them to Halloween.


Costumes

Children have been dressing as Enid Blyton characters for a long time, possibly less for Halloween and more for World Book Day and other literary events. I’ve seen some great Saucepan Man (and woman) costumes – I don’t want to put any in here as the photos don’t belong to me but if you Google Saucepan Man, there are lots of images.

It’s also not too hard to dress as the Famous Five or Adventure Series kids – some shorts, a shirt and pullover, a rope around your waist and you’re good to go!

I have, however, seen some official Enid Blyton costumes this year and to be honest I think you might be better making your own! There are three on Smiffys.com – Malory Towers, St Clare’s O’Sullivan Twins and Famous Five Anne, though they’re aimed at World Book Day rather than Halloween.

The Malory Towers one is probably the best as it follows the description in the book with all the brown and orange.

Your little girl can dress just like Darrel Rivers when she wears our wonderful Malory Towers Costume this World Book Day. Inspired by Enid Blyton’s series of Malory Towers books, this costume comes with a School Uniform style Brown Jacket and Skirt, with a matching Hat and Brown Book Bag also included to complete the ‘Schoolie’ look.

I’ve copied that directly from the site, so yes, they spelled Darrell wrong. This is priced at £22.99, which I suppose is cheaper than buying a brown skirt, jacket and hat specially for a costume. I bet it’s horrible synthetic fabric, though. It comes in age 7-9 and 10-12 so sadly I won’t be trying it out!

The St Clare’s one isn’t too bad either, though it is clearly modelled on a recent version of St Clare’s, most likely the 2005 Egmonts, hence the purple jumpers which don’t feature anywhere in the text.

Your Child will look like they’re enrolled in St Clares Boarding School when they wear a St Clare’s O’Sullivan Twins Costume from our Enid Blyton collection. Perfect for World Book Day, parties, even just to play around in! Our costume contains an embraided Purple Jumper, Skirt and School Tie, letting your little girl look just like Pat or Isabel.

Again, copied directly, complete with missing apostrophes, and the wonderful ’embraided’, a cross between embroidered and braided? Not to mention the awful random capitals! This is only £18.99, as it doesn’t have a hat or bag I assume. This is easier to do yourself if your school uniform already has a grey skirt. If not supermarkets do school skirts and jumpers for a few pounds (purple is a popular colour in my area for uniforms, may not be the same everywhere).

The absolute worst is the Anne costume. Although the St Clare’s one is based on a modern illustration, it’s fairly inoffensive and recognisable. Anne, however…

This is so clearly based on the Laura Ellen Anderson’s version of the Five where they wear the same outfits regardless of the book’s setting or weather. I want to know where the other three’s costumes are, if Anne is recognisable surely the rest are too?

Are you trying to find a fantastic Famous Five Costume? Well now Children dress up as Anne this World Book Day when they wear our Famous Five Anne Costume from our Enid Blyton costume collection. Great for girls, this Famous Five inspired outfit lets you look just like Anne, and includes a beautiful Blue and Red Dress, striped Tights and Headband with attached Flower.

This is £19.99, and I would happily pay you that and more if you could destroy all evidence this monstrosity ever existed. Why pick the ugliest version of Anne that ever existed? If the dress wasn’t such a clashing blue/red it might have been not so bad, but the stripy tights on top make it ridiculous.

The worst thing is, Smiffy’s are capable of reasonably period costumes – if you look at their 1940’s section there’s some decent looking stuff if you ignore the odd shiny suit! It’s also a shame there’s so little choice for Blyton costumes, when the Roald Dahl bit has several costumes for boys, girls and adults.

P.S. This isn’t a sponsored post as I don’t do those. If Smiffy’s had paid me for this, I’m pretty sure they’d want their money back!

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Monday #242

Enid Blyton at Halloween?

and

Letters to Enid part 17

Curly runned away, he runned fast!

Benny blames his pigling for leading him astray in Five Go to Billycock Hill.

The Saucy Jane Family is the second book about the Caravan Family. But in this book they abandon the caravans (which need painting) and move onto a canal boat called the Saucy Jane. They are used to cramped quarters so adjusting to life on a narrow boat isn’t too big a problem, but the fact that Ann can’t swim poses a bit of an issue. The family spend several weeks on the boat, taking a trip or two along the canal on other boats to experience life and work on the canal.

 

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The Naughtiest Girl in the School: How has Blyton’s original text fared in a modern edition?

It has been more than two years since I’ve done a text comparison (I blame Brodie!) but I was in a branch library the other week and spotted a recent paperback of The Naughtiest Girl in the School. I thought that would be perfect for comparing – not long after looking at all the different covers for the series.

I will be comparing the 1944 5th reprint by George Newnes (which should be more or less identical to the true first edition) to a 2012 edition by Hodder and Stoughton.


Before the first chapter

The first thing I notice is the book features an introduction by Cressida Cowell. I know she’s a famous author but I couldn’t tell you what she’s written as I’ve never read any of it. Ok I can tell you she wrote How to Train Your Dragon as it says so above her introduction. I think that may have been made into a film?

Anyway, Cowell says that Blyton played a crucial role in turning her into an avid reader as a child. The Naughtiest Girl in the School was one of her favourites.

The original illustrator was W. Lindsay Cable, the new version has been illustrated by Kate Hindley. At first I thought illustrated wasn’t accurate as all I had spotted was some crude vignettes above the chapter titles (a mouse, a pencil, a pencil-sharpener and an ink-bottle with beetles, repeated one at a time) but then I realised there are perhaps half a dozen full-page illustrations too.


CHAPTER I The Naughty Spoilt Girl / CHAPTER ONE THE NAUGHTY SPOILT GIRL

The first change is the chapter headings. Both have CHAPTER in capitals but the original uses what I find a slightly annoying Title Case. The 2014 edition uses all capitals. It also replaces the roman numerals with words.

Perhaps interestingly, both books use the opposite style for their contents list. The original has all capital chapter titles, and the new one has Annoying Title Case.

There aren’t any actual changes to the main text of the first chapter, however. A few things I thought might be changed but weren’t are Elizabeth’s stockings, vests and bodices. Also ink-bottle and drawing-room both in terms of being old-fashioned and having hyphens.

Illustration-wise the original has three small illustrations. Elizabeth on her mother’s lap, begging her not to send her away, Elizabeth shouting she is not afraid at Miss Scott and Elizabeth banging on the door with a book. The new edition has just the ink and beetles above the chapter title.


CHAPTER II Elizabeth goes to School / CHAPTER TWO ELIZABETH GOES TO SCHOOL

First – one of the reasons I hate title case is knowing what words are important enough to capitalise. Not the, an, it, on, at, for, and so on. But words like goes and makes look odd in small. Probably because they are longer than the words that usually get missed, though still fall under whatever rule governs capitals in title case. Apparently propositions shouldn’t get capitals – which would include beneath, under, about etc. But some guides would say all words over four letters, even if they are propositions. Ack!

OK, grammar-talk aside, there are some actual changes in this chapter.

The seccotine Elizabeth puts in Miss Scott’s shoes becomes glue. I have to admit I didn’t know what seccotine was when reading but as it says in the next sentence about Miss Scott trying to remove her toes from her sticky shoes it’s quite clear.

Good-bye is modernised to goodbye, which makes sense.

Yellow badge is corrected to yellow badges as the narrative is describing the collective uniforms of a group of boys.

Italics (shown in bold in my example) are removed from the sentence She does at least say something when spoken to.

Interestingly Ruth is still a tubby little girl half a dozen times. Given the de-fatification of Fatty in The Mystery of the Burnt Cottage I thought that would have been changed for sure.

There are two illustrations in the original edition, one of Elizabeth in her school uniform and one of her on the train. There are none in the new edition apart from the pencil-sharpener.


CHAPTER III Elizabeth makes a Bad Beginning / CHAPTER THREE ELIZABETH MAKES A BAD BEGINNING

See, how strange does that title look with a small M?

I have to admit I was starting to worry about a lack of alterations, in case this blog series turned out to be really short. But this chapter sees a lot of edits.

The first queer is in this chapter, and gets changed to strange.

As before to-day becomes today.

More italics go, this time from I had a new bicycle for my Easter present and
What did you have for Easter?

When the list of girls for Nora’s dormitory is given Joan Lesley becomes Joan Townsend. I think that’s correcting an error on Blyton’s behalf as I’m sure it’s Joan Townsend who becomes Elizabeth’s friend later in the book, and who is then in her dorm too.

As we’ve seen in other books Hie becomes Hi. And I’ll say what I’ve said before – they’re not the same word! Hi is simply hello. Hie is more like oi or hey, it’s a call to attention.

The next two changes are utterly daft.

She had only slept with Miss Scott before becomes She had only shared with Miss Scott before. And Now she was to sleep with five other girls is Now she was to share with five other girls. 

