ZOMBIE THREAD ALERT: This thread hasn't been posted on for a while.
to read Enid Blyton with caution?(244 Posts)
DD is only 11 months so this isn't an issue yet.
However, we have been given by a relative some old, beautiful sets of The Wishing Chair and The Faraway Tree, which I remember adoring as a young child.
Fast forward to now and I really have my doubts about them. It isn't just the blatant racism and sexism in them, but the way the children mercilessly bully anyone who isn't like them, the way names are chucked around carelessly and the references to spankings in so many of the books make me really uncomfortable too!
Have any of you not read Enid Blyton with DCs?
Oh God I hate Enid Blyton. The bitch ruined my life. I was always a bookworm and I was obsessed with her stuff from the age of three until I was about 14. Read the bedtime stories for young children, then the Famous Five and Secret Seven, then Malory Towers and St Claires, you name it. And they all instilled in me a horror of rule breaking, of questioning authority, of doing anything even slightly rebellious, for fear that punishment would be swift, terrible and permanent. I became self-righteous and po-faced as a direct result of consuming so much of her garbage.
And then I grew up and discovered that despite all this endless moralising, she was a philanderer and a terrible parent. And then I looked at the stories again and realised how awful and hypocritical they were. Darrell and her friends had hearty, healthy appetites, but Gwendoline was just a pig. Daphne steals things in second form and Mary-Lou almost dies as a result, but as Daphne saves her (as well she should, being responsible for it!) she is forgiven immediately and anyone who questions it is told in rude terms to shut up. Yet when Jo steals something a few years later, she is expelled and everyone goes on about how that was utterly the right thing to do. People making snap judgments based on looks and first impressions, and the good guys are always right but the bad guys are always wrong. Girls in boarding schools ganging up on each other and using group bullying as a perfectly acceptable punishment. Just horrible.
I'm aware she was writing in different times and that accounts for some of the horrible attitudes, but even accounting for that, those books ruined my life.
I read one Enid Blyton story when I was about 6 or 7 and decided I wasn't interested in her snobby attitudes. Never read any more.
That would be Six Cousins at Mistletoe Farm
My children are teenagers now so I can't remember what they read at 7ish (the really good ones are packed away, the not so good ones donated to book fairs etc), but there are many many really good books out there now there really isn't any need to dig up badly written books from the 50s to get children reading. Really there isn't. I'd say that childrens fiction is in a pretty good place at the moment. Go and ask at a decent book shop or library and they will give you lots of suggestions that don't involve classism/ racism/sexism that probably wasn't really OK even when they were written, let alone 50 odd years later.
There are great books and potboilers too. And some new tosh too - it's not as if there aren't modern EB equivalents if you really want that type of book.
I loved Enid and I didn't pick up on it, I'm sure I didn't. My mum was always talking to me about how we had to be grateful for the changes the suffragettes, feminists had made happen and that was the way of thinking I just naturally stuck with. I could possibly have latched onto the Enid Blyton ways of thinking. But as much as I loved them, formulaic stories set in the past weren't a replacement for a real live person reinforcing what she had to say. And it made sense!
I loved them as a child, haven't turned out to be racist or sexist and ended up working in a high powered job which was highly male dominated with a good amount of confidence. I significantly prefer EB to the rainbow fairies or beast quest.....
This has just reminded me of a book from my childhood. The main family are country people (farmers?), and the dad's brother, who lived in the city with his glamorous wife and daughter, loses his money and has to move back 'home.'
The glamorous mother is shown to be an inept social butterfly incapable of running a house like her more dowdy sister-in-law (there's a scene where the husband is waiting angrily while she takes hours trying to get some potatoes baked). They each have a daughter, the country one untidy and horsey, the other pretty and elegant.
The moral of the story is that the glamorous wife becomes more country and capable, while the untidy daughter becomes more conventionally acceptable.
Pretty sure it was EB, or similar.
My children could never get past chapter one they would be in hysterics when they got to the part with Dick and Fanny
What's Little Black Sambo?
I loved The Naughtiest Girl, St. Claire's etc (I even read Enid Blyton in Vietnamese last year when I was learning to read it). I only wish my days at boarding school were that exciting....
Crappy and formulaic has a place too. They can't read worthy or classic all the time any more than adults can and if it gets them enjoying reading then it does its job. As long as they outgrow them (ie reading them obsessively - not knocking adults who read the odd one for fun) and read other things too (or better still have books read to them that might otherwise be too challenging), then I don't see the problem with a balanced diet.
And I too would love more book ideas for modern adventure types as she sure seems to corner the market at the moment for the pre harry potter age (have read the first 2 to DS but I think they get too dark after that).
