Famous Five 70s Style: Five Fall into Adventure Part Two

This week we’re following on from Five Fall into Adventure part one with part two. The question I posed last week was could it really be possible to fill episode two with all the bits and pieces that were left out of the first one? Well let’s take a look and see shall we?

The Good

As I mentioned last week, Julie Davis’ portrayal of Jo is sublime. She has the cheeky little ragamuffin done and dusted. The sharp wit and cunning comes across and even though she may be smaller in stature than the boys she gives as good as she gets. She gambols about like the Jo in the book and generally clambers and climbs everywhere. Even though the boys treat her badly at points, and Dick’s attitude is something we will look at later on, she still comes back to help them, and to rescue George. She could just disappear and leave them stranded in this house on the cliff but she doesn’t – and unlike in the book where we know that she’s fond of Dick, and why, that’s not so clear in the adaptation. Still, a good strong Jo is what we have and continues from part one to part two.

The episode in fact manages to cram an awful lot into it in the twenty-five minutes, the fact that bar one or two scenes at the end, the entire episode takes place in Red Tower’s house. It is a very bog standard house from what you can see, lots of it not in very good condition, but the children can just thunder up and down it without being seen. Jo uses the scaffolding to get onto the roof and then into the room where George is being held. The modern updates are a little odd to have  but they seem to worked it into the episode seamlessly. The motorized dinghy at the end of the episode where the children are all pinning down Markoff is one of the only other references, apart from the clothes that are being worn, of the updated  time period.

Another good thing about this episode is that the rescue of George from the tower room is pretty much exactly how it appears in the book. Jo climbs up the outside of the tower, slips into the room next to George’s and lets her out. She also lets Markoff catch her so George can make an escape. I think this more than anything else leads to George insisting that they have to go back for Jo when she hasn’t followed them down to the beach. This is one of the key scenes in the book, even leading to a mutual respect between George and Jo; this is clearer in the book because there was more animosity to begin with, whereas in the TV episodes the spats with Dick overshadow the whole group getting to know Jo and changes the way she interacts with them all.

The Hilarious

Now like the first episode, this one is full of laughs, possibly some that you won’t remember as children, if that was your first time watching it. However they certainly stand out now when re-watching them as an adult.

As I mentioned last time Dick’s sarcasm is a big part of the first episode especially with the interactions to Jo are a huge comedic pull. At least from an adult point of view, the sarcasm is very apparent and isn’t going over my head like it did when I watched them at a younger age. (I did not, as you may be able to guess, watch them when they were first broadcast.) In the book, after the first meeting there is a touching scene where Dick wonders if he had given her a bruise, although this is reciprocated somewhat in the first episode, the warmth and trust between the characters is very much lost in the two episodes. Its some of the most touching and real interactions between two characters that I felt Blyton ever wrote. I wish that it had been translatable onto the screen.Back to Dick’s sarcasm however, when Jo mentions that climbing a wall is noting to her, as her father was an acrobat in the circus Dick lays on the sarcasm nice and heavily;


This happens before Jo insists on climbing up the front of the building to rescue George because she is the only one who can do it. The boys appear to disbelieve that she can do it, until she starts climbing. Then they begin to believe that she really is as good as she says.

Julian gets fed up of the exchanges between Dick and Jo, as Jo rescues them from the room where they have been tied up. Dick ends up blaming Jo for getting them into this mess and Jo says she’s getting fed up of saving them. For once you can really see Julian’s nerves fraying when he quite firmly says to them:


The interactions are overshadowed by the sniping between Jo and Dick, so we don’t get to see George and Jo, and Jo and Anne’s relationship and because they never shot Five Have Plenty of Fun, and Jo’s character never appeared in Five Have a Wonderful Time, so we don’t get the progression of their friendship.

The Not-So-Good

They have to be mentioned: the baddies. The bad guys, Markoff and Red Towers are scary but not convincing that they could actually control the children and over power them when needs be. There is a scene at the end where Markoff is trying to stop the children leaving the island but as soon as Timmy is revived, he is over powered by the dog and the four children. In fact even the girls could take him out. In my mind the Markoff in the book is huge and overbearing and not really able to be taken down by a group of children.

One last thing: the boat. They don’t actually disguise the boat when they go off to find George in Red Towers house, so actually the fact that they’re surprised the boat is still where they left it, is genuine, because I’m pretty sure Markoff would have actually found it and smashed it up.

The Round Up

So, did writer Gail Renard manage to deliver a show stopping second half of Five Fall into Adventure? She did! Were all the important parts shown? They were! Was it true to the book? As much as it could have been within the constraints of time and TV. Is Gail Renard possibly the most talented script writer? Without a doubt; Yes!

