We can all pinpoint particular books or authors that got us reading as a child. For my daughters it was Harry Potter and Jacqueline Wilson.
For me it was Enid Blyton. Her books offered children a different series for whatever age they were at. My ‘ladder’ of Enid Blyton series was:
Mr Pinkwhistle is half brownie and half person, and he has the ability to make himself invisible at will. He’s always helping people in trouble and this often leads to funny situations. There is a moral to the stories – people who do bad things always get punished. For example a brother and sister have pet rabbits and neglect them. Mr Pinkwhistle sets the rabbits free to enjoy the grass and the children lose their pets (if I remember correctly!).
The Magic Faraway Tree
The Faraway Tree is a huge tree that reaches up to the clouds. Each day there is a different land to be found above the clouds e.g. the land of spells, the land of toys, the rocking land (the land tips up and sideways and you keep falling over). A group of children discover the tree and have various adventures in the different lands.
What really captured my imagination was the the slippery slip – a helter skelter that runs down the middle of the tree.
There are lots of amazing characters who live in the tree, such as Saucepan Man and Dame Washalot (the children have to dodge her water as she empties down the tree).
The Famous Five
Four children and Timmy the dog have amazing adventures which involve camping on deserted islands, tracking down jewel thieves and more. I wanted to belong to this group of children. The eldest, Julian, was like the big brother I would have loved to have had. George (real name Georgina) was the brave tomboy I’d like to have been. Timmy was the pet dog I never had. And I longed to camp out on a bed of springy heather and drink lashings of ginger beer (although I had no idea as a child what ginger beer was!).
In the 1990s potentially offensive language was removed from the Famous Five, with words like ‘queer’ and ‘golliwog’ removed. In 2010 things went a step further. An attempt was made by the publisher Hachette to modernise the Famous Five. Old fashioned words were swapped to their modern day equivalents. For example ‘frocks’ was changed to ‘dresses’, ‘mother and father’ to ‘mum and dad’ and the expression ‘Golly!’ was removed. The children wore jeans instead of shorts. I’m glad to say that the 2010 the changes were deemed a mistake and were reversed in 2016.
Can you imagine if they’d gone further with their ‘modernisation’ and given the children mobile phones and tablets!
This is a series of six books set in a girls’ boarding school. The books follow Darrell Rivers from the first term in her first year to the last term in her last year. School life is full of midnight feasts and playing tricks on the teachers, with no parents getting in the way. Memorable characters were the unpopular, malicious Gwendoline Mary, little Mary Lou and Darrell’s best friend Sally. French teacher Mam’zelle Dupont was often the butt of the girls’ tricks.
Apparently the school is based on the boarding school, Benenden School, that Blyton’s daughter attended, during its wartime relocation to the Cornish seaside. And Darrell’s name is taken from Enid’s second husband – Kenneth Darrell Waters.
This series’ continued popularity with modern youngsters was recognised in 2009, when Pamela Cox wrote another 6 books in the series, they continued where Blyton had left off but focused on Darrell’s younger sister, Felicity, who joined the school when Darrell was in the 4th form.
Do you have a ‘ladder’ of Enid Blyton books? Or did you grow up with something different?
#1 by peter worthington on February 19, 2018 - 8:50 pm
My mum used to read brere rabbit, but when I started reading it was Edgar Rice Burroughs Tarzan books
#2 by Sally Jenkins on February 20, 2018 - 2:22 pm
Tarzan – never read that, Peter but, of course I did see him swinging through the jungle on TV.
#3 by dianneanoble1147 on February 20, 2018 - 6:19 am
Oh how I can identify with your article, a real trip down memory lane!
Through the Saucepan Man and Noddy I moved on to my favourites of all, the adventure series – The Valley of Adventure first, which remained a number one, and then on to the others. Enid Blyton made my childhood for me.
