Monday #277

June round up

and

Malory Towers on TV

Hey, Timmy – you look like Queen Elizabeth the First in a fine big ruff!

Uncle Quentin makes fun of Timmy and offends George so much that she goes off to camp by Kirrin Common and stumbles into another adventure.

 

Eunice Tolling is the daughter of a coleopterist, in town for a beetle conference. She and her father are staying with the Trottevilles in The Mystery of the Missing Man. Eunice is a most forceful young lady who speaks her mind and leaves Fatty hardly able to get a word in edgeways. He’s used to being the smartest one around but Eunice manages to make him look quite silly rather too often for his liking.

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Miss Grayling’s Girls 6 – her best teachers

This should really be titled Miss Grayling’s Ladies, I suppose, but as all the other parts have girls in the title I stuck with consistency and not accuracy! Previous parts, about the various girls that attend Malory Towers, can be found here.


Miss Potts

First form mistress, and head of North Tower, Miss Potts has to be Miss Grayling’s most helpful staff member.

She is always in charge of the new girls when they get the train to Malory Towers.

A keen-faced mistress. This must be Miss Potts. Her eyes twinkled – but there was something determined about her mouth. It wouldn’t do to get into her bad books.

Although named Potty by the girls she is anything but. She sizes up all the girls that pass through her care very quickly, and she’s almost always right about them.

She had already sized [Gwendoline] up and knew her to be a spoilt, only child, selfish and difficult to handle at first.

A nice, straightforward, trustable girl. [Darrell] can be a bit of a monkey, I should think. She looks as if she has good brains, I’ll see that she uses them.

She sees through malingerers like Gwendoline, suck-ups like Daphne, and as she knows the girls better, often discusses their progress with Miss Grayling and offers sound opinions.

She has wise advice for her students too,

Work hard this term, and you’ll find the exams easy. But slack this term, and I can promise you I shall hear some groans and grumbles next term!

When Darrell goes to her at the end of her first term, she has some very good advice;

You have come to ask me how it is that you are nearer the bottom than the top when you could so easily be among the top ones? There are people like Alicia who can play the fool in class and waste their time and everyone else’s, and yet still come out well in their work. And there are people like you, who can also play the fool and waste their time – but unfortunately it affects their work and they slide down to the bottom…

I shouldn’t copy Alicia and Betty too much if I were you, Darrell. You will be a finer character if you go along on your own, than if you copy other people. You see, what you do, you do whole heartedly – so if you play the fool, naturally other things will suffer. Alicia is able to do two or three things quite well at one and the same time. That certainly has its points – but the best people in this world are the whole-hearted ones, if they can only make for the right things.

Later she makes the hard decision to demote Darrell as head of the Upper Fourth, after she shakes June in a rage. While she knows that June’s owning up to being at the midnight feast is most likely not out of any sense of moral obligation (I am inclined to take your ‘owning up’ with a pinch of salt), she knows that Darrell cannot remain in position.

If you can’t control yourself, Darrell, you certainly can’t control others.

Continue reading

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Letters to Enid part 8

Previous letters pages can be found here.


Letters page from Volume 1, issue 17. October 28th – November 10th, 1953

 

OUR

LETTER PAGE

 1. A letter from Gillian Broadhurst, 270 Kings Road, Kingstanding, Birmingham, 22c
Dear Enid Blyton,
I am sending you some pictures from your magazine. I drew them – well, I did in a way. I will tell you how to do them. Get a candle and rub it over a piece of paper. Then put the paper, waxed-wide downwards, on to the picture which you want to take the drawing from. Get a pencil or a spoon and rub over the paper. Take the paper off and you will see you have a nice picture on the waxed side.
Love from,
Gillian Broadhurst.

(What a good idea, Gillian! We’ll try it!)

2. A letter from Jean Whitter, 30, Snape Street, Radcliffe, Lancs.
Dear Enid Blyton,
I have been getting your magazine ever since it came out, and I enjoy every single page of it. I have got nearly all the Five Books. I want to tell you that lat Christmas my uncle gave me a Bible made of olive wood from the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem, and I wonder if any of your readers have a Bible like mine?
Yours sincerely,
Jean Whitter.

(If any reader has an unusual Bible perhaps he or she would like to write to Jean.)

3. A letter from Christine Harrington, Mole Hill Green, Felstead, Essex.
Dear Enid Blyton,
My sister and I read your magazine. I am nearly six. When I went to Clacton-on-Sea, I went in the life-boat house and saw the life boat. It is very large. The blackberries on the hedges near our house are ripe. I go to school and Sunday-school.
With love from
Christine Harrington

(I do think this is a very good letter from someone who was not six when it was written. The writing is just as good as the letter! Well done, Christine!)

DSC02500


Another warning from Enid Blyton!

I forgot to include this last time, but this message was in the newsletter at the back of issue 16.

Don’t forget that I never choose a letter sent specially in for this – I only choose from the ordinary letters you send me, because that is the fairest way. If you try to write a letter for the letter-page your letter is often no longer natural. Nobody ever knows when he or she will find their letter, or part of it, on that page, and if they do see it, they can be quite proud! To be able to write a good, natural letter, as most of you do, is an admirable thing.

It makes me wonder what children were writing. Dear Enid Blyton, please choose my letter for your letter page, I do love your books… 


Is it just me or do the ‘instructional’ letters come across a little bit rude? I thought that about the letter from Jilly Peters about the match stick puzzle too. It’s probably just a mix of formal writing style and childish exuberance!

It’s funny how children exclaim over long-term loyalty that is actually not very long at all. I have been getting your magazine ever since it came out, that’s seventeen issues over 7 months. Then again, if Jean is only 7 or 8 that’s at least a tenth of her life so far. Everything seems to take longer to children, I think. Nearly all the Five Books made me smile as well. There were only 12 at the time.

It’s nice that Enid featured Christine’s letter, as although very good for a five year old, is not as good as many of the other letters she must have recieved.

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Monday #276

I didn’t end up doing jury duty last week, but I’ve got to attend again today at 10 – on my day off no less! Thankfully three of Enid’s fans have done the bulk of the work for Wednesday’s post already, some sixty six years ago no less. All that’s left for me to do is transcribe the letters and organise the photos!

Letters to Enid volume 8

and

Miss Grayling’s Girls part 6

It was a good thing he had no more money to spend or he would have bought a black dow a white cat, two mice and a parrot that would say “Pass the salt, please,” and then cackle loudly just like a hen that has laid an egg. Meddle thought it was wonderful.

Mr Meddle does some window shopping before getting lost in the fog in Meddle in a Fog, found in Merry Mister Meddle.

Peep-Hole is the home of Miss Dimity – or Dimmy as she’s often known – who often takes care of the Arnold Children during the school holidays. It is a funny, crooked sort of house with a tower on one side. It looks out to sea from a hollow in the hills, and that’s why it’s called peep-hole as it peeps out to sea.

It’s said that smugglers used to signal from the tower of Peep-Hole to the tower of a big old house further back on the cliffs. The children discover a secret passage at Peep-Hole that leads not only to the big house, but also to the Spiggy caves that give the book – The Secret of Spiggy Holes – its name.

 

 

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Letters to Enid part 7

Previous letters pages can be found here.


Letters page from Volume 1, issue 16. October 14th – 27th, 1953

 

OUR

LETTER PAGE

 1. A letter from Busy-Bee Geraldine Ann Wall, 99 Bloomfield Road, Blackwood, Mon.
Dear Enid Blyton,
I have something to tell you that thrilled me very much. I was walking down a street in Weston-Super-Mare when I saw a white van across the street. I saw that it had the letters P.D.S.A. on it (People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals). I was so excited to see a van that had to do with the work of the Busy Bees that I ran to take a look. The door was open so  I stole a look. Inside there was a bull-dog with a cut on his head, and beside him a man was tending him. It was lovely to see the man’s gentle hands at work.
All my love,
Geraldine.