If you haven’t watched these two episodes, you need to. The hilarity of Dick’s sarcasm is something that really stands out in these episodes. You really do need to watch them for the brilliance of Gary Russell’s sarcastic one liners. You will not be disappointed.


Posted in Blog talk | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

If you like Blyton: Arsenic for Tea by Robin Stevens

Having started to read this book I am wondering if perhaps I should have made the title If you like Agatha Christie… as this book has moved away from the Malory Towers backdrop to a secluded country mansion where a party-guest is poisoned.

But to return to the beginning, for a moment. This is the second Wells & Wong Detective Agency story. The first book was Murder Most Unladylike, set at Deepdean school where Daisy Wells and Hazel Wong investigated the murder of one of their teachers. Everyone else believed the teacher had just left the school, only the two detectives knew that there had been a dead body and so were the only ones properly investigating.

Now Hazel is visiting Daisy at Easter for Daisy’s birthday, in her huge old house. Daisy’s parents are Lord and Lady Hastings and seem to be of a familiar archetype: ditsy, helpless mother and jolly father, with not quite enough money to keep the house up to its old standards.

There are perhaps less parallels to Blyton in this story, now we don’t have the familiar boarding school setting. It really is more of a Miss Marple or Poirot-style mystery, though there are shades of the Find-Outers, perhaps.

We start with a great many people arriving at Fallingford for Daisy’s birthday weekend.

fallingford map arsenic for tea robin stevens


Aunt Saskia: an eccentric and badly dressed woman who seems to have an issue with kleptomania. She sneaks silverware into her handbag and is always eyeing up shiny watches that belong to other people.

Mr Curtis: Daisy’s mother’s friend, an arrogant art and antiques dealer who is there to appraise some of Fallingford’s items for sale.

Bertie: Daisy’s older brother who attends Eton.

Stephen: A friend of Bertie’s, also from Eton.

Uncle Felix: Much younger than the visiting aunt, Felix has an air of mystery about him. There are rumours that he is a secret agent.

Beanie and Kitty: two of Daisy and Hazel’s friends from Deepdean.

These people added to Daisy’s mother and father, Miss Alston the slightly odd new governess and the few members of staff makes for a real houseful!


The murderer is inconsiderate enough to wait until the middle of Daisy’s birthday party to strike. One of the guests complains that the tea tastes funny, and within ten minutes they are choking and retching and have to be carried off to bed. The doctor is called, and diagnosis dysentery, but cannot do anything.

Daisy and Hazel (and also Uncle Felix) don’t believe that it’s dysentery. Daisy and Hazel reason that nobody else is sick while Uncle Felix demands samples be sent off for testing. The Wells and Wong Detective Agency are ahead of him in their investigation though, as Daisy has recently read a book where it says arsenic poisoning is often confused with dysentery…


There are a whole cast of suspects roaming Fallingford – and none of them can go anywhere due to the storm causing flooding in the surrounding areas.

Daisy and Hazel conclude that everyone (apart from themselves and their school chums) must be put down as suspects.

Almost everyone has motive and everyone but the staff had the opportunity. All the guests were around the party-table and could have doctored the tea-cup.

Not even Daisy’s parents escape scrutiny. After all, Lady Hastings was caught kissing the victim and her father was seen demanding he leave Fallingford immediately. Then again, it could have been Aunt Saskia who had been greedily coveting that golden watch or Bertie with his famous temper. It could even have been the governess who has displayed some suspicious behaviours of her own (not least with that handbag of hers that she never, ever puts down).

It’s a big job, and it seems only logical that the two other Deepdean girls end up involved. Poor Beanie and Kitty were shoved aside several times in the early chapters while Daisy and Hazel snuck around. It turns out they knew all about the secret detective agency anyway.


Various things are looked into over the next chapters but it isn’t until Lady Hastings is pushed down the stairs that they are truly able to rule anyone out.

Unfortunately the more people that are ruled out, the more likely it becomes that someone dear to Daisy is the culprit.

Finally the police arrive and move straight for the person that Daisy is most determined to protect, and it’s only thanks to a couple of genius realisations from Hazel that the girls work out who the real murderer is.


Much like in the first book I was rarely much ahead of the girls in their detectings, and I did not work out who the killer was until the last possible minute – a sign of a very good murder mystery.

