June is nearly over, if you can believe it! We’ve had some pretty good weather lately (too much heat for me, though!) so we’ll have to see what July then brings.
Here’s what we’ve got lined up this week:
June is nearly over, if you can believe it! We’ve had some pretty good weather lately (too much heat for me, though!) so we’ll have to see what July then brings.
Here’s what we’ve got lined up this week:
Here I am continuing to look at The Zoo Book, Blyton’s non-fiction book about London Zoo and its animals.
The first chapters covered the zoo’s history, how animals were caught for the zoo and some secrets of the keepers. It did not all make for pleasant reading!
Let’s see what the next few chapters bring though…
Lots of different monkeys and apes are covered here – Chimpanzees, orang-utans, gibbons, baboons, mandrill baboon, drills, guenons, mangabeys, macaques, American monkeys, marmosets and lemurs.
Primarily it gives a bit of a description of each type of monkey/ape, where they live, what they look like and their behaviour. I imagine loads of readers would never have seen half of these creatures before!
Interesting bits include:
A couple of anecdotes are thrown in too, some nicer than others!
One of a signalman in Africa who lost his legs and trained a baboon to pull the levers and push the carts for him – certainly less usual than a golden retriever!
Then there was Sally, the chimp, who could count to five accurately and sometime higher. Quite different from zoo animals now who are encouraged to be as wild and natural as possible.
Also mentioned is an orang-utang who used to knock down the sign saying “do not feed” as he worked out he got far less from the public when it was up! Amusing, but then added on is the reminder that orang-utangs rarely lived long in captivity.
As with the last chapter this one gives details of the main bears – polar, brown, grizzly, black, bears of India and China (individual types aren’t mentioned, but sun bears perhaps?) racoons (now more commonly spelled raccoons, and which aren’t actually bears they are procyonidae), and the sloth bear.
The polar bear starts off with a cheery little anecdote (after describing him of course)
One of the polar bears will sit back and wave his hand at you if you will wave your hand to him. he will wave both his hands if he thinks you are going to give him a bun!
And then a truly horrible one:
Grown-up polar bears sometimes live for quite a long time in captivity. Sam and Barbara were at the London Zoo for many years. They had about twenty cubs, but none of them lived longer than three weeks. Sam ate them, and Barbara ate them. Then Barbara carried another lot into the cold air and left them to catch cold in a puddle. Another time the cubs were given to a collie dog to mother,but even these died. Our climate is too warm for them, and they catch cold so very easily that it is almost impossible to keep them for very long.
I mean this is a book for children. I know wild animals often eat their young but in the wild it’s more natural if they were under threat etc. It seems barbaric in a zoo to let an animal have so many young when they must have known they wouldn’t survive.
Not so horrible but rather blasé about a dangerous event Blyton says it was All most thrilling when Barbara escaped on a foggy morning. Certainly would have the adrenaline going in the staff but it could hardly have been fun!
The brown bear is famous for its circus performances as described:
Have you ever seen a dancing bear led by a rope? He usually carries a pole and dances clumsily on his hind feet. He is almost always a brown bear who has been captured and trained to help his master earn his living.
Of course left out is how painful the rope-leading is. How a hole is made in their face for the rope, how their teeth are pulled out or filed down to make them safer… I can only hope that Blyton was being truly naïve here and didn’t know those sorts of details.
Blyton starts by likening pet cats at home to lions etc, comparing their eyes, paws, whiskers and so on which is clever, as most readers would be familiar with a domestic cat.
Described are lions, tigers, leopards, jaguars, ocelots, lynx, caracal and the wild cat.
Lions, being the king of the cat family come first and get probably the most text. The are found in Africa and Persia (that dates the book just a little bit) and without manes in India. Having done the tiniest bit of research myself (ie Google and Wikipedia) it becomes clear that the Persian and Indian lions are the same type – Asiatic lions who have much smaller manes but manes are still visible.
Also seemingly inaccurate is the description of how the lion kills. All the way through he is used, and while I know that Blyton would use he to mean a whole species, it makes it sound like the male kills animals solo and drags them back to eat. However we all know that lions tend to live in packs, and in those cases the females do the hunting together. Obviously there are some male lions outwith packs who will do their own hunting but Blyton fails to mention lion packs or female lions at all.
Then there’s this rather nasty story:
Sometimes jackals find the half-eaten body and joyfully set to work to finish it. If the lion finds them there when he himself wants to eat he is very angry, and it is said that, to punish the jackals, he will catch one and bite off all its paws.
Is that really necessary for a children’s book? Again, animals hunt and kill each other in nature, that’s totally appropriate to describe educationally. That bit just seems unnecessarily gory especially when it’s all about revenge. I wonder if this is a true story or just a folk-tale. I would love to know her source for it anyway, as I couldn’t find any search results online to back it up (though I didn’t spend a long time looking.)
The tiger is stronger and braver than the lion (who got a bit of a hard time actually, being described as a coward etc!)
Some bad attitudes are exposed here as the tiger does a tremendous amount of mischief. He will steal cattle cay after day, and should he have the chance of tasting the blood of a man, he will become a man-eater, and watch and wait for chances to pounce upon and carry off any man, woman or child he sees. Some tigers have eaten dozens of natives and terrified whole villages for months.
I find the last part very hard to believe though it’s not unheard of for tigers to kill people. But tigers are not mischievous or bad… they are simply doing the smart thing and going after the easiest prey.
Tiger hunting is tremendously thrilling… says Blyton, and she describes ways of catching and killing tigers. These include blinding a tiger by covering the path with leaves covered in glue. And then putting him out of his misery, as if that negates the cruelty of the earlier acts!
Blyton does correctly say that panther are actually just black leopards, something which doesn’t always seem to be commonly known today. But apparently these black leopards are very savage and almost impossible to tame. Surely all leopards, or indeed all wild cats, would be pretty hard to tame?