I mean, come on! Yes slept with can be a euphemism for had sex with but considering we are talking about a girl of around ten and her governess I think we can rule out that meaning. I also don’t think we need to make it clear that the six school girls are going to share a room and not have sex in it. I mean girls go for sleepovers, still, don’t they? Not shareovers.

Nora’s words of and I MEAN tidily become and I mean tidily(The bold indicates italics again). Considering this book has already started the removal of italics, and I suspect there will be plenty more, it seems odd to put more in. Modern publishers probably have clear house-styles but when you’re reprinting a seventy-something year old book surely you can ignore a few rules?

And lastly, the money is updated. They originally got two shillings a week, and it’s now two pounds a week. Two pounds is not very much for a ten year old, even in 2012. I can’t wait to see how much they can buy for that. I get a bit befuddled by trying to work out relative costs comparing then to now, but here goes. Two shillings in 1940, allowing for inflation, would be around £2.37 today, so at first look, £2 pocket money doesn’t seem that odd. But on purchasing power, you’d need £6.42 today and £5.36 in 2012 to get the same amount of goods (calculated here).

Two illustrations in the original again, Elizabeth at the dining table and facing off against Nora. Only a mouse in the new one.


CHAPTER IV Elizabeth gets into Trouble / CHAPTER FOUR ELIZABETH GETS INTO TROUBLE

There’s only one change to this chapter, another removal of italics from cut her cake into ten big pieces. It’s strange as plenty of italics for emphasis are left in and I can’t see a particular reason why some have gone and not others. It’s not like Blyton’s peppered every other sentence with italics!

Another two illustrations in the original, Elizabeth and Nora at her dressing-table and Elizabeth not sharing her cake. A very wonky pencil graces this chapter in the new edition.


The count

I usually explain what I’ve counted and what I haven’t and I’m not sure it has been very clear in the past so I’ll try it a new way this time.

The new introduction is not counted as I’m focussing on the main text. New editions often have additional introductions, adverts, sneak-peaks and so on.

Some things are changed more than once, but they are the same change and only get counted once:

Roman numerals to words
Case change for chapter titles
Removal of hyphens from good-bye, to-day, etc
Removal of italics for emphasis

Total: 4

Unique changes (some of which will move to the above list if I see more examples later)

Seccotine to glue
Correction of yellow badge
Joan Lesley to Joan Townsend
Queer to strange
Hie to hi
Slept to shared
Sleep to share
Removal of capitals for emphasis
Addition of italics for emphasis
Two shillings to two pounds

Total: 10

Overall total: 14

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If you like Blyton: A Mystery for Ninepence by Phyllis Gegan

A Mystery for Ninepence, published 1964, is something I picked up in a charity shop because I like the spines on the Collin’s Seagull Library books. I paid a grand price of £3 for this one, and the original price was 4s.

I can only find one other book – The Harveys See it Through by Phyllis Gegan and one short story – Adventure in the Alps – from Coronet Girls’ Annual 1958. I can’t find any biographical details about Phyllis Gegan, either, and I’m left wondering if it was a pseudonym for another writer.

There is a list on the back cover of other Collin’s Seagull Library titles – split into ones for boys and one for girls! No Blytons on either (though some of her books were published in this format), but the two Gegan books appear on the girls’ list, as do a couple of other books I have. Interestingly this book was presented to Jimmy Stevenson, though! Clearly the school didn’t read the list on the back. Saying that it’s not a girly book at all, it’s as neutral as the Famous Five.


So what’s it all about?

Although I picked this book for the spine I also checked the blurb to see if the story also appealed! I’ve found several Seagull books that I’ve put back after deciding the contents didn’t seem as good as the cover.

In this case the blurb reads:

Over fire, through water. Press on, for right will prevail.

These words, faded and almost illegible, and an ancient key are found when Robert buys a bundle of old books for ninepence. They herald the beginning of a summer of mystery and excitement for the ‘Quartet’, a club formed by Robin, his two sisters, Ann and Fiona, and his friend Hugh.

The answer to the puzzle lies somewhere in Farnleigh Manor, ancestral home of the Mourton Family. But the manor is shut up and deserted, looked after by caretakers, Mr and Mrs Petherbridge. The Quartet’s willingness to help in the unkempt grounds and their growing friendship with the Petherbridges opens the way into the manor for them.

Amidst the echoing corridors and high vaulted rooms of Farnleigh manor the young people determinedly follow each clue in an effort to solve the mystery which has disgraced the name of Mourton for three hundred years.

Phyllis Gegan’s exciting story will hold you spellbound as you follow the adventures of the Quartet in a mystery which turns out to be worth much more than ninepence.

Two points here – Robert is not a typo on my part – it’s a mistake on the inner flap as the boy is actually Robin! The blurb also spells Anne wrong.

The burb more or less gives you the whole story. Robin buys some old books and finds a key inside one of them along with a family crest. Initially they think it will be a good idea for a game (like the sort of games the Cherrys play) but then realise that there’s a hidden message and possibly a real mystery.

Luckily the crest belongs to a family with a manor within cycling distance, and, as the blurb also explains, the children visit and become friendly with the housekeepers. They do a lot of gardening in return for lots of fruit to take home, and also a chance to have a look around the empty manor.

After a few false starts they find a keyhole and the hidden secret.


What about it is like Blyton?

We have a group of children who have formed a club – The Quartet – who set out to solve a mystery.

There are lots of non-mystery interruptions to the story, luscious (as Anne would put it) picnics with lots of fruit and cream, a couple of walks to see otters and bats, a trip to a fair, a lost little brother, a beach holiday, a dramatic capture of a supposed criminal, and a daring cliff-side rescue of a puppy. Blyton was always good at interspersing mystery or adventure elements with a bit of fun or at least good food.

The parents are even shipped off for a trip abroad, though this doesn’t give the children any particular leeway to adventure.

They have the same honest attitudes as Blytonian children – they say they would like to go into the manor to draw etc and those are things they do want to do, and they ensure they do plenty of it in order to be truthful.

And Fiona remarks:

How nice food tastes in the open air!

Which is a very Anne Kirrin thing to say. I have to admit I laughed at Hugh’s witty reply:

Probably ants have got into the cheese and tomato. That ‘ud give it a different flavour. Piquant, the French chefs call it.


Where is it not like Blyton?

This is an enjoyable book but it doesn’t live up to most of Blyton’s mystery/adventure books.

If Enid Blyton had written this there would almost certainly have been an enemy for the children to work against – either someone who wanted to find the secret first, or who wanted it to never be found. There are only two episodes of danger and conflict.

The conflict is with two local boys who let the Quartet take the blame for a broken window. It’s all resolved very quickly and the boys becomes friends of theirs.

The danger, such as it is, comes when there’s reports of an escaped convict in the area. The Quarter see a man matching the description given asleep by the manor and tie him up, only to discover he’s an off-duty policeman. It’s the sort of thing Blyton has included in her stories – but alongside real danger too!

There isn’t even conflict with the parents, nobody is grounded or punished except for Anne. She has a careless bike accident and, as the rule is in her family, isn’t allowed to rife for a week. It’s all very amiable, though, and as the rule doesn’t stop her riding a tricycle she isn’t prevented from visiting the manor – though she gets there rather slowly!

Blyton would also have definitely had a night-time adventure (for the boys at least!).

There is a backstory to the secret and I can see what the author was aiming at; it trying to give us an understanding of why there is a hidden secret but it doesn’t come off entirely successfully.

Near the manor is Mourton’s Ride, a long tree-lined avenue. There’s a mystery as to why it’s called Mourton’s Ride being two miles away, and the adults they ask claim not to know other than there’s some mystery about it. There’s almost a creepy historical feeling like there is in The Ring ‘O Bells Mystery but it comes into the story quite late on, and the ‘big reveal’ at the end doesn’t live up to that.

As it turns out the secret is a confession from a servant from 1779, admitting that he had been paid to say he had witnessed a Mourton riding away from the scene of an attempted murder (all over an accusation of cheating at cards). It’s good of course that this black sheep of the family has been cleared of wrong-doing but just the way it’s all written it doesn’t have much gravitas.

The final ‘problem’ is that it takes almost 150 pages for the children to solve the mystery. Not a problem if the mystery is complex, but this one really wasn’t. It is drawn out hugely by various interruptions, problems and inconveniences. Their first few trips to the manor they concentrate on the gardens which is fair enough, though they nosy around the old well. At home they have another bright idea and find more of the clue on the crest. Only then do they go and look around inside the manor but have no luck searching inside the chimneys or on the bookshelves. Three days go by and they are kept home by bad weather and Robin having a cold. On their next visit they think to look somewhere new and find a keyhole! That’s on page 78 so half-way through the book. But Robin has left the key at home so there is no progress until their next visit. Even then, with the key, there are more visits to the manor – after their holiday – before they figure out the full solution to revealing the secret.