As I said at the start this is an Agatha Christie style whodunnit, and it plays it like that the whole way through. Though of course, we have four fourteen-year-olds doing the investigating. These children are of comparable ages with the Find-Outers, the Famous Five, the Mannering-Trents and so on, and yet are rather more worldly when it comes to grown-up problems. They may feel very awkward when they see two grown-ups kissing (especially when it’s a married woman kissing someone other than her husband) but they are able to discuss it without any giggling or hysterics. They also touch on topics such as suicide, guilt, loyalty and honesty in a mature way for the most part.

On the whole it was a satisfying read – with which I only had one small niggle. If you were an undercover agent you would NOT bring with you a letter detailing the nature of your mission.

It may be a bit of a departure from what is considered traditional Blyton fare, but if you appreciate good children’s writing then you’ll probably like this.

arsenic for tea robin stevens

Posted in Books, Other Authors, Review, Robin Stevens | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments

Monday #183

After spending what must have amounted to 15-20 hours of work on the Blyton on TV and in film guide, this week we’re going back to just the two regular posting days so that I can relax again. I’m glad I got it done, but it really was a labour of love! Every time I thought I had all my entries at least listed if not finished I would find something else I needed to add. I’m still not convinced I got everything!

Anyway, this week:



Posted in Blog talk | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

A Guide to Blyton on TV and in film

This is a (roughly) chronological list of Blyton’s works adapted for TV and film. I haven’t included stage or theatre productions unless they were filmed. I have tried to include information about who made the work, the cast, episode titles and if it’s available to be bought or watched. Some titles have very little information online, however, so I haven’t been able to include all those things for every entry.


Episode titles which are links will take you to our reviews of those episodes unless otherwise stated.


This is a one minute TV-movie starring Enid Blyton, Kenneth Waters, Imogen Smallwood and Gillian Baverstock as themselves. It can be watched online.



There are just nine episodes of this early programme listed on IMDB, but judging by the dates given elsewhere there are many episodes missing.

Of the episodes that are listed, eight comprise a first series, and the one further episode is from an unknown series.

  • Hello, Little Noddy
  • When Noddy Came to Toyland
  • Noddy’s New Car
  • Noddy’s Taxi
  • Noddy Does Some Gardening
  • Big Ears’ Smokey Chimney
  • Noddy’s Burglar
  • The Big Balloon

From what I can gather this was a puppet-show and the episodes were just 15 minutes long. None of it has ever been seen online, though you can view some archived images here.

Further Adventures is not even listed on IMDB but there are references to it elsewhere on the web. I did find one episode, The Great Car Race, on Youtube.


An eight-part serial made by the Children’s Film Foundation. Blyton herself was involved in the production, and had a say in the casting. She was apparently very happy with the finished product.

The Five were played by:

  • Richard Palmer – Julian
  • John Bailey – Dick
  • Gillian Harrison – ‘Ann’
  • Rel Grainer – George
  • Daga – Tim

You can get it for under a tenner on Amazon.



I can’t find much information on this adaptation, other than the cast.

  • Colin Spaull – Noddy
  • Gloria Johnson – Silky
  • Leslie Sarony – Mr. Pinkwhistle
  • Peter Elliott – PC Plod
  • David Brierly – Jinky
  • Graeme Harper – Moonface
  • Richard Huggett – Mr. Noah
  • Bobby Kerrigan – Big Ears

All I can surmise from that scant information is that is crosses over with The Magic Faraway Tree!


Another CFF production, this time in six parts. As this was made seven years after the previous one, it’s hardly surprising that there is a new cast.

  • David Palmer – Julian
  • Darryl Read – Dick
  • Mandy Harper – George (as Amanda Coxell)
  • Paula Boyd – Anne
  • Uncredited – Timmy

This is also available on Amazon at less than £10.



A Danish adaptation of Five Go Adventuring Again. 

  • Mads Rahbek – Julius (Julian)
  • Niels Kibenich: Richard (Dick)
  • Sanne Knudsen- Anne
  • Lone Thielke – Georg (Georgina)
  • Ove Sprogøe: Onkel Quentin
  • Astrid Villaume: Tante Fanny

I can’t spot this for sale at the moment but the full thing is available on Youtube.



This is one I had never heard of before. It is a Japanese adaptation of The Five-Find Outers. Created by NHK – Japan’s national broadcaster – it ran for 113 episodes, over two-and-a-half years. The children were given different names and identities, and Buster became a black poodle. The early episodes were based (loosely) on the books but after that they used newly written stories. Unfortunately the tapes were deleted by NHK and very little survives now.

There is some information here about the show, but most pages are in Japanese.


(P.S. This is an initiation ceremony to the FFOs, not a Nazi salute!)

