Saturday, April 23, 2011

Anything by Enid Blyton

Oh, sure, she was formulaic and so, so politically incorrect. In short - she was a product of her  time; she won't be chosen for a Book Club anytime soon. 


But the  joy of Enid was the way she could create adventure that enthralled young readers, volume after volume. Her books were exciting and also comforting at the same time. Reading one of her books, you knew that  the Bad Guys would get theirs, and that the protagonists would have lots  of adventures AND good food along the way. 


And what food it was! ginger cake, sardines, new potatoes, bread with butter - although sometimes, she had to rely on tins to feed her characters. They ate pineapples, biscuits, more sardines, potted meat, even butter - all out of  tins. The canning business owes a huge debt of gratitude to Madam Blyton.


Her Famous  Five series and The Secret Seven are huge, but it was the Adventure series that grabbed me as a child. Dinah, Philip, LucyAnn and Jack - I loved those kids. They were stranded inside hidden Welsh mountains, deserted Middle European valleys lined with secret caves, and kidnapped by more Bad Guys. They joined the circus. They went to sea. They stowed away in planes.they had fabulous pets.






In The Circus of Adventure, they have an unwelcome guest, whom they call Gussy:


‘Why do you have hair like that then?’ said Dinah. ‘You look like a girl. Why don’t you get it cut?’ 
‘Yes, that’s a good idea,’ said  Philip, putting a card down. ‘We’ll go into the village  tomorrow and  see if there’s a barber.  He’ll cut it nice and short for you, Gus.  You’ll get a crick in your neck,  tossing your hair about like that!
‘Yes.  Good idea! We’ll have it cut tomorrow,’ said Jack, grinning at Gus. 
Gus surprised them. He flung down his cards, stood up, and went scarlet in the face. ‘Short  hair  is  for  boys like you,' he said, scornfully. ‘It is not for me.  Never must I have my hair short. In my country always it is the custom for such boys as me to wear their hair long!’ 
 ‘Such boys as you!’ echoed Jack. ‘What do you mean? You’ve got a very high opinion of yourself, my lad. You may come from a rich family, but you act like royalty, and it won’t do. You’re not a prince, so don’t try and act like one. It only makes you ridiculous.’
Gus drew himself up to his last inch. He threw back his hair once more. ‘I am a prince!’ he said,
dramatically. ‘I am the Prince Aloysius Gramondie Racemolie Torquinel of Tauri-Hessia!'

10 comments:

Christine Murray said...

I love Enid Blyton! I especially loved her boarding school series', such as Mallory Towers and St. Clares.

Caroline said...

I am a huge fan of Enid Blyton. We underestimate what and impact she had on children's reading habits in the 20th century. She really provided an endless pulp fiction treasury for emerging readers. During the holidays, I would easily finish 3 Blyton books a week. Loved the "Adventure" series. Also read many of the "Secret of" series, Famous Five and Enchanted Wood. Just thinking now as I am typing, if the Faraway Tree found its way into my ABNA novel.... wow - perhaps it did?!

Alison said...

The Faraway Tree! I loved those as a kid - as well as Mallory Towers ...

"Pulp Fiction for emerging readers" is a great analogy. Wish I had thought of it first .... ;)

Hart Johnson said...

I wish I'd had more guidance picking books as a kid. When we went to the school library, we were just let loose--no attempt at all to steer us, and there are so many books I missed.

Alison said...

Me too, Hart! Although - I will bet that you blundered into some great stuff all on your own. Anyone remember a great book from the library that you don't recall the name of? I do - and it bugs me to this day.

Mark Lawrence said...

And what food it was! ginger cake, sardines, new potatoes, bread with butter...

I'm not seeing any of that. I'm on the last chapter of the 3rd book of the Faraway Tree (reading it to my little girl) and it's all been google buns (google them), toffee shocks, pop cakes, and hot-cold goodies...

I do recall the Famous Five (my favourite as a kid) and they were always eating tommatoes ... and having lashings of ginger beer.

Alison said...

Mark, were you the fellow tweeting about the Faraway Tree today? Indeed I remember the google buns and hot-cold goodies. LOVED the Faraway Tree. Wasn't there a slide that went all the down the tree?

Rene Nightingale said...

I know I am late, but I am glad I wasn't the only kid who felt lost in the library when it came to picking books.

Anonymous said...

I devoured Blyton's books as a child, but reading this (http://www.express.co.uk/expressyourself/230862/Enid-Blyton-the-nightmare-mother) dismayed me. And she is rather racist and xenophobic which is ironic because her books are hugely popular in countries like India.

Alison DeLuca said...

I completely agree her books are xenophobic - however I do think she was a product of her times. Her attitude was seen as completely normal (and even praiseworthy.) Agatha Christie has some shocking lines in her books as well ...

But I do admire the way she churned out book after book, each with complete adventures that charmed children around the globe.