It is extremely stop-start. Given that there is only one key, one clue and one hiding place, it takes them absolutely forever to solve the mystery!


Final thoughts

I’ve been to harsh in my criticisms, I always am! It’s mildly frustrating to look back and see that a simple mystery is drawn out so long but the interludes are always interesting and fun so you don’t mind so much when reading the book. It won’t keep you on the edge of your seat but it is a good read. The children have distinct personalities and the other characters are also well-drawn, from the parents to the housekeeper and the two boys to the manor’s caretakers.

So if you like Blyton, but understand this isn’t in quite the same league (but then, what is!) you’ll probably like this too.

Dust jacket by an unknown artist, which rather gives away the solution to the mystery!

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Monday #241

If you like Blyton: A Mystery for Ninepence by Phyllis Gegan

and

Updates to Blyton’s texts: The Naughtiest Girl in the School

Sid was quite overcome at his wonderful evening. First there was what he called a ‘smasher of a supper,’ with ham and eggs and chip potatoes followed by jam tarts and a big chocolate mould, of which Sid ate about three-quarters.

“I’m partial to chocolate mould,” he explained to Anne. “Joan knows that – she knows I’m partial to anything in the chocolate line. She’s friendly with my Mum, so she knows. The things I’m partial to I like very much, see?”

Despite more-or-less being kidnapped and held hostage Sid the paperboy manages to have a good evening at Kirrin Cottage in Five Fall Into Adventure.

Craggy Tops is the home of Uncle Jocelyn and Aunt Polly – and during the holidays, of Philip and Dinah Mannering. It is a huge old house, complete with tower, built into the rocky cliffs beside a wild sea. Half of it is crumbling away, perhaps because it is constantly being eroded by sea spray. There’s no electricity or running water, just oil lamps and a well outside. On the plus side, it has its own secret passage leading from the cellar to a cave on the beach.

So why would anyone stay in a place like that? Well, Uncle Jocelyn is a historian and is writing a book about the various battles that took place on that bit of coast, and for that, he apparently has to live right there.

 

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Five Get Into Trouble

It has been ages since my last Famous Five review. Three months, in fact! I had almost forgotten I had been doing them. But here I am with book number eight. So far only books one and two have been reviewed in a single post. The others I’ve split into two (apart from Smuggler’s Top which was three!). That’s partly because I just don’t know when to stop typing, but also because (confession time!) I haven’t always finished the book in time for a full review. This time I devoured the book in under 24 hours, so I will have to see how many parts I will end up writing.


A story in four parts

For some reason I always break the story down into parts, so here’s my interpretation of this one.

  • Part one: The children go on their biking holiday
  • Part two: They encounter Richard and Dick gets kidnapped
  • Part three: The children enter Owl’s Dene and get held prisoner
  • Part four: Richard escapes and the police come to Owl’s Dene to sort everything out

You could, I suppose, combine parts one and two if you wanted a three part tale. But the dynamic changes quite a lot once Richard joins the group.


The Five in trouble? Again?

The Five are often in some sort of trouble. So far they’ve been locked in a dungeon, been chased by artists, had to run away from home, almost got sucked into a marsh, been held hostage underground by gun-wielding circus-folk, nearly been blown up and been trapped in a secret railway tunnel (not to mention having sat on a ‘volcano’!).

So all in all, they’re no strangers to trouble. Nonetheless the trouble they find themselves in is quite troublesome.


The cause of all the trouble

You can place the blame for the Five’s trouble directly on Richard Kent. They meet Richard one morning on their cycling tour when he tells them they’re swimming in his pool. Or rather his very rich father’s pool.

He is generous enough not to throw them off his land but that’s the only decent thing he does for quite a while.

Richard is very keen to join the Five for a bit of cycling and agrees he will ask his mother and then meet them. He plays the fool a bit, cycling three abreast and disregarding both the highway code and Julian’s authority.

The Five think they are shot of Richard after dropping him at his aunt’s house, but later he comes charging through the wood, shouting about being chased by Rooky, a former employee of his father who holds a grudge. And this is where the trouble really starts.

Rooky’s friends take Dick, thinking he is Richard. As they point out, Dick is short for Richard.

I think we are supposed to dislike Richard almost all the way through the book, and to be fair, he doesn’t exactly cover himself in glory. We are used to Blyton’s characters displaying their stiff upper lips and being brave and resourceful. Richard, however, falls apart.

Now it’s all his making for lying about being allowed to cycle with the Five and stay with his aunt, but he’s had a terrible scare and I’m not sure I would be much braver at this point. He wants to stick with the remaining four of the Five rather than cycling off alone to potentially run into Rooky again, and thus follows them to Owl’s Dene where Dick has been taken.


Before the trouble

Going back a bit – the start of the story is quite idyllic as is often the case. The Five have lovely weather as they cycle and sleep under the stars, eating wonderful food. Even when Richard first turns up and is a bit of a pest things are still light and fun.

It’s the word puncture where I always go ‘uh-oh’ and my heart sinks because I know what’s about to come. A puncture means stopping to repair it, and that means Dick’s left in a prime position for kidnap.


Owl’s Dene

Owl’s Dene, on Owl’s Hill, is a strange (or indeed queer) place. It’s a great big house in the middle of nowhere. There’s no phone, no gas, no electricity, no water laid on, just two great gates which open by themselves. (Under what power, I wonder??) Aggie actually continues her statement with Only just secrets and signs and comings and goings and threats and… Not so dissimilar to Robbie Coltrane’s  No telephone. No eelecticity. No gas.  No water laid on. Just secrets, and signs and THREATS from Five Go Mad in Dorset.

Inside live Mr Perton, the owner, a scared old woman called Aggie who does the cooking and housekeeping, and Hunchy who does the odd jobs and feeds the livestock. There are also others like Rooky and his men who come and go in a mysterious black Bentley.

It’s not a very hospitable place. Dick’s locked in an attic and once they are found, Julian, George, Anne and Richard are given a bare room with mattresses on the floor for the night. Timmy is forced to sleep in the grounds. Food is meagre – except when Aggie sneaks them extras – and they are at the mercy of the angry Hunchy.


The redemption of Richard

After a catalogue of foolishness, Richard comes good in the end. They decide that the only conceivable way out of Owl’s Dene is in the boot of the Bentley. It’s too small a space for Julian or Dick, and they won’t let the girls take such a risk, so it’s Richard who squeezes in and is taken into the nearest town by the unaware Mr Perton. It’s not even a simple case of sneaking off once he gets out of the car as he is spotted and has to run to evade Mr Perton.


Uncle Quentin and George

We know that they share the same terrible temper, but we get a little hint that George has inherited her father’s forgetfulness too.

Quentin has never been known for his attention to any other details than his scientific work, and he demonstrates that at the start of the book when he has arranged to go to a conference while the children are staying at Kirrin for Easter. He has not remembered the various discussions about them coming, nor thought to ask Fanny for the holiday dates. He’s so hopeless that Fanny can’t comprehend not going to the conference with him.

The first line of the book is:

“Really, Quentin, you are most difficult to cope with!”

which I think sums it up nicely.

As for George, Fanny shares the story of the time George left an egg to boil dry. It wasn’t because she was trying to be so boyish that she messed it up, or didn’t know how to boil an egg, it was sheer forgetfulness as she was so focussed on making sure Timmy got fed.

She has another very absent moment later when she accidentally eats one of Timmy’s dog sausage sandwiches and doesn’t even notice until Anne points it out.


The questions, comments and nitpicks

This is the Five’s fourth non-Kirrin adventure, and they’ve had four Kirrin ones too so the tally is even at this point in the series. This story is set at Easter, so it must the the year after they went off to camp.

George doesn’t do an awful lot of sulking or talking about being as good as a boy in this book. She does nearly fight Richard and is annoyed not to be allowed by her cousins, but it only lasts a minute as she is so pleased that Richard truly believed her to be a boy. She is also pleased later when the Owl’s Dene folk mistake her for a boy.

Julian notes, however, that George and Anne seem to fall for all of Richard’s tall tales while he and Dick are a little more disbelieving.

Unusually for a Famous Five book they encounter a farm with unpleasant people. Usually a farmer’s wife welcomes them in and forces food upon them for a bargain price. This time a surly man demands five pounds for a bit of bread, ham and eggs. Julian will only give him five shillings which is still generous. He wonders why on earth the man asked for such a ridiculous price – and I wonder why Blyton wrote that too as it has no relevance to the story and makes no sense.

Also unusually, Julian gets it wrong when he says he doesn’t think the man they saw changing clothes was an escaped prisoner. Of course, he was. This makes it all the stranger that Julian is so determined to find out who’s snoring in the vicinity of the study when he’s no reason to believe it’s an escaped convict.

