I remember reading an article in a newspaper not long ago, can’t quite remember the title, the exact words, or even the newspaper itself, but the article read something like ‘Enid Blyton falls from top 10 children’s books.’
This got me thinking, just how popular are the works of Blyton within a local area? Does her decline in popularity indicate that the Famous Five or the Secret Seven just don’t deserve shelf space any more in book shops?
I decided to go a-hunting in Hull to see whether or not Blyton really has fallen out of fashion, to the point where her books just cannot be found. And I didn’t get off to a very promising start.
My first port of call was the Waterstone’s on the uni campus. I went straight for the children’s section, where Roald Dhal and Jeff Kinney (Diary of a Wimpy Kid) reigned supreme, and Enid’s books adorned only a quarter of one shelf.
Now one reason for this is obvious. Blyton’s books most probably aren’t highly sought after texts on a university’s curriculum. But the books that were there were intriguing. Only one Famous Five and one Secret Seven, and all manners of modern editions of Malory Towers, the Naughtiest Girl, the Wishing-Chair, Brer Rabbit and the Magic Faraway Tree.
I’ll admit it, these are the exact titles of Enid’s which I haven’t read, but it was still a slight surprise to find that her more famous titles were barely there at all.
Anywho, onto my next location, Newland Avenue. This street is littered with independent shops of all kinds, and thus, plenty of charity shops as well. Most of my Blyton hunting, when I was younger, came from scavenging every charity shop I could find. But here, I came up nearly completely dry yet again.
Only the odd 10p paperback could be found beneath all the worn-out copies of The Full Monty, Rod Stewart LPs, and The da Vinci Code. Even the Oxfam bookshop, a goldmine of a bookshop if there ever was one, had no Blytons at all.
At this point I was at a slight loss. Neither a major retailer nor the independent shops had displayed a firm dedication to Enid’s works, which leaves only the town centre to be rootled through.
To be honest, I’d almost given up hope. The charity shops there fared no better, which left only the larger Waterstone’s to explore, or so I thought. Thankfully, Waterstone’s still seem to remember how popular and loved Enid’s works are.
The larger Waterstone’s sports two lengthy shelves worth of Enid Blyton, including a complete library of the 1997 Hodder editions of the Famous Five, scattered with several Secret Sevens, Adventure series, Five Find-Outers, and others.
By then, I thought my adventure was done and dusted, until I noticed a quaint little shop called Grannie’s Parlour. Looking in through the window, it looked like a simple little antique shop, the sort that Anne finds in Five on Finniston Farm.
But there were no horseshoes in here. If anything, it’s the one thing they didn’t have. This place was a mini Aladdin’s cave, the sort of shop where you want everything but don’t want to touch anything as it upsets the ambiance.
The shop was full of books, toys, annuals, memorabilia, furniture and kitchen-ware all from bygone days, which happily meant they had their own little treasure trove of Blytons. They had a huge wad of cheap paperbacks, but the real goldmine was the discovery of a large handful of classic, original hardbacks.
Famous Fives, Secret Sevens, Five Find-Outers and many one-off works, all in near mint condition, and all fairly priced as well. Sadly, if understandably, the lady shop owner requested I not take pictures of these, but it was still a lovely sight.
That one little shop made this adventure all worthwhile, and I can confirm that, in Hull at least, the works of Enid Blyton are very much alive and well, and well-read!