......stories that endure......




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 Thiele.

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 and Titty.
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 a pelican.
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 timing.
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 eating cake.
25. All old houses have a secret passageway.
26. Junior boys in British schools always have names such as Binns Minor or Blotwell.
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.


by Isaac Bashevis Singer

There are five hundred reasons why I began to write for children, but to save time I will mention only ten of them.

1. Children read books, not reviews. They don't give a hoot about the critics.

2. Children don't read to find their identity.

3. They don't read to free themselves of guilt, to quench their thirst for rebellion or to get rid of alienation.

4. They have no use for psychology.

5. They detest sociology.

6. They don't try to understand Kafka or Finnegan's Wake.

7. They still believe in God, the family, angels, devils, witches, goblins, logic, clarity, punctuation and other such obsolete stuff.

8. They love interesting stories, not commentary, guides or footnotes.

9. When a book is boring they yawn openly without any shame or fear of authority.

10. 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 illusions.



by Andrew Williams writing in Adelaide's Sunday Mail March 2008

Please, 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 vandals.
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 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 I can.
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 doubtless resulting from 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.