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to read Enid Blyton with caution?

(241 Posts)
catandbabyequalschaos Tue 15-Oct-13 14:11:20

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?

KittyShcherbatskaya Tue 15-Oct-13 14:15:21

Mine aren't at that age yet either but I don't think we will be reading much Enid Blyton, mainly for the racism and sexism reasons. What do you mean by "chucking names around carelessly"?

PenelopePipPop Tue 15-Oct-13 14:17:30

I can remember howling with laughter at a point in the Famous Five where Julian and Dick (Dick!) were saying 'Poor George she really thinks she's as good as a boy'. Even at 6 or 7 I could tell the joke was on Julian.

I think you underestimate how critically young children read. They don't just normalise every message they get - how could they, so many messages conflict. They read things which are sexist or snobbish (it is the snobbery in Blyton that makes my teeth itch now) and appraise that against the world around them. If you are the kind of parent who thinks boys and girls can play with the same toys and do the same jobs when they grow up and where you live doesn't define who you are then those values will loom much larger in their life than throwaway lines in books.

I've read the complete works of Jane Austen several times but have yet to attend a ball or embroider anything.

EeTraceyluv Tue 15-Oct-13 14:17:36

I have been reading the Secret Seven with dd7 and she has started on St Clares. I tell her that these books were written a long time ago when people were very different and we discuss the issues that arise. She's not turned into a snooty bossy girly who loves washing up and tidying yet - nor does she want to go to boarding school grin I do get what you mean - I had a flick through the wishing chair not long ago, and had quite forgotten that the naughty imp was called Chinky shock. As for Fatty in the five find outers.. and the bits in the famous five that talk about 'dirty gypsies'. It's amazing really.

HulaHooperStormTrooper Tue 15-Oct-13 14:19:51

I LOVED Enid Blyton as a child and have thus far managed to avoid being a racist bigot. I really don't its an issue.

MsWilliamTheBloody Tue 15-Oct-13 14:19:57

I'd be wary.

I remember the Famous Five talking to a girl who was from the circus. They were vile, treated her like she wasn't even human.

Very odd.

Enid had ishoos.

hiddenhome Tue 15-Oct-13 14:21:14

I found the Wishing Chair and Magic Faraway Tree to be okay, but haven't bothered with Famous Five because I didn't like the sexism.

Elasticsong Tue 15-Oct-13 14:22:01

Why not just use the books (which are magical stories) as a vehicle for discussion? That's what I do when reading them with my dd. Point out the dodgy stuff, saying this is how many people used to think / behave but, these days...

I don't really get the avoidance idea - I read them as a kid but didn't form racist and sexist opinions as a child, teenager or adult. Give your kids some credit and the chance for discussion. So, yes, yabu in my opinion.

MrTumblesKnickers Tue 15-Oct-13 14:22:18

I think you're over thinking this. Children don't notice these nuances like we do and as long as you bring her up with the right ideals she will be fine.

I grew up reading these and - even worse - Little Black Sambo. I turned out OK.

I'm with Hula - I loved Enid Blyton as a kid and DS has loads of her books.

I have read some of the wishing chair stories with the DCs - I loved them as a child. But - they have dated so so badly, really badly written - and I nearly choke every time I say 'Chinky' shock

The children do like them though.

moondog Tue 15-Oct-13 14:24:10

I think you are all overthinking it madly in manner of earnest social workers circa 1988.
Cracking stories.
Just reread Circus Days Again and we all loved the bit where the ringmaster beats children who are part of his show.
Child abuse and child slave labour to boot.
Fantastic!

MotherofBear Tue 15-Oct-13 14:24:17

Exactly what HulaHooperStormTrooper said. In fact, 2 of my sisters were also brought up on Enid Blyton - mostly The Wishing Chair and The Faraway Tree, and they also are extremely lovely, non-racist, non-bigoted people.

I wouldn't worry about it.

catandbabyequalschaos Tue 15-Oct-13 14:24:43

Yes, it's the insults relating to weight, to class/country of birth I was thinking of.

