We’re back with Mike, Belinda and Ann again for another Family adventure – well as far as a young children can have an adventure with their parents around. However, it is a big adventure for the children. They’ve never been to the seaside before so let’s see how it pans out.
The children have just broken up from school and on their way home they seem to have planned on what they want to do before even consulting their mother and father. They want to go to the seaside, and why not? Even right now I want to be at the seaside, especially if we had the lovely hot weather that blessed us last week.
We’re told however, even before their father gets through the gate to their field that he hasn’t got the money to send them to a hotel at the seaside, but the children have come up with a solution to this! Why don’t they take the caravans? They are houses on wheels after all and provide everything they need in terms of accommodation.
Daddy takes them to stay somewhere where he visited as a child called Sea-Gull Bay which is about two days away in a horse-drawn caravan, but the children don’t mind. They’re just excited to be going on holiday to somewhere where they can swim and explore. As I’m sure you can remember from The Saucy Jane Family all the children learnt to swim in the canal and are swimming like fish now.
One thing that happens in The Seaside Family that hasn’t happened in other books is that the children are joined by another boy, Benjy, for the holidays. He is someone’s son from their father’s work, and his mother is very ill so he cannot be looked after properly in the summer holidays. We never quite find out what his mother’s illness is, but if you look back through our posts for Fiona’s marvellously researched blogs on the illnesses that were around at the time, you’ll be able to see what Benjy’s mother might have had.
Benjy adds another element to the story, mostly because he has to interact with the others and he’s one of those slightly spoilt children who is also very unhappy that his mother is unwell. At first he doesn’t pull his weight and the children dislike him, in fact Ann dislikes him so much that her mother has to tell her off for her manner towards him. I think this might be the first time I’ve witnessed a mother tell her child off for the manner in which they are speaking to a spoilt child.
I mean there have been other spoilt children before but the adults in Enid Blyton’s books tend to gloss over these spoilt children with no apparent reason. They don’t really get dealt with. Ann however takes almost an instant disliking to Benjy and is rude and mean to him which causes her mother to scold her and remind her that Benjy is probably worried and missing his mother.
The holiday continues however and Mike, Belinda and Ann all have masses of fun while Benjy feels left out and sidelined. Eventually he sees how happy the other children are, how brave and how resourceful and begins to change his ways. He learns how to swim, how to look after his bunk in the caravan and begins to be an all round happier child.
There is an awkward bit where it looks like his mother might not pull through, but we are treated to a nice happy ending. I swear this short story almost made me cry, especially when Ann and Benjy ended up being the best of friends.
I am really beginning to love these little stories about this caravan-based family, and I think that the addition of Benjy is a nice little dynamic to the group. He gives the children something else to think and learn about and in the end they all help each other for the better.
The fact that Mother and Daddy do not realise how worried Benjy is about his own mother is something I could relate to strongly because of the way my life has panned out. I know how easy it is for children to hide their true feelings from their parents and others around them, so my inkling that Benjy was worried and upset was probably down to experience more than Blyton’s writing but it’s there, even if it’s not obvious. I wonder if she was projecting some of her own childhood fears from the fighting between her own mother and father into the stories? Anyway that’s a totally different blog to work on, and not one I think I could even possibly give a satisfactory conclusion to. All I know is that these little stories seem to reach out to the child in me more than any of her others have. There is something about Mike, Belinda, and Ann that make me love the children and their little adventures. Maybe it’s because they are all of the age where I get on quite well with children, post baby and pre-teenage – most of the mum and dads who bring their children into my library comment on how well I get on with their children, interact with them and know their tastes in books.
Nevertheless this little story is charming and even though we have to deal with an upset and spoilt Benjy at the beginning, that doesn’t mean he ends up the same way as some of Blyton’s other creations, such as Junior from Five on Finniston Farm or Gwendoline from Malory Towers. He’s not exclusive in Blyton’s writing but he is a mark of how young children recognise their surroundings, loss of a parent and many other things.
Anyway, I recommend The Seaside Family, but this time not necessarily just for the younger members of your life. Have a read yourself, see if you can pick up on anything I’ve missed.