One error I think I spotted is when the boys and George are described as wearing shirts and thin jumpers while Anne wears a skirt. I suspect it should be shorts then the fact Anne wears a skirt instead makes more sense.

Also not quite right but possibly character error rather than author error is Richard’s explanation of why Rooky has a grudge against him/his father. The first time he says:

He [Rooky] did something that annoyed him [Richard’s father] – I don’t know what – and after a perfectly furious row my father chucked him out.

Later he says:

Don’t you remember? – I told you about him… He always swore he’d have his revenge on my father – and on me too because I told tales about him to Dad and it was because of that he was sacked.

So either Enid forgot what she had written earlier, or Richard isn’t good at keeping his stories straight.

Another unlikely character error is Aggie and Hunchy both failing to notice that five children have suddenly become four, and none of the adults in the room noticing that Richard is rubbing soot all over his head. Surely that’s got to cause a mess?

One curious thing is this book has two examples of symbols being used in the text. Owl’s Dene is described as like an E with the middle stroke missing which is an odd way to describe a three sided building, and there’s a little icon like a n E missing the stroke (or a square C) as an example. Later Richard sees a police sign and we get a rectangle with the word POLICE in it, just in case we didn’t know that that would look like. I can’t recall anything similar in any other books.

I always like the moment in a film or book when the title gets used. A little ‘aha!’ moment. In this book there is we got into this fix. I wonder if Blyton liked the phrase so much she got them into a fix for a later adventure. Also amusing, but perhaps only to me, is the chapter title Julian looks round. This is only funny if you’ve read Charlie and the Chocolate Factory where the visitors to the factory are baffled by Mr Wonka’s square sweets that look round. I just had the image of a rounded Julian.


Phew, final thoughts

Although I divided the book into four it can also be said that is has two distinct parts; everything outside Owl’s Dene, and everything inside. The Owl’s Dene chapters have a very different feel to them. It’s darker, scarier and quite tense. There are few outright threats like they have received from the likes of Lou and Tiger Dan but they’re so trapped that you can’t relax.

Unfortunately a few details are a let down; like the diamonds that are important to the backstory yet just appear suddenly rather than being carefully woven into the plot. Solomon Weston is also very underused, though his secret room is a nice touch.

Something I’ve barely mentioned is the Bentley’s licence plate: KMF 102. I always feel this is in the same iconic realm as Two Trees, Gloomy Water etc. I’m glad to see that in later reprints it hasn’t become a Ford Focus with a modern license plate (though I haven’t checked every reprint!)

All in all a satisfying story, and quite different from the usual mystery/adventure plots. They don’t go to Owl’s Dene to investigate the man who changed his clothes, or to find the diamonds, those are almost coincidental. Mr Perton is really his own undoing, if he hadn’t kept the children captive they’d never have discovered anything!

Next post: Five Fall into Adventure

 

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Letters to Enid 16: From volume 2 issue 4

Previous letters pages can be found here.


Letters page from Volume 2, issue 4. February 17th – March 2nd 1954.

OUR

LETTER PAGE

 1. A letter from Betty Kerr, 2 Council Houses, Glenlougham, Scarva, Co. Down.
Dear Enid Blyton,
I hope you are pleased because I have got 18 members for the Sunbeam Society, 8 for the Busy Bees, and 10 for the Famous Five. When Daddy asked me for a design to make us a banner I suggested a blind child, the same as on our badge. Our motto is “Make Dark Places Light.”
Your Loving Sunbeam No. 7, Betty Kerr.

(What a wonderful little worker you are, Betty. I am pleased with you!)

2. A letter from Marion Taylor, 44 Newcourt House, Pott Street, Bethnal Green, London, E.2.

Dear Enid Blyton,
Every week I cut out “The Adventures of Josie, Click and Bun,” mount them on cardboard and bind them into a neat book. It is very interesting and my young sister, Jennifer, never gets tired of reading it and it certainly keeps her out of mischief.
Love, Marion Taylor, F.F.

(How delighted your sister must be Marion. I am, too.)

3. A letter from  Jennifer Routledge, 1 Montpelier Rise, Wembley, Middx.
Dear Enid Blyton,
The family ad I have been giving a penny every time we make a spot on the tablecloth. I have now saved 10s. for the blind children.
Please give them my love. Jennifer.

(What a wonderful idea, Jennifer. I can’t help hoping you make lots more spots on your tablecloth!)

3. A letter from  Greta Croker, Newbold Missionary College, Binfield, nr Bracknell, Berks.
Dear Enid Blyton,
I am a member of the F.F. Club and I am sending the enclosed money for you to spend on some little girl without a father or mother, because I have such a wonderful father and mother. I earned the money by helping my father milk the cows. I send my good wishes to you all and my fellow-readers of our magazine,
From, Greta Crocker.

(I think your mother and father have a fine little girl, Greta. Thank you very much.)


Now I know that Enid chose her winning letters from the ‘normal’ ones she received, not ‘special’ ones written with the hope of appearing on the letters page. But I can’t help but notice that an awful lot of the featured letters are ones saying “I earned X money by doing X clever thing and I would like it to go towards X cause.” If those aren’t letters hoping to win, then I would like to see the obvious ‘special letter’ attempts!

I know, I’m being cynical. I’m sure these letters are children just genuinely wanting Enid to know they’ve worked hard to send money to one of her causes. All I’m saying is that if a child really wanted to be featured they would have been wise to write a letter like that.

I’m intrigued by Jennifer’s idea. Usually paying a penny every time you spill something (or indeed swear) is meant to be a way of encouraging you not to spill or swear. But in order to raise lots of money, you’d have to make a lost of mess or bad language. Slightly opposing ideas, there. Incidentally, to have raised 10 shillings, Jennifer’s family made 120 spots on the tablecloth. I hope it got washed regularly!

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Monday #240

Letters to Enid part 16

and

Five Get Into Trouble

Fattish! Could the owner of the sleep-walking uncle be – that fat boy! Was is that pest again, On the Track of Something as usual?

Mr Goon is rather upset to discover that Fatty has been quicker to follow the clues than he has in The Mystery of the Strange Bundle.

Jeremiah Boogle is a fine example of Enid Blyton’s elderly and knowledgeable men characters. He appears in Five Go to Demon’s Rocks, sitting by the harbour, ready to tell them all about old One-Ear Bill and the wreckers that once plagued the area. He doesn’t just tell, however (many of her old men are rather stuck in one place and are purely there to tell tales) he even gives them a tour of the underground tunnels and caves where a treasure is reported to be hidden. Despite being elderly he is a former sailor and quite capable of handling himself.

jeremiah boogle demon's rocks

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The Naughtiest Girl in the School covers through the years

Previous covers through the years : The Famous Five, The Adventure Series, The Secret Series, Malory Towers, The Barney Mysteries, Mr Galliano’s Circus, St Clare’s

There are only three Naughtiest Girl books if you are counting the original novels; The Naughtiest Girl in the School, The Naughtiest Girl Again and The Naughtiest Girl is a Monitor, but with 12-14 reprints of each there are still plenty of covers to look at.


The first editions

Despite only having three books there are two different illustrators. W. Lindsay Cable (illustrator of the original St Clare’s books) did the covers and internal illustrations for the first two books, while Kenneth Lovell did the final one.

Lovell has done his cover in a very similar style to Cable, and used the same uniform colours etc so it is not a jarring or obvious change.

George Newnes 1940 / George Newnes 1942 / George Newnes 1945

Lovell’s characters perhaps don’t have quite the same air of movement but then they appear to be indoors and under the eye of grown-ups!


The ubiquitous Armadas

Unusually for an early, popular series, there are no new hardback editions. Not every series had those but both Malory Towers and St Clare’s have a second set with new dust jackets.

This series goes straight to paperback (though later impressions of the first edition had a few alterations to the spine design) and of course the 1960s paperback publisher of choice is Armada.

There are two Armada sets, in fact. The first in 1962/62 and the second in 1971/72.

The 1960s set come with the usual Armada look with the brightly coloured backgrounds and illustrations by Dorothy Brook.

Armada 1962 / Armada 1962 / Armada 1963

The 1970s set also have bright backgrounds but a different look; both to the previous covers and to each other! They are not the most disparate covers I have seen, but the sky background in particular between the two orange/yellow ones looks odd. They are by an uncredited artist.

Armada 1971 / Armada 1971 / Armada 1972

The bold and the dull

From 1967 to 1990 we saw a variety of publishers and styles. Merlin, Dean, Beaver and Red Fox all did their own covers, some more than once.

The first was Merlin in 1967/68 with some rather drab and dark covers. I’m never fond of Clyde Pearson’s work it has to be said. His covers are always quite serious and his internal illustrations are often strange. I mean why such dark cloudy skies? Why such dark green uniforms in a grey and green school yard? Why so many black uniforms and details?

