ON THE OUTSIDE
As with last time I’ll start with the cover. Again it’s a Soper illustration, (there’s no acceptable alternative for me) this time from Five on a Secret Trail. Last time they used Five Go to Demon’s Rocks which is quite a lot higher up my favourites. Secret Trail is somewhere around the middle of the favourites list for me, but it has a good cover, as it’s very much an action-shot of the Five.
Although it has a different colour scheme to the 2014 annual they look good sitting side-by-side and definitely feel like part of a series.
I know from the previous annual that the contents aren’t reflected by the cover, so let’s dip inside and see what they’re like.
ON THE INSIDE
This annual, like the last one, started with a coloured-in Soper illustration (from the full-colour editions of the nearly 2000s,) and like last time I’m trying to guess where it’s from. I’d guess Five Get Into Trouble, perhaps, because of the bike just showing in the corner, but they do bike around a lot so perhaps someone else can enlighten me?
The contents page illustration is from The Famous Five Special (containing three stories) although the image is flipped. This is a nice (and unusual) addition as it’s probably not a well-known title – but for many I imagine they wouldn’t know what it was from or how to find out.
The contents look interesting and a similar sort of mix to last year with puzzles, facts, quizzes and extracts from the books. I’m looking forward to page 46 this time as it has something from Smuggler’s Top – my all time favourite.
WHO ARE THE FAMOUS FIVE?
Instead of individual pages on each member this time we’ve got one half-page with a box on each. This makes sense as there’s no point in this annual just redoing or copying from the last one, while at the same time, recognising that there’s still a need to introduce the characters.
This leads me onto an aside – how many people buy an annual or receive one as a gift and yet need told who the main characters are? It’s just a traditional piece of content I suppose.
The descriptions are short and to the point here and get the characters across well – though I’m not sure I’ve heard Dick described as zany before!
The lower half of this page is an illustration and I’m not completely sure who it’s by. Jolyne Knox, perhaps? I seem to recall us discussing her as the other alternative to Soper (the other being Betty Maxey).
Last time we had the Famous Five’s friends, this time we get their alter-egos – the baddies! Again this is an alphabetical list from Lewis Allburg through to Dirty Dick (Taggart) with each getting a short description and the book they’re from gets identified too.
I can’t help but think (after so much lengthy discussion on the Society forums) that these rather give away a lot of spoilers. It doesn’t matter in the slightest for me as I well know who the baddie in Smuggler’s Top is, but others might be surprised to know it’s not in fact Mr Lenoir but Mr Barling!
I’m impressed that the annual describes Lou and Dan separately, giving different but interesting information rather than the typical “see above”. I also love that Junior Henning’s section seems to make out he’s a baddie mostly because he’s rude and untidy as opposed to helping his father cheat the Philpots out of money.
I’ve just learned that Jacob and Ebenezer’s last name is Loomer. I honestly can’t recall ever seeing that in the book, though I imagine it would probably have come from the policeman or Jeremiah. They do have a mistake here though as it is Ebenezer (the correct spelling) in the title of their section and Ebeneezer in the illustration caption.
Also new to me is that Red Tower’s house is at Port Limmersley. I had to get out my book to check that detail and what Jo says is that the coast is pretty desolate all the way up to the next big place, Port Limmersley. Red Tower’s place is somewhere near there presumably, on the coast between Kirrin and Port Limmersely but not necessarily in or at that place.
This isn’t a bad list but I can think of quite a few omissions. There’s no mention of any baddie from several books (though not all have names given that I can remember) : Five on a Treasure Island, Five Have a Mystery to Solve, Five on a Secret Trail, Five Go Off to Camp (Mr Andrews) and Five Are Together Again (Mr Wooh). Plus Mr Curton is missed from Five on Kirrin Island Again. I’m afraid I’m rather a completist and feel these should have been included. Junior Henning could easily have been missed to give them more space.
FIVE GO TO BILLYCOCK HILL
This is a crossword that requires you to look at the book’s chapters to find the words that fit. I will have a go at some point I’m sure. I’m just unsure about why they’ve said they’ve included five famous letters and they are H, O, W, R and Y. They don’t spell anything and aren’t initials of names or anything famous I can think of.
THE FAMOUS FIVE ON TV
Like in the last annual the 90s series gets rather sidelined (two pictures) compared to the 70s one (ten images). Interesting information about both series (including what’s available in the way of DVDS) is included though.
FIVE HAVE PLENTY OF FUN EXTRACT
This is another comic, and I’m not a fan of comics at the best of times. Especially when they take my beloved Five and modernise them with unattractive illustrations. I’m hating this. Really. The Five meet Aunt Fanny (or “Mum”) and Uncle Q in London and take a taxi to a big hotel. That’s not even CLOSE to the book. Surely to be an extract it should be extracted from the book and not rewritten into something else? It’s horrendous, really. The crooks try to snatch Bertha, yes, she’s gained an H, from the hotel corridor (and oh yes, Bertha looks like she’s from eighteen-hundred-and-something complete with crinoline frock and corkscrew curls…) and then George and Bertha change outfits to sneak out of the hotel back to Kirrin. I can only assume this would lead to George getting kidnapped but thank god the “extract” cuts off there.
MEET EILEEN SOPER
My favourite illustrator gets a two-page spread as well as having her work liberally sprinkled through the book. The story of her career is told, and it’s an interesting one. It’s good to see her getting some limelight as she really did add so much to the original editions and gave many of us our first look at the Five.
FOOD IN THE FAMOUS FIVE
A really interesting and fair look at the food in the books. The food was so important but as the annual notes – the social interactions at meal time were just as important.
BEHIND THE SCENES…
A short look at Enid’s writing process (though no mention of her private cinema screen showing the stories when she closed her eyes). It includes a page or two of manuscripts which many people won’t have seen before but you may need a magnifying glass if your eyesight isn’t so good.
SUNNY STORIES AND ENID BLYTON’S MAGAZINE
This annual seems to have a bit more about those behind the Five than the Five/the books themselves. Which is fine, just an observation! I’m sure many fans won’t have known about the Five books being serialised in the various magazines.
BET YOU DIDN’T KNOW…
Not to boast but I probably did (for a lot of these) but we’ll see. So I knew knew six for sure, one’s vaguely familiar and one is new to me. But there’s nine facts – one of which is a partial repeat which contradicts the other. I’ll put it below so you can see what I mean!
And I will stop here. I’m almost half-way through the annual and I’ve written way too much already. Despite how critical I’ve been I am enjoying it! I sometimes just wish I knew less and so could be more wowed by the contents. It’s a lovely book though, full of colour and pictures. As one of the Five might say, it’s smashing!