So I purchased and started reading the Adventure Series properly earlier this year. I collected a set of early editions from ebay and set about reading them.
I know Fiona has already done reviews on the Adventure Series (the Island of Adventure review can be found here) but I thought I would give you my thoughts on this wonderful series.
I have read the Island of Adventure before I got the early editions, but only a hardback naughties version I got from the school library. It took a thread on the Enid Blyton Society Forums for me to realise how extensive the changes to the text had been, and in fact what had been removed from the millennium copy.
The biggest change comes in the form of the baddie’s name being changed from Jo-Jo to simply Joe. As far as I am aware this change came about because the publishers, or those in charge of the manuscript at the time (Chorian) thought that Jo-Jo was politically insensitive and offence to those of black descent.
Anyway, the second time around, I enjoyed the book more. I enjoyed the original text and I went into it with a more open mind than I had years before.
I enjoyed the characters more, and they felt a little more real and rounded than my beloved Famous Five. It was nice as well to have adventurous children who were completely different to any other children I had read about before. Jack, Philip, Lucy-Ann and Dinah are a bit older than more of Blyton’s other characters (or so I feel) and have a bit more personality.
If I were to suggest an order for reading Blyton’s different adventure series (such as the Secret Seven) with ages in mind, I would put the Adventure Series as having the older readership.
On to the plot of the adventure, which I am sure we all know very well, but I shall outline for you. The children go to a fabulously thrilling place called Craggy Tops after spending the beginning of the summer hols, cooped up in a dusty old tutors house because the boys Jack and Philip have both been ill that term and need coaching.
The boys get on very well, and Philip, who is mad on animals is fascinated by Jack’s parrot Kiki, and together with Jack’s sister Lucy-Ann head off to Philip’s home Craggy Tops. There they meet up with Dinah and the Mannerings Aunt Polly and Uncle Jocelyn and the handyman Jo-Jo.
The first thing the children really get drawn to is the misty island in the bay, The Isle of Gloom, where Jack wants to visit because it’s full of birds and he dreams of finding a great Auk.
Things in at this point seem to move quite steadily, each chapter has something akin to a mini adventure happening in it each time. Such as the children finding a secret passageway from the beach to the house, and them meeting Bill Smugs, who claims to be a bird enthusiast. Bill becomes a great friend, but at the same time, they are wary about him as he has an air of mystery surrounding him and as Jack points out, he doesn’t know his birds very well which strikes the boy as a bit odd.
The adventure builds steadily and not until the last third of the book do you really find yourself plunging head down into the mines on the Isle of Gloom, once they have managed to get onto the island. The bad guys that they come across are some of Blyton’s best constructed baddies, they are really quite terrifying. There is a classic misunderstanding on the part of the children, at first, what these men are doing on the Island and down in the mines, and then there is the classic misunderstanding of who is the bad guy on the mainland!
In the end its a happy ending however and Bill turns out to be the good guy, which is nice because he is one of Blyton’s most popular adult characters and becomes a very important part of the Trents’ and Mannerings’ lives.
Over all, its a strong start for the Adventure Series, The Island of Adventure is the best book to draw you into this world. It’s light and easy to read and introduces you to the characters nicely, although there is no major character development. No one really gets a huge chance to shine, there are a few moments where the boys strike out on their own for a few chapters but there isn’t much individual development.
It’s not my favourite of the adventure series, that would be Castle or Circus, but Island is a good starter novel for this series. It gets you into the pace of the rest of the novels and with maybe the exception of The River of Adventure, the books get increasingly better (in my humble opinion). I recommend The Island of Adventure to anyone who’s starting out with this series, it’s the perfect beginning to a wonderful series!