1 August 2017 Susannah

Celebrating Enid Blyton

Enid Blyton books
Child Whispers

Child Whispers

Seventy-five years ago, a book called Child Whispers was published. It was a collection of poems for children, illustrated by the author’s friend, and it set that author on a path to fame. Her name was Enid Blyton and this year is her 120th birthday, on 11 August. She went on to become one of the world’s best-selling writers, her books (of which she wrote about 600) translated into over 90 languages, and films and merchandise galore made from her stories. Five on a Treasure Island, her first book in the Famous Five series, was published in 1942, while The Secret Seven came out in 1949.

An Enid Blyton Society was formed in 1995, but her work has remained controversial – too simplistic, racist (golliwogs have been removed from their pages), outdated (Noddy and Big Ears sit in bed feeling ‘gay’ together), elitist, sexist, and lacking in literary merit. The BBC and many libraries banned her books. But she told good stories and has been much loved through the generations.

Enid Blyton

Enid Blyton

Did you know that Enid was the child of an unhappy marriage and always resented her mother for her father’s departure from the family home? Did you know that Enid Blyton liked to play nude tennis?? Enid was also a terrible mother – her daughter Imogen described her as “arrogant, insecure, pretentious, and without a trace of maternal instinct”. To learn more about this intriguing author, you can read Enid Blyton: The Biography by Barbara Stoney, or watch the excellent TV film Enid, starring Helena Bonham Carter. Or you can read the popular new ‘adult’ versions of her novels, such as Five Go Gluten Free and Five Give Up the Booze. Enid Blyton is a fascinating example of an author whose fame has gone in surprising directions, whose reputation has been mauled and yet survived, and who has a literary society in her name even though she was not a nice woman.

My favourite Blytons as a child were the Secret Seven books, of which there were fifteen and some short stories, about Peter, Janet, Jack, Pam, George, Barbara and Colin. For many, the favourite is The Magic Faraway Tree.

Do you love one Blyton book more than any other? What do you think of ‘modernising’ Blyton by removing golliwogs? Tell me by leaving a comment.

Enid Blyton: The Biography by Barbara Stoney
The Famous Five Treasury by Enid Blyton
Secret Seven: The Secret Seven: Book 1 by Enid Blyton
The Magic Faraway Tree Collection by Enid Blyton
  Five Go Gluten Free by Bruno Vincent
Five Give Up the Booze by Bruno Vincent

Susannah Fullerton: Enid Blyton’s ‘Malory Towers’
Susannah Fullerton: Enid Blyton is born
Susannah Fullerton: First Famous Five book published
Susannah Fullerton: Noddy first appears

 The Enid Blyton Society
 The truth about Enid Blyton

I only recommend books I have read and know. Some of these links are my affiliate links. If you buy a book by clicking on one of these links I receive a small commission. It doesn’t cost you anything extra, but does help cover the cost of producing my free newsletter.


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Featured image credit- ‘old books cast shadows’ by Corrie Barklimore. cc. https://www.flickr.com/photos/corrieb/
Body image credit- Child Whispers by Phyllis Chase (c.1897- c.1977) – http://www.enidblytonsociety.co.uk/book-details.php?id=885, PD-US, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=31759571
Body image credit- Enid Blyton, http://www.enidblytonsociety.co.uk/

Comments (36)

  1. I credit Enid Blyton with establishing my life long passion for reading. As the third child, I was fortunate to have a library of Enid ready to work my way through as soon as I was capable.
    I never understood the criticism of lack of imagination levelled at stories of children having fabulous freedom and working as a team to successfully problem solve mysteries! Yes: Famous Five For Me!!
    Whilst Enid could be considered lacking a belief in girls (looking at you Anne and George and having read the biography) this did not negatively influence my life view or expectations. So the criticisms, I have always found hard to fathom.
    Not all of Enid’s stories have aged well. But when I read more contemporary stories to my own children, that tried so hard to find a point of difference to gain attention, a bit of me mourned the joy I found in simpler stories with characters whose adventures I could envy.

    • Susannah Fullerton

      I totally agree, Kathy. If Enid Blyton gives children a love of reading, that’s a fabulous things. Yes, her views on girls and some other things have dated, but then so have loads of books. I loved The Secret Seven books, my children adored Noddy, and Enid write books which keep children engaged and interested. I think so many modern books are so busy trying to be PC, or make a point in some way, and the authors forget the importance of telling a good story.