Merlin 1967 / Merlin 1967 / Merlin 1968

Dean’s first set (in hardback) in 1972/73 is one of the brightest with the almost fluorescent yellow, bright red and shocking pink along with very stylised cartoon schoolgirls by an uncredited artist. Deans 70s hardbacks are not usually known for their realistic or toned-down covers. These are so stylised they probably get away with it – it helps that there is a ‘vintage’ air to them now as well. It’s just a pity they chose a reddish font for the last book as it’s a bit headache inducing to read!

Dean 1973 / Dean 1972 / Dean 1973

Their second set (also from an uncredited artist) is from 1989 and is very much darker both in colour and content. This set uses their ‘upside down Polaroid’ design which features on so many other series, with a sad selection of brown and beige backgrounds. As for the dark content I refer to ‘sad girl on swing at night’, ‘lonely girl at bus station with pile of belongings’ and ‘two almost drowning children’. The first must depict Elizabeth before she kicks out at Robert though it lacks a sense of anger or suggestion of movement. I can’t remember if Elizabeth gets the bus to school, if so it’s hardly an integral part of the plot. I mean, would these really stand out on a shelf and attract readers?

All Dean 1989

Beaver also have a bright set and a more neutral one, though neither has a cover for the second book.

The bright set is from 1979, and reminds me a bit of Grange Hill for some reason. I think it’s the yellow background and the almost comic strip image. These covers were by Martin Aitchison.

Both Beaver 1979

Beaver’s second set was in 1986, with a very different look. I have a nostalgic fondness for this as my first copy of the Naughtiest Girl was the Red Fox omnibus which reused the illustration from the first book here. Elizabeth reminds me of someone but I cannot think who. I like her cheeky grin anyway.

Beaver 1986 / Beaver 1986 / Red Fox 1995

Speaking of Red Fox they reused these covers for their 1990/92 set, with the cover for the second book done by, I presume, a different uncredited artist as Elizabeth looks quite different. Older and more stylish, perhaps. She also reminds me of someone, an actress perhaps.

Red Fox 1990 / Red Fox 1992 / Red Fox 1990

There is also a sneaky Armada cover in amongst all those – in 1987 they released a new paperback of The Naughtiest Girl Again. This comes under the ‘drab’ category for me!


The Hodder years

From 1997 Hodder took over and have published four full sets of the three books, plus an extra one of the first.

The 1997 set are quite nice in my opinion. They are a little like the modern Hoddern Famous Five covers, and look almost as if they’ve done the same in taking an original cover and giving it a new banner etc. These are by Max Schindler. These are reused in 2000 with a ‘full colour’ badge added, also like the Famous Five. The first cover is also reused for the 2010 70th anniversary edition, cropped, flipped, and with a big border.

Hodder 1997 / Hodder 1997 / Hodder 1997 / Hodder 2000 / Hodder 2000 / Hodder 2000 / Hodder 2010

Then in 1999 they went very modern with two school covers and one that looks like it belongs on a Nancy Drew book, drawn by Paul Davies.

All Hodder 1999

In 2007 they went even more modern (and awful) with covers by Teresa Murfin that make you suspect the children are not altogether human at this school. I have an irrational dislike of the devil horns and tail they’ve added to the font. She’s a school girl acting out, firstly because she doesn’t want to be sent away from home and later because she has a very strong sense of right and wrong but a poor control of her temper. She’s not a devil.

Hodder 2007, Me 2019, Hodder 2007

The middle one is how I see these sort of covers. That’s the School of Roars cast (a series on CBeebies with the voice of Kathy Burke for those of you without toddlers).

Here’s how it really looks, not that different!

And in 2014 the children are also very modern but also angular as drawn by Kate Hindley.

All Hodder 2014

Here’s the Naughtiest Girl

Published as a stand-alone book in 1997, Here’s the Naughtiest Girl was first published in Enid Blyton’s Omnibus. It’s a short story rather than a novel but it’s now printed as a fourth book in the series.

Its first edition is the attractive Max Schindler one,

Then it got new covers in line with the other three books: bright Paul Davies, demonic/monstrous Teresa Murfin and angular Kate Hindley.

Hodder 1999 / Hodder 2007 / Hodder 2014

I’m not going to include covers from the Anne Digby continuations, but they had two sets each. One by Paul Davies and the other by Teresa Murfin. It’s probably sufficient to say they are entirely in-keeping with the style of the ones shown.


As usual, the best covers have to be the originals. Followed perhaps by the modern ones masquerading as old ones. Everyone has a soft spot for their childhood covers, no matter how bad, though!

 

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September 2019 round up

It’s September now, and judging by the sudden plummet in temperatures, Summer is firmly over!


What I have read

  • The Devil Wears Prada – Lauren Weisberger
  • The Well of Lost Plots (Thursday Next #3) – Jasper Fforde
  • When Did You Last See Your Father? (Chronicles of St Mary’s #10.5) – Jodi Taylor
  • The World I Fell Out Of – Melanie Reid
  • Revenge Wears Prada – Lauren Weisberger

And I’m still working on:

  • The Foyles Bookshop Girls at War (The Foyles Girls #2) – Elaine Roberts.
  • Bridget Jones’s Diary – Helen Fielding
  • Something Rotten (Thursday Next #4) – Jasper Fforde

I’ve taken a few new books out of the library this past week so I’d better get reading! I’ve slacked off this month so I’m only two books ahead of schedule now.

 


What I have watched

  • Hollyoaks
  • ER season 14 and some of 15
  • Only Connect
  • Series 6 and 7 of Call the Midwife which have recently come to Netflix.
  • Yet another series of Taskmaster
  • The Letdown, a Netflix original comedy about parenting. I cringed through the first episodes but it’s strangely relatable.
  • The Secret Garden (the 90s version with Maggie Smith)
  • Lots of episodes of the 90s Famous Five series on YouTube.
  • Smuggler’s Gold, the Famous Five Musical which I then reviewed.

What I have done

  • Stef came up to stay for the week, and after a bad start because we were all either ill or recovering from a stomach bug, we made two trips to St Andrews. We packed in the shops, (though we didn’t buy any books!!) the beach, the botanic gardens, cakes, and lots of walking.
  • We visited our local wildlife park and Brodie did his monkey noises when he spotted the gibbons and fed the goats some grass.
  • Went to a bookbug session in the big library as my local one was still closed for refurbishment.
  • Went for a walk/play in a country park and played at another centre with a huge maze/
  • Played at a few parks and fed the ducks.
  • Celebrated my 16 (!!) year anniversary with Ewan, (that is, quite literally, half my life!) by going for lunch and a walk along the Arbroath cliffs.
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Monday #239

 

September round up

and

The Naughtiest Girl in the School covers through the years

Far below the waterfall resolved itself into a winding river that curved round the foot of the mountain. The children could not see where it went to. The tumbling water shone and sparkled as it fell, and here and there rainbows shimmered. Lucy-Ann thought she had never seen a lovelier sight.

The Adventure Series children see the huge waterfall in the valley for the first time in The Valley of Adventure.

The Little Tree-House is the first of five books about Josie, Click and Bun. Josie is a doll, Click is a clockwork-mouse and Bun is a baby rabbit. They meet when Josie and Click run away from their unkind owner, and find Bun who has been left out by his family. They decide to start a home together and move into an empty home inside a hollow tree.

The books are all picture-strip style with four large illustrations per page with a short piece of text underneath.

 

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The Famous Five the Musical: Smuggler’s Gold

I had watched this musical once before, at Stef’s house, but I’d forgotten just about everything about it including the plot, songs and characters. We watched it at my house this time as I got it on DVD for my Christmas.

The stage play was on tour in 1997 for the hundredth anniversary of Enid Blyton’s birth.

 


The story

Like the 70s series’ first episode this is a slight amalgamation of two books. The 70s series combined the children meeting for the first time from Five on a Treasure Island with the main plot of the sixth book Five on Kirrin Island Again. The musical has combined the children’s meeting with the plot of Five Go Adventuring Again, the second book.

The musical then begins with Julian, Dick and Anne discussing having a cousin that they’ve never met. They then travel to Kirrin, meet their aunt and uncle, but not George right away. They are then introduced to Timmy who, as in the second book, is not a secret.

George tells (sings) them the tale of how Smuggler’s gold was reported to be hidden at Kirrin Farm, and tells them that two artists are renting it from that afternoon.

The end of the smugglers song

Mr Roland arrives to tutor them, and takes a dislike to Timmy. The Five explore Kirrin Farm and find a scrap of fabric with a map to a secret way on it. They hunt around Kirrin Farm, with no luck.

George has an argument with Mr Roland and Timmy is banned from the house and then some of Uncle Quentin’s work goes missing. She gets a talking-to in her father’s study and that’s when she finds the entrance to the secret way.

