Wednesday, 16 November 2011
I’m busy reviewing a batch of children’s books and can’t get over the fantastic array of titles. So far I’ve whizzed through a novel for teenagers about a missing girl, a gorgeous story by Anna Kemp and Sara Ogilvie called Rhinos Don’t Eat Pancakes and I’m now on to Jacqueline Wilson’s Sapphire Battersea.
When I was little I loved books like Richmal Crompton’s Just William and Noel Streatfeild’s Ballet Shoes. But Enid Blyton was my absolute favourite. I used to get two shillings and sixpence pocket money a week and every Saturday morning I’d wander down to the local book shop and buy a new Malory Towers or Famous Five story. Then I’d go home, curl up on my bed and read it from cover to cover.
Enid Blyton doesn’t get a good press these days. Some critics reckon her vocabulary is hopelessly limited while others accuse her of being elitist, racist and sexist.
Characters like the Famous Five’s prissy Anne and her liking for party frocks and dolls are a bit hard to take but there’s no doubt that Blyton could spin a great yarn. Her stories captured my imagination so much that I longed to be part of the Famous Five gang, to spend days swimming at a Dorset cove, taking a brown mongrel called Timmy for long walks and solving mysteries.
When I had a quick look at a Famous Five book recently what struck me most was the freedom children had in Blyton’s day. Julian, Dick, Anne and their tomboy cousin George are all aged between 11 and 13 but they dash out of the house after breakfast, land themselves in loads of scrapes and don’t come back till tea-time. They’re allowed to row out to Kirrin Island by themselves and camp there alone for two days. Two days! It sends me into a cold sweat just thinking about it.
PS. Thank you so much to everyone who commented on yesterday’s blog about the art of the apostrophe and students’ dodgy grasp of grammar. I didn’t even mention spelling, so I was shocked to get the new Jack Wills Christmas handbook in the post this morning and find two pages of greeting cards, diaries, notebooks and pens marked “stationary.” Ahem, Jack Wills, do you mean “stationery?”
PPS. Still on the subject of the Jack Wills catalogue, I did another double take when I spotted a gorgeous long black dress that would look divine on my daughter. She says Jack Wills, which markets itself as creating "fabulously British goods for the university crowd," is too preppy for her. But even if she liked it, there's no way she'd be tempted. Why? Because the Belford sequin dress costs a staggering £798. That's the cost of two or three months' rent for most students I know.