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Posts tagged ‘Enid Blyton’

Sharing a sprinkle of childhood fairy dust

The lovely Zoe over at Playing by the Book has set up a rather fabulous linky (I’m a week late to this particular party – been a little preoccupied with work recently!). Once a month Zoe will post on a specific topic in her “I’m looking for a book about…” series and invite other bloggers to contribute a link to a blog post with reviews or references to books that fit in with that month’s topic. The idea is brilliant and designed to create a wonderful hub of books for anyone searching on a particular theme or topic.  This month is “elves and fairies”… and well, writing this post has been ever so nostalgic. Ever so, ever so nostalgic.

Let’s get started. In this post I have chosen to get a little gooey eyed over some of my old favourites, and on Thursday I’ll introduce to you a new book that Milo and I have been enjoying a lot recently.

I imagine that there are lots of bloggers sharing Enid Blyton’s books as part of this month’s topic, but there is absolutely no way that I couldn’t include them myself. Well, one series in particular; The Enchanted Wood / The Magic Faraway Tree series. For anyone reading this blog who knew me as a child will remember that I was completely and utterly obsessed with these books. It would seem that my tattered copy of The Enchanted Wood was read by me in Junior 2. I can assure you that my handwriting is much neater now and I know where to put my apostrophes.

The reasons I loved these books so much were:

A magic wood people, magic!
A tree with little houses in (tree houses were and still are, in my opinion, the best thing ever)
Moonface’s slippery slip (which just sounds a bit dodgy when you write it down doesn’t it?)
The food, the wonderful, wonderful imagery and inventiveness of Enid Blyton’s food…
The illustrations (in my copies at least)

The illustrations in my copy of The Enchanted Wood were drawn by Lesley Smith and I absolutely adored them as a child and still do. They completely shaped in my imagination what Moonface and Silky the fairy looked like and for me, later illustrations paled in comparison.

I read the first chapter of The Enchanted Wood to Milo recently as he’s been a little bit pre-occupied with fairies. Namely the fluff fairy… a daft story I told him one night when he was exhausted and had popped the blue sock fluff that he’d rescued from his toes, kept in his hand throughout books, bath, getting pjs on, blow-drying his hair, more books and into bed, next to his head on his pillow. I was worried that he’d be sad when he woke in the morning to find it gone so I said the fluff fairy would come and take it and maybe turn it into a jumper or dressing gown for another fairy. Well, he rather liked that so at about 11.45pm that night when I suddenly remembered what I’d said, I made a little card from the fluff fairies to say thank you for the blue sock fluff (they’d turned it into a duvet cover), and left some shredded cotton wool fluff for him with a little fairy dust on (edible glitter!) on his bedside table. Well, this was terribly exciting. As was the fact that his blue sock fluff was still on his pillow (how?!) the next morning. And so, a little curiosity about fairies was born. Yay!

I also have this copy of Enid Blyton’s The Magic Faraway Tree.

The illustrations are by Rene Cloke and I do like them a lot, not quite as much as the illustrations in The Enchanted Wood but so much more so than the very modern versions. For me fantastic illustrations carry as much weight in story books as they do in picture books.

Milo asked me to include this one of the train. He thinks it’s the Little Red Train!

My other favourite fairy book as a child was this one… A Visit to Fairyland by Barbara Hayes, illustrated by Mary Brooks (Purnell Books).

This book reminds me completely and utterly of reading with my mum. I remember her reading it to me again and again, I remember pouring over the illustrations together, I remember trying to recreate the illustrations myself either through drawing or making. But most of all I remember the naughty little bear and the gorgeous little brother. Oh, they were such delights.

I think A Visit To Fairyland is now out of print. Sob. So for those of you who didn’t own this as children, here’s a snippet to give you a hint of the tone of the book …

“They say that Fairyland is over the rainbow,” Mummy had remarked – and then she had hurried on with her shopping. Mummies are usually in a hurry, aren’t they?

But the thought of Fairyland had stayed in Debbie’s head.”

Debbie then goes to bed, drifts off to sleep and embarks on an amazing adventure in Fairyland. Her brother David joins her and they are both later joined by teddy who is a bit naughty in Fairyland.

“Afterwards, naturally, the grown-ups said that it had all been just a dream — and perhaps it was; but Debbie couldn’t help believing that what happened that night might have been real.”