I remember one - I can't for the life of me remember what it was called, but I think one of the girls might have been called Amanda - it was a group of children who decided to help others in the village, and one of the boys had sort of just tagged onto it and one of the mothers has a real go at him, saying that his mother has always given herself airs when he's not rich like the others! The book ends with that boy "playing with the ordinary children and being happy."

I'm trying to work out how I thought about it as a kid. I think that to a large extent, it did give the message that being horrible to other kids was OK if they were stupid/annoying/poor. The racism went over my head, but I grew up in a very white area - there was only one kid of a different ethnic background at my secondary school.

steppemum Tue 15-Oct-13 14:25:44

Mine have read and loved famous five, secret seven etc and dd is now starting on Malory Towers.

As said up thread, dcs are able to see the joke/wrong attitudes and laugh.

Added to which they are very good for getting kids to read, fast paced, simple language, exciting adventures.

But I have never liked and wouldn't read the younger ones. I hate Noddy/Big ears etc. We were given a Noddy video and it was awful, lots of things I didn't like.

Not sure if there is any rational reason in there though!

fuzzpig Tue 15-Oct-13 14:26:00

I lived for EB books as a child (mostly adventure/mystery type series) and there is absolutely no way I wouldn't share them with my DCs. DD has only recently started listening to chapter books so we've only done one secret seven book, but she loved it so we will carry on among lots of other old favourites. Issues can come up in any book, we just talk about it as it arises. We already discussed the sexism of silly Peter not letting Janet go on their investigation. She knows they are just stories like any other.

2468Motorway Tue 15-Oct-13 14:27:34

The newer editions have lots of the 1950s attitudes and racism editted out. Some of the more old fashioned names have been updated and the money decimalised. The snobbery is still there though.

LisaMed Tue 15-Oct-13 14:31:50

DH and I have read them to DS. So far so okay, and every now and then we break off and explain that it isn't like that, and years ago people were a bit silly (he's six, in a multicultural school, and many of his friends are ethnic minorities).

On the other hand, Enid could really, really rock a plot. They are incredibly tightly plotted and the 'heroes' can get things wrong. In 'Island of Adventure' there is a man who has appalling African American dialogue, who is treated as a buffoon by the children and who is the evil mastermind. There is also a scene where it would not be possible for him to go into the nice hotel the children have just entered and he sits outside for a bit. We used that to show how bad things were for ethnic minorities.

The language is dated but the writing is very clear. You are never in any doubt that x is happening or y is round the corner. DS has been clear to us on the difference between fact and fiction, so we are going with it.

KittyShcherbatskaya Tue 15-Oct-13 14:32:53

I remember that one - the Put Em Righters? About middle class children who helped poor people to see the error of their ways, be better parents and eat soup, as far as I recall.

I've never been very impressed by the 'didn't do me any harm' argument. My DM weaned me at 3 months by putting Weetabix in my bottle and cutting off the end of the teat. I will not be doing this with my DCs.

Vivacia Tue 15-Oct-13 14:33:38

I loved Enid Blyton, especially the stories for older children. I think the only bit that did me harm was the attitude to new girls in the boarding school series. I really took to heart the be-seen-but-not-heard bit. I think this really contributed to me not settling in at new schools (which I did a lot at the age of what would now be KS2).

catandbabyequalschaos Tue 15-Oct-13 14:34:23

Yes! Kitty - that's the one! It was AWFUL, looking back, I remember the children going to the home of a new mum with a messy house and bossily telling her to sort it out - cringe.

KatyPutTheCuttleOn Tue 15-Oct-13 14:34:46

MrTumble I, and my children, have all enjoyed Little Black Sambo. Neither or, nor they, are racist.

MaidOfStars Tue 15-Oct-13 14:40:47

Loved all Enid Blyton. Wanted to go to boarding school, have midnight feasts and swim in a freshwater pool. And meet a man who was covered in saucepans.

I remember Little Black Sambo. Does anyone remember Milly-Molly-Mandy?