  2. Carmichael Dale

    Being a great professional in whatever field of vocation doesn’t always translate or reflect the same way in character or as a human being (and vice versa). The same can be said about many other well known icons who were extreme opposites as individuals or as people in which I refrain from mentioning to avoid diverting from the main topic.

    My gut feeling as to why Enid may not have been a great mother and perhaps neither a nice person may have been a direct result of her early life, which she later extrapolated by opening up in an imaginary life through the world of books. It could have been her way to escape the hardships of reality or living in a world she preferred as opposed to what she was actually living. I guess the same may have been for Dickens opening up in his notable works after his father was incarcerated for bankruptcy. I have seen some biographical footage referencing Enid on ABC Australia many moons ago on a Sunday night, which I cannot remember the precise details.

    All things apart, a great article and I do agree that her achievements remain amazing!!!.

    • Susannah Fullerton

      Yes, I think her childhood was a difficult one, which could well have made her want to retreat into her writing.
      Thanks for your comments.

  3. Carmichael Dale

    Thanks for your feedback! I had lost the link to this site and only just re discovered it.

    Regarding the Secret Seven, these characters must have been very highly intelligent (possibly Asperger’s by todays standards) like minded children out on a mission which no other same age peers would have done at the time. Most of them were not related and were just locals in the town or neighborhood with more zeal, whereas the famous five were a family which would be less catchy, being more stereotypical characters. Yet I did enjoy those novels too, but not as much as the Secret Seven.

    I would be very surprised that most readers would not recall any of the characters names. It is difficult to forget Jack as he was my favourite character, whereas Peter was always over confident, very much like most CEO’s are. LOL!!! The plots and themes behind these children series would easily apply to adult characters as I found them to be fairly mature children, being one of the reasons that they grew up with us regardless of our current age!

    I am not so sure that the female characters had to stay home when the male characters went out at night was to show male dominance. This never occurred to me!!! I believe it was more as a precaution to avoid complicating the story as the focus was more on those they were tracking in an attempt to solve their mysteries without attracting the extra attention. I guess it was deliberately intended that way in an attempt to keep the reader more focused on the story and as a subliminal safety measure. I must be stuck in some time warp here as this zaps me back to almost 45 years ago!!!

    • Susannah Fullerton

      Thanks for your comments. Yes, Peter was bossy and could definitely be related to some CEOs today.
      I can’t remember which of the books, but there was definitely at least one night-time adventure where the girls had to stay home because it could be dangerous and therefore only the boys could cope – I still remember my sense of frustration. I liked Janet best and felt she was missing out.
      Interesting idea that the children could possibly be diagnosed as Aspergers today.

      • Carmichael Dale

        I cannot believe that I am discussing 1976 as if it was last week. Have I become so old, so quickly that I have forgot to keep track of time? Very scary indeed!!

        If my memory serves me correctly, it may have been in their first book where they were getting dressed as snow men at night as a disguise outside the abandoned house. I don’t have my book collection at hand to cross reference. I vaguely recall they had other night activities in “Good Work Secret Seven”, Go Ahead Secret Seven’ and in “Good Old Secret Seven”.

        Janet reminded me so much of a primary school classmate being identical to her in every way. Now you really got me enticed to start re reading these books and to live my second childhood a lot sooner than I had intended to or maybe I am still living my childhood now and never escaped it!! LOL!!! What most critics of Enid Blyton overlook is that her work actually got children to read and to some extent some of the morals would definitely override some of the modern themes found in todays world ( if we can be a little more open minded with the variable perceptions of political correctness). DISLAIMER: no arguments or debates intended!!

        • Susannah Fullerton

          Yes, I think it was the first book. I can never distinguigh the titles as they are all so general.
          I agree that while Enid Blyton was much criticised, she got millions of children reading and discovering the joy of books, which is a wonderful thing.
          I don’t think she was a very nice woman. Have you seen the film ‘Enid’ about her life, with Helena Bonham Carter. It was very well done. It seems she was a very poor mother. However, her achievements remain amazing.

  4. Carmichael Dale

    My first experience at becoming addicted to Enid Blyton’s work was back in early 1975 when I first discovered her “Secret Seven” series in the paperback editions of the early 1970’s They were actually imports sold in a large shopping mall Newsagent combined toyshop run by an English family living in Australia. No other shop or library that we went to had them as they were the only ones that sold them. I thought they were something newly released as they appeared to have modern covers with the big transparent 7 numeral (especially volume 1 where the cover displays a frightened boy running away at night from a house with a car and two suspicious looking men). I later discovered why they were so hard to get that they were rumored to be out of print and I couldn’t work out why until I later discovered the internet with various stories on the author. Still, I found them very innocent, educational and a good stepping stone to be mindful of a world I was going to grow up into.