They all (oddly minus Timmy) explore the secret way, followed by Mr Roland, and find themselves at Kirrin Farm under attack from one of the artists. The tables are quickly turned though and it’s the artist in trouble. Everything is then tied up neatly, including one artist!

The Five prevail


How the story has been changed

Well, of course there are a lot of songs, but more about them later. Being a stage-play and having a set amount of time and budget, there are of course a lot of changes. What’s interesting is that there are various lines which are word-for-word from the books, a lot which are close enough to be recognisable, and then also there are many things which are completely different.

For example the children take the train alone to Kirrin, Kirrin Farm is an empty shell and there are no Mr and Mrs Sanders. The setting has been changed to the 1930s for no obvious reason, and George is the same age as Julian instead of Dick.

Mr Roland still comes to tutor them, all of them, as apparently they had poor exam results. It is George who sees him talking to the artists, before he later professes to not know them. Julian then follows him later and observes him talking to the artists at night and giving them a notebook.

The hidden gold is worked in quite neatly by changing George’s great-great-great Grandfather to her Great-great-grandmother who owned Kirrin Farm, and her smuggler brother who brought gold via a ship then a passage and cave before his ship went down.

Perhaps more understandably the snow has been changed to heavy rain and floods. Same effect of trapping them indoors without the requirement for fake snow and heavy coats under the theatre lights.

The end is very different. The children are under attack from Mr Roland and his gun and the two artists when Aunt Fanny opens the door to the secret way and knocks Mr Roland over. Julian ends up with the gun and Timmy sniffs out the hidden gold.

This never would have happened in the books!

The two artists, instead of being polite and well-mannered individuals who also happen to secretly be crooks are now a pair of very obvious spivs.

Also given the nature of what works on stage vs in a book, we meet the crooks Thomas and Wilton at the start and see them talking, arguing, and scheming a few times. I expect that gave the main cast a brief rest or opportunity to change clothing.


The songs

There are a lot of songs. More than I think I expected. Most of them are rather forgettable, unfortunately. The only one that sticks with me is One, two, three, four, five, we’re the Famous Five, and that’s because it’s used more than once. It’s not that the songs are bad, most just aren’t particularly catchy or memorable.

I’ve had to rewatch to have more to say about the songs. I remember there being one about Latin verbs as I made a note about that. At the time I said to Stef that they must have been desperate for song material to use that as a subject.

I did try to transcribe the songs while rewatching but I couldn’t catch all the words and there are no subtitles! Here is a rough list of the songs (names entirely made up by me), though and at least a few lines of each.

Song 1: Leaving London (Julian, Dick, Anne and two crooks)

Life in London can be tedious
What we need is a change of scene
Some may swear the air is cleaner
Grass is greener than grassy green
Anywhere but London
Anywhere but now
Just beyond the city lights there are starry nights to be seen
Higher heights to astound
Finer sights to be found

Our bags are packed
Our troubles are behind us
Adventures come and find us where the skies and seas are blue
Where dreams are made
As cream and lemonade
As castles built with sand command an oceanic view
Where pirates play
And have their wicked way
And damsels in distress confess their love for a handsome prince
When days are gone, when days are gone,
The night’s mysterious, mysterious,
Mysterious
Mysterious!

Can you feel the wind blow through your hair?
See the flowers dancing in the summer breeze
I can almost taste the salty air
And I’ve never seen so many trees
And what’s that beautiful building?
I don’t know but it’s very strange
Very spooky
The house they say is older than the hills
And every room inside can tell a different story
Of ghosts and ghouls!
Oh Dick, you’re such a fool!
It’s just as well I brought my toys as boys can be so funny and so boring

Far away from London
Far away from town
All aboard a fast approaching
[couldn’t catch this bit]
Ring the bell
Yell it to the world
Farewell London
Farewell London town

Continue reading

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Letters to Enid 15: From volume 2 issue 3

Previous letters pages can be found here.

This is the third magazine in a row that doesn’t have a letters page. Enid says in her newsletter I’m so sorry – but again there is no letters page for your letters this week. As you will see, there is a letter-page – but it is given up to the Best Letter we have ever had there. Aren’t you pleased?

She also writes in her opening letter  I am sorry we have no letter-page for you this time, but I am sure that all of us are gas to see it used for such a lovely letter – and to make up for missing it three times running I will award prizes to every letter I choose for the letter-page then, not just the top one. 

That doesn’t mean I want special letter-page letters. I don’t. I always choose the winning letters from your ordinary, every-day letters, which are written with no thought of being printed, and certainly no thought of a prize. The ordinary, every-day letters that we get from you are better than any made-up ones written merely in order to win  a prize!


Letters page from Volume 2, issue 3. February 3rd-16th 1954.

OUR

LETTER PAGE

Today this page is honoured by a message from Her Gracious Majesty, Queen Elizabeth the Second.

It is with much delight that I print it here, so that not only those thousands of my readers who went in such beautifully illustrated Christmas messages to Her Majesty may read it, but also so that each of us may rejoice in the honour paid to the prize-winners. Every reader shares in this, and we are so grateful to the children whose messages evoked such a gracious reply from our beloved queen.


I have received The Queen’s commands to express her Majesty’s sincere thanks to you for the beautifully bound volume containing twelve messages of Christmas greetings to The Queen from children throughout Great Britain. Her Majesty is delighted to have this collection of kind and loyal messages representative of so much affection on the part of great numbers of children. Please convey to those who contributed to it an expression of her sincere gratitude.



I know that The Queen almost never writes her own thank you letters, that would be a full-time job in its own right, but the way Enid goes on here you’d think Elizabeth had personally written a long a gushing letter!

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Monday #238

Letters to Enid part 15

and

The Famous Five the Musical: Smuggler’s Gold

“Mollie! Peter! Come quickly! The chair is growing its wings again!”

Chinky summons the children so that they can go on another adventure in Adventures of the Wishing Chair.

Mr Pink-Whistle is a righter of wrongs. It helps that he is half-brownie and half-human as it means he can use magic to help those who have been wronged, and punish those who have done the wronging.  He flits in and out of children’s lives, doing what he can to put things right. His only true friend is a cat called Sooty, as being only half-human adults tend to be quite wary of him, even if they’re not sure why.

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On my bookshelf part 6

I’ve covered all my Blytons now, and most of my childrens’ books, so I thought I would just give a quick overview of my other bookcase. This one is mostly books for grown-ups.


The detective/supernatural shelf

Not everything fits that category; the first ones are The Melancholy Death of Oyster Boy – Tim Burton, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time – Mark Haddon (which I’ve read four or five times at least), and The Masked City by Genevieve Cogman (need to read The Invisible Library on my Kindle before I can start this).

Then I have the ‘detective’ books. The Mirabelle Bevan mysteries by Sara Sheridan (Stef has recommended these as Blyton for Grown-Ups.) The Murdoch Mysteries (which the TV series is based on) by Maureen Jennings. And the Aurora Teagarden Mysteries by Charlaine Harris.

Then it’s more of Charlaine Harris, but moving into supernatural stuff now – the Harper Connelly series and some short story collections that she has contributed to.

There’s also a novelisation of a Captain America story in there (because it’s short and it sits on the too-tall Aurora Teagarden omnibus…)

And continuing with the supernatural theme last on this shelf are the Being Human books that tie in with the BBC programme of the same name.


More supernatural, amongst other things

More Charlaine Harris – the whole ‘Southern Vampires’ series upon which True Blood the TV series is based on.

Then a reasonable chunk of the ‘Undead’ series of vampire books by MaryJanice Davidson, which I really mean to re-read at some point. On top of those are a couple of her books in a series about mermaids. I’m missing the first one so I haven’t read them. In front is a valentine’s card I printed at home many years ago for Ewan.

After that it gets a bit random though mostly chick-lit; two of the Kate Shackleton mysteries by Frances Brody (others I’ve borrowed from the library or listed to from audible). How to Walk in High Heels by Camilla Morton, The Devil Wears Prada by Lauren Weisberg, The Goddess Experience and The Goddess Guide by Gisele Scanlon (the Guide being far better), and Wicked by Gregory Maguire. The last two are books I designed and had printed by Love Book for Ewan.


Nursing memoirs and fiction

Bar one this is all nursing-related.

The stack are memoirs by nurses and midwives; Linda Fairley, Evelyn Prentis and Jennifer Worth (whose books Call The Midwife based their long-running series on).

Next to the stack is another nursing memoir by Jennifer Craig, and a memoir about living in Dundee by Maureen Reynolds.

The rest of the books are historical fiction based on nurses, mostly around the first or second world wars.

There are some by Maggie Holt (who also wrote as Maggie Bennett when writing a loose series of nursing books), Maggie Hope, Jean Fullerton, and many by Donna Douglas.


A bit of a mixture

This is a mixture of grown-up and children’s.