I just love the illustrations in this book, the detail, the imagination, the colours and the soft tone. They are utterly delicious.

I used to look for little houses in trees like this. I don’t think I ever once presumed that they didn’t exist, I just assumed that the fairies didn’t come out during the day and only at night so that’s why I couldn’t see them. I”d also make little houses like this for my Flower Fairies to live in.

I’m excited about sharing these properly with Milo as he gets older. In the meantime though (when we are not reading Oliver Jeffer’s books) we are ploughing through Ladybird’s classic Fairy Tales at the moment and he is just loving that experience. Last night’s bedtime book was The Elves and the Shoemaker which I hadn’t read before but knew the story well. I honestly think that he completely believes that fairies, elves and little people are real. He has no reason not to. He is not so keen on the wolves he is meeting in these books, but then, neither am I!

Tomorrow will be an extra special Fairyland inspired Bookish Bites so be sure to pop back then.


Bookish bites : starting tomorrow!

After yesterday’s mass postings (well, two, but that’s a lot for me) of newness and change, I thought I’d pop back and go into a bit more detail about Bookish bites and how Milo and I are going about things.

I’ve always cooked with Milo. He is much more likely to eat something new or different if we have made it together. And for those of you that know us, Milo’s eating has been somewhat of a challenge since he was properly diagnosed with asthma. He was 10 months when he started getting poorly with his breathing and at the time was weaning onto solids amazingly well, trying anything and everything and loving it all (except mash potato – weird!). When he started getting sick, solids, unless pureed completely, made him gag and a lot of the time it was really hard to get anything into him at all as his breathing made him feel sick. Three months of in and out of hospital totally ruined all the good work we’d done previously and since then we’ve tried pretty much everything to et him back on track but mentally he’s really not up for it. And he’s enormously stubborn like most toddlers!

Cooking together helps. We’ve also been growing our own veggies since having a garden and this is the first year that Milo’s really been involved in that. He’s hugely excited about his potatoes, peas and peppers and has been spotted trying out herbs that ordinarily he’d never go near.

So, onto Bookish bites… this is really an extension of everything else we do with Milo and cooking. It’s mostly baking, but there is a lot of goodness in baking and its process that shouldn’t be excluded. But we’re open to everything.

Each week we’ll choose a children’s book, predominantly picture books as Milo is 2.5 and not quite ready for the culinary delights of Enid Blyton, and read together picking out the cake or other bake in the book that sounds tasty. Then we’ll make it (provided we have all the ingredients to hand!).

I try and involve Milo in as many stages as I can. He adores machinery so if you see my Kitchen Aid mixer appear a few times – it’s not a cop out and it’s not that I’m not letting him be messy. Milo loves the mixer, he knows how to work it (always supervised) and he enjoys the process of putting ingredients in and seeing what happens with them.

Safety first. Milo sits on a stool most of the time when we’re cooking, with his legs wedged in against our kitchen units. It is safe and he’s never more than an arms length away from me as our kitchen is teeny. It’s not ideal though as he doesn’t always have the best freedom of movement and he can’t get down without help. We’re looking into getting him a steeping stool to stand on. He’s a pretty tall kid so it might be perfect for him now and not just for the kitchen.

We’ll be using recipe books for some of our Bookish bites and I will always reference and link to those books when we do. I do also like to make up our own recipes so there’ll definitely be a bit of that, and there are of course the recipes that have been in my head for years and changed over time that I can’t remember where I got them from in the first place (probably my mum!).

That’s about it really. Please do though let me know if you have any suggestions for picture books we can try with lovely bites in.

Does only have to mean lonely?

So absolutely everyone we know is pregnant with their second or third child. Seriously, there are about five of our friends in various states of pregnancy right now. We’re not. There’s no medical reason for this, no particular envy or jealousy for those that are, but it has got me thinking. We don’t know if we want a second child. Gasp! I know. There seems to be a certain reaction when you say that you might be done to the (many) people asking. Surprise followed by justification (others justifying it to us, not the other way round). We’re not saying it will never happen but right now we’re just really enjoying the one child that we’ve got. And we feel very lucky to have him. He’s ridiculously cute and funny. See.