Continue reading

Posted in 70s Famous Five Series, 90s Famous Five Series, Blyton on TV, Children's Film Foundation, Comic Strip Presents, The Adventure Series DVD, The Secret Series DVD | Tagged , , , , | 8 Comments

Famous Five 70s Style: Five Fall Into Adventure Part One

Five Fall Into Adventure is one of the mysteries I don’t really enjoy reading much, so the finer details of the book escape me, but I still know the story well enough to give you a general overview of the adaptation from the 70s.

The Good Bits

This generally comes across to me as one of the more scary books, I mean George has been kidnapped for a start and her parents can’t be informed. The baddies are quite scary, in fact I do wonder whether Red Tower is even stable, but I can’t talk about him too much now because he only really appears in the next episode.

One of the best bits from this episode is the fact that it is split into two parts. Like all the other two parters it contains much more detail than the single episodes, so much so that this episode is very much the run up to the exciting ending and rescue.

For now let’s look at the best bits of the first episode where we have that tremendous build up to the big drama.

My first thought when we get past the credits is working out where in the story we are starting, and quite strangely Aunt Fanny and Uncle Quentin are still at home, packing for their holiday to Malaga. In the book Blyton just generally mentions Spain as a holiday destination, keeping things quite vague given that Uncle Quentin is supposedly being hunted by reporters, but in this there is a set place. I suppose that gives the audience some idea on where the parents are actually going and some context for the visit. While packing the car however, Quentin tries to take some of his work to do, much to his wife’s disgust, and the scene were they try and take it all off him in some sort of chain motion is very amusing to watch.

Another good point in the script, something I think writer Gail Renard knew needed a good build up and scene was the body swap, where Dick and the paper boy Sid swap places so Dick can go and spy on who comes to collect the papers. It’s a much smoother and less hurried effort than in the 90s series, possibly because they didn’t have the time constraints. It’s smooth, quick and perfectly executed by Gary  Russell.

Julie Davis as Jo was an excellent piece of casting, she really had the ghastly little raggamuffin down to life (apart from being very clean and sharp in her clothes and hair cut). She was fiesty, determined and she had the best rapport with Gary Russell who played Dick. The two of them are a joy to watch, the way they fling the dry, sarcastic comments back and forth at each other is amazing. I don’t know if Gail Renard had intended that to happen but it did and for that I am greatful. It’s a shame that they didn’t do another adventure with Julie in as Jo because picking up where it left off would have been amazing. I was lucky enough to be able to meet, talk to and listen to stories from Gary Russell, Marcus Harris, Julie Davis and Gail Renard at an Enid Blyton Society Day some years ago and the stories they could tell were amazing! However, Jo and Dick are supposed to have a special relationship in the book, there’s a sort of respect and connection there, a fondness if you like. In these episodes we get less of the fondness and more of the raw sarcasm of people who don’t want to get too close to one another but can’t help liking the other person. If you know what I mean.


The Not So Good Bits

Now we all know I have my little niggles about these episodes, and here comes a few. Now they are nothing more than niggles, but for a seasoned Famous Five viewer they are enough to make you roll your eyes and sigh. I hope you can see I don’t do this out of spite, but out of love for the books.

There are a couple of cracking ‘niggles’, such as when Anne screams about a face at the window, the boys have enough time to run into her room that she shares with George and manage to put their dressing gowns on nice and neatly! I mean your sister screams and you still manage to get your dressing gown on before you go to see if she’s all right? Not sure that works.

Another thing that bugs me is how irresponsible the adults are. Uncle Quentin allows Julian to accompany him into the garden to check for intruders, but we’re forgetting, Julian is probably only 16! Quentin and Fanny as the responsible adults shouldn’t have allowed Julian to go outside with Quentin, even if he has faced all sorts of danger in past adventures.

Rodgers the gardener is exactly the same, he seems so hopeless with the children and usually he growls and warns them off his plants and how noisy they are, but in Fall into Adventure he suddenly becomes nice and really weedy! He does things like leave the house with the professor’s papers unguarded and not in the safe, he lets the children walk all over him, which isn’t characteristic of him at all.

One last character niggle and then we’ll wrap up, but the one thing I want to talk about is the fact that Jo does not meet the Five through stealing George’s sandy hole where she’s been sitting, but in fact tries for a bigger kind of theft and tries to make off with George’s beloved boat. Now I know that sets the tone for how things go with Jo, and all I can assume is that it was too cold for the cast to be swimming in the sea during filming to make the original introduction difficult to do. Anyway, it’s a big boat and Jo isn’t too big, so you wonder how she would have managed it. However, the punch up between Jo and Dick is pretty awesome and goes on much longer than it does in the book. Now if that’s not girl power I don’t know what is!


