TO RATION GINGER BEER
AND OTHER ESSENTIAL SKILLS FOR ADVENTURERS
by Richard Glover writing in The Sydney Morning Herald
September 9, 2006
They are all gone now, the great children's writers of our collective
youth: Enid Blyton, Arthur Ransome, W. E. Johns and now, this week, Colin
Oh, to step back into that world - sailing Lake Windermere with the Swallows
and the Amazons, hunting criminals with the Hardy Boys and the Famous Five,
or mutely staring south with the Storm Boy.
So many books, and so many lessons. Perhaps it's time to list all we learnt
about life from reading children's books.
1. Every lake has at its centre an island perfect for camping.
2. A child on a bicycle, using back lanes, will always outpace a criminal
in a sports car.
3. A dinghy tied up near a cave indicates the presence of smugglers.
4. All British children have somewhat suggestive names, such as Dick, Fanny
5. Professional crime syndicates often communicate with each other by writing
letters in invisible ink, usually involving lemon juice.
6. Ninety-three per cent of world crime involves animal smuggling.
7. In America, children commonly run their own detective agencies.
8. The unit of measurement for ginger beer is a "lashing".
9. Rabbits have surprisingly varied personalities.
10. If you want a loyal and understanding friend you really can't go past
11. The torment of being a teenage girl is not easily understood by others
- with the sole exception of her pony, who tends to be extremely acute
about such matters.
12. Kangaroos who are seeking your attention should always be followed,
as they have an unerring nose for trouble.
13. Nearly all children own a boat.
14. A boy dressed as a girl, or vice versa, will fool most adults.
15. Local police are always delighted when their most difficult case is
solved by a bunch of holidaying 12-year-olds.
16. Farm animals often debate the running of the farm and are especially
sensitive to the financial problems of the owner.
17. Black horses tend to be more honourable than red ones.
18. The most heroic of airmen tend to have moustaches.
19. A barking dog indicates a tree has just fallen on your uncle, leaving
him pinned just as a tiger snake slithers towards him.
20. All Frenchmen are effeminate.
21. Boarding school authorities, despite their best efforts, never manage
to burst in upon the regular midnight feast, despite its somewhat predictable
22. There is little that cannot be achieved in the pursuit of criminals,
providing one is armed with a penknife and rubber-soled shoes.
23. Members of the working class are often very amusing, especially given
their intriguing accents.
24. After a criminal has been captured, detectives always celebrate by
25. All old houses have a secret passageway.
26. Junior boys in British schools always have names such as Binns Minor
27. British seaside resorts, especially during school holidays, are thick
with diamond thieves, kidnappers and smugglers.
28. All thieves carry a box of matches identifying their city of origin,
which they kindly drop at the crime scene.
29. When in search of new and miraculous worlds, a good place to start
is in the back of a nearby cupboard.
30. And, finally, while cats wearing hats may make a huge mess, they will
repair the damage in the few seconds it takes for a mother to walk up the
path to her front door.
WHY I WRITE FOR CHILDREN
by Isaac Bashevis Singer
are five hundred reasons why I began to write for children, but to save time
I will mention only ten of them.
read books, not reviews. They don't give a hoot about the critics.
don't read to find their identity.
don't read to free themselves of guilt, to quench their thirst for rebellion
or to get rid of alienation.
have no use for psychology.
don't try to understand Kafka or Finnegan's Wake.
still believe in God, the family, angels, devils, witches, goblins, logic,
clarity, punctuation and other such obsolete stuff.
love interesting stories, not commentary, guides or footnotes.
a book is boring they yawn openly without any shame or fear of authority.
They don't expect their beloved writer to redeem humanity. Young as they
are they know it is not in his power. Only adults have such childish
ANYBODY DARE NOBBLE NODDY
by Andrew Williams writing in Adelaide's Sunday Mail March 2008
leave the Famous Five alone. Don't even think about toying with the Secret
Seven and don't anybody dare nobble Noddy.
Enough is enough. This week it was revealed Enid Blyton's classic Famous
Five books have been "reconstructed" for the 21st century in a TV series.
These animated updates
are multicultural kids with iPods, mobile phones and they catch environmental
Julian, Dick, Anne, George and Timmy the dog? Hardly. Timmy keeps his
name but the new kids on the block are offspring of the originals and
include an Anglo-Indian tomboy called Jo, apparently short for the Hindu
word Jyoti meaning light (saints preserve us); Allie, a Californian shopaholic...you
get the picture.
People just can't help meddling with Enid Blyton. First we had golliwogs
being replaced with naughty teddy bears over fears of racial stereotyping
in the Noddy books.
Yet despite being an avid reader of Enid Blyton's books as a youngster
I have somehow miraculously avoided becoming a rabid racist because I
read about golliwogs getting up to no-good.
Then they reached for the smelling salts because Noddy and Big Ears shared
a bed, and Blyton's books have periodically been removed from library
shelves because it was felt her work was of little literary merit.
Well, let's not worry about that any more. Let's convert Noddy's little
yellow car into a Hummer. Son of Noddy can be an Anglo-American-Indian-Peruvian-Sengalese
child rapper named Nod-Off and his inscrutable Oriental sidekick (son
of Big Ears) can be called Nose Job and together they can cruise the
streets killing drug-dealing golliwogs - sorry - teddy bears.
Secret Seven? Can't wait for the animated Cyborg Seven. Actually
Better watch out when climbing the Magic Faraway Tree - not for Dame
Washalot's dirty water or Saucepan Man's pans - but for falling branches
environmentally unsustainable forestry practices in the Enchanted Wood. No more
sliding down the tree on an amazing slippery-dip after an adventure.
The 21st century version will have the savvy kiddies zapping down by
a teleport machine operated by Silky the fairy. (Beam me down, hottie.)
Seriously, the real Enid Blyton characters might be products of the times
in which they were created but the wonder and scope of Blyton's imagination
has made them timeless.
Her books have sold more than 400 million copies world-wide and introduced
generations of children to the sheer joy of reading. I have read War
and Peace but I started with Noddy.
And many was the evening when after a stern "lights out, school tomorrow,"
I would disappear under the covers with a flickering torch because I
couldn't wait to see what wonderful mysterious land would be through
the cloud at the top of the Faraway Tree, or whether Bessie or Dick would
be stuck in the land when it moved on.
While the ephemeral cartoons will be forgotten a nanosecond after the
credits, the real Enid Blyton stories will linger for decades in the
memories of all who have read her books.
And as for those who want to "reconstruct" her stories and make a quick
quid, I'd like to strap them into the Wishing Chair and wish them off
to... well, I won't go there.
But I wish they would.