Nostalgic Bookshelf

Snarky recaps of nostalgic media, including Making Out, Baywatch, Blyton and Baby-Sitter's Club
17
Oct 2018

Famous Five 8: Five Get into Trouble by Enid Blyton

Title: Five get into Trouble

The Famous Five #8: Five Get Into Trouble

Summary: Curious about the big house on Owl’s Hill, the Five go into the grounds one night….only to find that the big wrought-iron gates have closed mysteriously behind them.

Initial Thoughts:

Everything about that summary is wrong. For one thing, they don’t go into the grounds because of some random curiosity about the house; they go LOOKING for the house for reasons. For another, more important, thing, that ellipsis should have three dots, not four, because the sentence doesn’t end during the dot part.

Anyway. I remember loving this book, and my own copy is incredibly battered and soft.

But what I DON’T remember is ever being aware of how bloody old Julian is in this. Okay, if book six was set at Easter, and they were thirteen (Anne), fourteen (George and Dick), and fifteen (Julian), and book seven is the following Easter (so…they’re the same ages?), then THIS book, which is Easter again, is another year entirely. JULIAN IS SIXTEEN? In my head Julian is never that old. Even Anne is fourteen by now. [Dove: I think the last book was summer from the comments about the moors being cold in the summer, but it wasn’t clear. But otherwise your maths lines up with mine.]

That…that isn’t how I ever thought of them, when I was young and reading these. It completely changes everything. THE FAMOUS FIVE ARE OLD ENOUGH TO BE POINT HORROR CHARACTERS.

…damn, now I want to read that. Five Find a Body. Five Accidentally Run Someone Over. Five and the Kirrin Island Phantom. Five Visit Fear Street. [Dove: *blink* Well, I think we’ve found Necro’s NaNo project!] [Necromommycon:OMG, that sounds like fun. I think I have to try this. ] [Wing: Well this sounds delightful.]

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20
Sep 2018
Famous Five #7: Five Go Off to Camp by Enid Blyton

Famous Five #7: Five Go Off to Camp by Enid Blyton

Title: Famous Five #7: Five Go Off to Camp by Enid Blyton

Summary: Spook trains in the dead of night! And they seem to vanish into thin air – but where do they go? The Famous Five are on to it! But discovery of an unusual underground tunnel system, and a secret train-service, has them puzzled. If they follow the tracks, will they solve the mystery?

Initial Thoughts

Spook trains, secret, underground tunnels, and a mystery? Sounds like a typical Blyton holiday. And also like an A++ story for me to recap. Halloween season starts 1 September and so we are well into it. SPOOK TRAINS AND GO.

[Dove: I always wished that we could have a supernatural Famous Five – like the way Sweet Valley would leap off into the supernatural and then do an Etch-A-Sketch reset.]

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3
Aug 2018
Famous Five 6: Five on Kirrin Island Again by Enid Blyton

Famous Five 6: Five on Kirrin Island Again by Enid Blyton

Title: Famous Five #6: Five on Kirrin Island Again by Enid Blyton

Summary: What is Uncle Quentin up to on Kirrin Island? He won’t let anyone visit—not even the Famous Five! But he’s not alone on George’s island—somebody is watching his every move! Can Julian, Anne, Dick, George and Timmy the dog find out who and warn Uncle Quentin?

Initial Thoughts

*sigh* I’m really sorry, but I hate this one. This is the book I’ve been dreading, and hoping it wasn’t allocated to me. I don’t know why – it’s not particularly different to any other book in the series. Maybe it’s the fact there’s a silver tower constructed on the island, maybe it’s a lot about the adults, or maybe there’s just not enough godamned lettuce. Who knows?

Let’s do this thing.

(Also, I started this recap a month early because I knew it would drag hard.)

(For reference, the kids’ ages should be roughly: Anne: 13; George and Dick 14; Julian 15.)

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25
Jul 2018

Famous Five 5: Five Go Off in a Caravan by Enid Blyton

[Famous Five 5: Five Go Off in a Caravan by Enid Blyton

Title: Five Go Off in a Caravan

Summary: The Famous Five are having a wonderful caravanning holiday. And when they discover a circus is camping nearby, they hope there’ll be plenty of entertainment.

But two of the circus performers are strangely sinister. The children soon realise that they’re not clowning around — but can they get help in time?

Initial Thoughts

That title is a lie. They go off in two caravans. [Wing: I appreciate your attention to this detail, a la my annoyance over that whole Smuggler’s thing last time.]

Which brings me to perhaps the most disturbing news of the entire series to date: I THINK JULIAN KNOWS WHAT SEX IS. I mean, at least vaguely. He knows it exists. I think. (He may also be having it with a series of farmers’ wives and daughters.) [Wing: Wait, is this not what we’re supposed to assume with him popping off to talk to the wives and daughters as they travel?]

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Initially, when I asked to recap this book, I only remembered the caravan part (not the significance of there being two caravans, just that they went off without adults in a caravan, which I was enormously envious of). The amount of freedom these kids have is mind-boggling to me. I mean, I am old enough to remember when it was normal for children to leave home in the morning in summer and only go back home for meals and when it got to be dusk, so we were basically away from adults for hours and hours at a time in the summer, but that was with the understanding that we were somewhere nearby. Like, in town, and preferably in the neighbourhood. Not off up the highway to some other town, or parked out in the country somewhere in a horse-drawn vehicle.

I really do love this series. It achieves a strange mix of cozy, meal-driven comfort and outrageous, I-would-never-have-been-allowed-to-do-that adventure.

