The eight books in the Adventure Series are about the Mannering/Trent/Cunningham/Smugs children (not as confusing as it sounds – honest) and the thrilling adventures they tumble headlong into at every opportunity.
This lot are a bit more globe-trotting than the Famous Five – they only have one adventure in England! They have one in the mountains of Wales, one in the remote Scottish islands and one elsewhere in Scotland. They also manage to get into trouble in some European countries – Austria and Tauri-Hessia (that’s a made-up one I’m afraid), as well as in the Middle East and the Mediterranean. Their adventures also tend to be a little more hair-raising and dangerous as they deal with gun smugglers, forgers, Nazis and mad scientists as well as the more usual traitors and thieves.
The Island of Adventure
The Castle of Adventure
The Valley of Adventure
The Sea of Adventure
The Mountain of Adventure
The Ship of Adventure
The Circus of Adventure
The River of Adventure
Before we get to the adventures, though, I’ll explain who the characters are (and why there are so many names given to a single group!) There may be some spoilers ahead for those who haven’t read all the books as there’s a fair bit of character/family development in the series and I will be talking about that. The biggest spoiler is marked though, so you can try to avoid it!
Philip Mannering is 13, and his sister Dinah is 12. They live with their Aunt Polly and Uncle Jocelyn in a huge tumble-down house called Craggy-Tops right on the coast. Their mother, Mrs Mannering, works in the city to earn enough money to support them. Philip and Dinah have the same dark hair with a tuft at the front and Philip is nicknamed Tufty by Jack. Philip has a love of animals and almost always has some sort of ‘pet’ secreted about his person or faithfully following at his heels. This is a bone of contention between the two Mannering siblings as Dinah is terrified of most small creatures, especially those with lots of legs, no legs at all, long tails, sharp teeth, furry bodies, scaly skin… Dinah also has a cracking temper and quarrels with Philip regularly – even coming to blows with him on several occasions. Thankfully her tempers don’t last long and the two forgive each other fairly quickly. She’s described in the books as a “strapping, confident girl, well able to hold her own” and who “stood no nonsense from anyone.”
Jack Trent is 14 and his sister Lucy-Ann is 11. They live with their uncle Geoffrey as their parents were killed in a plane crash. The Trents are very alike with freckled skin and red hair, and Philip immediately dubs Jack ‘Freckles’. Jack’s passion is ornithology and he spends all his time poring over bird books and watching birds outside. Lucy-Ann is quite content to sit quietly with Jack as she adores him – in fact she follows him about everywhere. Jack is very fond of Lucy-Ann and happily puts up with her constant presence at his side. Lucy-Ann is quite a timid, shy girl, but she can overcome that during adventures.
Jack has a pet parrot called Kiki who can be considered a character in her own right as she is a very intelligent and talkative bird with an enormous repertoire of amazing noises. She goes everywhere with Jack and joins in all the children’s conversations.
Alison Mannering is a widow who works very hard running an art agency in the city to earn enough money to send her children to boarding school and pay for their keep in the holidays. Philip says she’s a very good business woman, but is saddened by how tired she seems when she visits Dinah and him. In the second book it’s said she worked so hard that she had no time to make a home for them.
By the end of the first book she has enough money to give up her city job and make a home for Philip and Dinah. At this point she also takes in Jack and Lucy-Ann who call her ‘Aunt Allie’. Mrs Mannering hates the adventures the children get into and they leave her sick with fright. She is often cross with Bill for allowing the children to fall into danger, yet grateful to him for getting them out safely.
Bill Cunningham is a secret agent the children meet in their first adventure, though he’s going by the name of Smugs then. Bill gets caught up in (or causes) the children’s next seven adventures too and grows close to Mrs Mannering/Aunt Allie. Blyton said in her autobiography The Story of My Life that Bill is based on a man she met holidaying in Swanage.
Half-way through the series Bill and Allie get married and Bill becomes an official father to the children.
I hope that explains the Mannering/Trent/Cunningham/Smugs clan!
In the next blog post I will be looking at the first two books in the series The Island of Adventure and The Castle of Adventure.