    I bought a new novel every two weeks and always carried one with me whenever we went with my parents and my school friends father told me he also read them as a child. I was blown away as I thought that they were too modern for him to have had them so many years earlier. He said to me that I had the paperbacks and he had a couple of hard backs in his study. He showed them to me and I was in shock that they seemed like to different books by two different authors. I was then more hooked on them that over the 45 years I was able to locate and buy every first edition of each novel. I still highly prize them, finding them fun and educational, having also raised my children exposed to them. . Regardless I would never have expected that such political correctness would go to this level. I am grateful to have had the experience and lasting fond memories of my childhood literature

    • Susannah Fullerton

      Thanks so much for sharing those memories. Like you, the Secret Seven books were the first of Blyton’s that I read, and I also loved them. I always preferred them to the better known Famous Five books. I was recently running a literary trivia event and one question I asked was to name 3 of the Secret Seven children. I thought it was a very easy questions and was astonished that hardly anyone could name any of the children. You’d have won that point very easily!
      I am also glad I was a child reader before so much political correctness crept in, though I must admit that I did feel it was unfair that when there were nighttime adventures, the girls had to stay home while the boys went off bravely.

  5. Ruth Duckworth

    Thank you Enid Blyton for giving me a love of reading. I started with Noddy, then the Secret Seven and Famous Five. I then moved onto ‘better’ literature but know it was Enid that started me off on a lifetime of reading.

    • Susannah Fullerton

      I had Noddy and the Secret Seven, but somehow read very few Famous Five books. I agree that Enid Blyton can be credited with giving so many children a love of reading!

  6. Miland Joshi

    I’ve just seen the film, with a great performance by Helena Bonham-Carter as EB and I thought that Matthew Macfadyen as her first husband was also excellent. I must admit that I wasn’t looking forward to seeing what promised to be an unhappy story with difficult relationships, but I’m now glad that I did, because it is a real eye-opener. I found myself in sympathy with EB’s first husband and children, and understood why Imogen might be so dissatisfied wth her mother that she didn’t want to be accompanied to school by her. I found myself condemning EB and not sympathising with her even when I didn’t actually believe the accusation that her books were ghost-written. And yet, what a talented story teller that could make any part of life grist for her creative mill, as the film makes clear. I can recommend the film, but it’s no Enid Blyton tale for children!

    • Susannah Fullerton

      I am glad you got to see the Enid film and found it interesting.like you, i felt great sympath for her first husband.i think she never really recovered from her father leaving when he did. Also thought the costumes in the film were fabulous.

  7. Miland Joshi

    I wasn’t aware of it, though I might have seen a newspaper report of the film’s release, and forgotten about it. Some reviews on amazon UK condemn the film as a hatchet job, but the majority are positive, including one who said that she had grown up in a place where EB was known to be a difficult person. I’ve just ordered the DVD.

  8. Miland Joshi

    I enjoyed some of Enid Blyton’s fiction during childhood, and the negative aspects of her life above came to me as an eye-opener. I was a bit shocked by the description of her by her daughter.
    Perhaps it shows that even talented and famous story-tellers have darker sides to their lives or characters.

    • Susannah Fullerton

      Have you seen the film ‘Enid’. It gives a vivid portrayal of her character.

  9. Elizabeth Lochte

    Thank you for including the article on Enid Blyton in your latest “Notes from a Book Addict”. As a child I used to love Enid Blyton’s books. She was my absolute favourite author and I couldn’t wait for the mobile library to come around so I could hire another of her books. My absolute favourite was “Five go to Smuggler’s Top”. She was the author that inspired me to love reading.

    • Susannah Fullerton

      You are not alone in being inspired to read by Enid Blyton’s books. She was never such a favourite with me, but I do find her popularity really interesting. Have you seen the movie about her life? It is fascinating.

  10. Helen Warn

    Enid Blyton was banned from our School library. Goodness knows how I managed to obtain copies of and read “The Secret Seven” and my favourite ever “The Magic Far Away Tree” as my parents, not great readers (English was their 2nd language) and frugal to the extent that books were “nonsence!”
    That banning turned me away from reading but I am happy to have seen my daughter and now her children devouring Enid and other books as well!