Overall, even though this episode may start off slow, and fills in all the details (which we like) it’s attention to detail is what makes it truly excellent. Gail Renard is a genius and a proper Blytonite. She managed to get those little quirks and tit bits into the episode so wonderfully that the actors, who by series two have settled into their roles, manage almost perfectly.  Let’s hope that part two is just as well developed and detail filled. We shall have to wait til next week to find out!

Posted in 70s Famous Five Series, Blyton on TV | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

The Adventure Series on TV – The Woods of Adventure

The Woods of Adventure? I hear you ask. No, this is not a long-lost Blyton title you’ve never heard of.

I’m not quite sure how all the copyright laws work, but earlier in the 90s there was a mini-series make of Castle of Adventure and so they still had the rights to that title. There was also a version of Island of Adventure in the 80s but those rights must have been available again for this series. Confused? Good, so am I.

The blurb for this episode reads:

The children and Mrs Mannering take a trip to a mysterious mountain cottage, which lies close to an old castle. Curious about the ruin, and eager to find a tawny owl nesting in it, the children explore the surrounds. When Kiki goes missing Jack is determined to find her and searches the surrounds, but he is alarmed to discover that they are not alone and soon alerts the other to get help.


The opening shows us a sign reading Woods Castle, keep out. In the background is a Monty Pythonesque drawing of a castle superimposed on the blue sky. A man with a rucksack is sneaking about, apparently being followed by some sort of heavy-breathing animal. Ah, no, it’s a white-faced man in dark purple robes. Gosh isn’t it amazing how those types always turn up to ruin your illicit wanderings around old castles (or ‘secret’ islands)?

An older woman bursts out of the castle as the hiker is attacked and seems very upset by it all. Though it turns out she’s not upset about the poor young guy who gets his head cracked open, she’s more concerned with the crazy monk-type. She is seen tending to him by candle-light later and he is mumbling about Margaret whoever she may be.

Bill is getting involved from the start of this story, with his boss showing him a picture of Craggy Tops, where a man has been murdered. (The man being the hiker from the opening). There is talk of radiation being involved.

Interposed with these threads of story are short underground scenes of a sci-fi nature, with men in radiation suits.

Having heard an owl from their tent the children end up in the woods by night, then right by the castle. They get scared off by the monk, though.


The old woman is the monk’s mother and he has been unstable since the death of Margaret. Even crazier… a man with the old woman seems to call her Mrs Brimming. Even The Secret of Moon Castle didn’t have a Mrs Brimming. The sci-fi radiation stuff is going on under the castle as Mrs B’s friend is monitoring it all on a computer (while eating jelly babies). They talk, and reveal that the monk, who turns out to be named Gary, was badly burned in trying to save Margaret.

The children are still suspicious of Bill when he turns up, because he is pretending to be on holiday but Dinah sees him with a gun.

The children visit the castle again, and after about ten pointless minutes of wandering around, Kiki ends up inside with Gary who has taken a shine to her. This gives Bill a perfect excuse to come up to the castle and snoop around. The children are the ones that end up getting a ladder and climbing in at the broken window, however (while Bill and Allie wander uselessly around the outside of the castle). Naturally the ladder breaks just as the last child makes it inside, leaving them trapped with a lot of rats.

It’s Mrs B who finds them eventually – after another pointless ten minutes of wandering – not surprising as they are doing some of the worst hiding ever behind curtains and so on. She hurries them all out and back to Mrs Mannering again.


radiationThe radiation levels are being monitored by the mystery man and they fluctuate wildly. When they get high the children have to cover their ears at the horrible noise. Even Bill and Allie hear it from outside but can’t work out what it is. As the children also point out, there are no warning labels of any kind on the radioactive material they find later. Though as they look like cheap metal rods that’s not so surprising.


Jack is still distraught about Kiki and so goes off in the night to try to find her. The other children follow and they end up inside the castle again. And we then get another ten minutes of the children running about the castle. Them chasing after Gary. Gary chasing after them. It felt more like Scooby-Doo than Blyton.

Gary mistakes Lucy-Ann for Margaret and expresses feelings of guilt, yet still fights with Jack over Kiki. I was rather losing the will to watch by this point but the kids got Kiki back eventually, helped by Bill.

Jack and Lucy-Ann had heard from their uncle during the episode and he was reluctantly coming back from the US to take care of them again, but they didn’t want to go. This is dealt with at the very end of the episode when he comes down with some illness and can’t travel for another few weeks.


The ‘plot’ of this more like Moon Castle than the plot of Moon Castle was, and nothing like Castle of Adventure at all. Really they should have just done seven episodes and left this one out. They stole so much from Moon Castle that the actual Moon Castle episode made a year later clearly had to be massively changed otherwise it would have been far too similar. For example, the picture below is of a portrait with glowing eyes which backs onto a secret passage.


