Monday 14 March 2011

Monday Spotlight: Enid Blyton

When organising my bookshelves this past weekend, I started unearthing some books I adored as a child. Obviously, this led to me being sat cross legged on the floor for a fair few hours in raptures, remembering more and more books I couldn't possibly live without as a child. Hence, a new weekly feature. Each week, I'll talk about a book or author I loved as a child, and ask for other people's favourites and opinions. Despite the fact that I read a LOT as a child, I still feel there was lots I missed out on! Basically, this just gives me a kind of validation to read children's books! I'll try to post on Monday, or as close to it as I can, every week.

So, for the first week, the queen of children's books when I was around 8: Enid Blyton. Because writing about Blyton is such a task (she's estimated to have published about 800 books over a 40 year period - that's 20 books a year!) I'm going to break it down by series. First series, The Famous Five. And my absolute favourite of all was Five Go Off in a Caravan.

The first thing that struck me, on my re-read, was how sexist the books are! Anne's (the youngest) biggest excitement about being allowed to go on a caravan holiday by themselves, is that she'll have two caravans to clean 'all by herself'. Her mother then says that of course George (another girl) must help her, and probably the boys will too, which Anne answers by saying that the boys wouldn't know how to cook or clean anyway!This made me slightly angry. My parents are Catholics, and have always been slightly 'traditional' about gender roles in the home, but as kids my brothers were taught to cook and clean up after themselves, and household chores were always evenly distributed, regardless of gender.

Aside from teaching children that women's roles are in the home, which, to be fair, they pretty much were at the time the book was written, I actually loved this as much as I remembered.
It had all the suspense I remembered, and if the characters were slightly two-dimensional, it was more reassuring than annoying. I loved the fact that the children were always eating, and running around outside, and basically doing all the things I remember doing as a kid. Also, it has a circus in it, which can really only be a plus.

Basically, the Famous Five - George (Georgina), her dog, Timmy, and cousins, Julian, Dick, and Anne, go on holiday (by themselves!) in caravans, and end up discovering the hidey hole of a couple of theives. Of course with much plotting, hiding, drama, and drinking of ginger beer along the way. I always liked The Famous Five more than the Secret Seven, as they were always doing things I wanted to do as a child. I think wish fulfillment is a huge part of children's literature, and I'm looking forward to re-reading more of my Enid Blyton favourites.

How did other people feel about Blyton as children? Any favourites?

Out of curiosity, does anybody know what poltical correctness has changed Dick's name to in the reprinted editions? As they've changed all the children's names in The Magic Faraway Tree, I assume they've done the same with this...

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