I’m an only child and I never really felt much need or want for a sibling and I don’t understand how those relationships work. The adult sibling relationships around me all seem very complicated. Loving, but complicated and I’m a pretty isolated little person and quite honestly grateful for not having a brother or sister. Am I like this because I never had one or is this just my personality? If so, having a sibling would have been difficult, crushing probably and I can honestly say that I enjoyed (and still enjoy) being part of a family of three.

Milo is currently convinced that there is a baby in my tummy (no, just cake sweet boy), and in his daddy’s tummy (also cake) and in his own (yep, cake). What does this mean though? Does he want a brother or sister? Is he just curious because all his friends seem to be getting them? I don’t know, but it got me thinking about children’s books and how I just don’t know of any that deal with this particular issue, or how one would. Do you? I’d love to hear about them if you do.

Naturally I turned to google and up came an interesting discussion on amazon from a lady looking for books for her little girl (an only child), that showed positive, strong, only children. These were the books that arose:

Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren
Eric by Shaun Tan (what a lovely and appropriate suggestion)

Snake’s Mistake (Maya’s Little Friends)
Something Else by Kathryn Cave and Chris Riddell
The Dragon’s Child by Jenny Nimmo
Charlotte’s Web by EB White
Princess Smartypants by Babette Cole
Matilda by Roald Dahl (great because Matilda chooses to be an only child)
The Ottoline series by Chris Riddell

An interesting list with lots of feisty, strong girls. From my own reading as a child and adult I would add Judy Blume’s Are You There God, It’s Me Margaret – I know there’s a brother in this book, but he was sick for the most part and also just not as important as everything else. Meg Cabot’s wonderful Princess Diaries series – Mia gets a little brother by the end of the series but he’s pretty insignificant!

I did enjoy reading books about about sibling relationships as a child. My Naughty Little Sister books were a huge favourite of mine. I did not like that little sister and would not have liked having her in my life!

The Enchanted Woods and Faraway Tree tales, I always thought that being one of three children would be better than being a one of two and oddly (pre-Milo) I thought I would possibly have three children if I didn’t just stick to the one. And I always thought a little brother sounded better than a little sister.

And later with Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events. Three is a bit of a magical number in children’s literature.

It’s a tricky thing though, what with all the books out there for children who are about to become older brothers or sisters, that there are none for those who aren’t. I don’t know how that book would be written either. I did read an article recently that I can’t find now that said that only children have a stability and confidence that children with siblings don’t always have. I don’t know how you can make those associations when every child born is so terribly different in personality, but it makes me hopeful that Milo won’t grow up to have those irritating stigmas that can be associated with being an only, lonely child and if he did, he wouldn’t care about it.

Milo will of course have a lot of friends – he’s very sociable and loves other kids and babies. He’ll also have books and as dorky and sad as it might be to say, but they served as much as family and friends to me growing up as “real” people did. Maybe why I never felt like an odd only child was because I always had the brothers and sisters in books and all the imagination in the world that I needed. The real thing never seemed that necessary.

To be sure that Milo’s okay though, he’ll have on his shelf the biggest list of books with feisty heros and heroines I can find (Artemis Fowl, Alex Rider, Harry Potter, and Jacqueline Wilson’s books of which there are plenty of only children) with not a sibling rescue in sight! How could he ever be lonely with all of these wonderful stories to keep him company?!

Missing in action…

I’ve not been able to post much recently as I’ve been really busy with work and especially the World Book Day campaign for Book Aid International – very excited about tomorrow!

But there have been a couple of things that have caught my eye that I’ve wanted to post about so instead I’m just going to head you off in the right direction for them all.

Booktrust has had some more funding news and although it’s not perfect, things are in no way looking as bleak as they were at the end of last year which is fantastic news. More info here. And while you’re on the Booktrust site you can look at the winners of the Blue Peter Children’s Book awards that happened yesterday.

Next, head on over to Library Mice to read all about the Red House Children’s Book Prize shortlist. It’s a good shortlist don’t you think? If you scroll down, you’ll find a lovely piece about World Book Day and Book Aid International too.

There was also the news about the lost Enid Blyton manuscript which I’m sure you’ve all read about by now, but if not The Bookseller has a piece on it.