There was barely enough material to have a twenty-five minute episode, let alone one that went on for more than an hour. Bill was completely under-used and the whole radiation work under the castle had next-to-no point other than having someone complain constantly that Gary was out of control.

I don’t understand why these New Zealand adaptations keep feeling the need to add strange men/women in hooded robes to the stories either.

I would give this zero stars if I had to rate it, and I wouldn’t feel bad in the slightest as there was nothing even remotely Blyton about any of it.

And lastly, I’m annoyed that the blurb and the title were misleading! There’s no rented cottage at all, they are at Craggy Tops the whole time. Worse is the fact that the woods barely feature at all, only as something they have to walk through to get to the castle.

Posted in Blyton on TV, The Adventure Series DVD | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

Monday #182

This week we have a themed week for you, in a change of dynamic and our on going changes to the blog. We shall be looking exclusively at the television adaptions. Fiona will be looking at the next Adventure series episode while I will be looking at Five Fall into Adventure 70s style.

On Sunday we will be bringing you a guide to the TV adaptions that have been created from Blyton’s novels, so you can tick them off and see what you have watched and what you need to watch!

I am leaving you with some pictures of Cramond, in Edinburgh from my trip in May/June. I hope you like them!

Posted in Blog talk | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Reblog – JSlawit’s introduction to Enid from Where there’s a Jill there’s a way

I’m always browsing blogs and looking for interesting things to read, and this was one I stumbled upon through a comment on one of Stef’s posts. The blog is still a work-in-progress but it looks like it will be a good one. Jill has a section of her blog dedicated to Blyton, and has called it her Blyblog.


Lashings of ginger beer, heaps of potted meat sandwiches……deep filled pies and huge slabs of fruit cake packed with juicy goodness – just right to feed four hungry children and a dog. Maybe this is what first sucked me into the Famous Five and the wonderful world of Enid Blyton, luring me with one of them cartoon vaporous fingers. I too could go cycling with the Five, have an thrilling adventure, and enjoy a delicious picnic tea afterwards. OK so I was never keen on ginger beer or potted meat, but Enid Blyton had the happy ability to make even sand and dog-meat sandwiches sound mouth-wateringly yummy! […]

via Blyblog – JSlawit’s introduction to Enid — Where there’s a Jill there’s a way

Posted in Blog talk, Personal Experiences | Tagged , | 1 Comment

If You Like Blyton: Frozen in Time by Ali Sparkes

ali-sparkesI suspect that a lot of you have never heard of Hampshire based authoress who turns up for her public appearances in amazing sparkly boots (the clue’s in the surname). Last month I had the fortune of Ali Sparkes coming to my library to do a creative writing workshop with some children and I discovered that she was a big fan of our favourite author, Enid Blyton. In fact, so much of a fan that one of her books, Frozen in Time in a way pays homage to Blyton and the Famous Five. So I decided I needed to read this book, and now I’m going to share my thoughts with you.

The Plot

We begin to cross over into Blytonian territory as we meet two children, who are helpfully brother and sister, Ben and Rachel, who are having a very boring summer holiday. Sound familiar?

Their parents are away, working on a cruise ship, and they’re being looked after by an Uncle Jerome who is more interested in his scientific projects than his niece and nephew. Sound familiar?

Anyway, enough of the comparisons, let’s look into the adventure that awaits our heroes Ben and Rachel and their forgetful Uncle Jerome. When the rain finally clears, the two children rush outside and explore their overgrown garden where they discover a sealed chamber and manage to get in and explore. The discovery is more than diamonds, smuggled goods or a kidnapped child. In this sealed chamber there are two cryogenically frozen children and puppy from 1956 (we’re now in 2009). That would be fifty-three years suspended in time for the children, Polly and Freddie who get woken up when Rachel accidentally pushes a button while Ben and she are looking around.


What follows next is the hilarious escapades of trying to bring Freddie and Polly into the 21st century and work out why their father left them frozen for fifty three years. This is where we get into Five Find-Outer territory as we deal with a big mystery trying to be pieced together with some interesting Cold War connections. Such a thrilling read.

The Characters

The classic set up of two girls and two boys and a dog dominate the book and the scatty uncle in the background in a very Famous Five, Five Find-Outer situation. So let me introduce you;

First of all we have Ben, the eldest, well if you don’t count Freddie’s extra fifty-three years. He’s Rachel’s older brother and there are a couple of very Julianish moments where he tells her that he has to do something first because he’s the eldest. Due to his knowledge of the twenty-first century he comes across as older and wiser than Freddie.

