I heard on the news today that Jacqueline Wilson is to write new stories in The Magic Faraway Tree series, originally created by Enid Blyton. On the Today program she said, “I’m being very very faithful to the whole situation that Enid Blyton set up with this wonderfully original idea about a tree that reaches up to different lands. I have three modern children going into the Enchanted wood, up the tree, meeting Silky, Moon-Face etc. and then going up and finding the different lands. So the magic world stays the same and if anybody reads this new book when it comes out I very much hope that they will go back to the others.”
I’ve mentioned before that I loved The Magic Faraway Tree books as a child so I’m in two minds about the new, modern stories being written. I don’t see how they can contain the same magic if the children are eating pizza rather than pink blancmange. But if the new books are a hit with today’s youngsters and get them reading (as they did me, way back when) then they have to be a good thing.
What do you think?
If you’re scratching your head and wondering what writing project to tackle next, a couple of free competitions have come to my notice:
The Fusilli Writing Flash Fiction Competition is looking for stories up to 200 words with a twist.
There is no closing date but the winner and short-listed entrants will be announced once 100 entries have been received (website shows details of how many entries have been received so far). No prize except publication on the Fusilli website and promotion on social media. Plus there is the opportunity to purchase feedback for £3.
The Kenneth Branagh Award for New Drama Writing 2022 is looking for one-act plays of 25 to 35 minutes from amateur playwrights. The plays should use a maximum of six actors and be suitable for a studio theatre. Three winning scripts will be performed during the Windsor Fringe Festival in October and the overall winner will receive a £500 prize. Entry is £10 BUT if “BBC Writers Room” is written on the top right hand corner of the contact sheet accompanying the play, no submission fee is required. More details about the waiving of the fee can be found on the BBC Writers Room website.
Enid Blyton, Fusilli Writing, Jacqueline Wilson, Kenneth Branagh Award, The Magic Faraway Tree
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?
Enid Blyton, Famous Five, Harry Potter, Jacqueline Wilson, Malory Towers, Mr Pinkwhistle, Pamela Cox, The Magic Faraway Tree
70 years ago, in 1942, Enid Blyton’s ‘Five On A Treasure Island’ was first published and, to mark the occasion, some of today’s celebrated
1st edition (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
children’s illustrators have been redesigning the covers of these adventure books. Quentin Blake has started the ball rolling with the Treasure Island cover which can be seen by clicking here. Compare Blake’s illustration with that of the first edition, which I’ve used to illustrate this post. I think I prefer the original but that maybe because it’s more the style I associate with the books from my own childhood. Other illustrators who’ve been commissioned for the new covers include Helen Oxenbury, Chris Riddell, Oliver Jeffers and Emma Chichester Clark.
It was Enid Blyton’s Famous Five that gave me the reading bug many years ago. I devoured her tales of Julian, Dick, George, Anne and Timmy the dog. How I wished I could join them as they swigged ginger beer, shared their ice creams with Timmy and slept on deserted islands on beds of springy heather.
I tried reading the Secret Seven but they just didn’t hit the mark in the same way as The Five.
Malory Towers was another of Blyton’s series’ that had me hooked. I read them over and over again. Even now the names Darrell, Gwendoline, Sally and Mary Lou immediately conjure up those characters that I loved as a girl. Boarding school sounded like a fantastic place to be.
And did anyone else read The Magic Faraway Tree? The story centred around a huge tree which had different lands at the top each day. It might be The Land of Dreams, The Land of Tempers or The Land of Presents. A group of children climbed the tree and, needless to say, had adventures in the different lands alongside the inhabitants of the tree, Silky and Moonface. My favourite thing in these books was the Slippery Slip – a helter-skelter type slide which allowed the children to whizz down the centre of the tree. I reread these books aloud to my daughters when they were young and enjoyed them just as much the second time around.
Enid Blyton comes in for a lot of bad press but in my opinion she did nothing but good for children’s literature. Her captivating stories enticed generations of youngsters to enjoy reading and books – and children who read for pleasure grow into adults who buy books and continue to read for pleasure.
Does anyone else have good memories of Enid Blyton’s books – or was I the only Blyton junkie in the early ’70s?
Chris Riddell, Emma Chichester Clark, Enid Blyton, Famous Five, Five On A Treasure Island, Helen Oxenbury, Malory Towers, Oliver Jeffers, Quentin Blake, Secret Seven, The Magic Faraway Tree