Another quite sad anecdote about zoo animals:
There are two [leopards] at the Zoo now at the time of writing. One, the smaller of the two, ill-treats its companion terribly, as can be seen by the bare patches on various parts of the body and tail.
Really sad that they couldn’t think of separating the two or enriching their lives to reduce the bullying.
Also covered are:
Not quite as depressing as the first chapters, really.
I would love to know some of the sources for the information given, though. It’s hard to tell if the information was considered common knowledge then, and has been corrected since, or whether she had bad sources.
One thing I continue to be surprised at is her pedalling of bad attitudes to wild animals. She frequently describes them as mischievous, destructive and implies they are basically trouble and deserve to be hunted (potentially to extinction) to protect human endeavour on farms etc. That doesn’t sound like the Enid Blyton I know and love.
How much of a bad blogger am I? Having only decided on Sunday evening that I was going to review The Mystery of the Hidden House and committed to that on the Monday blog, things then got mad on Monday and I didn’t manage to do all the reading I planned and suddenly I had to write this blog. It’s going to have to be a two parter, I’m afraid.
I have managed to speed read through half of the book so we’re going to have a look at that, and maybe we’ll get a little more depth to the Five Find-Outers than my previous reviews. So shall we take a look?
We start with the winter holidays, and Fatty has been away and the others go to meet him at the station. Unfortunately and unbeknown to them Fatty has been delayed, so when the train they think he’s on arrives they suspect he may have disguised himself to trick them. They pick on a chap who they suspect Fatty could pull off as a disguise, and follow him out of the station and began to call him Fatty because they wanted him to break character. They are utterly confused when the boy doesn’t break ‘character’, accuses them of being rude for constantly calling him Fatty and then goes into Mr Goon’s house. This really confuses the Find-Outers until they meet Fatty’s mother and Buster the dog to discover that Fatty was due on the next train.
Mr Goon receives a report from the boy who entered his house, who turns out to be Ern, Goon’s nephew. As we progress into the first part of the book Ern becomes very enamoured with Fatty, even though the Find-Outers do not rate Ern very highly, especially as he tells his uncle about their ‘rudeness’ causing Goon to visit their mothers and ask them not to allow the children to lead Ern astray with their mysteries.
The parents of Larry and Daisy, and Pip and Bets, ban them from taking part in any mystery that pops up during the holidays and the children reluctantly agree, so they’re a little stuck when an adventure comes knocking. Let’s now take a little look at that.
Ern Goon is what we would call a simple person. He’s not good at reading social cues and very good at being taken for a ride. The Find-Outers decide to make up a pretend mystery for Ern to help them with, because he told his uncle about their mistake.
Fatty however isn’t banned by his parents so he can take Ern for a ride with the help of the others, but while they’re on Christmas Hill setting up a mystery for him, he’s gone the wrong way and stumbles across a potential real mystery for the Find Outers to take on.
Another thing about Ern is that he likes to write sad poems because they make him feel ‘deliciously’ sad. His poems aren’t as amazing as he likes to think they are, but they seem to be a big part of his life. I don’t know whether it gets covered in the rest of the book but I would like to find out a bit more about Ern’s backstory as I’m sure it would be interesting.
I think that Ern is one of the only characters I can think of that is portrayed as being a little different from the rest of the children. Usually in Enid Blyton’s books you get evidence of class divides but not necessarily a character who might be a few slices short of a loaf. However I don’t think much of the Find-Outer’s attitude towards him, even Bets isn’t particularly nice to him, but we shall see if that changes in time.
Despite my failure to finish this book in time for this blog, it’s not looking like it’s going to be too bad of a book. Its maybe a bit slow to start because of the children being banned from solving mysteries but then you know they will find one anyway, the question is just how! It’s slightly different because a character outside of our main cast actually stumbles across the adventure, which means that they then have to be included in some way. I look forward to finding out what’s going to happen!
It has been so hot that I’m pretty sure that ice-cream for supper is perfectly acceptable! Either way, I had it, it was delicious and now time to tell you what’s coming up on the blog this week, assuming that we can combat the heat and actually write. I really feel for Fiona because she’s got the added task of growing a baby – it can’t be comfortable right now. Anyway, it’s hot, and here are your blogs for the week. Enjoy!
So far this book seems to have had minimal editing, which is a pleasant surprise. Shall we see if that continues?
I am comparing the first edition (Lutterworth Press, 1947) to an omnibus edition containing four of the six books (Egmont, 2014).
I only found two edits in this chapter. Waked me is changed to woken me. As far as I can tell waken is still correct but it does sound a bit odd as it isn’t used much these days. I can imagine kids nowadays using it would be ‘corrected’ quickly to day woke/woken.
The other change is another gay being changed to bright.
Interestingly there are still horse-drawn boats in the new book – surely things like that make modernising other parts completely pointless? I’ve seen horse-drawn boats on Great Canal Journeys, but they are a tourist attraction, a novelty, not a regular way for goods to be transported down canals!
A little more is edited here – with a fair bit of text lost.
Belinda helped Mummy to wash up. This was very easy, because all that had to be done was to rinse the dishes in the canal. Here the entire second sentence is removed. I imagine they thought it was dirty and unhygienic to use canal-water to wash dishes in. I’d say it’s what they’d do in the 50s, just like having horses pull your boat so why not just leave well enough alone?
Also removed entirely is the following passage:
“We don’t need to change into bathing-suits, because we’ve got our sun-suits on already!” said Belinda, capering about the deck in her little red woolly sun-suit. “We can go into the water and come out and dry ourselves in the sun, Mummy. We shall be dry in a couple of minutes, it’s so hot.”
Now woolly sun-suits are very out-dated, I will concede. But as above it seems silly to leave some truly old-fashioned elements and remove others. If they had to update this I don’t see why she couldn’t have said because we’ve got them on already, and the have Belinda’s described as her little red swimming costume or words to that effect, rather than losing a whole paragraph.