Rachel could be seen as the tomboy of the group, the George figure if you like, but that would only be in stark contrast to Polly who is an Anne if ever I saw one. Whereas Polly likes feminine things and getting things tidy and prepped for the boys, Rachel can’t stand waiting on her brother and says that she’s only doing it to help Polly adjusted to the new time she’s found herself in. Fair play, but some of those habits are probably going to do Rachel some good.

Freddie next, and he’s the older brother of Polly, archetypal in his Julianness, an older brother used to being in charge and the first to really acclimatize to his new surroundings before his sister Polly. He is the brains of the outfit in rather a older brother way, and he has good brains.

Last but not least Polly, the perfect 1950s housewife in the making. She misses her father and can’t work out why he would leave them frozen in time if he didn’t have a good reason. She loves setting the table and playing house and looking after her brother. If anything she is the Anne of the four, even though she’s as brave as anything.




If you want to try someone knew, who loves Blyton and does a wonderful job of mixing the new with the old you need to read this book. The sci-fi element is a good twist on an old story, the mystery harks back to John Le Carre’s spy thrillers, and the wonderful freedom of the children wandering around the Hampshire countryside is a beautiful homage to the much loved Blyton. Ali Sparkes has done an amazing job with Frozen in Time, which was published in 2009, and I am surprised that no one had shown this book around to the Blytonites out there. Oh and can I just add, it was the winner of the Blue Peter Book Award of the year? How good is that! A nice little touch is in the acknowledgements at the beginning and  the last line says:


And thank you Ali for such a wonderful story and a wonderful tribute to our beloved Blyton. This one is definitely a re-read!

Posted in Ali Sparkes, Other Authors | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

The Mystery of the Burnt Cottage: How has Blyton’s original text fared in a modern edition? part three

It has only been two weeks since the last installment but I would like to try to get through this book before the end of the year!

As before my personal copy is a Methuen from 1957 – a 12th reprint/impression of the original. The new version is the most modern of any paperbacks I have used so far, an Egmont copy from 2014.


Mrs Minns is the subject of several changes in this chapter. First she is described as a a round fat woman. This has become a round tubby woman. Somehow tubby is better?

Her elbows are no longer described as podgy, and she and her cheeks are not fat now either  but no other descriptive word is added instead.


Italics are removed every time they appear.

  • And I shouldn’t be surprised
  • Mr Peeks was far too much a gentleman
  • is that his real name?
  • no more back-chat from you
  • perhaps he fired the cottage

That last one is also changed to set fire to the cottage.

Mrs Minns’ also suffers some kitchen updates, her larder is now a st0re-cupboard (yes, hyphenated!) and her dripping has been replaced with butter though it is still in a basin.

Some of her speech has likewise been changed. She had said more than anyone else in the kingdom, this is now in the country, and when telling Lily off it was for talking like that to your elders and betters. This has been changed to like that to me. 

The rents in Mr Smellie’s clothes are now tears. 

Then Sweetie the cat is subjected to the editor’s pen. After being trod on by Mr Hick she had come into the kitchen with her tail swollen to twice its size. Now that is her tail in the air. 

How many more times am I to tell you to keep her under control? I shall have her drowned appears in both editions, spoken by Mr Hick, but the next two sentences are cut entirely.

Sir, the day you drown my cat I walk out! said Mrs. Minns, laying down the rolling-pin with a thump.
Mr Hick glared at the cook as if he would like to drown her as well as the cat.

If they felt the need to remove references to drowning, he could have threatened to have her taken to the pound or given away to a farm.



The editors really hate hyphens. Again, every instance of them is removed and leaves the dialogue flatter without the emphasis they give.

Mr Smellie!
It isn’t really very funny, but it seems as if it is.
We are getting on
we can rule him out
That is going to be a problem
His feet!
What’s bitten you?


Hyphens also come under attack, examples include hay-rick which becomes hayrick and in Mr Goon’s colloquial speak, this-ere becoming this ‘ere. Then again they leave his come-alonga-me with the hyphens in it.

And lastly, several changes have been made to the final scene in the field.

The policeman kicked out at him is removed when Buster is dancing around his ankles.

Then Mr Goon no longer has the desire to pull Fatty to his feet and shake him. 


After Fatty falls from the hay-rick (or hayrick) it originally read that except for a good shaking, and some fine big bruises, Fatty was not hurt at all and that His fat had kept him from breaking any bones!

These have been changed to  except for a few bruises, Fatty was not hurt at all and He had not broken any bones!