(How many more of my readers have seen one of these wonderful vans?)

2. A letter from Ella Maunder, Lower Kilcott Farm, Meshaw.
Dear Enid Blyton,
I want to tell you how much all my family enjoy your magazine and book. My sister had your magazine, and when I am away at school she sends it to me and I pass it around my dormitory. My father likes reading your Brer Rabbit and Twiddle stories, and my grandfather is reading a Twiddle book. My grandmother likes reading Amelia Jane. Will there be any more Five books?
Yours sincerely,
Ella Maunder.

(Yes, Ella there will be plenty more!)

3. A letter from Carole Fitch, Sheriffmuir, East Horsley.
Dear Miss Enid Blyton,
On Saturday we organised a small show. We acted a play I had written, sang songs and did a dance. Brumas, my little poodle,  wore a little hat and carried a small box for collecting the enclosed ten shillings for your Sunbeams.
Yours affectionately,
Carole Fitch

(Please give Brumas a grateful pat for me, Carole!)


Another three letters from girls but it’s interesting that Enid has now started adding little replies to the letters.

I wonder how much Ella’s family liked her revealing to the world that they all read children’s books?

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Enid Blyton, praise and criticism part 4: The World of Children’s Books

I brought this one (and all the other praise and criticism books) home from the staff library at my work. I just quickly skimmed the index to see if Enid Blyton was mentioned. She’s in this one four times but I fear it won’t be much of a blog as each mention is very brief.


The World of Children’s Books

The full title of this book is An Introduction to the World of Children’s Books, a bit of a mouthful and rather too long for a blog title.

Margaret Marshall the writing, publishing and selling of children’s books and analyses the various kinds – fiction and non fiction, textual and pictorial. Trends in the children’s book world, past and present, are described, and the criteria for selection of a particular book discussed.

It looks quite serious and in-depth despite the bright and cartoony cover, I hope I understand more of it than I have some others!

 


What does it say about Enid Blyton?

First, there are only around 20 authors listed in the index, many of which have only one page reference. However, I notice on skim reading that many other authors are name checked, if only when their book is given as an example of a genre.

Blyton features four times, no other author has more than that in the index. Maurice Sendak is the only other who equals her four.

Girls’ school stories are vast in quantity, ranging from the archetypal Angela Brazil books to the fifty-six titles in the Chalet School series by Elinor Brent-Dyer, and the numerous titles in the Abbey School series by Elsie Oxenham. Enid Blyton’s school stories were popular from their beginning in the 1940s and remains so today in three series, The Naughtiest Girl, the St Clare’s and the Malory Towers books.

It’s interesting that none of the other authors in that paragraph feature in the index, and I wonder what the criteria was for selecting index-worthy names. I actually recognise few of the chosen ones, yet I know of Brazil, Brent-Dyer and Oxenham.

Anyway, it’s not a very informative bit about Blyton but at least it’s not negative. Though shortly after this the book says of boarding school books in general:

Many of the plots are repetitive, the characters stereotyped, the slang outdated; there is little to do with real-life boarding school practice in the educational sense and almost no explicit boy/girl relationships; but the sometimes exotic settings, the evident privilege in the boarding school clientele and the basic relationships depicted in the schoolgirl or schoolboy world, continue to hold interest, particularly for girls.

I suppose when you have hundreds upon hundreds of boarding school books you would struggle not to see the same plots appearing, but don’t they say that there are only seven real stories (overcoming the monster; rags to riches; the quest; voyage and return; comedy; tragedy; rebirth) out there and everything else is a variation upon on of them? As for no real-life boarding school education, nobody reads a book determined to witness a full geography or maths lesson. I’m also intrigued as to whether explicit means clearly stated or sexual. I assume the former, but the lack of romance or dating isn’t surely limited to boarding school books? A lot of children’s books stick to platonic friendships, or family groups.

The next mention of Blyton is in the bit about Adventure books.

There are many such books for children and many that make from the ingredients an easily absorbed story in which the reader races along with the action. This is the appeal of the phenomenal Enid Blyton books, dozens of which are adventure stories concerning the Famous Five and the Secret Seven in books like Five on a Treasure Island, The Island of Adventure, Castle of Adventure and so on. Her books have been best-sellers since the 1940s and are read by children all over the world, despite the very English characters and settings.

I appreciate that there’s no negativity again, in the idea of the books racing along. Though I’m not sure what phenomenal here refers to. Is it Enid Blyton herself, or her books? Usually it is the word of choice to describe her vast output. I have to laugh when I see the examples given, though, where the Famous Five and Secret Seven suddenly inhabit the world of the Adventure Series.

Illustrations are up next for Blyton;

Some of the classic story books whether opular or esoteric are remembered for the way in which the illustrations complement and extend the story as in Shepard’s pictures for Winnie the Pooh…; the illustrations for Richmal Compton’s William books and those for Enid Blyton’s Famous Five books.

Shame Eileen Soper doesn’t get name-checked here. I would certainly not call Enid Blyton’s books esoteric, so that means that they must be classic! It’s a crying shame that she almost never gets that label despite so many of her contemporaries being lauded as classic.

And lastly Enid Blyton is mentioned because Sheila Ray’s The Blyton Phenomenon is listed as a bibliographical aid to children’s literature.


What isn’t said

Very little is said about any author or books, there just isn’t room. No biographical information appears, and little beyond a few words about any one book at a time.

There are several mentions of racism and sexism  in the book, thankfully none in conjunction with Enid Blyton.

A trend which is being strongly pursued by some people is the attempt to exclude, delete or ban from children’s books, references to what are considered to be sexist, racist, politically unfavourable, or religious themes, comments or characters.

This is more or less branded as a disturbing development especially the notion that books should be weeded for offensive material, or developing a code whereby these sorts of things are managed.

This I very much agree with.

So on the whole, the book casts Blyton in a positive light – though perhaps that’s just because it doesn’t say much negative about any author in particular.


 

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Monday #275

The second post of this week will depend on whether or not I am actually called for jury duty at the end of the week. If I am, on top of working and running around after a toddler, I may struggle for time and energy.

Enid Blyton in The World of Children’s Books

and

Letters to Enid vol 7

Miss Kennedy went pale. She guessed that some trick had been played, though she couldn’t imagine what. She stood up, looking unexpectedly dignified, though bits of straight hair fell rather wildly from two knots at the sides of her head.

“Girls,” she said. “There will be no history lesson this morning. I refuse to teach an unruly class like this.”

The St Clare’s girls give Alicia and June a run for their money in The Twins at St Clare’s.

janet and miss kennedy

The Valley in The Valley of Adventure is located somewhere in Austria, as far as we know. It was once just an ordinary if beautiful valley, with several homes in it. Then the pass was bombed during the war and the valley was lived in no more – except for two old people and their hen who moved into the caves to guard a secret treasure. The whole valley is a secret, really, the only way in or out is by air. There are the secret caves and many secret tunnels.

 

 

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My twenty-fifth Noddy book: Noddy and the Farmyard Muddle

Back in 2016 I reviewed my twenty-fourth Noddy book and proclaimed it my last. I wasn’t in a strop with Noddy, as irritating as he can be at times, I had come to the end of the main series. There are plenty of other Noddy books out there, picture books, strip books, board books and more.

So of all the Noddy books in all the world, why have I considered this to be the 25th? It doesn’t come sequentially after the main series, in fact it was published in 2009, more than 50 years after Enid Blyton died. But it is intended to be a continuation of the series, written for Noddy’s 60th birthday.

What makes it more interesting is that it was written by Sophie Smallwood, Enid Blyton’s granddaughter.


The book visually

I had seen the cover online before I got the book as a gift. It looks very similar to the classic Noddy books, but there’s one bizarre and quite major difference. It’s a completely different size! The other books are around a5 in size, while this new book is almost twice as big! So although it looks very much like the others it would look silly on the shelf which is why mine is on a different shelf with big annuals.