Sticking with the swimming theme, a bathe is updated to a swim and Daddy’s bathing drawers become swimming trunks.
The only thing to be changed in this chapter is the name of Ann’s doll. In the original he is Black Sambo, and so I don’t think many people would have a problem with that being changed. The doll becomes a female called Stella. It would have been nice if she had kept it as a boy doll called Sammy or something though, just to minimise the difference.
And absolutely nothing was touched in this chapter, that has to be a first!?
And yet they leave in what is surely a bit of animal cruelty which would normally be quickly removed. The horse that pulls the Happy Ted is so exhausted he walks straight into the canal and hurts himself. And nobody bats an eyelid, other than to say he will have to have a rest for a few days. I’m amazed this got left in to be honest, rather than having the horse stand on a nail or have some other unavoidable accident that would have had the same result.
I make that another eight, though some of these have been bigger than previous ones. That makes 18 altogether.
Last week we looked into the first of the 1990s Famous Five episodes and actually it came out quite well in the grand scheme of the episodes. So shall we have a look at how part two shapes up compared to the book.
Something came up on my Facebook memories the other day, which I feel is appropriate to mention here because it has to do with this particular episode. So a couple of years ago I was watching the Five on a Treasure Island part 2 and my mother must have wandered in and sat down to watch it with me.
I mention this because at some point, during our viewing she likened the baddies in this episode to the comic duo of the silent films Laurel and Hardy because of their goofishness and tomfoolery. Surprisingly she is right, the two villains, Phil and Carter are reminiscent of the old Carry On movies with their physical pranks, falling out of the boats and the physical comedy between them is laughable and is very much for the younger children. The slapstick comedy comes from the Five Go Mad in Dorset and, thankfully, does not really carry through the whole series. There are some moments, mostly between Julian and Dick, but it’s not a major part of the adaptations.
It does make the episode slightly less credible than the first, the episode still does work but the seriousness that comes from the book is spoilt by the crooks tomfoolery. Let’s not dwell on that too much now, and look at the rest of the episode.
So we finished the last episode on a ‘cliffhanger’ with the box being taken away and George running off. We start with Julian sneaking into the study to get the box, and then the discovery of the map inside the box. We’re then treated to the whole scene of Uncle Quentin being interested in the island because it’s suddenly making him money.
The story goes on, fairly quick paced, because as you know we’ve only got twenty-five minutes to fill up, and it’s a fairly complex story. The long and the short of it is that we do follow the progression of the book, and the Five take to the island with their copy of the map to try and find the treasure.
Logically it all fits, it’s all done right; Julian and George being trapped, Dick getting injured, the rescue and trapping the bad guys in return. We do lose some of the magic of the first episode though because the first episode, though short, was slower paced, had more detail, more group interaction and more soul to it. Now we’re just down to adventure and all the little touching bits like being with Timmy, the big discoveries of the well and the entrance to the dungeons is skated over quickly so that we can get to the exciting part.
By the longest stretch of the imagination the adaptation isn’t bad, just rushed. As I ‘purist’ who would prefer that each book that’s being made into a TV show or a movie, include all one hundred percent of the written word, I know that’s just not physically possible. However, its nice to dream that one day we’ll get near perfect adaptations of books. Maybe when I become a millionaire?
Although we have notable performances from the main cast, Uncle Quentin, Aunt Fanny and the two villains the rushed format of Five on a Treasure Island Part 2 is what lets it down. Not having the option to look at the camping on Kirrin Island more carefully, the all too quick discovery of the well and then entrance to the dungeons and even the crooks’ own involvement just doesn’t allow for any depth to the story.
Its amazing really how two pieces of the same thing can be so differently distributed. I mean setting up the relationship between the Five in the first one, took up so much time that they had to rush the rest of the story just to fit it in. I suspect that you can’t really make children’s programs into three parters because the attention span just isn’t there, but the need for detail and a steady pace, for me, overwhelms what actually happened.
That isn’t to say that for a child it isn’t the most thrilling thing they’ve ever seen, (well in the 90s it was – not sure about kids today) and they don’t mind so much if all the details of the books aren’t there, they’re just getting caught up in the story which is the main thing, but part 2, after part 1, for me was so much of a let down. There are good bits, various interactions between Julian and George, Julian and Dick and Dick and Anne make it all worth watching, but its just the rushing that makes it hard to deal with because you feel like you miss out on half the story.
Anyway, those are my thoughts. Share yours in the comments!
Well it’s Monday again, and this one marks 3 weeks until I come off work and 7 weeks until my baby is due (eek!). I’m going to try to finish my reviews of The Castle of Adventure on TV, reviewing The Zoo Book and my comparisons on The Saucy Jane Family before I go.
For many, Enid Blyton’s books were the beginning of their journey into the world of Blyton’s Famous Five, Secret Seven, Five Find-Outers and Adventure series and, yes, I did read Five Go to Mystery Moor before I even realised as a five year old that there was a TV series, and a brand new one being filmed.
Naturally when I was informed that there was a TV series being aired – I think on CITV (channel three) because I remember adverts – I was desperate to watch it. A lot of the time it was videoed from the telly for me to watch it, as I was usually at my childminders after school so had no chance to watch them live.
However Five on a Treasure Island was the first one I watched and I fell in love with the series, actors and stories. I must admit a lot of the details went over my head. Re-visiting it in my late teens and now, as an adult, the details are what makes this particular series so good. For a start it begins with the right story for a start, so shall we take a look at it properly this time?
We start with a bit more of a back story to the Kirrin history, the story to the ship wreck and seeing the box being hidden in the captain’s cabin and then the ship going down. Then we are shown what life at Kirrin cottage is like before Julian, Dick and Anne arrive. It’s a little different from the book, because in the book we start off with Julian Dick and Anne and their parents talking about what they’re going to do for the holidays.