Phewf – I think that’s at least some of the things I wanted to share. I‘ll be taking part in Tweet Talk Give tomorrow. I finished my Jodi Picoult, that was a disappointing ending – I guessed the twist very early on. I’ll be reading my Murakami furiously tonight I think as I haven’t got very far – it’s great though, so if you want to take part in Tweet Talk Give, just head over to James’ blog and let him know!




Lashings and lashings of nostalgia

The reopening of our lovely library has given me the perfect excuse to read a few well-loved books that I don’t own (or do but they are up in my parent’s attic). So for the past few days I have been revisiting Enid Blyton’s The Castle of Adventure (MacMillan).

My library copy of The Castle of Adventure

Personally I have always though that the Enid Blyton cliches such as “lashings and lashings of ginger beer” etc… were a little unfair. They were certainly not the most prominent memories I had of reading her books. I always seem to remember, excitement, adventure, magic, tension, bravery, friendship, absent parents, smugglers, caves, castles, loyal and unusual pets – you get the picture. However, re-reading as an adult, I’ve discovered an awful lot of ginger beer and tins of peaches in my book!

My favourite example in The Castle of Adventure was after Jack and Philip have helped Bill Smugs and his gang capture a couple of baddies and they are sitting in a secret underground room waiting for a terrible storm to pass. They decide they are hungry tuck into some of the food that the baddies had been storing for themselves. So from pages 141 and 142:

“Jack and Philip examined the tins. They chose one tin of spice meat, one tin of tongue and two of peaches.”

The boys feasted on ginger beer and lemonade, both of which were there too.”

Isn’t it a wonderful coincidence that the bad guys happened to have all the same kinds of foods that the boys themselves would normally picnic on (apart from biscuits of course). Can you imagine seeing “one tin of tongue” as something to feast on in a children’s book these days? Food and drink is so important in kid’s books and noticeably and often absent in adult titles that it his wonderful but hungry work rereading.

Throughout the book I still wondered the same wonder that I had as a child though. When and where do these children who drunk so much lemonade and ginger beer, go to the toilet? Philip was trapped in a coat of armour for a whole day for goodness sake!

So for those of you who like a bit of nostalgia, take a look at these lovely old cover images from Enid Blyton’s Adventure series. The Enid Blyton society is also a great place to see more of these.

Lashings and lashings of wonderful covers


Lauren Child's wonderful home

This article on Lauren Child‘s  house/space inspired me to think a little more about the spaces in my life and the ones I would like to have. I have always been interested how people create spaces for themselves. A house, a corner in a room, a table in a coffee shop, the desk at work – just a place that is a little bit of an extension of you and somewhere to feel safe and comfortable.

I was always trying to create these spaces for myself as a child. Whether it was a den in my room made out of bed sheets, a cushion house in the living room that I would snuggle inside watching red nose day in my pyjamas or the branch of a tree that I could safely sit and read my Enid Blyton books, my own space has always been hugely important.

Now of course, I have a house, a mortgage and a much more sensible space that is home to me, Milo and his dad and in many ways, though I love our little house, I regret the normality of it.

Growing up surrounded by books I was always wanting to make myself magical places to be that were a reflection of everything I love. A bit like Lauren’s kitchen, but a lot more like the Oncelers house, Magic Faraway tree or the Moomin House.

The Oncelers home from The Lorax

The Moomin house from the Moomin museum - Tampere, Finland

Turrets, secret rooms, slides, nooks, crannies, staircases, bridges, balconies, windows of all shapes and sizes – I think it is the detail, intricacy and imagination that children’s authors bring to something so perfectly normal like a house or work place that has always intrigued me. I am fanatical about detail, almost obsessive, and always thought that one day, I would have my very own Oncelers house. Probably why I watch so much of Grand Designs.

I suppose it could happen one day. I’d need to earn a lot more money or win the lottery or something but in the meantime I will carry on creating the little spaces in our house that make it our home (and keep searching for that elusive secret passageway of course).

Wow – this is a really long post. Apologies for the ramblings.

Enid Blyton programme on Radio 4


If, like me, you loved reading all about the Famous Five, Secret Seven and the folk of The Faraway Tree when you were growing up, you might like to listen to Anne Fine talking about Enid Blyton on Radio 4 next week.

Tune in at 11.30am on Thursday 27 November for the programme, which also features contributions from the author’s daughters and some Enid Blyton scholars.

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