#4 by Sally Jenkins on February 20, 2018 - 2:20 pm
‘Enid Blyton made my childhood for me’. I think a lot of people would agree with that sentiment, Dianne. Such a shame that she gets such a lot of criticism these days.
#5 by Keith Havers on February 20, 2018 - 8:13 am
Famous Five for me too, plus Secret Seven and Billy Bunter. Anyone from the Beano as well.
#6 by Sally Jenkins on February 20, 2018 - 2:18 pm
Billy Bunter & the Beano never did it for me, Keith. Must be a boy thing!
#7 by helenlaycock on February 20, 2018 - 9:25 am
Ah, I enjoyed that trip down memory lane. Thank you, Sally.
I still have all my EB books – those you mentioned, plus others like Mr Twiddle and The Wishing Chair. I loved them all!
#8 by Sally Jenkins on February 20, 2018 - 2:17 pm
Oh yes, Mr Twiddle! I’d forgotten all about him, Helen.
#9 by Anne Harvey on February 20, 2018 - 11:29 am
Oh, I so enjoyed this post, Sally! It brought back so many memories. I’m older than you so only a few books stick in my mind. In the 1940s, I was given some books by ‘BB’ called The Little Grey Men and Down the Bright Stream. I still have them, battered now, of course, but still treasured. ‘Swallows and Amazons’ books were my favourites too but my top favourite had to be ‘Children of the New Forest’ by Captain Marryat. Funnily enough, just read it again and although it’s old fashioned in style, it’s still a cracking adventure story.
#10 by Sally Jenkins on February 20, 2018 - 2:16 pm
I read Swallows & Amazons, Anne but have never heard of the other two books you mention. But that Children of the New Forest must be good if it still holds your attention. Seems like children like to read about other children having adventures.
#11 by Anne Harvey on February 21, 2018 - 11:01 am
I should have mentioned, Sally, that the Little Grey Men and Down the Bright Stream were about the last gnomes in England. In the first one, three of them go on a quest to find their long-lost brother. In the second one, with their environment shrinking they flee (with adventures along the way) to Ireland. ‘BB’ was the pseudonym of a well-known naturalist.
#12 by juliathorley on February 20, 2018 - 11:37 am
I don’t recall Mr Pinkwhistle and The Magic Faraway Tree passed me by. I did, though read Secret Seven and Famous Five books and Malory Towers. Then when I was in the ‘top class’ (remember when we had a top class?!) at primary school, I was told I was too old for Enid Blyton and was directed to the bottom shelf of the bookcase where all the biographies were kept. I was appalled at the time, but this is where I first came across the stories of Florence Nightingale, Helen Keller and many others.
#13 by Sally Jenkins on February 20, 2018 - 2:14 pm
Yes, Julia, I remember being in the top class! There was also ‘top infants’ which I think is the equivalent to Year Two now. How awful to be told you were too old for Enid Blyton but I guess a bit of a gentle push doesn’t go amiss or we might stay in our favourite comfort zone for ever.
#14 by alexkilcannon on February 20, 2018 - 1:04 pm
Oh, this brought back memories. I grew up with Blyton too although my ladder was The Faraway Tree, The Wishing Chair, Famous Five, Secret Seven, The Adventure Series and then Malory Towers.
Your expose on the changes to The Famous Five made me laugh – by those standards, ginger beer would be replaced by Red Bull? 😀
#15 by Sally Jenkins on February 20, 2018 - 2:01 pm
I like your suggestion of Red Bull, Alex! And I don’t remember The Wishing Chair at all – I’m not so well read in Enid Blyton as I thought!
#16 by Harsimar on March 12, 2018 - 7:33 am
I grew up with Enid Blyton too! I started with The Five Find Outers (The Mystery series) and then moved onto Famous Five. Those books were really great!
#17 by Sally Jenkins on March 12, 2018 - 7:53 am
Interesting that the books have spanned continents, Harsimar!
#18 by Harsimar on March 12, 2018 - 8:03 am
Yes they have! They’re pretty popular here in Asia!