Hannah has just got to the stage where she can confidently read chapter books. She is so proud of herself. I am also excited because I have got out a lot of the books I used to read when I was about her age or a little older. In particular, I have got out a stack of Enid Blyton books I used to read over and over again. Many of them are very brown and have pages just about coming out, but they are classic books which I loved.
She and I were reading The Faraway Tree together, when I discovered something; Jo, Bessie, and Fanny’s parents were not, shall we say, great parents. Even before we discuss choice of names (poor Fanny); would you let your 9, 7, and 5 year old go off to the woods (where you have never been) for a whole day? What about letting them hang about with strange people, including one who claims to not know his own name, and one who wears saucepans all over his body? I consider myself to be fairly relaxed and trusting of others but I don’t imagine I will be allowing my kids to do this.
In the books, the children’s father “looses” a great deal of money at one point, forcing the mother to take in extra washing to make ends meet. It seems however, that Bessie (the 7 year old) does most of it (child labour!), and then gets in trouble when she accidentally scorches a table cloth she was ironing. Jo gets in trouble for breaking a spade whilst planting potatoes.
When their mother gets sick, Jo goes and gets a magic potion for her AND SHE DRINKS IT!!! I cannot imagine trying any “magic” potions my kids whip up. In addition to this they never seem to go to school. I know kids can be home schooled, but I am not sure that ironing and digging potatoes is considered a rounded education.
This is just one series too. A whole family literally joins the circus in another series, and in another the kids run the boarding school (though they are more officious than most adults). And don’t even start me on Secret Seven!
Clearly Enid Blyton was writing for another time. Her goodies are good, and her baddies are bad; Children are independent and resourceful, and do not need parents other than to provide the occasional piece of bread and dripping. The adventures are always exciting and there is always a happy ending.
There is something beautifully innocent about the stories. Hannah is loving them. I loved them as a child too, but am having trouble reading them as an adult. My modern “grown up” perspective is saying “what are the parents thinking?”. I don’t want to read anymore… it is spoiling the memories for me.
What books did you love as a child? Have you read them as an adult and had a similar experience to me?