Blyton’s signature has been replaced with Sophie’s, and her name has been added at the top in smaller letters. Honesty about who actually wrote a book is always a good thing in my book! The characters in the train have also changed – the golly has naturally been removed – and the cows and bull fit the farm theme.

The train’s steam holds the words Illustrated by Robert Tyndall. Tyndall started illustrating Noddy books in 1953 with the 9th book (Noddy and the Magic Rubber, published in 1954). He then returned for book 14 and worked on most of the rest of the series. Originally the words on the steam read Pictures by Beek, and after his death books 8 though 24 read All aboard for Toyland.

Anyway, having one of the original illustrators helps greatly in making this fit with the series. It’s not crucial, but the next best would be a good illustrator who keeps to the same style.

The back has a different style – the original 24 had the train carriages across the bottom with a larger cloud of steam reading All aboard for Toyland. The top left would read Noddy Book and the number, while an image from the book would be at the top right. The new book has the train continue in a crescent shape up the book and features a blurb.

Inside instead of the classic endpapers showing Toyland there’s a farm scene at the front and a party scene at the back. The internal illustrations follow a similar pattern of small inset images and large full page ones with borders.

 


The story

Noddy is busy ferrying customers around Toyland when he comes across a load of sheep in a lane. He and Mrs Noah herd them back to Farmer Straw’s farm, and discover his new tractor is in the pond. He then finds some wooly-pigs. Or are they oinking sheep? He isn’t sure. Also on the loose are Gobbo and Sly the goblins, but thankfully Big-Ears turns up to deal with them.

Mr Plod also assists, he bring back a herd of blue cows and the bull by train. With all the animals back there’s just the matter of Gobbo and Sly returning them to their usual selves, before the goblins are punished with a load of farmyard chores.

Overall it’s a decent story. There’s just two things I didn’t like. One is that we read all about Sly and Gobbo doing their mischief on the farm at the start of the book (I’m not sure that we get lengthy non-Noddy scenes in his other books?) when it could have made a nice little mystery and been far more surprising to us when Noddy finds sheep/pigs and there are blue cows roaming around. The second is that after being punished Gobbo and Sly get to join in the feast celebrating the return of the animals. I know I can be a vindictive sort of person but as far as I know Gobbo and Sly have no redeeming features whatsoever and are not friends of anyone in Toyland. There’s no reason to have them at the feast and they don’t deserve to be there!


The writing

I’ve yet to read a Blyton continuation that reads exactly like Blyton wrote it, and this book is no exception. To expect Sophie Smallwood to write completely convincingly as her grandmother is silly though, she’s no more Enid Blyton than Pamela Cox is. Sophie was born two years after Enid died, so she never even met her. She did grow up reading her grandmothers’ books and is obviously a fan and I think she has done a good job of writing a Noddy book even if it isn’t a flawless fit for the series.

Nothing major sticks out as being ‘un-Blyton’, and perhaps it’s just my adult mind looking for faults because I know it’s not the real deal. It doesn’t help that we have Gobbo and Sly as main characters as I associate them with the 90s tv shows (Gobbo first appears in a 1970s adaptation, with different looks and without Sly). I suspect that modern children wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between this and the updated versions of the original 24 books.

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Enid Blyton, praise and criticism part 3: The Ultimate First Book Guide

The Ultimate First Book Guide claims to contain over 500 great books for 0-7s. This might be dangerous for me as I will probably see lots of things I will want to read, I really enjoy going back and reading popular children’s books that I missed at the time. I’ve recently discovered The Giving Tree, Goodnight Moon, The Velveteen Rabbit and several other classics/modern classics.

Anyway, a few Blytons feature in the book so I thought I’d have a look to see which ones.


Three, or is it eight or nine?

There are three entries for Enid Blyton, but all three are series. They are The Magic Faraway Tree, The Enchanted Wood and Amelia Jane.

There are over 60 different contributors to this book, each recommending a book or books. They are split into three age categories, 0-2, 2-5 and 5-7. All of Blyton’s entries fall into the 5-7 group, which has difficulty ratings for each book. One being the easiest and three being the most challenging. Oh and they are listed alphabetically within the sections (the exception being a few pages with a theme or topic).

THE FARAWAY TREE STORIES
Enid Blyton
Some children have more adventure than most. It helps if you have an Enchanted Wood at the bottom of your harden, and friends like Silky the elf, Moon-Face and Saucepan Man, the inhabitants of the Faraway Tree. Every week, at the top of this magic tree, there is a different land to visit – from the irresistible Land of Treats to the Land of Bad Temper. The children sometimes find themselves in trouble, but never any real danger – they always manage to get back in time for tea. The stories may be slightly old-fashioned, but they have a vividness and sense of magic that more sophisticated books can lack. And there are things that will always appeal to children’s imaginations – sweets that turn from hot to cold in your mouth, a cat that can tell fortunes, a Land of Birthdays…
Katie Jennings

Katie Jennings is a children’s editor who works for the publishing house that produces the Ultimate Book Guide. The Faraway Tree books have been rated as a three, so amongst the most challenging of the recommended titles. If you think a book is good enough to be recommended in a widely published book, I wonder why there’s a need for saying they are old-fashioned in a negative way (almost apologising for that, rather than celebrating it). Or for using a backhanded compliment by saying it has things that more sophisticated books don’t, therefore saying it is unsophisticated, ie simple or lacking depth.

Many other books/series recommendations have a box to the side giving other titles, but not for the Faraway Tree. There’s also not a picture, though there’s only pictures for half of the books included.

NAUGHTY AMELIA JANE
Enid Blyton
This is a classic collection from the prolific pen of Enid Blyton. Amelia Jane is the naughtiest toy in the toy cupboard. In each chapter, she thinks up a new way to tease and terrify the other toys: she snips off pink rabbit’s tail, scares the toys by pretending to be a cat, and pushes the brown teddy bear into a pool of water. But even though Amelia Jane is the largest of the toys, the others are quite good at teaching her a lesson. Whenever she gets her comeuppance, she promises to be good in future… but her resolution is always short-lived!
There are three collections of Amelia Jane stories to enjoy.
Susan Reuben

Naughty Amelia Jane gets a rating of two, between easy and challenging. I’m surprised as I was exposed to Amelia Jane younger than five, though it was read to me rather than me reading it. From what I can tell, the books rated as a one have more pictures and less text.

Again there’s no list of titles and no picture. It’s interesting that although the book was published in 2008 they have stuck to the original three book series with no acknowledgement of the 2001 book Good Idea, Amelia Jane.

THE WISHING CHAIR ADVENTURES
Enid Blyton
Two children wander into an antique shop one day and find an incredible chair that will take them wherever they wish to go. So they keep it on their playroom, and whisk off on adventures whenever they can. Of course, things don’t always go according to plan, and they frequently meet nasty creatures who try to take the chair and cause all sorts of other trouble. 
This is the first in a series of three books about the wishing chair, which have the trademark Blyton features of rollicking, adventurous storylines and a fast-paced, unchallenging text.
Susan Reuben

Susan Reuben co-owns a company that carries out freelance work for children’s publishers. I was appreciating these two recommendations until the second to last word. I’m trying to tell myself that she means unchallenging in a positive way, telling parents that their child who finds reading hard would find these books manageable. But come on, almost nobody says anything positive about Enid Blyton these days without caveats and backhanded compliments. If you’ve written a deliberately accessible book aimed at poor readers then unchallenging is probably a compliment, for anyone else it’s just another put down along with ‘limited vocabulary’.

Again, no picture, no list of books, and strangely the fact that it says three books means that they are including the 2000 book More Wishing-Chair Stories. Despite the unchallenging text, the books get a rating of two.


What else is there?