    • Susannah Fullerton

      Well done on getting copies in spite of parental and library disapproval. And good to know that the next generation is loving reading.

  11. Carolyn Cossgrove

    Mr. Galliano’s Circus was the very first “big book” I ever read ( meaning not many pictures and over 100 pages ). I followed on with The Naughtiest girl in School series, The Adventurous Four and The Famous Five. It took me many years to figure out what this bracken stuff was that they always made their camping beds out of and absolutely wondered at the notion of voluntarily eating canned tongue!! Am happy to report that my children’s school library has many Enid Blyton books available to borrow.

    • Susannah Fullerton

      Yes, I think Enid Blyton is now available in most libraries. It wS an odd decision to ban her books, as there were so many worse books out there that were less PC than Blyton’s. Kids do continue to love her books!
      My mother served canned tongue and I liked it, but there were other very English things in the books that took me a while to learn about. Books introduce us all to so much that is new.

  12. Malvina

    I loved Enid Blyton as a child, and to my delight so did my children. Now my grandchildren discovered The Magic Faraway Tree series and loved it. My son read it to them at bedtime, and he didn’t let them look forward in the book, so at dinner they began discussing what possibilities would occur in the storyline that night. Do you think this will happen? Or that? He said it was funny and wonderful when they came up with all sorts of scenarios about where the book would take them. We gave our oldest grandson the compete Secret Seven series and he read through them so fast he astonished us all. So a year later we gave him the complete Famous Five, and he’s about half way through, mixing them up with other reads. Enid Blyton still appeals!

    • Susannah Fullerton

      Isn’t it fabulous to see kids devour books like that! You just know that a lifetime of reading pleasure is before them.

  13. Penny Morris

    I loved the Enid Blyton books as a child and made sure I got them for my daughter even though by then they were considered very non-PC. The books are exactly what children love to read although I have also enjoyed the Harry Potter series as my child was growing up.

    • Susannah Fullerton

      I think the main thing is that childrern discover the joy of rading, even if the quality is not fantastic. Then they will move on to better books, but first you must establish in their brains that reading is fun.

  14. Helen

    Born in the mid 1940s, Enid Blyton was the joy of my childhood. I didn’t just read about the Magic Faraway Tree – I lived in it! My favourites were The Famous Five, devouring one book after another and fully believing that these children really were allowed to go off by themselves in a caravan, or chasing smugglers or having adventures and eating foods that came in ‘lashings’- a word that forever means Enid Blyton and a jolly afternoon tea. The removal of golliwogs and Noddy and Big Ears being subjected to that kind of scrutiny is ridiculous. Are we to go back to all the books of generations past to remove every politically incorrect reference? Also ridiculous. Magical memories of innocent days: thank you.

    • Susannah Fullerton

      Helen, please excuse me if you get two replies to this. I am in Europe and the interenet connection comes and goes.
      Isn’t ‘lashings’ a fabulous word when applied to afternoon teas. My mouth begins to water at the very mention.
      And I do agree that trying to make the Blyton boooks PC is silly. They are products of their era and where do you stop if you start to make all the classics PC?

  15. Despite the snobbery and PC correctness, Enid Blyton taught generations of children to read and love books (much like J.K. Rowling with her Harry Potter Books.) So many authors nominate The Magic Faraway Tree as a great favourite. I loved it and, as an author, I’m afraid I’m still writing different versions of it (although it took me quite a while to realise that!)

    • Susannah Fullerton

      The Magic Faraway tree often appears in list of most loved books. Somehow I missed it as a child, so will need to get to know it better as a grandmother. Isn’t it interesting that the books we most love influence our own writings.

  16. Paddy Mullin

    I read The Sixth Holiday Book by Enid Blyton at what was obviously an impressionable age, because I can remember two stories in particular to this day. One “Take Firm Hold of the Nettle” was about owning up to things from the start. Another “He couldn’t be trusted” was about Rilloby, who was always unreliable when he had promised to do things for other people. His neighbours all plotted to give him a party, and then on the day they all found excuses not to provide whatever it was they had promised. (still haunts me).
    Did you know Enid Blyton’s son Carey wrote Bananas in Pyjamas?

    • Susannah Fullerton

      I do not know that one by Enid Blyton. Is it still in print? It clearly made a very deep impression on you. Enid had two grandaughters, so it must be her grandson who wrote Bananas in Pyjamas?

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