We have a glimpse of life at the three-way dynamic between Aunt Frances, Uncle Quentin, and George, not to mention Timmy. We are shown Uncle Quentin banishing him because he almost trips over Timmy in the house, when it’s really not Timmy’s fault.
The story is split up into two parts, probably to cover all the relevant details included in the book. The first part establishes the relationships between the Five, the secret of Timmy and the wreck being raised from the seabed and being thrown onto the beach on Kirrin Island.
It’s rather a slow beginning, I suppose, the action really doesn’t take off at all, with the exception of the wreck being lifted from the seabed and the box being found. We do not even get an introduction to the villains in this part of the story. So by all means its a slow starter, but given that its set in the ‘correct’ time frame it makes all the difference to the 70s version.
While the 90s version keeps closely to the book, the attention to detail is fantastic. We even have added extras, bits that make this series so hilarious, and maybe outdated now-a-days. The joshing between the siblings, the poking fun at Dick when he’s hungry, teasing Anne about her teddy bears. This quote below, is one of my all favourites, something that endears me to the young girl.
This exchange between Anne and her mother, not only makes an instant humorous situation, but also endears her to the audience. She’s instantly recognisable as the youngest, in the same way the Julian is recognised as the eldest.
Having been utterly devoted to this cast, and really believed that their portrayals were the definitive Famous Five, I can see now where others came from when they say they were a bit tongue in cheek. I honestly do not think its so bad with the first series when the actors were younger and suited their roles more, but in the second series we can absolutely see the more grownup side of things coming out of them and the writing got sillier and sillier.
Nevertheless, in this episode when we’re sitting comfortably on a bed of nostalgia, the wondering interweaving of light-hearted childish joking and teasing, accompanied by the strong emotions from all parties at one point or another really really make this episode one of the best. I forget how good Five on a Treasure Island is on TV, because it’s not one of my favourite books, but it’s pure. That’s what this adaptation seemingly started off as, it was pure, trying to move Blyton away from the Five Go Mad series that took Blyton’s work and made it into a very tongue in cheek thing to like, something to laugh at more like.
Once more with the 90’s series it’s our actors who really make the show. Christopher Good as Uncle Quentin, serious, brainy and stormy with his temper is quite the show stealer, and his interactions with Jemima Rooper as George are simply quite amazing. Even at the age she was during filming you could tell that Rooper was going on to amazing things!
Mary Waterhouse as Aunt Frances as well, is particularly gentle and contrasts the two strong characters of George and Quentin well. She does however, we later discover, have quite an amusing side, long eye rolls at her husband when he’s not listening to what she’s saying and revealing a temper of her own. Its a nice side of Aunt Fanny to see because she can somewhat fade into the background.
Paul Child, Marco Williamson and Laura Petela all work well as that functioning family unit, at least to begin with. The boys bicker, as boys should but most of all, they both look out for Anne. It doesn’t matter what they’re doing to each as long as she’s safe. I think many of you will agree that when they got older, Child and Williamson out grew their roles quite significantly and had to make their roles more grown up than was needed for a children’s show. However in this first episode they encapture the youth, liveliness and joy of the children to their best ability.
So do we like this episode? You can bet we do! Even though I had forgotten how brilliant it was, I can see it now, and it might also inspire me to watch all the others again. It has the added bonus of actually being the first Famous Five that Blyton wrote so the meeting of the Five is more natural. Yes there are a few iffy moments, that can’t really be explained, like the editing and where George is suddenly best buddies with her cousins, but in a 25 minute slot you can’t really go into the time and depth that it takes to have that sort of relationship.
That aside, the episode truly does work well and if you haven’t watched, I suggest you do!
The previous episode ended on a cliff-hanger (almost literally) as Dinah plunged from a tree into the enormous moat around the castle. I’m fairly confident that she will be OK, however, given that she is unlikely to disappear from the rest of the episodes due to injury or death.
Kiki is the first to react to Dinah’s fall, squawking the above before the two boys race to shimmy themselves across the tree too. Thankfully they don’t lunge off, and Dinah has not plummeted very far, she’s just hanging from a tree branch below.
Don’t just sit there grinning, get me out of here!
Blyton’s children have always had that strange moral that as long as they don’t outright tell a lie then it’s ok. If asked are you going to the castle? they couldn’t lie and say no, but if asked where are you going? they could say out for a walk, and leave out the castle part quite easily.
We don’t always tell our mum what we do (Dinah)
You mean you tell her lies? (Tassie)
We don’t lie we just don’t tell her everything (Philip)
But later, they do tell what I think are actual lies. Lucy-Ann starts telling Mrs Mannering they are going for a walk because Jack thinks there are eagles nesting up in the ca. She is cut off by Dinah saying copse before she can finish saying castle. So that’s one outright lie!
Dinah then adds that they need rope for climbing trees which is not quite the full truth – they need it to help in getting from a tree into the castle.
I think it’s also Dinah who says we’re just going for a walk. Going for a walk is true but they’re not just, only or purely going for a walk are they?
Philip then lies that Tassie won’t be with them as her mother’s told her not to go… and they make a huge production of scrambling away from further questioning when all Allie wanted to know was if she had to make more sandwiches. But Philip has already seen Tassie and knows full well she is coming!
I don’t really like how the kids treat Tassie in this version. It seems like they are using her just to get near the castle against her wishes. There’s not really any play or chat between them to imply friendship. Somehow it seems nicer in the book, even though there Tassie is totally awestruck and follows them around! On TV they’re not even concerned when she disappears again at the castle, but later they say they looked for her for ages (which may be another untruth as it wasn’t shown to the audience).
Even Lucy-Ann gets in on the Tassie-bashing when she says Oh come on, Tassie, you’re so boring when it’s clear that Tassie isn’t comfortable going to the castle.