Given that Enid Blyton wrote hundreds of books it’s a shame that more of them don’t feature here, but saying that, her other big series are probably aimed at older readers. The Famous Five, Adventure Series, Five-Find Outers, Malory Towers and St Clare’s for example are usually in the 7 or 8-12 age bracket in book shops. Perhaps the Secret Seven or Josie Click and Bun would have been age appropriate, the latter would have been great instead of going for the obvious and already well-known titles. And of course, Noddy!

I will have to look out for The Ultimate Book Guide which has over 700 books for 8-12s, perhaps more Blytons will feature in there.

Roald Dahl is another prolific writer, though not in the same league titles-wise as Blyton, yet he has seven books recommended. Interestingly Charlie and the Chocolate Factory isn’t there, nor The Witches, or Matilda. Either they thought those would be 8+ as well, or bizarrely rate them not as good as The Magic Finger or The Enormous Crocodile. I love The Twits, and though Esio Trot is good it’s very short and barely a story.

Some personal classics from 0-2 I was happy to see include Dear Zoo (Rod Campbell), Where’s Spot (Eric Hill), The Very Hungry Caterpillar (Eric Carle), We’re Going on a Bear Hunt (Michael Rosen), Peepo! and Each Peach Pear Plum – one of Brodie’s favourites – (Janet and Allen Ahlberg), the Hairy Maclary books – also Brodie’s favourites – (Lynley Dodd) and That’s Not My… Series (Fiona Watt).


Related post⇒ Books for Babies, the lead up to Blyton 


I was not impressed with the inclusion of Bing Bunny books, I despise Bing Bunny who is a character on CBeebies. He is whiny, badly behaved and just incredibly annoying!

I spotted Where the Wild Things Are (Maurice Sendak) – a classic I have yet to read, though I’ve read the book adaptation of the film. Also in there was Goodnight Moon, which didn’t surprise me.

For the 2-5 age group I love the Alfie books  and Dogger (Shirley Hughes), most things by Dr Seuss, more Janet and Allan Ahlberg this time Cops and Robbers and Funnybones, Dr Dog (Babette Cole), The Gruffalo (Julia Donaldson), the Large Family books (Jill Murphy), Katie Morag (wonderfully Scottish and by Mairi Hedderwick), Meg and Mog (Helen Nicoll), Old Bear books (Jane Hissy) and The Tiger Who Came to Tea (Judith Kerr).

Perhaps surprising is The Story of the Little Mole Who Knew it was None of his Business (Werner Holzwarth). This one has scatalogical in the description! It’s the story of a mole who has a poo done on his head and he goes around trying to work out whose poo it is. Sort of a ‘you’re not my mother’ type, but with poo. I’ve read it and it’s actually very funny but I’m not used to that sort of stuff being openly recommended. Mind you it was (and possibly still is) on my library’s catalogue homepage, so I shouldn’t be surprised to see it elsewhere. I’ve just discovered there is a Scottish version too, The Tale o the Wee Mowdie that wantit tae ken wha keeched on his heid.

And for the 5-7s, Winnie the Pooh – in the original form I’d say this is the right age group though there’s lots out there for younger readers (A. A. Milne), the Milly-Molly-Mandy books (Joyce Lankester Brisley), The Sheep Pig – aka Babe – Dick King-Smith, Bill’s New Frock – also excellent are The Country Pancake and The Angel of Nitshill Road – (Anne Fine), the Worst Witch books (Jill Murphy), Happy Families (Janet and Allan Ahlberg), My Naughty Little Sister (Dorothy Edwards), Paddington Bear (Michael Bond), and although it barely has any words; Where’s Wally (Martin Handford).

One book I would like to read now is George Speaks by Dick King-Smith, one I’ve never heard of before!


 

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Monday #274

Enid Blyton in the Ultimate First Book Guide

and

Noddy and the Farmyard Muddle

Amelia Jane slept for an hour – and then she began having horrid dreams about falling into a river and getting cold and wet. She woke up with a jump – and oh, my goodness, whatever had happened? She was clasping a few wet clothes tightly to her – and she was soaked through and dripping wet! The snow-doll had disappeared.

In Amelia Jane Again! Amelia Jane learns a hard lesson about what happens to snow when you bring it into a warm room. She’s a rather horrible doll most of the time but I always feel bad for her at this part of the story as I struggle a lot with things not lasting! I hate using the last of anything, and I have lots of unused things because I’m afraid to use them and not have them any more.

Rubadub is a strange seaside town, visited by Roger and Diana Lynton, their cousin Snubby, his dog Loony, their friend Barney and his monkey Miranda, in The Rubadub Mystery. The town is named for the unusual rock formation in the cliff nearby – a rock shaped like a scrubbing board beside a whirlpool. The pool is particularly dangerous as it draws the water downwards, and anyone foolish enough to fall in! It also sends water through a tunnel into the rock and forces it out a blowhole a short distance away.

The rest of the town is almost as interesting; the inn named Rubadub too is a large rambling building with a skylight looking over the cliffs, and a large, rambling expanse of roof just perfect for exploring.

Then there’s the pier with its pierrots show, a fun fair and a mysterious submarine base…

rubadub mystery

 

 

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Five Go off to Camp part 2

Last time I wrote a lot about Mr Luffy and the Andrews/Robbins family, and very little about the actual storyline or adventure. Let me remedy that now!


The big adventure

Now I’ve just read the book in the past week and yet I’m back to being confused by the order of events. While reading it I knew what would happen but I wasn’t certain of the order and I’m not much wiser now. I’ve had to flick through the book to work it all out.

To avoid a dull summary I won’t do it in order. I’ll start with that despite the boys making three trips to the yard/tunnel they only find the train and its hiding place when the baddies walk them right up to it. It’s George who finds it, with Timmy.

The boys see the train on their first trips – all three sneak down to Olly’s yard one night and witness a train with no lights which comes out of the tunnel, goes down to the yard for a bit, then comes back. I was struck by how frightening this bit could be!

“It’s only a train going through one of the underground tunnels – the noise is echoing out through this one.”

“It isn’t. That noise is make by a train coming through this tunnel!”

Dick’s Blow, I’ve twisted my ankle! is a line from the cassette tape that I remember well, and it explains why the three boys don’t follow the train to the yard or do any more investigating at the time.

Naturally Julian and Dick go back to the tunnel another night. Dick watches from the Olly’s Yard end where the train comes out, then goes back in, and Julian goes across the top to Kilty Vale where he finds a lot of small buildings, but no train ever appears. So they’ve seen the train twice but are no further forward. You can’t fault them for trying, though, as they’ve even gone into the nearest town to do some research.

Blyton likes her knowledgeable old men characters (Lucas from Five Have a Mystery to Solve, Jeremiah Boogle from Five Go to Demon’s Rocks, Old Grandad from Ring O Bell’s Mystery, to name a few) and in this one is Tucky, an old porter. He knows all about the tunnels.

He gives the children (minus George) a map and I wish we got to see it too, to help me keep it all in my head. I’m rubbish at imagining outdoor things, I always lump everything far too close together and then it makes no sense. In my mind Olly’s Yard is a matter of a few metres from the tunnel opening, and the other end of the tunnel at Kilty Vale is visible to anyone standing atop the tunnel. Not the fault of the author at all – it’s all my useless brain! (I find my mental image of Kirrin Island is just as silly with everything so close together half the plots would never work.)

In my defense the illustrations don’t help – they put Sam’s hut very close to the tunnel entrance, though on different sides!

Anyway, the layout is that there’s a tunnel a mile or so long leading from Olly’s Yard to Kilty Vale. Halfway down this is a branch that once led to Roker’s Vale but it was bricked up due to the roof falling in years ago. The Olly/Kilty tunnel is open but hasn’t been used in years.

