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Children's literature is fabulous. I was a bookworm as a child and have many fond memorise of books I read when I was much younger. My reading taste was wide but if I were to pick a favourite author I would have to pick the, at times slightly controversial Enid Mary Blyton.. So when I discovered Eva Rice (Tim Rie's daughter and author of the wonderful "Lost Art of Keeping Secrets" ) had compiled a Who's Who of Enid Blyton characters I just had to buy it as a different reference book.
Why Enid Blyton
Enid Blyton had a knack of creating characters, settings and stories that developed my young imagination as I greedily consumed her books. One minute I would be in the midst of a midnight feast with the girls from Mallory Towers and Saint Clares the next I''d be in another land at the top of the Magic Faraway Tree or solving a mystery with the Secret Seven or Famous Five. They may have been xenophobic and sexist and full of middle class kids and ginger beer but I loved her books .
"Who's who in Enid Blyton" is a joy to behold. Its a lovely solid hardback book with 303 pages jam packed of all your favourite Enid Blyton characters. It is the type of book you can either read cover to cover or dip into when you have forgotten the name of one of Noddy's friends, the seventh member of the Secret seven or who was the head girl in Mallory Towers in the second form. Its an easy book to use. My copy is the second edition and is divided into four sections according to different types of stories (the adventure stories, school stories, fairies and enchantment and the farm stories. The farm stories are a new addition to the second edition). The sections are then divided into chapters relating to individual series. Each chapter starts off with a short introduction putting the series into context (where set, when published and general observation about the series as a whole) before the characters are listed alphabetically within their series chapter. As the book is approved by Enid Blyton's estate the little sections are interspersed with drawings and quotes from the original books which is a lovely touch.
The book provides mini biographies of all the characters in Blytons major series detailing all their likes, dislikes quirks with Rice's gentle humour and observations thrown in without beefing too analytical or pedantic. Rice being the uberfan she is notices patterns that I had noticed such as patterns in naming such as older girls in he school stories having more glamorous girls whilst ones with the initial E are usually spiteful and nasty and thin people not to be trusted. However there is a problem with the consistency in the length and quality of the entries which relates to Enid Blyton's writing. The most enjoyable entries are about the most fully memorable characters such as the school stories and the farm stories. It is more difficult to write about a bit character or those in a series like the Secret Seven where the main characters are a bit two dimensional and indistinguishable. It is no surprise that the most interesting entry in the Secret Seven's section is Susie, Jack's naughty meddling sister (described by Rice as complex and the original Spice Girl as she is far more interesting than Pam, Janet and Barbara put together. The other main problem i found with the book is the repetition of material when cross referencing various characters within a series/ An incident such as a midnight feast can be described five or six times slightly differently depending n the character's involvement. Hence he book can become repetitive if read cover to cover rather than dipping in and out of it.
This book is a little gem and would make a good present for all Enid Blyton fans old and young to read at bedtime before a wizard midnight feast of anchovies paste sandwiches and lashings and lashings of ginge beer.
I'm not sure how readily available "Who's Who in Enid Blyton" is in the shops. I bought mine on the Amazon marketplace for about £10. its retail value is £18 but you can get it form £3.99 on Amazon.
For over 70 years, Enid Blyton's books - some 700 of them - have captured the imagination of generations of children. This detailed guide chronicles the histories of Blyton's most enduring characters.