Friday, 28 November 2008

The Famous Five Eat a Big Tea!

Now, I could write a long post saying why I think Enid Blyton is such a good children's writer. But I won't. I will say however, that she is one of the very few authors that children turn to voluntarily (and without parental pressure) to read over and over again. I know the old girl churned them out, and the quality of her writing is a bit suspect, and she didn't care for foreign types, and so on and so on. But children get a great deal of pleasure from reading her work, and this, I think, is the way to create a successful reader...give 'em a book they'll enjoy! Anyway, my eldest came to me last night and said she'd marked the page of a book she'd been reading because she thought the readers of this blog would like it. I do like it, perhaps you will too!

They came to Great Giddings at about ten past five. Although it was called Great is was really very small. There was a little tea-place that said 'Home-made cakes and jams', so they went in there for tea.

The woman who kept it was a plump, cheerful soul, fond of children. She guessed she would make very little out of the tea she served to five healthy children - but that didn't matter! She set to work to cut three big plates of well-buttered slices of bread, put out apricot jam, raspberry, and strawberry, and a selection of home-made buns that made the children's mouths water.

She knew Richard quite well, because he had sometimes been to her cottage with his aunt.

'I suppose you'll be going to stay with her tonight?' she said to Richard, and he nodded, his mouth full of ginger cake. It was a lovely tea. Anne felt as if she wouldn't be able to eat any supper at all that night! Even Timmy seemed to have satisfied his enormous appetite.

'I think we ought to pay double price for our gorgeous tea,' said Julian, but the woman wouldn't hear of it. No, no - it was lovely to see them all enjoying her cakes; she didn't want double price!

'Some people are so awfully nice and generous,' said Anne, as they mounted their bicycles to ride off again. 'You just can't help liking them. I hope I can cook like that when I grow up.'

'If you do, Julian and I will always live with you and not dream of getting married!' said Dick, promptly they all laughed.

Now, I'm a plump woman, who being fond of children, likes to see them enjoy eating the cakes I bake. So I better get cracking, clean this mess of a house, and pop a cake in the oven! But before I go here is a link to another online Enid Blyton Society and a link to a Radio 4 programme about her writing. Enjoy!


Sarah said...

We have been the lucky recipients of many Enid Blyton books from generous bloggers living in England and Australia. The Famous Five is our favorite just because of passages like these!

Seraphim said...

I adored Enid Blyton as a child. I would drag my poor mother to ever car boot or table sale going, in the desperate drive to grow my collection. Many happy memories; the Famous Five and Secret Seven were always the best I think, though I loved the Faraway Tree books too :)

monix said...

I agree completely with your view on how to create a successful reader but that view almost ended my teaching career before it had begun. Back in the late 1960s, when I qualified, teachers had to serve a probationary year. My school was in a slum district of a naval port, where most of the children never saw a book outside of the classroom. To encourage them, I devoted the last slot on Friday afternoons to reading anything they brought in. Usually this meant a comic but one day I was delighted to find a child with a book -Enid Blyton's Faraway Tree. I was reading it aloud when the HMI entered the room for my final assessment. Without any discussion about the lesson, she said she had to fail me because of my appalling choice of book to read to 7 year olds! Fortunately my head teacher lodged an appeal and I was assessed by a different inspector. Enid Blyton books had a special place in every one of my classrooms after that.

Islandsparrow said...

Although I never read many Enid Blyton books as a child, I do remember that my brother won a Noddy book for a school prize - it was one of my favourites. We also had a copy of The Pole Star family which I adored.

I wish that I had had more of her books to read, especially her school stories. I loved British school stories - one of my favourites was Seven In Switzerland by Mabel Esther Allen - it is a little different from the traditional boarding school story but very enjoyable reading. I read it many times over.

I especially savour the food descriptions in these books. British writers have wonderfully descriptive food passages (the secret midnight food parties in boarding school stories and Roger's chocolate in Swallows and Amazons and Mrs. Beaver's tea in TLTWTW) So please pass on my thanks to your daughter for the literary treat this morning!

Dulce Domum said...

Hi Sarah
I'm glad you liked the extract. I think, as a modern reader, it's the freedom of the "Five" that appeals...freedom to thwart smugglers, ride bikes, and eat as much cake as you like!

Hi Seraphim
My eldest likes "The Five Finder-Outers" as well. There's a child in it called "Fatty" who's something of a poet. I never read Enid Blyton as a child, we weren't a bookish family, I only started reading for pleasure in my early teens.

Hi Monix
There's a weird snobbery surrounding Blyton isn't there? You know, it doesn't surprise me that the HMI inspector got huffy...there's "worthy" children's literature and there's "dross"...unfortunately it's the parents who like the "worthies" and children who like the "dross"! My opinion is that we need more narrative in children's books, it's what they tend to go for.

I have my own teaching inspector story (PGCE evaluation)...I tripped over a white board and fell on my bum!

Hi Islandsparrow
You've touched on something I really love about children's literature. We seem to have a long history of great food descriptions. You're so right about Swallows and Amazons, but also Ratty's picnic in Wind in the Willows, Bilbo's pantry in The Hobbit, school stories, Famous Five et al and the the Harry Potter books all feature feasts. There's probably a PhD in this somewhere! Do you like the Angela Brazil books? I have a few and some 1930s Blackie Annuals, I'll blog about them if I have the time. I haven't read the book you mention, but I will try to find it, for my daughter and I.

Islandsparrow said...

Hi again! I answered your AoGG question on my blog but thought that I'd just let you know that I found Angela Brazil's works online at Project Gutenberg. I'm looking forward to reading them!

Gumbo Lily said...

I really love British children's literature although we are not familiar with Blyton. I read aloud a few of the Swallows & Amazons stories to the kids and they read them on their own too. Another favorite was Linnets and Valerians by Elizabeth Goudge. My youngest boys have read Harry Potter several times. One son, now 18, wishes he could go to England and visit all the "magical" places where these literatures took root.

Dulce Domum said...

Hi Jody
Elizabeth Goudge is such a comfort read. She always has a nice Christmas scene in her books too. I love Swallows and Amazons and read it out loud to the kids last year. The eldest loved it and said she wanted to learn how to sail!...We live in the Midlands but there is a lake/pond nearby where she could learn. If your son ever does make it to the UK he could come and visit us!!!