Sunday, 8 May 2011

Sunday Salon: Enid Blyton

This Sunday is Mother's Day here in Taiwan and it got me thinking about my reading childhood. I was a serious bookworm in my earlier years. I didn't mind being collected from school late because it meant extra time in the library and I regularly snuck a torch under the bedcovers to read 'just another chapter' before sleep overtook me. I read almost anything I could get my hands on but one of the authors who pretty well defined my childhood was Enid Blyton and since Sunday is all about the women who shaped our childhoods, this post is dedicated to her.

She was born on 11th August 1897 and passed away well before I was born on 28th November 1968. She was a prolific children's writer and enjoyed huge popular success. She did suffer some problems, namely the "Blyton Bans" where allegedly her books were removed from the children's section on the library and the BBC ban which I wrote about in an earlier post. The ban was apparently because she used a vocabulary that was thought to be too limited and presented a "too rosy" version of the world. Perhaps this is true, perhaps there aren't 'lashings of ginger beer' in real life and perhaps it's not possible to make a bed for the night out of heather and bracken on the moor but you know what? I don't care. Reading is escapism and as a kid, I wasn't interested in whether I could really do all of these things. I was far more interested in pretending that maybe, just maybe, it was possible.

I tore through all of the Famous Five series and the majority of the Secret Seven. My childhood best friend and I would spend hours holed up in her backyard, ducking behind the back wall whilst we surveilled the neighbours in the farmhouse across the field. Of course, they weren't doing anything suspicious but we keenly documented every movement in and around that household... that is, until dinner was served. I also absolutely loved the boarding house series she wrote: Malory Towers, St. Clare's and Whyteleafe, where The Naughtiest Girl was educated. Stories of midnight feasts and the crazy escapades they got up to were just the thing I wanted to read. I inhaled it all, start to finish and then read it all over again. These books sparked my imagination, made anything seem possible (hello, Magic Faraway Tree!) and provided the pure, simple escapism into a world where the worst problems could be overcome with the help of your 'chums', a loyal dog and some more ginger beer.

This magical world of Blyton was a pillar of my childhood and for this reason, on Mother's Day, I choose this literary icon to say a big THANK YOU to.

Which author played a part in your childhood?


  1. My mother always wondered why i spent my pocket money on batteries. until she found the stack of famous five books that i had borrowed from my sister. then she bought me a bedside lamp.


  2. I totally agree about Enid Blyton. I absolutely loved her - I used to spend my pocket money on buying her books from the library, where they would sell them off for about 10p each, it was amazing! I actually re-read Five Go Off in a Caravan recently, and it was still awesome :-) Lately I've been giving the Magic Faraway Tree to all of my younger siblings/cousins/nieces & nephews!

  3. Enid Blyton played a huge part in my childhood too, I was a Secret Seven fan but also recall one about some children who run away and live in a hollow tree in a wood and find their way back and forth to it by a string path, but can't recall the title. Confess I now look on her with utter scorn, for all the reasons listed, added in the terrible sexism, I never offered them or read them to my kids. I think she was all there was for young girls when I read them, there is so much excellent writing for children nowadays we don't have to fall back on this kind of patronising tosh.
    Try Susan Hinton instead.
    thanks for sharing

  4. I read Treasures of the Snow by Patricia St. John over and over when I was a kid. My mom used to read The Chronicles of Narnia and the Laura Ingalls Wilder books aloud to us. I come from a big family, and we also loved to read Cheaper by the Dozen by Frank and Ernestine Gilbreth.

  5. I feel like I really missed out, since I haven't read these books! They sound fabulous!

    I loved the usual childhood books, like Little Women; but I also thoroughly enjoyed a series called The Five Little Peppers and How They Grew...also, The Boxcar Children.


  6. I've heard the name before, but never knew any of her books.

    As for which author played a part in my childhood, there were many, but maybe E.B. White would be at the top of the list, especially with Charlotte's Web.

  7. Adventures of Alice In Wonderland by Lewis Carroll is probably one of my childhood books. I used to read all the time. Not anymore. I actually have forgotten the other books I've read.

  8. Now that I live in the UK, I see Enid Blyton books everywhere. I never saw them as a kid growing up in Southern California. I have two boys in primary school. Do you think they would enjoy them?

    I grew up with Judy Blume and Roald Dahl books. Those were my favorite. I also read the Babysitter Club books and Nancy Drew.

  9. I forgot! I've read by books by Goosebumps and R.L Stine when I was younger!

  10. Apologies for taking so long to reply to your comments!!

    Stu - Hello! Haha fantastic. I was always on the scrounge for batteries, but I was very convert about it...

    Bex- 10p per book? Brilliant! I was very lucky to have a Grandma who knew I was obsessed and who spoiled me with books, Famous Five among many others.

    Martine - I haven't re-read any of Blyton's books lately but would do so before I gave any to any future kids just to make sure. Hopefully I won't be so disappointed in them!

    Shannon - Oh yes, the Chronicles of Narnia. Loved those too. Being read to by someone is also a fantastic childhood memory. Thanks for commenting!

    Laurel-Rain - I don't think Blyton was as massive in the States as she was in the UK, but I'm sure if you wanted to you'd be able to track her down! Little Women was one I read as a kid too, but I confess I can't remember that much of it...

    Unfinished - Charlotte's Web! Loved that one too. Thanks for coming by :)

    黃愛玲 - Alice is a childhood classic, isn't it? I remember going to an Alice in Wonderland display in North Wales as a kid and being told I should enter an Alice look-a-like contest. I didn't but it was a cool thing to be told as a kid ;)

    Kristi - They might like the Famous Five and Secret Seven ones, give it a whirl and let me know what they think! I'm a complete Roald Dahl fan girl too. He's a genius. Any kids growing up around me will be read all of his books!!

  11. I've never read Enid Blyton, but I love to find new (classic) children's authors that I didn't read. I just read Anne of Green Gables and I'm very sorry I missed those as children (so different when you read as an adult). My strongest influence was the Oz books of L. Frank Baum. I wanted to live in Oz in the worst way. I also loved the B is for Betsy books by Carolyn Haywood because Betsy's life was so perfect. Also I recently re-read Mary Poppins in the Park and I think those books are absolutely magical.
    Thanks for a fun post.