Jack’s a bit nicer to Tassie at least, he tries to get to the bottom of her fears about the castle in a considerate way.
The mystery around her does deepen in this episode, though.
There’s more gypsy magic as Tassie says her mum has ‘second sight’ and knows what’s about to happen. Philip says this must also be true for Tassie who must be able to “see” a way into the castle. (Another example of them being a bit mean to her).
And then there’s her relationship with Sam. She does declare that he’s not her father, she doesn’t have a father, but…
Sam shows his true colours in this episode when he comes to ask Tassie’s mum where Tassie is. He is very aggressive and threatening towards her – I just knew he was up to no good. He goes on for quite a while about how Tassie shouldn’t be wandering about, espeically near the castle and how she is hanging out with those kids. Makes you think he’s putting on that friendly visitor face just to keep an eye on what the Mannering/Trents are doing.
Coincidence or not but Philip had started behaving more suspiciously of Sam earlier in the episode. He certainly didn’t want Sam to see him and Jack taking a plank and rope out of the shed at Spring Cottage but that might have been in case he told Mrs Mannering about it.
This episode focuses on the challenge of getting inside the castle (finally!). Tassie uses her ‘second sight’ and finds another log across the moat behind a wall of ivy.
The castle doors have been recently oiled and there’s an apple core been dropped outside too. This is a bit of a shame as in book they’ve no idea other people are around until it’s too late. This lot seem to be willingly walking into danger.
Tassie finds a possible way in – up a small tree near a window, but disappears without a word while the other children were looking the other way.
Dinah and Philip argue about how to get in etc, meanwhile Sam is coming closer in his horse and carriage… and looking very suspicious though it’s not clear how close he gets to the castle. Though it’s decided they’ll come back the next day with equipment.
They do come back and manage to get in at the window with a plank and rope, so fairly similar to the book really, and Dinah gets covered in cobwebs inside (but it’s Lucy-Ann who screams).
The girls then go to set up a picnic on the rather well manicured lawns, while Jack and Philip keep hunting for the nest.
And the inevitable cliffhanger: Jack is climbing up the ivy covered tower to see if there’s a nest at the top and is attacked by the eagle.
This series has been slowed down by ‘going to look at castle’, ‘coming back the next day and walking up to castle’ ‘returning next day to get into castle’. It might have worked better as 6 episodes and a bit more pace, I think.
Then there’s the daft slap-stick moments. Philip sees Sam and thrusts the plank back into shed and – by the sound of it – knocks Jack flying. On their second attempt Sam comes along again and Philip pushes Jack back, Jack then pushes and pushes leaving Philip jerking back and forward at the door, to which Sam does a little dance. After lugging the plank up to ‘the witching tree’ Jack pretends to faint/collapse so he can then jump up and scare Philip.
And there’s another scene where the henchmen talk on their radios about whether or not it’s lunch time.
Of course not every part of Blyton’s books were high-action but the in-between bits here fall a bit flat. They certainly lack the charm of the original!
Then there’s the problem of the extremely clumsy children who seem lucky to be alive mostly. We had Lucy-Ann falling down a slope in the last episode, and here it is Jack’s turn. Yes it’s muddy and his foot slips but there was no reason for him to tumble all the way to the bottom.
And then their otherwise perfectly good version of ‘plank through window’ access to the castle is spoiled by Philip half-falling off.
I wouldn’t say Jack being attacked by the eagle is exactly clumsy – but it’s a bit stupid to climb an exposed wall to a nesting bird surely?
They seem determined to add as much drama as possible to each episode anyway and unfortunately that seems to mostly involve people falling over for no good reason!
They are playing videogames at Spring Cottage! But interestingly it’s the girls who are playing, and Lucy-Ann is brandishing one of those gun-controllers.
But later there’s very much a boy/girl divide as the girls are at home making sandwiches while the boys get the equipment ready.
So there we go, third episode of eight and we’re finally in the castle. Some elements are good – I’m glad they’ve kept in the plank into the window for example and some good arguments between Dinah and Philip.
Saying that there’s a bit too much padding and delaying through all the episodes. The source material is so good so it is a shame to waste so much time on Sam and other nonsense.
Gosh we aren’t half getting through these Mondays! Can’t believe we’ve posted 220 Monday posts to-date!
We have a bit of a TV week for you this week once again, hope you don’t mind!
We are into June now (how?) and so it is time to recap what we have been up to in May.
I’ve had a lot going on this month so it hasn’t been a great one for books again.
A lot of audiobooks (around 100 hours worth in fact) which gives an insight into how badly I’ve slept this month as most of that has been night-time listening (some is afternoon napping to make up for lack of night-time sleep).
And I still have a few things on the go:
I still have some library books to start:
I think that’s all the notable moments from my month. Lets hope I have some more for June, but I can tell you one thing – I’ll probably be writing the June round up from Fiona’s house because I’m having a cheeky visit before her baby comes! I’m so so excited! I haven’t seen her in over a year and that’s really too long!
I was away on holiday last week, and just so happened to be just 45 minutes away from Inverness. So naturally that meant a trip to one of my favourite places – Leakey’s Second Hand Bookshop (second largest in Scotland).
They have a great children’s section and as always some Blytons but I had most of them! I couldn’t resist The Zoo Book which was priced at £10. It’s a later reprint but it still has lots of black and white pictures plus six full colour plates (a big selling point in those days I bet!) Inside it reads profusely illustrated with six plates in full colour and forty-nine photo-reproductions in black and white.
On the left is the first edition, George Newness 1924 – which didn’t have any colour pages. Then there’s two rather similar reprints. The middle one is from 1926, and I have the newer reprint (early 1930s) on the right.
So even though mine is the newest it is still at least eighty years old and one of the oldest books in my collection.
The animals aren’t quite in two by twos (hurrah) but there is a brief history of Londzon Zoo.