Now, George has the basics of this information but hasn’t seen the map or heard the full story but she and Timmy go off anyway. They have a run in with Wooden-Leg Sam and then go up on top of the tunnel where Timmy falls into a hole. A bit like in Five On a Treasure Island he gets stuck halfway down, but this time it’s a vent not a well. He and George reach the bottom and find themselves in the main tunnel, right next to a spook train. I know it’s accidental but she’s able to walk up to it and even get inside, discovering it’s full of boxes. Also accidentally she discovers where the train has been hiding – SPOILER – there is a portion of the bricked up tunnel which opens, revealing a portion of tunnel before another brick wall. The train, along with George and Timmy chuffs its way into this secret space, trapping them inside. – END SPOILER –

Meanwhile Julian, Dick, Jock and Anne explore the tunnel. They walk all the way from Olly’s Yard to Kilty Vale, where a load of weeds tell them that the train clearly never comes that far. The boys head back along the tunnel – while Anne goes across the top – and discover the lines are dull and rusty all the way to the blocked off bit of tunnel.

At this point the story is split to three viewpoints and we have Anne who can see Mr Andrews and some of his men going into the tunnel before the boys have come out. The boys are captured and manhandled into the train’s hiding space. It’s nicely ironic that they wanted so badly to find the train and then end up tied up beside it. It’s also ironic that George – who was banned from any night time excursions – it the one who found it first and then is able to untie the boys to facilitate their escape.

It’s all sorted out quite neatly at the end, Anne fetches Mr Luffy and he brings the police with him. The bad guys are all arrested and the Five go back to the farm for a wash and a meal.


George is as good as a boy

As I’ve said above it’s George that find the train and rescues the boys. I’ve seen a few people say they can’t stand George in this book because of her whining/complaining/stropping but I think that’s unfair.

She gets a bit sulky when Anne tells her that she must help with preparing food and the washing up. She has a point, though. She’s only got to do that because she’s a girl. The boys don’t have to bother with any of that stuff. Ask her to fetch firewood or carry buckets of water and I bet she’d be quite happy.

She and Julian have a real row at one point and neither of them come out of it well. George is needlessly unkind in calling Anne a coward and blaming her for the boys leaving them both behind. Julian calls her out on it:

You’re behaving like a girl, for all you think you’re as good as a boy! Saying catty things like that!

He reinforces the idea that girls are inferior to boys there, just like he did in the last book. He also declares that the adventure belongs to he and Dick, perhaps Jock, but not either of the girls.

I have mixed ideas as to his thought process. Part of his reasoning is that Anne can’t be left at camp alone – but Mr Luffy’s tent is quite close. I suspect it’s 50/50 that and him just believing George shouldn’t be involved as she is a girl. He and Dick know fine they are going to upset George but are pretty blatant about going off anyway, more or less laughing in her face that they’re boys and can do what they like. Not their finest moments in the series. Vaguely related, the boys behave surprisingly like hooligans on their first visit to Olly’s Yard and shove some of the railway trucks along the tracks so they crash into each other.

Anyway, George does get one moment of happiness when Jock compliments her by saying he had thought she was a boy to start with.


Questions, comments and nitpicks

As usual the start of the book gives us a pointer as to where this adventure fits into a timeline (though if you add it up the children should be in their twenties by the last book).

They mention Last summer when we went off in caravans – though omit any mention of the adventure they had in Kirrin in the spring! We can assume this is just a few months later, though.

They eat some strange things this time around. Mr Luffy’s shared sandwiches are cucumber dipped in vinegar, and spam and lettuce. Anne says those are nicer than theirs, making me wonder what on earth is in their sandwiches. Tripe?

Interestingly on more than one occasion they have dinner (mid day) then tea (late afternoon) then a light meal in the evening. I’d have expected them to have lunch at midday, because to them dinner would be an evening meal.

They also have sardines and fruitcake for breakfast one day, which even Mr Luffy approves of.. yuck.

Some of my random observances;

Blyton overuses queer in this book. It’s  used seven times across the scene where the Five meet Wooden-Leg Sam for the first time, and several more times in relation to him elsewhere in the book.

Anne and her volcano occurs a lot earlier than I remember, but I do remember and enjoy Mr Luffy’s little jokes about it later.

anne, five go off to camp

Tucky names Olly’s Yard, Roker’s Vale and Kilty Vale but they are also referred to as Roker’s Yard Kilty’s Yard on several occasions.

At one point Dick says No wonder Jock’s tubby. I honestly don’t remember every reading that before! I’ve never thought of Jock as tubby and he doesn’t look it in the illustrations.

I wonder how this one has been updated. For one, is it still a steam train? And secondly seeing as it’s all about black market goods, is it now iPads and other modern items rather than tea and sugar?

I think it’s a great pity that we don’t find out how the train’s hiding place was thought of and created. The Five make a brief supposition but I’d love to know more about it all.

I also have a lot of questions and nitpicks…

Who is paying Wooden-Leg Sam to watch? And what is he watching for? He is terrified of the spook trains, which suggests he doesn’t know that it’s a real train, yet at the end he’s the one that summons Mr Andrews because the children are in the tunnel. Has he been in their pay all along, or has Mr Andrews just recently paid or threatened him into doing that?

Further to that, if Olly’s Yard is deserted why does it a) still have train tracks that go all the way to Kilty Vale, b) have a watchman and c) still have wagons and other stuff sitting around. It’s all been closed for years, since Tucky was a young man. A bit different from Beeching’s cuts but you’d think they’d still lift the track and reuse it, and remove all the other properties of the company.

What doesn’t make sense is why they move the train in the middle of the day, when George has found it. Surely the whole point of a hidden space is that the train hides! It only comes out to collect goods. Anyone rambling in the area could have walked into the tunnel and come across the train loaded with black market goods. Also at this point a great lamp on the side of the tunnel comes on. If you’re hiding a secret operation it’s probably wise not to install a massive lamp, even if it’s off someone could see it and there’s no good explanation for it.

The whole using of the railway is part genius and part way over complicated. Stolen goods come to Olly’s Farm in lorries and stay a night or two. Then they go down to Olly’s Yard and are loaded onto a train which then gets hidden inside the tunnels. Later the goods come out a side door and onto lorries again.

So, firstly why not take the stuff straight to Olly’s Yard. Or better, straight to that side door and do away with the train nonsense. I suppose the train is part goods moving and part ‘stay away this place is scary’, but it seems like a lot of effort.

Talking of the side door… George and the boys can’t get out of it because – they suppose – the men have jammed something against it from outside. There’s no lock, so it isn’t just locked. I imagine it could be padlocked, but they believe it’s jammed which, to them, makes sense. They say it’s probably hidden too. The idea that they would simply jam something against it makes no sense though as they are wanting to prevent anyone getting in, not out!

And lastly there’s a conversation I have never been able to make head nor tail of. I won;t copy the whole thing but the important points are below:

“Come tomorrow,” said Dick.

“I can’t,” said Jock. “He’s gone and arranged for me to meet Cecil Dearlove.”

“Oh blow, so you won’t be able to come tomorrow either,” said Julian. “Well, what about the next day?”

“It should be all right,” said Jock. “But I’ve a feeling I’ll have dear Cecil planked on me for the day.”

“Well if you can’t come tomorrow either, and perhaps not the next day, what about going one night?” said Dick.

What day is Cecil is going to be ‘planked’ (as a Scot I would have used the word plonked in that context!) on Jock? If it’s the day after tomorrow why does he say it should be all right? If he’s referring to the next day, then the day after should be ok, and they wouldn’t have to go at night.


Final thoughts

Five Go Off to Camp came out in a lowly 16th place on my list of favourites from the series. I’m mildly surprised at that now, as I did enjoy it. I do love the spook train and the (confusing) tunnels, but I stand by the comment I made on that list about how long the real adventure takes to get going.

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Letters to Enid part 6

Previous letters pages can be found here.


