When I sat down to write this, my third Childhood Memories post, I was shocked when I discovered it’s been more than a year since the last one! I had been hoping to make Childhood Memories a regular series, so I do apologise for the long delay between posts. If you missed the previous ones, I wrote about Ursula Moray Williams last April and children’s ballet books last May.
Like many children I grew up reading Enid Blyton books. For those of you who aren’t familiar with her books, Enid Blyton was one of the most successful British children’s writers of the twentieth century. She wrote over six hundred books and I’m sure I must have read most of them! For a while now I’ve been desperately wanting to revisit some of my old Enid Blyton books and I recently found time to do so.
Of all Blyton’s books, The Valley of Adventure was one of my absolute favourites. The Adventure series (published between 1944 and 1955) featured four children – brother and sister Philip and Dinah Mannering, and two orphans, Jack and Lucy Ann Trent, who are later adopted by Mrs Mannering. Philip is an animal lover and always seems to have a mouse, toad or other small wild animal hidden in his pockets, much to the disgust of his sister Dinah, while Jack is passionate about birds. Another character who appears throughout the series is Bill Cunningham, a member of the secret service who becomes a good friend of the Mannering family. In The Valley of Adventure, Bill offers to take the children for a flight in his new plane. However, they somehow get on the wrong plane and end up stranded in a lonely Austrian valley surrounded by mountains and waterfalls, trying to hide from a gang of criminals who are searching for hidden treasure.
I think one of the reasons I loved the Adventure series so much was that whilst most other Blyton books were set in small English villages or in boarding schools, the Adventure books had more exotic settings: a cruise ship in the Greek islands, a circus in the fictional country of Tauri-Hessia, or a river in a mysterious distant land, for example. Oh, and I also used to love Kiki, Jack’s talking parrot!
Blyton’s books were never politically correct (one of the reasons why they’ve suffered a decline in popularity) and this one was no exception. Dinah and Lucy Ann automatically take on the jobs of making beds and preparing food and the boys refuse to let them take part in anything that might be dangerous. And of course, the villains are usually either foreign, ugly, working-class or all three. I can understand why newer editions of the books have tried to change some of these things, though having looked at a few of these updated versions it seems that a lot of words and phrases have also been altered that didn’t really need to be. The old-fashioned vocabulary was part of the charm and never caused any confusion for me.
The second book I decided to read during my recent ‘evening with Enid’ was The Mystery of the Invisible Thief, one of the Five Find Outers series. This was another of my favourite series, which I always preferred to the more popular Famous Five series. The Five Find Outers – Fatty, Larry, Daisy, Pip and Bets (and Buster the dog) – were a group of children who lived in the village of Peterswood and solved mysteries during the school holidays.
In The Mystery of the Invisible Thief, the Find Outers investigate a number of burglaries that have taken place in Peterswood. The mystery is quite a clever one, with lots of clues, disguise-wearing and interference from the village policeman, Mr Goon. I really enjoyed my re-read of this book and could remember exactly why I used to love this series! As you can probably tell from the picture, my copy has been read many, many times.
Were you an Enid Blyton fan too? Which were your favourite books?