Monday, November 16, 2009

The Much-Beloved Enid Blyton

Enid Blyton copyright by The Enid Blyton Society"That blighted Blyton," my dad would rant when he caught me reading yet another Enid Blyton book. Well, it was only due to my parents' instigation that I introduced to her. They were not a common finding in the public or school libraries. My parents bought a set of books published in England on the advice of friends. They should've been careful with an author who has a backlist of 800 books.

Eight hundred? Yes! In a publishing career spanning nearly 40 years, Enid Blyton (August 11, 1897 — November 28, 1968) published 800-odd books and hundreds of magazine stories and articles. She has sold over 600 million copies and is the fifth most translated author worldwide with over 3,500 translations of her books. Undoubtedly, she was one of the most successful children's storytellers of the twentieth century.

Adventure series by Enid Blyton copyright by The Enid Blyton NetFamous Five series by Enid Blyton copyright by The Enid Blyton NetBlyton's life has finally been turned into a BBC film for the first time in 2009. It'll debut in Britain on BBC Four today (November 16, 2009) at 2100 GMT. Academy Award nominated actress Helena Bonham Carter portrays Blyton in the film, alongside Matthew Macfadyen and Denis Lawson who will be playing Blyton's first husband Hugh Pollock and Blyton's second husband Kenneth Darrell Waters, respectively.

Malory Towers series by Enid Blyton copyright by The Enid Blyton NetSecret Seven series by Enid Blyton copyright by The Enid Blyton NetWhy did the BBC wait for so long to do this? They considered her "small beer" and banned her books repeatedly throughout her life. According to 18 newly-released letters and memos, her books were "second-rate," "lacking literary value," and "Not strong enough. It really is odd to think that this woman is a best-seller." The dim bulbs of the patriarchical media could not conceive of children's literature by a woman author as worthy of mention in their radio broadcasts.

St Clare's series by Enid Blyton copyright by The Enid Blyton NetBarney Mystery series by Enid Blyton copyright by The Enid Blyton NetMy first ever Enid Blyton was Amelia Jane is the Naughtiest Girl in school. The storytelling was addictive as were the characters. I avidly read the entire series. Noddy was next. For most fans, boys and girls, Enid Blyton is synonymous with Noddy as their first love. I, then, graduated to the various fantasy series, like Wishing Chair, Magic Faraway Tree, and a huge assortment of fairy folktales. Tween girls go for the St. Clare and Mallory Tower boarding school series, whereas tween boys go for the Secret Seven, Adventure, Five Find-Outers, and Famous Five. I? I went for everything.

Books by Enid Blyton copyright by The Enid Blyton NetMystery series by Enid Blyton copyright by The Enid Blyton NetBut reading the various farm series was my lightbulb period. I was an urban child, so a working farmland was as far away from my reality as the goblins and elves. However, these books had real people, living real, plausible lives with intricate emotions and stories that had long, sustained plots. I was so swept away by my love, I sat down and wrote my first book in longhand. It was highly derivative and imitative. But it had a beginning, a middle, and an end. The characters had personalities and voice, motivations, strengths and weaknesses, and changed in the course of the book. I was in love with writing!

Five Find-Outers series by Enid Blyton copyright by Enid Blyton SocietyA quick gander via Google reveals that Enid Blyton is by no means forgotten even decades after her death. Many of her books are still in print (and/or reissued) and continue to entertain and inspire children the world over. She encourages her young readers to be themselves and to engage with the world: to observe, explore, investigate, discover, and have fun. A few lines from Enid Blyton's "The Poet," published in The Poetry Review (1919) are apropos:

  "Dear heart
And soul of a child,
Sing on!"

Noddy series by Enid Blyton copyright by Enid Blyton SocietyNoddy series by Enid Blyton copyright by Enid Blyton SocietyTo indulge your inner fan, you can visit the Enid Blyton Society, the Enid Blyton Net, or Heather's Blyton Pages online, or attend the Enid Blyton Day at Loddon Hall in Twyford, Berkshire, England on the second Saturday in May. To buy Enid Blyton books, you can visit Amazon UK, Stella & Rose's Books UK, Navrang US, or eBay Aus.

Have you read any Enid Blyton books? If so, which ones are your favorite? If this was your first introduction to the author, would you now be tempted to give it a try?


Anna Campbell said...

Keira, what a lovely post! Sorry it's taken me a few days to get over to comment. I've had visitors and I haven't been on the email much. As you know, I'm a huge Blyton fan. She turned me into a reader - that narrative drive got me addicted to story. I didn't actually read any of the really young stuff like Noddy and co but I adored all the mysteries and the school stories. Still have boxes of her Collins hardcovers in the garage. Yay, EB!!!!

Keira Soleore said...

Hey Fo! Good to read your comment here. I thought if Enid Blyton's not getting her to come out of her cave, then PD James surely will (Monday).

We've been collecting EBs on our trips to the other side of the world since the wee one came into our life. So I'm now seeing many of the really young readers that I hadn't seen before (like five o'clock tales etc.) Also, there are translations of the Noddy series, so Hubby can also get into the EB action.