Monday, September 24, 2012

{Guest Post} My Favourite Children's Author: Enid Blyton - Oh... for the Love of Reading


The Magic Faraway Tree. Famous Five. Secret Seven. Noddy. The Wishing Chair. What do they have in common? Their author, Enid Blyton. 

I grew up loving her books, especially The Magic Faraway Tree and The Wishing Chair series, both of which evoke such imaginative imagination. Imagine, an enchanted forest where an enormous magical tree grows, and where unforgettable characters like Dame Washalot and The Saucepan Man resides. Or a wishing chair with the power to grow wings and fly and go to the strangest lands one can imagine. 

It is also interesting to note that though many critics claim her stories are of no 'literary value', her books remain loved by so many children around the world, for so many years.

It is also interesting to see how certain characters have 'grown' with the time. Such as Dame Slap, who is now known as Dame Snap.

So I am really glad to introduce Regina-Soejanto Moo of MummyMoo, who will share about this wonderful and talented author. In her blog, Regina documents her little family as they grow as one, charting everyday mundane events to milestones that will chart the shape of their future. She is enjoying being a wife and mother, two personae that she has never thought of becoming – in the past. She takes pride in being a working class stiff trying to be a first class Mum!

*****

My earliest recollections of growing up in Singapore are filled with memories of Enid Blyton.

I would say that she helped cultivate my love for the English Language, and eased the transition for an 8 year old kid, totally unfamiliar with the English Language apart from a smattering of colloquial terms - into an English as a First Language society.

I thank my teachers back then, for introducing English to me through the 'right' books which made me love to read, and thus, fuelled my interest in the language. The more I read, the more I was propelled to learn more. There were many words which I didn't understand in the beginning, but I was encouraged to highlight these words and use the physical Oxford English dictionary (no Google or Dictionary.com back then!) to find out the meaning. I was then taught to figure out the meaning of a word through reading the entire sentence, and this actually helped me to also exercise reading 'between the lines'.

These 'right' books were written by Enid Blyton.

Here are some of the stories which accompanied me on my first steps toward life. They have made such an impact in my formative years, and will continue to be some of my fondest memories of growing up.

Enid Mary Blyton (11 August 1897 – 28 November 1968)  

Malory Towers
This is a series of 6 stories which take place in a fictional boarding school in Cornwall. It chronicles the (mis)adventures and experiences of the main protagonist and short tempered heroine, Darrell Rivers, throughout her six years at Malory Towers. She is joined in the stories by Sally Hope (her best friend, and the voice of reason), Alicia Johns (intelligent and sharp tongued), Mary Lou (kind hearted and timid), and Gwendoline Lacey (the spoiled girl of the class), amongst many others.

The stories deal with real issues of bullying, performance and competitiveness, and attempts to engage as well as educate the reader at the same time. I loved these stories, and actually wished fervently to attend Malory Towers, perhaps not understanding at that age how to really separate fiction and reality.

The exact print and edition which I (used to) have.
St Clare's
A spin off from the highly successful Malory Towers series, with a similar set up and stories built around the twins, Patricia and Isabel O'Sullivan, and their antics in school.

St Clare's. Not the copy which I used to have, but I think it's gone through thousands of reprints in 20 years!
The Magic Faraway Tree
I read this, and never looked at huge, rainforest trees the same way again. I imagined different lands at the top of trees, and the adults are never to be privy to these observations, because these lands only exist for kids.

Jo, Bessie and Fanny, along with their cousin, Dick (don't you just love their names?!) go on adventures with Silky, Saucepan Man, Moonface and their other friends up on the Magic Faraway Tree.

The Land of Dreams
Sandman throws sand in their eyes to make them sleep, and they end up in the land of dreams, where everything happens in dream state. Unnatural, and surreal.

The Land of Topsy Turvy
Here is where everybody walks on their hands and everything is upside down.

The Land of Spells
Be careful where you go or what you do in this land... one wrong move might get a witch or wizard to cast a spell on you!

The Land of Do-as-you-please
In this land, anybody can do what they want. I think some adults would really enjoy themselves here, too!

The Land of Toys
Toys for the picking - everywhere in this land!

The Land of Goodies
Who wouldn't love chocolates, pudding and desserts? Everything in this land can be eaten, but woe betide anyone who eats a door knocker or a piece of window!

The Land of the Old Woman who Lives in a Shoe
The old woman who lives in a shoe is Dame Washalot's friend. She comes down the faraway tree to live in Moonface's house because she needed a break from her kids!

The Land of Magic Medicines
The children's mother is ill, so the children visit this land to get her medicine.

The Land of Tempers
In this land, everyone has a bad temper. If one loses his or her temper in this land, then they will have to stay in the land forever.

The Land of Presents
Gifts for everyone! What's not to love?

Old print and copy - in hard cover.
Famous Five
These novels feature a series of adventures experienced by Julian, Dick, Anne, Georgina and their dog, Timothy. They stay at a seaside town (Kirrin) during their holidays, and here is where they get to all sorts of mischief and adventures. Blyton only initially wanted to publish six in the Famous Five series, but due to overwhelming readership, she went on to publish 21 novels in this series, plus a spin off involving seven children, aptly named: Secret Seven.

New editions and prints

This is the cover of the copy which I had back then!
Mr. Meddle's Muddles
I first read this when I was 8 years old, and these books became my bedside companion. I remember reading about Mr. Meddle's antics under the covers after lights out. These were the days before the ubiquitous mobile phones and internet age.



Come to think of it - parents now have more to worry about when it comes to the kids than compromising their eyesight by reading under the covers using a torchlight!

Memories are made of these
When I went to have a look at the Enid Blyton section at the bookstore recently, I found some newer titles, which I really am not too familiar with! I was so tempted to purchase them... but I think I'd wait till BabyMoo is slightly older so I have a more valid reason to.

Newer books under the Enid Blyton name.

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There are now a multitude of children's authors, and if only our children know how fortunate they are! Back then, there was only a smattering of authors worthy of mention, but these authors have actually proven their worth since their books have survived multiple generations. Of course, I suppose the appeal is not as strong now as compared to back in my time, perhaps because the reader(s) are now exposed to a different age and era. Children question things now, and I believe a great many of them cannot be easily led on adventures and stories which leave too much to the imagination or have no factual basics.

For example - in the Famous Five series, I can just imagine them posing these questions:

"Why is it that these children can go everywhere without any adults for company, and you wouldn't allow me to? They go out the entire day... wouldn't their parents wonder where they are?"

It's like opening up a can of worms.
Makes me wonder if I had asked these questions back then.

I still love dear old Enid, though - and I know I always will.
She took me on adventures. Over land, over sea, and across a magical dream scape.

3 comments:

  1. oh wow, I miss my Enid Blyton and Famous Five! I like what you said "It's like opening up a can of worms" Hahaha!

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  2. I think I'm gonna re-read all those stories. Very therapeutic! Thanks for reminding me of dear Enid and the wonderful adventures!!

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  3. Chanced by your post and i can totally relate to it. My daughter is currently hooked on all books by Enid Blyton.

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