I wouldn't ban Enid Blyton, but I sure as hell would not read them to my children. Because apart from anything else they were and are crappy formulaic rubbish. I knew that when I read them myself many years ago because I'd finished everything else from the school library. I read plenty of other rubbishy books too, as I am sure my children did and will. But I'm not going to recommend rubbish to them.
When it comes to the books I read aloud to my children I only read books that I thought were really good, that I really enjoyed reading and that I thought were stretching to their imaginations. Why on earth would you choose to read stuff that you have to edit as you go along because it makes you squirm, or where you have to explain that attitudes were unacceptable now because it goes against your values? I can understand that if you are reading a real classic, like Mark Twain or Charles Dickens that has a lot of value but Enid Blyton???
I would be quite frankly be more concerned as a parent of young children with the messages/images children receive from music videos these days than a collection of old books!
As a child I loved EB books, I desperately wanted to have 'adventures' sadly they only happened in my imagination.
George was my hero!
My own DC weren't that bothered even though I had lots of the books
by my bedside They acknowledged the books were written when their grandma was a schoolgirl and as such were 'old'
For those who don't like them can you suggest up to date books in a similar vein of adventure orientated?
I loved and read all of those books and I've not turned out racist or sexist... They're just kids stories. I'd be more bothered about the influence of many many other things before I put a ban on good old Enid.
Enid is endemic in DS class (year 2 now but started in year 1). They all love the adventure side of the stories whether Famous 5, secret 7, Magic far Away tree or any of the millions of others (are they really all written by 1 person? No one lives long enough to manage that output!). All the girls remain feisty ball breakers and all the boys treat them equally. They can tell the difference between stories and how people live now - and if they can't then it needs discussing anyway. They don't get the double meaning of the names as the words aren't ones we use at home ... (Some have been altered for modern audiences)
By contrast my racist, sexist bigot of a mother banned me and my brother from reading them in the 70s. Compute that!
I wouldn't see the appeal of EB either if I was looking at them for the first time as an adult. But for many 7 year olds, these books are biblio-crack.
Why read EB when there are so many other good books around? Sorry I don't get the appeal of EB.
Enid Blyton wrote fantastic books that have really stood the test of time. Her attitudes were a little dubious but I haven't found anything offensive in any of the many books of hers that I have read recently. There are plenty of obnoxious characters
which all the kids love to hear about but I can't remember reading anything that would promote sexism or racism.
Surely the fact that some of the boys in the books were sexist doesn't mean the books themselves were sexist. There are loads of children's stories with lots of sexism in them. Are Cinderella and Peter Pan sexist?
I have spent hours and hours reading to school kids and I think Enid Blyton books are the most well liked. Her short and snappy popular rewards series books are brill for kindergarten kids.
At my school (in 1965!) Enid Blyton books were banned.
Enid Blyton books may have been written a long time ago and I read them too and do not consider myself to be racist or bigoted. But really she is not much of a writer and there are better things to encourage your child to read imo.
Is there much of value in them?I really don't know. I enjoyed reading them, my dd enjoyed reading the Famous Five and Secret Seven books but when I read one to her as a bedtime story, it seemed to me very long-winded and rambling in parts. As an adult, I found that particular (Secret Seven) book quite boring, perhaps just in comparison to more modern children's literature.
That's a good point - they are horribly unputdownable. My eldest dd now 24 has recently bought the entire st clares and malory towers series, and I borrowed a couple recently. I just couldn't stop reading them when I started. Awful but gripping. I loved the 'secret of...' books too. The one where they fly away in a plane that prince paul just happens to own to the secret mountain. For months afterwards, I would lie in bed pretending I was in that plane - as I recall, they had special bed type seats that they could recline in. Although they also had the token rough child - mafumo, who was black
with terribly white teeth...
There is a lot to be concerned about in EB's books, but I remember reading and enjoying them. Later editions remove a lot of the overt racist language (a change that is fine by me). I do think it's silly to rename the characters, Rick for Dick or whatever.
I remember my mother reading one of E. Nesbit's books to me and explicitly pointing out that though one character says the "n" word it was an absolutely unacceptable word to use. It didn't stop me from loving those books, just broadened my outlook a bit to be made aware of the way that language and attitudes change over time. I wonder which words we use today without thinking twice will be considered utterly reprehensible a few decades hence.
I guess the question is whether EB's books have anything of value that compensates for the racism, sexism, classism, etc. They are badly written and formulaic, but also entertaining and quite gripping for children. Does their entertainment value outweigh their negatives?
Join the discussion
Registering is free, easy, and means you can join in the discussion, get discounts, win prizes and lots more.Register now
Already registered with Mumsnet? Log in to leave your comment or alternatively, sign in with Facebook or Google.
Please login first.