Far back in the nineteenth century, about a hundred years ago… people did not take nearly such interest in animals… often they were cruel to them because they did not understand them.
The zoo was already a hundred years old when this book was written, and it’s around a hundred and eight now, so it’s interesting to see Blyton talking about old-fashioned attitudes etc, when the ‘current’ ones probably seem very out to date to us now.
A good example is this quote:
They [the ‘gardens’] are very different now from what they were when they were first opened. New ideas are always being thought of, and the animals are better cared for, better fed and better housed than they used to be.
and also, in particular this one:
Perhaps you sometimes think, when you see one or two animals pacing up and down their cages ‘how cruel to keep so many beasts caged up so that people may come and look at them!’ But you must remember that they are very well treated, are free from all danger of enemies, and have no fear of going hungry. Probably, most of them would say ‘We’d rather stay at the Zoo, thank you,’ if they were given the choice now, of staying to be looked after, or running wild again!
It shows a rather breath-taking amount of naivety and optimism! Certainly looking back at zoos in this time period (like Chester Zoo which was started in the garden of a large manor-house by a very conscientious and well-meaning family) modern eyes would be fairly horrified by the housing, feeding and care of the animals.
It’s not all positive remarks, though, and in fact a few are rather bizarrely negative and judgemental, written from Blyton’s perspective rather than a neutral one:
Some animals are disgusting to to watch when they are being fed, and some are not at all interesting to watch… The eagles are not very nice to watch, for they are so savage and fierce over their food… I think once or twice is enough to see the lions feed. The house is so crowded and hot, and the roaring is not a pleasant sound.
She does say she prefers seeing the sea-lions and seals fed, and the description of that is instantly recognisable as something that really hasn’t changed in the intervening years. I’ve seen seals fed in that exact way very recently.
Other things are vastly different, for good reasons:
You can, of course, feed many of the animals yourself. Bananas, oranges, apples, bread, nuts, you will find most animals willing to take some of these… Some people feed the animals the wrong food and that makes them ill. And sometimes the animals get too much given them, and over-eat especially on bank holidays.
Could you imagine being allowed to feed zoo animals whatever you fancied these days? (OK my family may have fed otters cooked chicken on a few occasions… so I can’t claim to be entirely innocent here) It’s fairly shocking really, but I suppose it was less likely to be sausage rolls, crisps, donuts and pizzas back then. I can’t imagine sweets would have been very good for any animal though.
And a last anecdote is presented as an amusing little tale but could have been disastrous – when a schoolboy fed an ostrich three whole oranges and they could be seen down his neck like giant beads on a string. Just as well he didn’t choke to death!
This chapter has some rather depressing facts – especially for a book for children.
There is also that same strain of ‘gosh, sounds awful but don’t worry they’re OK in the end’ which is patently not true if the first statement is true (and it probably is).
That fact is elaborated on later as well:
Many beasts die on the way. The heat kills a great many. Unsuitable food causes the death of others, and some die of fright and homesickness. But as the trader loses money on every animal that dies, every possible care is taken of them, and they are looked after and tended as if they were delicate babies!
What is interesting is how the animals are transported. I had pictures in my head of a long train like Indiana Jones encounters as a boy at the start of The Last Crusade.
But it’s more like:
Savage or small animals are carried in cages on the back of camels. Hippos are carried in cages slung on poles between two camels.
Also interesting is that a ‘ship’s butcher’ is in charge of the animals. To me that sounds a bit dodgy to say the least! ‘Whoops, this one died, it’s ostrich burgers for dinner lads…”
Once on board the animals aren’t much safer though, despite best efforts:
Some examples of ‘great innovations’ for the care and management of animals are given here – some are very clever but it’s a shame that many came too late to save animals from suffering or dying, and you get the impression that the keepers still didn’t understand their animals after it all.
I actually had to read this story out to my fiancé as it’s such a bizarre thing for a children’s book. I can see why Blyton didn’t want to gloss over the more negative happenings in a zoo but it’s told so blithely, as an amusing anecdote rather than a tragedy:
There was a polar bear who had a wife who sometimes irritated him dreadfully. She snarled at him and annoyed him, for she was a bad-tempered creature. He used to bear it as long as he could, and then he would suddenly turn on her and push her into the water. There he sat on her head until he thought she had been punished enough, when he would let her free again; but one day he sat too long on her head, and when he climbed out of the pond he found she did not follow him. She was drowned
He accidentally killed his mate! Isn’t that just awful? She is portrayed as ‘his wife’ in the story but I wonder if they were forced together as mates by zoo staff in hopes of bear cubs, or because they didn’t have space for two enclosures. Introductions of animals are handled so carefully these days it’s quite unthinkable for this sort of thing to happen.
Something I found very interesting is the back and forth changes in attitudes to the enclosures for monkeys and apes.
According to Blyton monkeys and apes were protected by glass to protect them from flu etc… but now it has been decided that it is really better for the animals to have fresh air and to be allowed to make friends with people.
So a big change there, and then now we are back to keeping the monkeys and people firmly apart (with glass, fencing, or large gaps between walls) for both parties’ safety. They certainly get the fresh air still, just not up close to people.
And lastly another ‘funny’ anecdote about the funniest sight in the world. Monkeys chasing each other around? Penguins falling clumsily into the water? No. It was a tapir with the mumps.
I’m really glad Blyton’s attitudes towards animals improved between this book and her ‘main canons’. It’s a very different world to the one she portrays in, for example, the Galliano’s Circus books. Could you imagine her casually having various circus animals die as ‘that’s what happened’?
It’s a very interesting piece of history, and I fully support zoos and wildlife parks today, but it does make for very uncomfortable reading. I just wish Blyton showed a little more humanity and distress or upset at so much suffering.
There are still another thirteen chapters to go, mind you, so she may redeem herself. I will leave those for another day (or several days).
