Pushing the right buttons

Islands
Islands

Enid Blyton Five on a Treasure Island
Knight Books 1975 (1942)

Enid Blyton’s fiction remains extraordinarily popular. Despite the disdain of literary critics much of her vast output remains in print because, as publishers know, her work sells. I was brought up on the Noddy books, migrated to the Famous Five and then on to the Secret Seven. I never got onto Malory Towers or St Clare’s (girl’s stuff, of course) or anything else that wasn’t part of a series. Re-reading Five on a Treasure Island as an adult it’s clear why Blyton is criticised, made fun of and parodied: the writing is stilted, employs a limited vocabulary (anything out of the ordinary is ‘queer’) and frequently mundane. But it does appeal to young readers, mainly because it is told from their point of view – their passions, their fears, their expectation that every morning holds the promise of adventure.

You have to hand it to Blyton – she knew how to push the right buttons. Continue reading “Pushing the right buttons”

Kingsley’s riddle

Linley Sambourne
Linley Sambourne

Charles Kingsley The Water-Babies:
a Fairy Tale for a Land-Baby

Edited with introduction and notes by Brian Alderson
World’s Classics, Oxford University Press 1995 (1863)

The Water-Babies first appeared in book form in 1863, exactly a century-and-a-half ago this summer. Though I was probably aware of it when younger, I must have read it for myself pretty much a half-century ago in one of those cheap Dent’s children’s classics editions. A decade later I was re-reading it and taking notes, spurred on by the challenge Kingsley issues in his dedication:

Come read me my riddle, each good little man:
If you cannot read it, no grown-up folk can.

Continue reading “Kingsley’s riddle”

Hats off!

European beaver: Per Harald Olsen, Wikipedia Commons
European beaver: Per Harald Olsen, Wikipedia Commons

WordPress and Akismet have had some bad press recently, either from Support Forums or more particularly from disgruntled blogs, because of bona fide comments on blogs going straight to spam.

While the advice was to ‘be patient’ it was nevertheless very frustrating as time went by and requests for information were seemingly ignored.

Nevertheless, with little fanfare the issue seems to have been resolved for a number of UK-based bloggers in the last day or so, and we would like to express our appreciation for what must have been a particularly intractable problem. Hats off to all involved in beavering away behind the scenes! Let’s hope that whatever caused this kind of blip never resurfaces again.

TBM at http://50yearproject.wordpress.com/
calmgrove at https://calmgrove.wordpress.com

Capturing the public imagination

South Cadbury OS map 1885
South Cadbury
OS map 1885

Leslie Alcock
‘By South Cadbury is that Camelot …’:
the Excavation of Cadbury Castle 1966-1970

Book Club Associates 1975

While now superseded by the official two-volume academic excavation report, Cadbury-Camelot (as this book became known) was noteworthy in that it gave a relatively immediate presentation, synopsis and discussion of the literally ground-breaking dig at this Somerset hillfort in the swinging sixties to an eager public. I say eager because, while the pages also detail the Neolithic, Iron Age, Roman and medieval period occupations amply found at South Cadbury, most public attention was focused on the Dark Age or early medieval, the so-called Age of Arthur beloved of Dr John Morris and other contemporary writers.

What was Arthurian about what was found? Continue reading “Capturing the public imagination”

Making the transition

tunnel

Philip Pullman
The Broken Bridge
Macmillan Children’s Books 1998 (1990)

Ginny Howard’s mother was from Haiti, and it’s from her that Ginny apparently inherits her artistic talents. She now lives with her widowed father in a Welsh village near the sea, and for a fifteen-year-old of mixed descent that isn’t easy. Come the summer holidays and some of the mysteries concerning her mother and family start to emerge, upsetting the sensitive but determined teenager at that crucial period when she is making the difficult transition from childhood to adulthood.

“Coming-of-age”, “teenage-angst”, “identity-crisis” – yes, these are all appropriate labels to pin on this novel, but they only convey part of what Pullman is about. Continue reading “Making the transition”