As usual most of this doesn’t make any sense. Mr Goon did not shake Fatty, his being shaken is from falling to the ground from a height! Then to say he wasn’t hurt, then he had not broken any bones… it doesn’t real well and it doesn’t flow. We know he can’t have broken bones because he wasn’t hurt!

So that is 32 changes in those two chapters, bringing us to 69 in total!

Posted in Books | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Monday #181

I can’t believe it is September already! To be fair, though, we’ve had some of the best weather of the “summer” in the past week.




In case you missed it, we did a round up of what we read, watched and did last month. Hopefully it will help you all you to get to know us a bit better, and help us to come up with some more topics for the blog.

Posted in Blog talk | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

August Round Up

I have decided to try something new this month, having seen it on some of the other blogs that I read. A round up of what we’ve been reading, watching and doing. Naturally not all of it will be Blyton related, but I think it can be interesting to know what else Blyton fans read and do.


  • Ghost Roads (The Gatekeeper Trilogy #2) – Buffy the Vampire Slayer TV tie-in
  • The Dark Compass (His Dark Materials #1) – Philip Pullman
  • Harry Potter and The Cursed Child – J. K. Rowling
  • Sons of Entropy (The Gatekeeper Trilogy #3) – Buffy the Vampire Slayer TV tie-in
  • Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets – audio book narrated by Stephen Fry
  • The Ragamuffin Mysteryreviewed here
  • Shakespeare’s Landlord (Lily Bard #1) – Charlaine Harris
  • Ships, Stings and Wedding Rings (Chronicles of St Mary’s #6.5) – Jodi Taylor
  • Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban – audio book narrated by Stephen Fry
  • Mystery in White – audio book written by J. Jefferson Farjeon
  • Shakespeare’s Champion (Lily Bard #2) – Charlaine Harris
  • Lies, Damned Lies and History (Chronicles of St Mary’s #7) – Jodi Taylor
  • Shakespeare’s Christmas (Lily Bard #3) – Charlaine Harris
  • The Demon Headmaster Takes Over (Demon Headmaster #5) – Gillian Cross
  • Return to Chaos – Buffy the Vampire Slayer TV tie-in
  • Real Fairiesreviewed here
  • Visitors – Buffy the Vampire Slayer TV tie-in

There are also a couple of things I haven’t finished yet

  • The Mystery of the Burnt Cottage which I’m blogging about
  • The Fellowship of the Ring – J.R.R. Tolkien
  • Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire – audio book narrated by Stephen Fry



  • Hollyoaks (I watch this religiously)
  • The Good Wife starring Julianna Margulies, on Netflix
  • The Originals (spin off from the Vampire Diaries) also on Netflix
  • Only Connect – the quiz show on BBC2
  • The Olympics – I loved seeing how well team GB did and I’m looking forward to the paralympics next week.
  • The Adventure SeriesI reviewed Island of Adventure here



  • Harry Potter and The Cursed Child – J. K. Rowling, John Tiffany & Jack Thorne (This just made me even more determined to get tickets to see the show. A friend and I got some for August… 2017)
  • The Mystery of the Disappearing Catreviewed here
  • Kindred Spirits – Rainbow Rowell – I love Rainbow Rowell, she is one of my favourite American authors and gets that perfect balance between real life, fantasy and hilarity.
  • Private Lives – Tasmina Perry

And her current reads:

  • Raising Steam  – Terry Pratchett – Because who doesn’t love a bit of Discworld and Terry Pratchett?
  • Crash Into You – Katie McGarry – My ‘easy trashy’ read of the month, easy to read, dip in and out of.
  • After Alice – Gregory Maguire
  • A Mindfulness Guide for the Frazzled – Ruby Wax – As my mind is fairly frazzled anyway I thought it was worth a go.
  • Career of Evil – Robert Galbraith aka J.K. Rowling



  • Five Get Into Trouble from the 70s series – part one and part two
  • Five Go Off to Camp from the 70s series – part one and part two
  • Various Episodes of QI, Mock the Week and Who Do You Think You Are? – I’m not very good at watching the TV at the moment, the most I’ve watched is the Olympics so reruns, easy watching is my go to.


  • Been to Derby for her goddaughter’s christening – Someone trusts me with their CHILD! Plus, she’s so adorable!
  • Reconnected with old friends – thats what christenings will do for you!
  • Been invited to TWO weddings
  • Had a some successful dates – we went bowling. He won!
  • Been forced to adopt the ‘new look’ for blog posts – She’s killing me here! Send help!;) Kidding Fiona!
  • Has ventured forth for blackberry picking in a hope of making some jam – My Blytonite is showing!


Posted in Blog talk | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment