I’ve always been a bit of a late-comer when it comes to Enid Blyton. I knew of her for most of my life but didn’t start reading her books till most kids grow out of them. But I still vividly remember the short, sweet years from 2006-2008 when I spent much of my time travelling from town to town, looking for any Blytons I could add to my rapidly growing collection.
I remember the first Enid Blyton book I ever bought was Five Get into Trouble, the 2001 paperback edition from Hodder. I really have no real reason why I wanted it, other than pure impulse. I read half of it that same night and finished it off the following day, it was such an exciting read.
I got it from a converted market hall in my local town, Louth. A small yet lovely building in the town centre, like a mini-train station, complete with huge glass windows, arched roof and a clock tower outside the entrance.
And it was in quaint, quirky buildings like these that I’d collect any Blytons I’d come across. Lincoln and Horncastle also have a wealth of second-hand/antique shops that are jam-packed with many of Blytons’s most loved adventures, usually sitting quietly among the kids section gathering dust.
The names of these shops escape me with the passing years, but I do remember that whenever I’d visit these towns, I’d raid EVERY book store they had, and every one of them had a least two/three stacks of Blytons. And it’s always a mixture of editions, wherever you go. Usually, it’s an assortment of hardbacks and paperbacks spanning from the 1960s-1990s, but sometimes you’re lucky enough to come across several original hardbacks with lovely dust jackets, they’d always set me back a fair few bob (the paperbacks generally never costing more than one pound).
Paperbacks are always easy to find, and pay for, but hardbacks with dust jackets are a treasure trove. Then again, I was never too fussed with what editions I got back then, although now I do regret getting omnibus editions, the three-in-one jobs. I’d much prefer having as many individual titles as I can, and fortunately my collecting resulted in several spares, so that sorts itself out.
Plus nowadays, I do prefer the Blytons in my collection with decent illustrations. Eileen Soper, Gilbert Dunlop, J. Abbey and Stuart Tresilian all did marvellous, classic illustrations, but others just don’t take my fancy at all. Most of my paperbacks come from Hodder, Armada and Knight, with not all them sharing similar artwork such as Betty Maxey, whose illustrations for the Knight editions don’t do much for me at all.
My hardbacks are mostly early editions, so their artwork is much more in my taste, and whose publishers range from Collins London and Glasgow (Boy Next Door), Brockhampton Press LTD (Secret Seven) and Methuan and Co LTD (Five Find-Outers). But I digress.
Several of these shops still have plenty of Blytons to discover (especially Tim Smith’s book shop in Horncastle) but by the time I’d filled three medium-sized shelves worth of Blyton’s work, I actually stopped collecting and started reading them! But my teenage years came up on me fast, and I never got round the reading all the books I’d collected, only getting through about a third of them.
But over the past few months, I’ve started reading her work again, and rather than retrace my steps and re-read the ones I already know, I’ve started reading ones I never got round to reading. Several of her stand-alone stories like The Boy Next Door and The Treasure Hunters and the Adventure Series, which I’m taking back to uni with me because I found Island of Adventure to be a real cracker and want to finish the rest off.
I’m still one Adventure series book short though, plus several Five Find-Outers and nearly all the Secret series, so maybe my Blyton-collecting days are far from over, it all depends what Hull has in store for me when I go back for my final year…