Letters page from Volume 1, issue 15. September 30th – October 13th, 1953

OUR

LETTER PAGE

 1. A letter from Joan Bickerton, Whin Garth, Gunnerton, Hexam.
Dear Enid Blyton,
You may be very pleased when I tell you this ; my brother has nearly fifty budgerigars, and I have picked out five nestlings, which I am going to teach to talk. You can guess quite easily what their names are! They are Julian, Dick, George, Anne and Timmy. The one I have in the house just now said “George” for the first time to-day. I hope you are glad to think that it is not only humans that have anything to do with the Famous Five. We are going to get a parrot one day and I am going to call it Kiki!
From your most faithful reader,
Joan Bickerton.

2. A letter from a “new-leaf-turn-overer.”
Dear Enid Blyton,
If you print this letter, PLEASE do not print my address. Not very long ago I was lazy, selfish, greedy and, I’m afraid, bad-tempered. But when I read your letters in Enid Blyton’s Magazine, and also your stories, I decided to change myself. I did – and although although it didn’t work out very well at first, I am now good-tempered, busy, AND the happiest girl in Leicestershire.
Lots of love from,
A Friend and a new-leaf-turn-overer.

3. A letter from Marian Titt, South Litchfield Grane, Overton, Nr. Basingstoke.
Dear Enid Blyton,
We have a strange assortment of names in our district. Our surname is Titt, a girl my sister knows at school has the surname Partridge, and my Sunday School teacher is Mrs. Martin. A lady who lives near us is Mrs. Nightingale, a milkman that goes to some houses near here is Mr. Crow, and a man who has just gone away is Mr. Parrot. I think this is rather funny, don’t you?
Yours sincerely, 
Marian Titt.


Three wonderful letters this week! I just love the idea of the Famous Five budgies, and I truly hope that Joan got her parrot called Kiki later.

Marian’s bird named people is exactly the kind of thing I find funny, though I admit I gave a childish snigger at her name before I even read the letter.

The cynic in me thinks that the second letter could be one of those ones children were writing just to get on the letter’s page and have a chance at winning the prize. Maybe Enid wasn’t sure either, and that’s why it didn’t get first place. It’s nice to think that it’s genuine, though.

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Monday #273

Letters to Enid volume 6

and

Five Go Off to Camp part 2

Noddy and the Tootles is the penultimate book in the series of 24 books about Noddy. The Tootles are a family of musical gypsies who camp by Noddy’s house, Mr Tootle, Mrs Tootle and their eight little Toots. At first they may seem like harmless and amusing neighbours but soon they are causing Noddy bother and he has to do some work to get things sorted again.

noddy and the tootles

Alison O’Sullivan is a cousin to the O’Sullivan twins, Pat and Isabel. She joins St Clare’s at the start of The O’Sullivan Twins, the second book about the boarding school. Pat describes her instantly as a bit stuck up (which is rich coming from her!) full of airs and graces and as having had her hair permed. This brief insight is quite accurate as when we meet Alison and follow her through a few years at St Clare’s she is certainly vain, feather-headed and really quite silly. She spends a lot of time idolizing and worshipping some older girl or school mistress, usually because they are pretty, or glamorous or wealthy, or sometimes all three though she does improve a little as the series goes on.

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Five Go Off to Camp

This is the seventh book in the series, a series which was only meant to run for six book! Children loved the Famous Five so much, however, that Blyton wrote another six. And another six. And then a final three.

My sister and I had this book on cassette tape and used to listen to it all the time so I find bits of the book playing in my head as I read it. Not everything as the cassette was highly abridged but many of the lines of dialogue stand out in my memory – Blow, I’ve sprained my ankle! – But you will let me come next time, won’t you, Julian? – That’s let the cat properly out of the bag – Aye, I’m a ninny – Cecil Dearlove! and loads more!


A story in three parts

Usually I split the stories into three bits – the start where nothing adventurous happens, but they arrive somewhere and settle in, the adventurous middle and an exciting conclusion.

This one I’ve split a bit differently:

  • The Five going off and setting up camp with Mr Luffy, and hearing the story of spook trains from Wooden-Leg Sam.
  • The Five meet Jock and begin to investigate the spook trains.
  • The drama in the Kilty Vale / Roker’s Vale tunnel.

Usually the first discovering of a mystery/adventure would start part two, but I feel it fits more into part one here. Once they meet Jock the dynamics of the group change a bit and the real adventures begin, starting from Mr Andrew’s OTT warnings to stay away from the spook trains.


All about Mr Luffy

Mr Luffy is one of Julian and Dick’s school teachers, and is also a friend of their parents/ Due to all their previous adventures their parents aren’t keen to let them go off on their own again, so they arrange for Mr Luffy to go with them to supervise.

Only Mr Luffy is more likely to need supervision! He is a bug enthusiast and is happy to disappear for hours on end, forgetting about meals and everything else, including friends he was out with.

Two chaps I know once went out in his car with him for a day’s run, and he came back without them in the evening. He’d forgotten he had them with him, and had left them wandering somewhere miles and miles away,” – Julian

On form, he arrives late to pick them up, and then drives too fast as he forgets he is pulling a trailer. The last time he took it he lost half the contents through bad driving! Later he almost drives off with the empty trailer still attached as he forgot about it – and says he’s always taking it without meaning to.

He’s almost like a very genial version of Uncle Quentin – though he seems to pay a bit more attention to the importance of regular meals.

Blyton describes him as an odd-looking fellow. He had very untidy shaggy eyebrows over kind and gentle brown eyes. He had a rather large nose with looked fiercer than it was because, unexpectedly, it had quite a forest of hairs growing out of the nostrils. He had an untidy moustache, and a round chin with a surprising dimple in the middle of it. His ears… were large and turned rather forward, and [he] could waggle the right one if he wanted to. To his great sorrow he had never been able to waggle the left one. His hair was thick and untidy, and his clothes always looked loose, comfortable and too big for him.

I just love the extra detail about the ear waggling, and especially his sorrow about not being able to waggle the other one. I almost know how he feels as I can raise one side of my upper lip in a marvellous sneer, but not the other!

Initially, when we’re told that the Five are going to have to put up with a supervising adult for their holiday you imagine that they’re not going to be very happy about it. As a reader we also are not that happy, unless we think they can be quickly disposed of with an emergency at home or something. But as soon as we hear about Mr Luffy I think we relax, and understand why the children are quite happy to go off with him. They like him, and also know that he’s not going to be bossy or cramp their style. It turns out he’s great fun anyway. He had wanted to camp near the children but was tactful enough to camp further away when he realised they would prefer that. He lets them do their own thing, but joins them for the odd card game and he’s also a great swimmer, even faster than Julian.

Still, imagine going to boarding school all year then going on holiday with your teacher as well! Not sure what modern safeguarding would make of it.

I love Soper’s artwork as always but she just doesn’t draw Mr Luffy like I imagine him. I picture him as having much bushier hair and stronger features. I think I also imagine him as quite a bit older than Blyton and Soper do. He looks around 40, maybe, but in my head he’s more like 60.

Mr Luffy comes through for the Five a couple of times in the book, proving they were right to go away with him. First he stands up to Mr Andrews and allows Jock to stay with them at camp, and then he reports the missing children to the police and escorts Anne on a rescue mission.


Jock, Mr Andrews and Mrs Andrews

Jock is an important sidekick in this book. Often the Five adventure perfectly well all by themselves, but it’s also nice when someone else is included (especially when he doesn’t make idiotic car noises all the time…).

Jock Robbins lives at Olly’s Farm with his mother and step-father. Mrs Andrews explains they have different names, rather apropos of nothing, as Jock was her first husband’s son. Maybe she thought they looked the judgemental type.

Olly’s farm is a smallish place where you would expect them to be scratching a living by working all hours. Surprisingly, though, it’s full of shiny new mod-cons, equipment, machinery, lorries. It doesn’t quite add up. Mr Andrews is no farmer, he hires men who are rubbish farm-hands.

It doesn’t add up from the perspective of a reader who knows what’s going on. Spoilers to follow!