We’re back with Mike, Belinda and Ann again for another Family adventure – well as far as a young children can have an adventure with their parents around. However, it is a big adventure for the children. They’ve never been to the seaside before so let’s see how it pans out.
The children have just broken up from school and on their way home they seem to have planned on what they want to do before even consulting their mother and father. They want to go to the seaside, and why not? Even right now I want to be at the seaside, especially if we had the lovely hot weather that blessed us last week.
We’re told however, even before their father gets through the gate to their field that he hasn’t got the money to send them to a hotel at the seaside, but the children have come up with a solution to this! Why don’t they take the caravans? They are houses on wheels after all and provide everything they need in terms of accommodation.
Daddy takes them to stay somewhere where he visited as a child called Sea-Gull Bay which is about two days away in a horse-drawn caravan, but the children don’t mind. They’re just excited to be going on holiday to somewhere where they can swim and explore. As I’m sure you can remember from The Saucy Jane Family all the children learnt to swim in the canal and are swimming like fish now.
One thing that happens in The Seaside Family that hasn’t happened in other books is that the children are joined by another boy, Benjy, for the holidays. He is someone’s son from their father’s work, and his mother is very ill so he cannot be looked after properly in the summer holidays. We never quite find out what his mother’s illness is, but if you look back through our posts for Fiona’s marvellously researched blogs on the illnesses that were around at the time, you’ll be able to see what Benjy’s mother might have had.
Benjy adds another element to the story, mostly because he has to interact with the others and he’s one of those slightly spoilt children who is also very unhappy that his mother is unwell. At first he doesn’t pull his weight and the children dislike him, in fact Ann dislikes him so much that her mother has to tell her off for her manner towards him. I think this might be the first time I’ve witnessed a mother tell her child off for the manner in which they are speaking to a spoilt child.
I mean there have been other spoilt children before but the adults in Enid Blyton’s books tend to gloss over these spoilt children with no apparent reason. They don’t really get dealt with. Ann however takes almost an instant disliking to Benjy and is rude and mean to him which causes her mother to scold her and remind her that Benjy is probably worried and missing his mother.
The holiday continues however and Mike, Belinda and Ann all have masses of fun while Benjy feels left out and sidelined. Eventually he sees how happy the other children are, how brave and how resourceful and begins to change his ways. He learns how to swim, how to look after his bunk in the caravan and begins to be an all round happier child.
There is an awkward bit where it looks like his mother might not pull through, but we are treated to a nice happy ending. I swear this short story almost made me cry, especially when Ann and Benjy ended up being the best of friends.
I am really beginning to love these little stories about this caravan-based family, and I think that the addition of Benjy is a nice little dynamic to the group. He gives the children something else to think and learn about and in the end they all help each other for the better.
The fact that Mother and Daddy do not realise how worried Benjy is about his own mother is something I could relate to strongly because of the way my life has panned out. I know how easy it is for children to hide their true feelings from their parents and others around them, so my inkling that Benjy was worried and upset was probably down to experience more than Blyton’s writing but it’s there, even if it’s not obvious. I wonder if she was projecting some of her own childhood fears from the fighting between her own mother and father into the stories? Anyway that’s a totally different blog to work on, and not one I think I could even possibly give a satisfactory conclusion to. All I know is that these little stories seem to reach out to the child in me more than any of her others have. There is something about Mike, Belinda, and Ann that make me love the children and their little adventures. Maybe it’s because they are all of the age where I get on quite well with children, post baby and pre-teenage – most of the mum and dads who bring their children into my library comment on how well I get on with their children, interact with them and know their tastes in books.
Nevertheless this little story is charming and even though we have to deal with an upset and spoilt Benjy at the beginning, that doesn’t mean he ends up the same way as some of Blyton’s other creations, such as Junior from Five on Finniston Farm or Gwendoline from Malory Towers. He’s not exclusive in Blyton’s writing but he is a mark of how young children recognise their surroundings, loss of a parent and many other things.
Anyway, I recommend The Seaside Family, but this time not necessarily just for the younger members of your life. Have a read yourself, see if you can pick up on anything I’ve missed.
I’m back from my holiday now, and back to work as well (but only for five weeks before my maternity leave starts!).
And so here is what we are writing about this week:
So if you have managed to follow the title of this piece – which if you’re not hugely up to speed with the 70’s Famous Five might take some explaining (however look back here for a bit more of an idea on whats going on). Once you’ve read that we had better get back to the actual story and what’s going on!
The second part of the first episode of the series seems to follow the lines of the sixth adventure of the Famous Five than the first book written by Enid Blyton, as the title of the episode suggests.
In this episode we move towards what’s going on at Kirrin Island a lot more. I suspect this is down to the fact that a lot of the story line was used up in the first episode, setting the scene, making the Five a compatible, workable unit, and establishing Uncle Quentin working on the island, not to mention the baddies.
The first episode worked well, it seemed to be able to make a go of changing the order of the stories to create a workable pilot, but did we really need a two-parter that just dragged on? Five on a Treasure Island, done 90s style (which coincidentally, needs to also be reviewed) seemed to work so much better as a two-parter because of everything going on, and being very much based on the children rather than around Uncle Quentin, which Five on Kirrin Island Again is.
In part two, we are treated to a lot more time with the captured Uncle Quentin and less about the children and them solving the mystery. By and large, Timmy did most of the work in carrying the notes back to Kirrin Cottage and then leading the boys through the tunnels to George and Uncle Q. Any actual exploration of the tunnel just wasn’t done, in a very similar way to the book now I come to think about it. In the book the tunnel is discovered by never really explored. So as far as I am concerned this is more about Uncle Quentin, his experiment and the chaps who are trying to steal the results for their own gain, the Five just happen to stop the island from blowing up, rescue Uncle Quentin and George, and capture the bad guys right at the very end of the episode.
