As a child I LOVED Enid Blyton. I can remember my mum ordering me my first book (First Term at Malory Towers) from the school bookworm newsletter catalogue thing (at least I think that's what it was called) and as soon as I started reading about Darrell Rivers' adventures at boarding school I was hooked.
I regret not keeping all my old books and since I was pregnant with Little Miss C I have been looking out in charity shops for her books, especially versions that I remember from childhood. It's amazing when you realise that in the 40 years that she was writing she managed to produce an estimated 800 books!
My favourites had to be the two boarding school series (Malory Towers and St Clare's) and all the adventure books (Secret Seven, Famous Five and the Five Finder-Outers series). I think I had all of them as a child – I was very keen on collections – and just wish more of them appeared in charity shops at reasonable prices. I recently seen new versions of all the adventure series for sale, but I've also seen talk of new versions being published which bring the stories "up to date". I'm not sure I like this idea – part of the charm in my eyes is all the talk of things being "spiffing" and of them stopping for ginger beer picnics – whilst I accept that some of the racist and sexist possibly shouldn't be republished, I'm not at all keen on them bringing the language up to date. After all, I don't see people saying Shakespeare should be replaced with a modern version.
There are plenty of other Enid Blyton books that completely passed me by in childhood that I'm discovering now through my charity shop purchases. LMC picked one of those off a bookshelf the other day and brought it over to me asking for a story. Never one to refuse a child a story I obliged, but to be honest I was a bit surprised by the story I discovered.
Enid Blyton's Sunshine Book is a collection of short stories and I started at the beginning reading "Hi, Feather-Tail!". It wasn't exactly what I expected though and perhaps the opening section gives you a bit of a feel for it.
Big-Ears the goblin was always on the look-out for anything he could take. Sometimes it was an apple off a barrow, or off somebody's tree. Sometimes it was a biscuit from the counter of Mr. Butter the grocer's and sometimes a few flowers from a garden.
He was too clever to be found out, which was a pity, because a good spanking would have done him a lot of good, and might have stopped his bad ways. But nobody ever spanked him or locked him up for a night, so Big-Ears grew worse and worse.
So hang on a minute – a good spanking is the answer to stop him being naughty? I guess that was what children were encouraged to believe back when Enid Blyton wrote this, but I can't believe anyone would get away doing so now. The story continues in this vein with Big-Ears trying to steal some honey. He ends up falling over and sitting in the spilt honey before hiding in a bag of feathers. He is caught as people spot his bottom with all the feather stuck to it – in other words a feather-tail. A spell is cast on him by one of the women he stole from so that he is stuck with the tail, however he is given one way as to how he can get rid of the tail – by allowing the woman he wronged to give him a good spanking every day! He turns down this option, but the story ends as follows:
And one day I'm afraid he'll have to put up with some spankings in order to get rid of it. Well, they'll do him a lot of good, won't they! Poor Big-Ears!
Poor Little Miss C looked most confused and concerned once I finished the story. Obviously I want her to learn right from wrong, but I'm not sure that a story like this the right way and I'm pretty sure that something similar wouldn't be published now. It's funny to see just how the passage of time has changed what's considered right and wrong in children's books, but I'm confident that this won't be the only thing in my Enid Blyton collection that doesn't quite seem right in modern times.