So Mr Andrews is running a side operation in black-marketeering. I say side operation, it probably accounts for 95% of the income. So why pour so much money into an unprofitable farm? Anyone with half a brain could tell that farm couldn’t produce enough profit to sustain that sort of spending. I suspect a lot of it is just to please Mrs Andrews who seems like a lovely woman. I do wonder though how much she suspected and whether she was burying her head in the sand. She knows how to run a farm, surely she could tell the figures didn’t add up?

Also, I know he needed labourers for moving the stolen goods but why for goodness sake does he hire them as farm hands then let them skulk around doing very little? It’s all very stupid if you’re trying to pretend nothing out of the ordinary is going on. But then again maybe he’s just very stupid. His massive over-reaction to hearing the children talking about spook trains proves that. He rambles about Bad things. Accidents. – possibly the Comic Strips inspiration for the Robbie Coltrane speeches. He even insists that the spook trains are real – a sure fire way to make sure the boys go to investigate. His attempts to keep Jock from the children also seems heavy-handed and I’m surprised the children don’t see through that earlier and suspect him of being involved.

Anyway, the end is a bit strange too. Mr Andrews is arrested and Mrs Andrews is a bit upset but also very pragmatic about it. She blames his friend for persuading him into his criminal activities, saying her husband is very weak. He’s also a liar and a bully not to mention a member of a criminal gang. He doesn’t merely do a bit of black marketeering, he then kidnaps three children, hits one of them, ties them up… Not a nice man at all. Mr Luffy seems to think being arrested and perhaps jailed or fined for his crime will set him on the straight and narrow but I’m not so sure. Being the 1950s step fathers (and some fathers) were probably not expected to be particularly close with their children but he shows such little interest or regard for Jock that I think they’d be far better off without him.


I will stop there for the time being, next time I will go over the exciting spook train and tunnel events at the end of the book, and do all my questions, comments and nitpicks as well.

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May 2019 round up

What I have read

After taking a bit of a break from the Outlander series in order to read some other things, I’ve gone through two more and I’m now on the eighth book. I’m almost halfway through my hundred books, which is good as it’s June now!

I’ve read:

  • The Wild Things – Dave Eggers
  • A Breath of Snow and Ashes (Outlander #6) – Diana Gabaldon
  • The Little Book of Going Green – Harriet Dyer
  • Hairy Maclary and Zachary Quack – Lynley Dodd
  • H is for Homicide (Kinsey Millhone #8) – Sue Grafton
  • Summer Term at Malory Towers – Pamela Cox, reviewed here
  • An Echo in the Bone (Outlander #7) Diana Gabaldon
  • I is for Innocent (Kinsey Millhone #9) – Sue Grafton
  • The Eyre Affair (Thursday Next #1) – Jasper Fforde

I’ve still to finish:

  • Can You Keep a Secret? – Sophie Kinsella

What I have watched

  • Hollyoaks
  • Murder She Wrote season 4
  • The latest series of Taskmaster
  • Reruns of Friends and The Simpsons

What I have done

  • Visited lots of play parks
  • Gone for walks in woods
  • Went to the beach and paddled
  • Bought a pair of sandals and inadvertently caused it to rain every day since
  • Started working on a board game library at work
  • Gone out for lunch and for cake
  • Took Brodie to the children’s library
  • Got Brodie’s hair cut finally

 

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Monday #272

Last week was a very busy one so not only did I not review Five Go Off to Camp, I didn’t even take it off the shelf. Oops! I will try harder this week.

May round up

and

Five Go Off to Camp

“Mad! Must be the hot weather! Wants to talk about my boots! Go away and lie down. You’re mad!”

Goon fails to get anything useful from Colonel Cross in The Mystery of the Invisible Thief. 

The hollow tree that Peter and Susan run away to in Hollow Tree House is simply enormous. It’s big enough for three children and a dog to sit in comfort inside, and for two children to lie down to sleep. It has a ridge inside which they use as a shelf, and the only improvement they need make to it is to cut a squarish hole in one side to form a window. It’s generally cosy and dry inside – although sometimes the rain gets in through the branches above. The only way in is by climbing up into the branches and then down into the hollow space – but all the better for keeping unwanted visitors out!

 

 

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Letters to Enid part 5

Previous letters pages can be found here.


Letters page from Volume 1, issue 14. September 16th-29th 1953

OUR

LETTER PAGE

 1. A letter from Jean McGregor, aged 9, 6 Grenville Road, Padstow, Cornwall
Dear Enid Blyton,
My friend and I thought we should like to earn some money for the Blind Children, and for the Busy Bees, so we worked hard and made peg-bags, embroidery bags and lots of other things. Our mothers made us cakes and biscuits. Then we had a sale of all this to our neighbours. When it was over we counted the money and we had  one pound, four shillings, which was twelve shillings each. I wish to give my half for the Sunshine Homes, and Patricia wants to give hers to the Busy Bees. I shall be very pleased to be a Sunbeam when the Society begins.
Yours sincerely,
Jean McGregor.

2. A letter from Tyrone Peter Moody, 7 Pound Lane, Swindon, Wilts.
Dear Enid Blyton,
I have made a Secret Seven Club. We all live in Pound Lane. I must tell you something interesting. A boy who is a cousin of one of our members left in bike in the street and someone took it. We asked who had seen it. I then took the description of it. We found it in the end. That was our first mystery.
Yours sincerely,
T.P. Moody.

3. A letter from Diana MacVine, Selwyn, Packhorse Road, Gerrards Cross, Bucks.
Dear Enid Blyton,
Yesterday a man came to build a sand-pit for us. The next day I wondered what to build. At last I made up my mind and I built the Island of Adventure, the Castle of Adventure and the Mountain of Adventure. I liked these books very much.
With very much love from
Diana MacVine.


This is only the third letter from a boy so far. The first letters page had two boys’ letters, then there have been none until now.

It’s strange seeing children’s full names and addresses being published like this. Nowadays (apart from submissions being by email or social media) it would be first name and town or region only.

In the newsletter at the back of the magazine Enid says: Look on page 40 for some of the best letters out of my post-bag. The top one gets the prize. Don’t send in special letters for this, please, I prefer to choose out of the ordinary ones I get. I’ve seen similar messages in other volumes of the magazine – I assume some children wrote special letters in the hope of getting them published.

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Monday #271

Letters to Enid volume 5

and

Five Go Off to Camp

“Now, when I were a boy, a boy not much older than this here youngster, there wasn’t no light-house out there – but there was always them wicked rocks! And many’s a time in a stormy season when ships have been caught by their teeth, a-glittering there, waiting.”

A short but spine-tingle extract from Jeremiah Boogle’s tales of wreckers in Five Go to Demon’s Rocks.

The Adventures of Mr Pink-Whistle, (sometimes known as Mr Pinkwhistle), is the first of three books about a half-man and half-brownie who goes around righting wrongs, going good deeds and showing naughty or unkind children the error of their ways. Each chapter has him appear in a new location to solve some sort of issue, by use of his magic brownie powers.

adventures of mr pink-whistle

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Mr Galliano’s Circus covers through the years

Seeing as I like looking at all the different cover designs that Enid Blyton’s books have had over the years, I’ve decided it’s Mr Galliano’s Circus’ turn. I have already looked at The Famous Five, The Secret Series, The Adventure Series, The Barney Mysteries and Malory Towers.

There are three books in the series – Mr Galliano’s Circus, Hurrah for the Circus! and Circus Days Again.


The first editions

The first editions were published by Newnes in 1938, 1939 and 1941 respectively. They all had covers by E.H. Davie, who at it turns out, is probably a man and not a woman as I had always thought.

The three don’t really go together as a series, for me. The first two share bright colours, and the last two share a similar image of Lotta riding a horse but that’s about it. The first has a very 1930s look, the others are more timeless. I always have to look twice at the last one too, as it looks like a giant Lotta and horse are pulling the yellow caravan.

