The Queen of Children's Stories

Enid Blyton and I spent many rainy days, hot summer afternoons and cool dark nights together, in the corner of our shed, 
by the village pond, sometimes even up in my shaky treehouse. I graduated to The Famous Five and the Five Find-Outer 
and Dog...I learned about strawberry jam and marmalade, bacon and eggs for breakfast, about high-tea and crumpets, 
about pretty girls with bright golden hair, and about gruff policemen that said 'Oi! Wot's going On?'
					Reading (article on the Internet)
					Krish Menon

When I first started reading in English, one of the first books I read was "Bimbo and Topsy" by Enid Blyton. As my English was not so good, I may not have enjoyed it much but it certainly did leave a lasting impression on my mind. It was probably Enid Blyton who got me interested in reading one author's books instead of reading haphazardly all that came my way. I came to realize around that time that if one book by a particular author was good, then other books by the same author might turn out to be just as good and I began searching for books by Enid Blyton.

If I remember correctly, "Bimbo and Topsy" was about a dog and a cat but for the life of me I cannot remember which was which. But what I do remember is the humour in the book - like the time when one of the two (I think it was Bimbo) can't find its tail and goes to the library and starts searching among the books because one of the children had said a book in the library had a nice "tale" in it. Maybe this doesn't seem so funny when you are an adult but as a child, I thought this hilarious.

Then I discovered that I had some of Enid Blyton's books in my own collection at home but had not bothered to go through them because I didn't know that her writing was so good. These were two books from her Noddy series about Noddy the wooden toy (sort of reminds one of Pinnochchio, doesn't it?) and his adventures in Toyland with Big Ears the gnome and a host of other characters. These stories about walking and talking toys fascinated me and I used to spend hours fantasizing about talking toys of my own and what I would do with them and the fun I could have if I had a toy that was able to talk to me.

From there onwards, there was no stopping me - I went through the Enid Blyton books at my local library in record time and began looking around for other sources of books but alas, there was none. The bookstores in my town didn't have many English books and even the ones which were there were unfortunately, not Enid Blyton's. Then, I had to change schools and joined Royal College in Colombo and suddenly, a new avenue of books was opened up to me. I found that most of my new classmates had huge collections of books and that most of them had at least a couple of Enid Blytons. I felt as if I was in heaven and my only problem was in deciding what to borrow and what to read. I begged and coaxed my friends and lent them the few books that I had (which most of them had read or didn't want to borrow as they considered them too "childish") in order to get them to lend me the books they had. The move to Colombo was a real good opportunity for me in another way too - Colombo's bookshops had a lot of children's books and Enid Blyton was everywhere. In addition, I found that there were second-hand bookshops from which you could buy books cheaper and I began saving up all the money I got from relatives and my parents in order to buy books.

I went through a lot of Enid Blyton books in this time period and met a lot of new friends through her books. She had the habit of writing a series of books about a character or a set of characters and so, if I liked one book, there probably were a few more detailing the further adventures of the same character or characters. This for me was an added incentive to read Enid Blyton.

So, I read about the "Famous Five" - Julian, Dick, George, Anne and Timmy the dog - and their adventures filled with secret tunnels, islands, smugglers and many other exciting things. At around the same time, I read about the "Secret Seven" - Peter, Colin, Jack, Janet, Pam, George and Barbara (and Scamper the dog!) - and their secret society and the mysteries they encountered and solved. One of my favourites was when Jack left the secret seven and they became the "secret six" - of course, Jack returned at the end of the story and the good old secret seven was together again. After a while (maybe it was because I was becoming a bit more discerning about what I read), I began to tire of the famous five and the secret seven because I felt the stories were too simple and too similar from one to the other. But, Enid Blyton was there ahead of me because I found other stories which were funnier and had more substance to them.

To this day, my favourite Blyton series is the "mystery" series. This set of stories was about the "Five Find-outers and dog" and featured Frederick Algernon Trotteville (called Fatty because of his initials and his size), Philip (Pip) and Elizabeth (Bets) Hilton, Laurence (Larry) and Margaret (Daisy) Daykin and Buster, Fatty's dog. They usually get involved in a mystery in their village and would be opposed by the village policeman Mr. Goon who wants to solve the mystery before them. Sometimes, they are joined by Mr. Goon's nephew Earn who hates his uncle. One thing I loved about the "Five Find-outers" was that the criminal or the villain was never revealed till the end of the story and I would try to guess who the criminal was from all the clues that the find-outers discovered. The series also had a lot of humour and sometimes I would find people staring at me on a bus or a train as I read a book in the series and started giggling uncontrollably.

Enid Blyton also wrote other series such as the "adventure" series which had Philip, Dinah, Lucy-Anne and Jack and his talking parrot Kiki as well as the "secret" series, the "mystery" series (different from the "Five Find-outers mystery" series) etc. She also wrote quite a few school stories such as "Mallory Towers", "St. Clare's" and the "Naughtiest Girl" series.
But all her stories weren't about normal everyday happenings. There were also stories about magical beings and places such as the "Faraway Tree" series about a magical tree which reaches up to the sky and where a different magic-land appears at the top of the tree every day; the "Wishing Chair" series about a chair which can fly and take you to magical lands; the "Mr. Pink-whistle" series about a half-human, half-elven man who goes about helping people and righting wrongs and many more. You've got to read them to believe the variety of different themes and topics that you encounter in Enid Blyton's books.

Enid Blyton has written over 700 books and they have been translated into over 30 languages. She died in 1968 and so, we can never have anymore new books by this wonderful author but her 100th birth anniversary will be in 1997 and interest in her books is said to be picking up all over the world. Maybe you too should pick one of her books up and see whether you like it!

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