[Dove: This is one of my favourite stories in this series. This is exactly the kind of thing I’d have loved to do as a kid. I didn’t go camping until I was in my late twenties, and when I did, I loved it. Tiny and I were incredibly resourceful in how to make tea without a kettle.]

[Wing: I was taking a drink when I saw the “Anne should just poison them all” tag and nearly choked to death.]

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16
May 2018
Famous Five - Five Go to Smuggler's Top by Enid Blyton

Famous Five – Five Go to Smuggler’s Top by Enid Blyton

Title: Five Go to Smuggler’s Top by Enid Blyton [Wing: The top belonging to only one smuggler? That cover would argue otherwise.]

Summary: Are there still smugglers at Smuggler’s Top? [Wing: NO. There is maybe one smuggler, per that name.] The Famous Five go to stay at the large old house and discover secret hiding places and underground tunnels! Then they catch people signalling out to sea – who can these smugglers be? Can Julian, Anne, Dick, George and Timmy the dog discover the answer?

Initial Thoughts

God, I love this series. See above for my issues with the title. (Also, I’ve called this place Smuggler’s Top probably 50 times. I think I caught every time, but if not, sorry about that.) And here we go.

[Dove: I worry that when you visit England, you’re going to be very disappointed by the lack of secret passages. But at least I now live in a house with a crawlspace that was described by a friend as “Yeah… you could definitely hide a body or two in there.”]

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18
Apr 2018
Famous Five 3: Five Run Away Together by Enid Blyton

Famous Five 3: Five Run Away Together by Enid Blyton

Title: Famous Five #3: Five Run Away Together by Enid Blyton

Summary: Who’s been on George’s island? And what is locked in the mysterious trunk hidden on Kirrin Island? The Famous Five think they’re on the trail of smugglers – until they hear a child scream…

Initial Thoughts

This is the book I’ve been waiting for, and I was really happy it landed with me. It made sense for Wing to try the first book, and it was a happy accident that Necromommycon was happy to take the second. I love this book. The entire series, really, but for some reason, this got re-read by baby!Dove more than most. Possibly because I’ve got issues and it again – just like The Secret Island – tapped into them.

[Wing: I know I keep saying this, but I did not expect to love this book so damn much. Blyton books in general, and this series in particular, just get more and more charming and entertaining. I am delighted by this book and can’t wait to reread.]

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21
Mar 2018

Famous Five 2: Five Go Adventuring Again by Enid Blyton

Title: The Famous Five #2: Five Go Adventuring Again by Enid Blyton

Summary: Spending Christmas at Kirrin Cottage, the Five were not expecting an adventure. But they found one – and became involved in a tense running battle underground.

Tagline: Julian, Dick, George, Anne and Timothy the dog

(Okay, that’s not a tagline, but it’s the closest thing this book has to one. Note the absence of Oxford comma, and try to imagine my irritation.)

Initial Thoughts:

I know this was one of my favourite Famous Five books when I was young, but for the life of me, I can’t remember why.

I’m also SHOCKED that there was an era in publishing in which someone could write a series book set at Christmas and not mention Christmas in the title or have a Christmas-themed cover. This was published in 1942, and you’d think they’d have pulled out all the stops to play on people’s nostalgia for non-war Christmasses, but no. You can’t tell from the front or back cover that this has anything to do with winter at all. [Dove: That’s very un-Christmassy. To the point where I always forget this one is set over Christmas holidays.] [Raven: I was once Christmas shopping in Leeds, and one shop was playing Sunny Afternoon by the Kinks to fly in the face of the usual jingle bell fare. Loved it, it’s now part of my Christmas Song Rotation.]

There are roughly a billion variant covers. Here are two non-awful ones in which no one is wearing bell-bottoms.

[Wing: I am utterly charmed by this one, too! It’s not quite as fun as the first book, but I love George so, so much.]

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21
Feb 2018

Famous Five 1: Five on a Treasure Island by Enid Blyton

Title: Famous Five #1: Five on a Treasure Island by Enid Blyton

Summary: The very first Famous Five adventure, featuring Julian, Dick, Anne, not forgetting tomboy George and her beloved dog, Timmy! There’s a shipwreck off Kirrin Island! But where is the treasure? The Famous Five are on the trail – looking for clues – but they’re not alone! Someone else has got the same idea. Time is running out for the Famous Five, who will follow the clues and get to the treasure first?

Initial Thoughts

This will be my second Blyton ever, and I only read the first last month. I know she’s an author deeply embedded in British childhood (if not other places, too), but here in the USA, I didn’t hear about her except sometimes in other books that referenced Blyton’s work as a part of the characters’ childhoods.

I really enjoyed the last book I read (Secret Island), and I hope to like this one just as much. I love stories about characters on islands, I love stories about characters searching for treasure, I loved Treasure Island when I was a kid — surely nothing can go wrong now.

Onwards to adventure!

[Dove: I really loved this series back in the day. And sure, I obviously reached a point in life where I found it a bit too earnest, but most Brits will fondly recall reading Blyton. And I honestly can’t wait to see what Wing thinks of it. Because on the one hand, it’s so joyful (and the endless food – lettuce for everyone!) and on the other… it was written by a comfortably wealthy white woman on the back end of two world wars, so there’s a bit of distrust for anyone who is not a white Brit. Also, I fear Wing’s reaction to the gender roles – George and Anne in particular, so… here goes.]

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