As you know last week I got an omnibus of the Family series, tightly and newly bound in a Quentin Blake-esque illustrations, shoulder to shoulder with related stories. So I thought that this week I’d continue with the reviews from this book, and moved on from The Saucy Jane Family to The Pole Star Family. Shall we have a look at what its about?
The Pole Star Family – an overview
Once again we visit Mike, Belinda, Ann, Mummy and Daddy first of all in their caravans at the beginning of the summer holidays and we may have some idea of what’s to come given the title. I don’t think “Pole Star” could be anything part from a ship of some kind. How we get to the ship, at this point, is anyone’s guess, soon though we are told that Granny is ill, and mother goes off to look after her for a while.
Then a whole load of bad luck follows, the children develop whooping cough and don’t really have a summer holiday. Poor old Granny has to go into a nursing home to recover from her mystery illness (we never get told what she had) and the children are very gloomy. When they are getting better, and it’s coming up to going back to school, the children are thought to look very pale and pasty, and Mummy and Daddy want them to have some sun before they go back.
Conveniently Granny has been told to take a warm holiday to finish recuperating from her illness and that she wants to go on a cruise and take the family with her. There is massive excitement from the children as they can’t wait to be back on a boat in the water. Soon the children are trying to pack for cold weather but Mummy tells them that they won’t need lots of warm clothes but light summery ones. Ann and Belinda are amazed that they’ll be able to wear their summer clothes. We find out that they’ll be visiting Portugal, Spain, the Canary Islands and French Morocco, so they will definitely need their summer clothes.
So they end up on The Pole Star at Southampton, and the children are so excited that Mike decides he has to be a sailor there and then. The have a lovely time exploring the ship and finding their sea legs. They begin to visit the different countries but the really interesting part is when they reach French Morocco and Daddy takes the family down to a local market and the children experience what its like not to be from England with the sanitation.
Ann immediately comments on and doesn’t like the smell around her and has to sniff Mummy’s smelling salts. The children all adore the market and the things they can get but they also notice that the meat is less than sanitary – there are flies around the raw meat, for example. Another thing that I suspsect may have been quite shocking for people back in the United Kingdom, who were reading Blyton’s book to know that this was happening in the world. Without really looking it up and getting very technical I can’t tell you off the top of my head how much of the population in the 1950s was still living in poverty, but I assume the scenes described would have still been shocking.
Leaving that to one side for the moment, the family do go back to the ship and catch the ship home. They are glad to be back and certainly can’t wait to go and tell everyone at school about their cruise.
An interesting point
After a bit of a think and research from Fiona, (who always comes to my rescue) I discovered that Enid Blyton had taken an almost identical cruise on a similiarly named ship. You can see a little about it on the Enid Blyton Society website in her Teacher’s World letters. Just so you can see, I’ve included an extract from the Society website below:
It is interesting to think that perhaps, Enid Blyton was writing about her own experiences on the cruise she was on and wanted to introduce children who wouldn’t get a chance to visit such a places, a look at what the wider world was like.
It’s not unheard of for the author of stories to work their real life experiences into their novels and this is just a brilliant example of how vividly Blyton could paint a picture for her readers of all these wonderful places she’s been and the hardship’s she’s seen. For someone writing for young children, at this time in history that would have been a bit of a break through. Whatever her personal life threw at her, how she behaved or what have you, Blyton could make the children who were reading her books aware of difficulties and morals within the world at her finger tips. The only other author I could readily say who has had that effect on children growing up, would be JK Rowling. Having so many children reading your words, you might as well try and teach them something, and give them something to grow and nuture which is what you get with the highlighted differences between cultures, and povety in The Pole Star Family.
I’ve rabbited on a bit, so I’ll round up. Once again, even though the story is for younger children and nothing major really happens to the family, it has moral lessons and is a good little story. An easy read an almost like reading about Blyton’s own cruise.
Once again you’d probably benefit more from reading it to a young person, but if you want a nice little story to pass a quiet hour this is a good one, of a good series to read.
Let me know what you think below, I’d love to know if you’ve read The Pole Star Family and what you think of it!