Mr Galliano’s Circus had two further hardbacks, in 1940 and 1942, both by Newnes and E.H. Davie. The 1940 one reuses the illustration from the first edition, cropped, with a white border and new text. The 1942 edition has a new cover entirely, which looks better alongside the first edition of Hurrah for the Circus.


Armada

Armada did the first paperback versions of the series in 1963, and another set in 1972.

The 1963 set have what I think of as the typical Armada look, and they use some fun, colourful fonts alongside illustration work by Dorothy Brook.

Again it’s a bit of a mismatched series. If the three books had different colours it might  have looked better than two yellows and one blue.

The 1972 set are more toned down, colour-wise, but also use an interesting font. The cover artist for these was not credited.


Merlin

Between the two Armada sets is a Merlin set from 1967/68 set from Merlin, with artwork by Clyde Pearson.

Pearson’s covers are the second to show the bear rescue on the cover of Circus Days Again rather than generic circus scenes. His internal work leaves something to be desired, but his covers are better, though the horse riders look very rigid and doll-like on the first one.


Dean

Dean did three sets. One in 1972/3, 1984 and 1987. The only cover to have a credited artist is Mr Galliano’s Circus from 1972, and that was by G. Robinson.

Hurrah for the Circus looks like it was probably done by the same artist, and it’s not beyond the realms of belief that the last book was too. I like the three colours chosen, and think they go together, but the different fonts make the books seem less of a series again.

The 1984 set is just weird! The first book looks like something out of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart Club Band. The second has an extremely strange montage where Jimmy, Lucky, Lotta and Sammy look like they are under attack from a terrifying trio of a tiger, clown and horse. As for the third book, we have a clown looking over his shoulder while winding up a car. It doesn’t exactly capture a sense of what happens in the book!

This last set, from 1987, and in hardback, have a well-recognised Dean layout (an upside down polaroid, if you use my mental label). The series looks like it could be about a boy who runs riot in a zoo. First he runs through the elephant enclosure, then he goes to pet the tigers, and when he miraculously survives that he goes off to chase the bears. Not a circus tent in sight!


Beaver

Beaver are the final publisher to look at, and they did three sets of books, plus a random extra one of Hurrah for the Circus.

I’m not sure this first one can classed as a set. David Barnett (cover artist for the 1994 Hodder Famous Fives) did the first and last book here in 1979, and in 1980 Miralles (whoever that may be, a person or a company I don’t know) did the middle one in a different style.

Barnett’s are garish in an attractive way, I suppose, while Miralles’ is quite bland except for the text. It looks more like they are at a ball (albeit with a horse) than in a circus tent.

Tony Morris did the next set in 1982, with the titles in a banner. I can only find two examples, though I assume the first book would have had a similar cover (hopefully in yellow!)

And finally, the last Beaver set from 1987. (I understand that in the past paperback licenses were separate from the hardback ones, so two publishers could be producing the same books in different formats at the same time).

I quite like the striped background of the second book, though it seems a little out of place beside the other two which have similar layouts and colours.

There’s also a random Beaver edition of Hurrah for the Circus from 1985, but none for the other two books.


Mr Galliano in the past thirty years?

Getting away from purely looking at the covers, I was surprised to see that the last time the Galliano’s Circus books were published in individual editions was in 1987 – when I was probably still under a year old. (They may have continued to print one or both of these runs for a while, but I think we can assume the series has been out of print for a long time).

I have found evidence of ones published in 2003, in Australia, by Hinkler Books.

The books have been published in omnibus form more recently. I’ve found a book which contains the three Galliano’s Circus books, plus two of the Naughtiest Girls, which is a strange combination. From what I can tell it was from Cresset Press in 1992.

The tiny bit of image shown is from the 1987 Beaver edition of Circus Days Again, but flipped.

Another strange combo is this 2012 Egmont omnibus which claims to contain Mr Galliano’s Circus, Circus Days Again and Come to the Circus. Come to the Circus is a stand alone title, but there are four or five eBay listings at the moment which have “All four books in the Galliano’s Circus series” and include Come to the Circus. The cover seems to feature a wild circus which does its stunts on the outside of the tent.

And the most recent edition is from Hodder in 2016, and described as a bumper short story collection. I know Hodder has released a lot of story collections which I assume are selling well, but it seems silly to market three novels in one as a story collection. It doesn’t contain 26 stories, it contains three books! The chapter flow one after the other, you can’t just read them in any order.

I couldn’t find any information of the cover artist, but the style looks familiar to me. I can’t think what book(s) I’ve seen it on, though!


Did you have any of these editions? (If you had the 1984 Dean of Hurrah for the Circus, I want to know if it still haunts your nightmares!)

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What Would Julian Do? The Religion of Julianity

I don’t even remember quite how this started, but in 2011 Stef and I created a Facebook page called Julianity. We’ve just scheduled it for deletion, actually, as it had been a very long time since we have posted anything on it. Despite that it had 1,002 people following it (due to Facebook’s lousy algorithms hardly any of those people saw anything we posted, believe me I tried publicizing the blog on it!).

Enid Blyton created the character of Julian Kirrin in 1942. He had 21 adventures with his brother Dick, sister Anne, cousin George and her dog Timmy. He always looked after anyone younger than him, and of course, girls. Some might consider him pompous and sexist, but we love him in all his incarnations. Disclaimer: We are NOT Julian Kirrin.

I think we had the brainwave of thinking what if the J in WWJD stood for Julian, and not Jesus?. I mean we do pretty much worship Julian and his quick brain.

We then made a lot of very of-their-time memes which may not even be funny now. I may well have to explain who some of the people in the memes are, and their relevance. Seeing as the Facebook page is soon to be no more I thought I would put the memes on here anyway, just so they don’t get forgotten.


Of their time current affair memes

Yes those are David Cameron and Rebekah Brooks, placing us back in 2011/2012. If only all politicians and newspaper editors asked themselves What Would Julian Do? then the world would be a better place!


Harry Potter memes

Here Draco Malfoy, Harry Potter, Ron Weasley and Voldemort ask WWJD?


Random pop culture memes

D’oh! Homer Simpson could have done worse than consider what Julian would do.

Fry from Futurama.

Elpheba from Wicked.

Bella Swan from Twilight.

Rebecca Black, who sang Friday, giving the wrong answer.


Memebase memes

Memebase, as the name suggests, was a big meme site. It had a load of ‘characters’ which had expected behaviours and people would add their own text to images of those characters making new jokes on the same idea.

I fear that none of these are really funny unless you know the characters, and by explaining the joke then it’s still not funny, but here goes.

Misunderstood Mitch (the original caption was something about him turning up his collar -the implication being he looked idiotic – but he was really trying to protect his neck from sunburn).

Good Guy Grey, known for, well, being a good guy.

Philosoraptor – a philosopher/velociraptor hybrid who asks funny yet deep and meaningful questions.

Y U No guy, who basically asked Y U No (why you not) do various things.

Staredad, a four panel ‘comic’ where a son rushes to tell his dad, or ask his dad something and the dad replies in a usually sinister fashion.


And finally some Blyton memes you might actually find funny

 

Dick (as played by Paul Child in the 90’s Famous Five series) asks the important question. Julian does not approve from the Rebecca Black meme above comes from the same screenshot. Also, Jemima Rooper who played George in the same series, asks herself the same question.

Another one from the 90s series, this time with bad punctuation!


So… yeah

Those memes more or less supported a whole Facebook page and gained 1,000 followers.

Oh we did mock up a few tshirt designs as well.

I think the rest of our content was just us uploading screencaps or random photos of Julian from the books.

Apart from the time I found a coke bottle with Julian on it, and noticed there’s an episode of Jessica Jones called WWJD. I’m pretty sure she wasn’t meaning Julian, though.

And that was more or less our most popular Facebook page. Goodness knows why!

 

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