A few more historical fiction and memoirs at the end;

Our Zoo by June Mottershead (ITV did a series based on this), War Girls short stories, Victory in My Hands by Russell and Rosen, The Story of my Life by Helen Keller. There’s also a biography of Florence Nightingale.

The next few may seem random but they are either books I’ve not read in a very long time, or have not managed to finish despite good intentions.

The Witch of Exmoor by Margaret Drabble (last read in high school), Lucky and The Almost Moon by Alice Sebold (read the first but didn’t get far with the second), The Time Traveller’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger (actually never been brave enough to start), Atonement by Ian McEwen (didn’t get past the first few chapters though I enjoyed the film). The entire Lord of the Rings by Tolkien (I’ve read Fellowship of the Ring and maybe the first chapter of The Two Towers), and The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde.

Starting the children’s books off is a novel by Stephen Gately – yes, of Boyzone – The Tree of Seasons. It’s the only book he wrote before he died suddenly, and I think it was actually finished by someone else but it was pretty good. A real shame there can’t be any more from him.

Then a whole load of Daniel Handler/Lemony Snickets. The All the Wrong Questions series and A Series of Unfortunate Events, plus a couple of additional titles which come into the same universe. On top of the last books is a little beanbag heart I made years ago.

The books shoved on top are Neil Gaiman’s Stardust, The Little Book of Hygge (apparently pronounced hoo-ga and not hie-g) and The Little Book of Going Green.


And on top of the bookcase

There’s not enough space on my shelves, I have more on top!

A special edition of Peter Pan by J.M Barrie with ten removable features and tons of colour illustrations, The Bookshop Book by Jen Campbell and Ripping Things to Do by Jane Brocket.

Some poems and plays; Selected Poems by Sylvia Plath, three plays by Noel Coward, A View from the Bridge/All My Sons by Arthur Miller (this must be Ewan’s actually as I don’t even recognise it…) and An Inspector Calls by J.B. Priestly.

And lastly my Famous Five stationery; the Smashing Notebook, Splendid Notes for Every Occasion and the postcard set which I’ve yet to do anything with.


Perhaps not as interesting to readers as my other shelves, but it shows the other sorts of things I read. And I like to be complete about things!

 

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Search terms 10

The latest Google searches, straight from the stats page.


Summaries

We get a whole load of searches looking for summaries every month. Quite often they are for a book, but equally often they want a poem or chapter summarised. Blyton’s poems generally fit on one page so it’s hard to shorten that into a summary! I wonder if people are using ‘summary’ in place of ‘review’ sometimes.

One of the best requests for a summary this month was:

Secret Seven Win Through by Enid Blyton summary in a dreadful blow.

I suspect there’s a chapter called a dreadful blow, but this search makes it sound like they want the summary delivered as a dreadful blow to them. Please, sit down, sir. This summary will come as a dreadful blow to you…


That’s not her name

Fat fingers and autocorrect have a lot to answer for, but I still laugh at the multitude of ways that people can spell Enid Blyton. Neither part seems particularly difficult to me, but both are equally misspelled.

Am I the only one who, on misspelling a search, clicks the correction on the ‘did you mean’ link? I do it even more now that I know that website owners are possibly laughing at their search term statistics.

Lately Enid’s name has been spelt:

  • Enind Blyton
  • Enid Bylton Bunny (to be fair they may have stuck bunny on the end referring to the content of the poems they were after)
  • Enid Blighten
  • Edid Blyton
  • Enid Biyon
  • Anid Blyton
  • Enid Bluton

She’s not the only one being misnamed, however.

I’ve also seen

  • Anunt fanny
  • Julan Kirrin
  • Pmela Cox
  • Eileen Rooper
  • Tasdie (from The Castle if Adventure, no less)

I just can’t help imagining the children bounding in fresh from the beach and asking What’s for lunch, Anunt Fanny? and her replying It’s your favourite meat-pie, today, Julan. I have an odd sense of humour perhaps.


Interesting questions

We usually get some interesting questions. Some are interesting as they throw up something I’ve never thought to ponder. Sometimes it’s because they’re just plain strange.

What can I learn when I read Malory Towers New Term story book? I’m not sure how to answer this. I’m not sure they want to hear that they’ll learn that Pamela Cox’s books aren’t as good as the originals.

Pamela Cox author of Malory Towers is she dead? No, she’s not. I had seen a rumour that she had died but it was confirmed in January that she was alive and well.

What is the mood of Famous Five Run Away Together? I don’t know that I could apply a mood to the whole of the book. There are periods of fear, anger, worry, but also joy and excitement.

Did Noddy have a willy? Probably not. If Blyton’s human’s never needed to use a toilet I doubt she’d made a little wooden man anatomically correct.

Why did Enid Blyton w o n the award boys club of America? Why, because they thought that Mystery Island (the American name of The Island of Adventure) was the best book nominated.

Peter and Julian Enid Blyton fan fiction. I’m interested to know which Peter this refers to. Peter of the Secret Seven? Peter Longfield? Peter Frost? Peter Jackson? Or one of the other Peters from Blyton’s books. We have a Peter in our fan fiction but ours is Petronella Sterling from Malcolm Saville’s Lone Pine books.

The Castle of Adventure question their is something about the castle on hill why is everyone afraid of it what secret lurk its door describe the castle in 200-250 words. I’m not sure where to start on this. The local people are afraid because of old superstition about the old man who once lived there. The secret ‘lurking’ is that it is being used by spies. The very specific request for a description of the castle baffles me.

What colour ties do they wear at Mallory Towers? I don’t believe that it’s ever mentioned. The Malory (ONE L!) Towers uniform is described as Brown coat, brown hat, orange ribbon, and a brown tunic underneath with an orange belt. Based on that, I would guess that it’s either brown or orange! Perhaps both. There are covers showing orange ties, brown ties, orange and brown stripy ties, red and white stripy ties… but some of these show the girls in skirts and blazers that don’t match the brown/orange description given by Blyton and therefore probably aren’t to be trusted!

Why do schools no longer have Enid Blyton on the shelf? I hope that’s not true – but if it is, it is because misguided staff still believe that her books are too simple, or that they are too racist.

George Kirrin in love. This intrigued me as, despite pairing off the rest of the Famous Five, George remains a loner in our fan fiction. We just haven’t worked out who she might settle down with, apart from Timmy! I’ve briefly paired her with Jack Trent and Philip Mannering, but neither date went well.

Pronounce Alicia Malory Towers. Well, I know I had this wrong for a while. In my head it was Alice-ah, pronounced exactly as you would Alice, followed by an ah sound. My friend kindly corrected me that it was Aliss-ay-a, with the emphasis on the liss part. Nowadays Ah-leesh-ah is probably a preferred way of pronouncing it.

 

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Monday #237

Search terms #10

and

On my bookshelf 6

Fifth Formers of St Clare’s is not the fifth book in the series, even it it sounds like it should be. It is actually the sixth and final book, after three books in the first form, one in the second and one in the fourth.

There are three new girls this year; Anne-Marie Longden who considers herself a great poet, Felicity Ray who is actually a great musician who has moved up a form, and Alma Pudden who has been kept down from the sixth form. Further down the school there is also Antoinette, a sister of Claudine’s.

Each of the new girls creates some sort of drama or interest; but the star of the book has to be Mam’zelle who, upon thinking the school is full of burglars ends up locking several girls in cupboards.

Naomi Barlow lives at Ring O’ Bells Cottage in Ring O’ Bells Wood. When the Lyntons (and Barney) meet her they are immediately taken with how she resembles an elderly Red Riding Hood. They think she is perhaps a witch, as she has green eyes, and Ring O’ Bells is the sort of place where you could easily believe in witches. She is a descendent of Old Mother Barlow, who, as the legends say, was once threatened by a pack of wolves. She was saved when the bells of Ring O’ Bells hall rang out and alerted the villagers to the danger. So, perhaps there is some magic in her family!

ring o bells mystery

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Code reader from The Famous Five’s Survival Guide

Published in 2008, The Famous Five’s Survival Guide is now, as far as I know, sold out and out-of-print. There may be a few copies lurking in bookshops but on the whole if you want one; you’ll need to go for second-hand.

There’s just one problem with that. The book should come with a code reader – a thin bit of card with holes cut in it, attached to the book by a bit of red ribbon. Unfortunately the second-hand copies often miss this. Either the previous owner has untied it to use it (though it’s long enough to reach without doing so) or it has accidentally pulled free.

I know this because I have had three or four people contact me in the last year or two with the same story. They had bought a second-hand copy of the book, and it was missing the code reader. I’ve sent photos, and more recently scans of my code reader to these people, so that they can decode the letter on page 31. I’m not sure that it’s integral to solving the mystery, but it must be frustrating for readers for it to be missing none the less.

Anyway, I thought that I should just put the code reader on here so that anyone who needs it can save a copy and print it out, without having to wait for me to read my emails and send a reply. It’s taken me this long, though, as I kept forgetting to take it into work, but I now have my own scanner. So here it is! (And as you can see the hole on the left where the ribbon was tied is almost torn through).