Now don’t get me wrong I know this is a standard adventure novel but the fact that it feels like there wasn’t enough to make two episodes out of this and it should have just been the one. It is not very centred on the Five which is the whole reason for the series, I mean without the Five there would be no Famous Five and that doesn’t feel like it happens in this episode. I’m not sure what Enid Blyton would have actually thought about this all, but for me the second episode doesn’t seem to work.
Up until now I’ve not really gone into the whole Timmy issue and that’s because it’s hard to work with. Most of Five on a Treasure Island centres around the fact that Timmy belongs to George but isn’t allowed at home and as you know, he eventually makes it back into the house, much to Uncle Quentin’s horror at points. When we get to Five on Kirrin Island Again, Timmy is very much established in the house and even has to go to the Island with George’s father and act as a bodyguard when Quentin thinks he is not alone on Kirrin Island. Naturally this cannot happen because Uncle Quentin does not know that George still has Timmy so the idea that George knows something’s wrong because she does not see Timmy up in the tower with her father when he signals, has to be thrown out of the window. The idea, not Timmy, obviously.
Quentin is therefore totally lost when George says she gave his precious notebook to Timmy to get away for safe keeping. Despite the fact that they are possibly about to die, instead of saying “Oh by the way Dad, you remember that dog you wouldn’t let me keep? Well I still have him and he’s just saved your notebook,” she simply says, “Oh he’s just a friend” when she’s asked who Timmy is.
Julian then also covers up for her, by saying that Timmy belongs to him, Dick and Anne to save George’s bacon. At this point I think it’s quite obvious that the Five aren’t good liars and any regular parent would have realised this and known that Timmy was in fact George’s. Aunt Fanny does, luckily enough but Uncle Quentin has to have it spelt out to him in words of one syllable. You wonder how he made it to the level of professor at this rate!
So yes, Timmy saves the day, but not only by saving the notebook, but by taking Dick and Julian to George and Uncle Quentin, getting them back out again and even then going back into the tunnel to help the lost crook, Johnson, find his way out of the tunnel so that he can be arrested.
As I said earlier, Timmy is the whole reason this episode works and gets finished, because he is the star of the adventure and wraps it all up nicely for them.
Did we really need a two-parter? In my humble opinion, no we didn’t, there wasn’t enough material to pad things out with, but also, they made the first episode very well that they were left with the more mundane parts of the story to tell.
It was interesting to look at how Johnson tries to negotiate with Uncle Quentin, as it is really quite ridiculous and basic. This man is supposed to be from the government and he can’t even come up with something better than “You’ll be a very rich man, professor.” Yes, he could, but Johnson clearly didn’t do his homework or he would know quite simply that Quentin isn’t a greedy man. In Five on a Treasure Island, it’s a different matter as the family are running out of money to pay the bills because he isn’t making enough from his inventions, but boy the sixth book things seem to run their course very well and clearly this is a project close to his heart. Johnson would have got somewhere with the money idea if this was the first book, but its a completely different Uncle Quentin he’s dealing with. Johnson clearly doesn’t know any other language than money which is silly because he has no back up negotiation apart from the desire to blow up the island.
The Five do, technically save the day, thanks to Timmy, and we end with laughter and a silly joke as always which is supposed to lighten the mood but, to me, seems to cheapen the adventure. For what its worth, we really could have just had one episode to start for this series as two episodes lacked content. I wonder what Blyton would have made of them!
Those are my thoughts on this 70s episode, tell me yours in the comments below!
There weren’t too many changes made in the first chapters, but then again the chapters are pretty short!
I am comparing the first edition (Lutterworth Press, 1947) to an omnibus edition containing four of the six books (Egmont, 2014).
As with the previous chapters gay and queer are replaced/removed.
The first example is an odd one as they’ve changed more than necessary – something it seemed like they were avoiding doing before. Gay could easily have become colourful, bright or pretty – do they think modern children don’t know what crockery is? (Obviously not as they leave the word crockery alone in the next chapter.)
A reference to lack of schooling for canal-boat children is removed – They have hardly any schooling, you know, because they are always on the move. Instead the sentence just starts They are always on the move.
And lastly a possible mistake has crept in. The original text reads a great many of the canal people. In the omnibus this has become a great many of the canals-people. Blyton does hyphenate canal-people elsewhere – and the omnibus leaves those as canal-people – so I’m not sure where the S came from.
A few interesting things have been left in this chapter. First is the fact that they talk about tying Ann to the boat to stop her drowning, and then see two little girls tied up to their boat. This seems the sort of really old-fashioned and un-health-and-safety-conscious thing that would be updated – I rather expected them to say Ann would have to wear a life-jacket!
The other thing is that the passing boat with the tied up girls is carrying boxes to the next town, and it is pulling two coal barges. Neither of these things really seem realistic if the book is supposed to be set in modern times.
Only one thing got changed in this chapter. The word trustable (which my browser’s spellchecker instantly underlines in red) is replaced with trustworthy. According to a few sources trustable is actually a word and means something slightly different from trustworthy.
Trustable means someone or something you are able to trust, while trustworthy means someone or something worthy of trust. A very slight distinction!
There are some further things I would have expected to have been changed in this chapter. One is how Belinda is the one to offer to make up the fold-out bed for her parents each evening, and is the one to lay the table for supper too. She doesn’t say anything as strong as “I’m the girl so these are my jobs” but Mike volunteers to fetch water from the well so the roles are fairly clear. I don’t have a problem with any of that I hasten to add – but several editors clearly do!
Also suddenly seeming very old-fashioned is Daddy riding lending Davey to a farmer and then riding Clopper to the Saucy Jane. Nowadays he would have hitched a horse-box to the car – well actually they would have owned a car I bet rather than hiring one – and transported the horse that way. Just shows how silly it is to try to make books seem up-to-date when they are full of quaint old-fashioned things.
Another four changes there then, that makes ten in total.