When printed the code reader should be roughly 15cm wide and 10.5cm tall, so you may have to fiddle with your printer settings to get it the right size.

I will also include the secret message you are trying to reveal:

Royal dragon of Siam stolen from king of Siam. It is in my possession. You must return the Dragon. If you fail there will be war.

I’ve made the text above white so I don’t spoil it for you, but you can click and drag to highlight and read it if you need the extra help.

Happy code cracking!

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If you like Blyton: The Cherrys by Will Scott

I’ll begin this with two points:

One – I feel bad about recommending this series because the books are quite hard to find and rather expensive when they are for sale. But not bad enough to not write this post.

Two – That’s not a grammatical error in the title. The family’s surname is Cherry. When talking about them they are The Cherrys. I know it looks really wrong, but it isn’t.


The Cherry series

There are fourteen books in Will Scott’s Cherry series, published from 1952 to 1965.

The Cherrys of River House (1952)
The Cherrys and Company (1953)
The Cherrys by the Sea (1954)
The Cherrys and the Pringles (1955)
The Cherrys and the Galleon (1956)
The Cherrys and the Double Arrow (1957)
The Cherrys on Indoor Island (1958)
The Cherrys on Zigzag Trail (1959)
The Cherrys’ Mystery Holiday (1960)
The Cherrys and Silent Sam (1961)
The Cherrys’ Famous Case (1962)
The Cherrys to the Rescue (1963)
The Cherrys in the Snow (1964)
The Cherrys and the Blue Balloon (1965)

I’ve got two Cherrys book. Book 12, The Cherrys to the Rescue was my mum’s, and book 11 The Cherrys Famous Case was given to me by a very generous stranger in return for some special edition stamps. It wasn’t as weird as that sounds. A lady posted on the Enid Blyton Society Forums that she had a copy of a Cherrys book and she’d like it to go to a good home. I was the first to respond and she offered to post it to me, her only request was that I send her some British stamps in return.

The first twelve books are illustrated by Lilian Buchanan (who did five of the Find-Outers books), though I can’t find any information on the last two books.

An illustration from The Cherrys to the Rescue on the left, and one from The Cherrys Famous Case on the right.


What are the books about?

The Cherrys are a family of four children, Jimmy, Jane, Roy and Pam, and their parents, Captain and Mrs Cherry, and also their monkey Mr Watson, and parrot Joseph.

Captain Cherry, a retired explorer, likes to create mysteries and adventures for his children. These they call ‘happenings’ and together they explore, solve, hunt, search, investigate, hide, escape… and generally have a very jolly time. The happenings occur in several fictional places, set around the Kent coast mainly. Market Cray, St Mary’s Cray, St Denis Bay, and so on are loosely based on real places.

In some of the books they are joined by others such as the Pringle family and the Wilks family.


The Cherrys’ Famous Case

This book begins with the children moping. Captain Cherry is away and as [he] was always the one to get things going when you had nothing to do. His ‘happenings’ as they were called – those wonderful adventure games that were better than any games you ever thought of – were famous with the Cherrys and the Pringles and Mr Wilks next door.

Roy is reading a detective book and says it would be fun to try to follow clues. It’s just his luck that the next day Captain Cherry takes them to visit a professor friend, and he just so happens to have lost a parcel. Perhaps it was stolen! The Cherrys for a police force and must put together a suspect list, find clues and investigate this crime.

Of course this is another ‘happening’ all set up by the Big (as the adults are known). The Littles (as the children are known) solve it in the end, having worked out that the real culprits are Captain Cherry, Mr Wilks and Mr Pringle.


The Cherrys to the Rescue

In The Cherrys to the Rescue, it’s Jimmy who gets the idea for the happening, when his father tells a story about rescuing a professor from the jungle.

Suddenly Jimmy gave a jump. “That would be a good idea!”

Everyone was interested, because ideas for ‘happenings’, their own wonderful adventure games, were always so very welcome at River House.

“If only we could have a missing professor we could organize a relief expedition and rescue him.”

“Absolutely smashing!” cried Joe Pringle. “It would take hours and hours!”

Captain Cherry offers to be the professor, but Roy decides it isn’t fair – poor father always does the organising of the happenings and thus can’t take part. Before they can argue to much about it, Mr Wilks’s brother from the Isle of Wight arrives. They invite him to join their picnic, but he never returns from taking his car to the garage.

I haven’t had time to reread this so I’m not sure how long it takes them to realise that Mr Wilks’s brother has taken the role of the missing professor. Either way, they throw themselves into trying to find him. Things are muddled by the involvement of two mysterious boys they nickname Thin and Fat, as the Cherrys follow the trail Mr Wilks’s brother has left.

Of course they reunite with Mr Wilks’s brother in the end, and the solutions to various puzzles are revealed.


Like Blyton but not like Blyton

Featuring nice, middle-class children of the 1950s having adventures, Enid Blyton and Will Scott’s books have a lot in common

However, there is one huge difference between Scott’s stories and Blyton’s. In Blyton’s books parents are generally packed off as soon as possible – through trips abroad, hospitalisation, caring for sick relatives, or the children themselves go off on camping/hiking/walking/cycling tours to get away from authority. Only then can they fall into hair-raising danger.

Will Scott, however, has not only the Cherry parents but also the Pringles and Wilks parents as well as other adults just as embroiled in the happenings as the children are. Of course the treasure hunt or kidnap trails are all entirely fictional, but everyone enters with such enthusiasm that they become very real. The clues and trails are just as satisfying as are any solutions made.

Much like Blyton’s stories, the Cherrys’ tales are supported by lovely covers and illustrations, by Lilian Buchanan as I mentioned above. What they also have are endpaper maps, illustrating the areas in which the book’s happenings take place.

On the left is the map from The Cherrys to the Rescue (unfortunately my book is an ex-library copy and the left of the map is missing from the front, and the right is missing in the back. I was able to scan each part separately and put them back together though!), and on the right is the one from The Cherrys Famous Case.


So if you ever stumble upon a Cherrys book I heartily recommend them, and I can only hope that one day I can find some more of them myself.

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Letters to Enid 14: From volume 2 issue 2

Previous letters pages can be found here.

Again there is no regular letters page as instead we have the remaining prize winners from the Christmas competition.

From the newsletter at the back of the magazine:

NO LETTER PAGE. I am giving this up again in order to complete the list of the Queen’s-Message prize-winning names. It is so very exciting to see your name in print, isn’t it, and fathers and mothers like to see it too. All parents are delighted when one of their children does well. You should just see some of the letters I get from your mothers when you succeed in anything!


Competition winners from Volume 2, issue 2. January 20th-February 2nd 1954

OUR CHRISTMAS COMPETITION

Here are the rest of the messages sent to the queen.

I am sending you and the Duke of Edinburgh, best wishes for a very Happy Christmas, from my two little sisters and myself. We hope you have an enjoyable time in New Zealand and that the rest of your tour will be just as pleasant.
Vivian Matthews, aged 9,
Grays, Essex.

On behalf of the children of Horton Bank Top Primary School, I send you our warmest wishes for a Merry Christmas. Although you are hundreds of miles away I know that every British boy and girl is thinking of you today, and we hope that when you think of  your own children you will also remember us.
June Lombers, aged 10,
Bradford, Yorks.

Christmas Greetings and New Years Wishes from the children of Wivenhoe County Primary School. We hope you and the Duke of Edinburgh will enjoy yourselves on your tour of the Commonwealth.
Shane Parker, aged 10, 
Wivenhoe, Essex

My dear and much loved Queen,
Most gracious lady ever seen,
First sovereign round the world to fly,
Emblem of peace none can deny.
May your Christmas happy be
With all your Empire family.
A day with all your peoples dead,
So memorable in future years.
When you return our cry will be,
“God bless our Queen and long live she.”
Denise Yarker, aged 11,
Burley-in-Wharfe, Yorks.

As Christmas draws near and you are so far away from those who are nearest and dearest to you, may I, in my small way, wish you the happiest Christmas ever.
As you are taking your message of Goodwill and friendship to all your subjects overseas, we shall be thinking of you here at home, and when we hear your voice speaking to us on Christmas Day you will not seem so very far away from us.
Please accept my greeting as coming from all your children here in England.
Margaret Peat, aged 13,
Sheffield, Yorks.

The Children of Cholmondeley School would like to wish you and the Duke of Edinburgh a Happy Christmas and Prosperous New Year. We will all be thinking of you in England and looking forward to hearing your voice. We offer our sincere good wishes for a long, happy and peaceful reign.
Marjorie Griffiths, aged 14,
Malpas, Cheshire

 


I wonder if Marjorie ever thought that the Queen’s reign would still be going 65 years later?

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