MaidOfStars Tue 15-Oct-13 14:41:27

Forgot to add the standard disclaimer that I am not an adult racist/homophobe/snob.

steppemum Tue 15-Oct-13 14:43:24

the thing about little black sambo was that he was really clever and tricked the tiger.

It was the name and the illustrations that were awful

ephemeralfairy Tue 15-Oct-13 14:43:39

I remember at age 8 being ENRAGED at the casual racism/sexism in Blyton. I went so far as presenting a petition to the head teacher to get all Blyton books removed from the school library. I don't think I was successful but yes, kids are more critical than you might think.

moondog Tue 15-Oct-13 14:44:06

Loved MMM. Not Enid though.
Boarding school was actually pretty similar to EB books so you could say I lived the dream. No men in saucepans around, sadly. Not many men at all come to think if it....

Another we looked at recently was Five on Kirrin Island.
They row there and spend the entire w/end alone!

Oh I used to love Milly-Molly-Mandy when I was a child!

StanleyLambchop Tue 15-Oct-13 14:45:21

I think children can easily adjust to the fact that they are set in another era. My DC have not asked to be allowed to go off camping on their own during the summer holidays just because the Famous Five do. They also appreciate that many of the scrapes the children find themselves in would be avoided today as most people have mobile phones! It is not just Enid Blyton either. Swallows and Amazons is similar as in the children are largely unsupervised for most of the adventure, and the sexism of the girls having to do all the cooking/washing up. Poor baby Vicky is constantly called 'Fat Vicky' sad However it is a stonking good story though and my DC love it!

SaucyJack Tue 15-Oct-13 14:50:22

I think the fact that we all clearly remember how sexist and racist the books all were is A Good Thing, and shows that even as kids we all knew that some of the views expressed were not acceptable by modern standards.

I clearly remember myself Peter "ordering" Janet to pour the cocoa in the SS and I think I even moaned to my mum about what a bossy little prick he was.

Bowlersarm Tue 15-Oct-13 14:52:41

Oh I loved these books. I re read them recently. I still love them.

Just take them for what they are - books written in the past, in a certain period of time.

soverylucky Tue 15-Oct-13 14:53:02

DD adores the famous five. Like a pp said - she knows they were written a long time ago. There has only been one occasion when I have winced and it was a comment about gypsies. We talked about it and why you wouldn't say such things now. DD laughs at how the boys think that the girls can't do much.

EeTraceyluv Tue 15-Oct-13 14:54:43

She wrote one book called 'The Six Bad Boys' which was her attempt at 'social realism' all about a group of boys who come from terribly horrid homes and are bad 'uns. They meet up with a boy called Bob who has come from a good home but his mother gets divorced and starts leaving him alone - he gets very sad and joins the gang with the obvious consequences - and it all goes horribly wrong for him. Happy ending though when he is adopted by the lovely m/c family next door. Still makes me cry when I read it sad

curlew Tue 15-Oct-13 14:55:42

I see no reason for children to read Enid Blyton now. We read them as children because there wasn't much else to read. But they are incredibly badly written, sexist, racist, classist, jingoistic and every other sort of -ist there is going! And there are thousands of fantastic books for children now- why waste time on this formulaic dross? It only survives because of nostalgia.

moondog Tue 15-Oct-13 14:57:42

Not at all true.
They survive because people like them.

netsuke Tue 15-Oct-13 14:57:46

I always substitute Dick for Anne whenever she is cooking/cleaning, means that DD thinks boys do all the domestic chores in the famous five grin

Mcnorton Tue 15-Oct-13 14:58:50

I read these as a child in the early 80s, with no adult input and think I have grown up unscathed. I was quite shocked though when I read the faraway series to my son, who's 5, as I read my own old copies and the language and bullying is horrible. The kids are right pains in the bum! Son loves them though, and I either edit on the fly as I read to moderate the language (which is a pain but so far he hasn't noticed when I've been inconsistent - I've had to read the ruddy things repeatedly), or I comment on how rude the children are and he agrees. In that way we remain outside it and can enjoy the charming elements and not absorb the snooty/middle-class/slapping teacher stuff!

catandbabyequalschaos Tue 15-Oct-13 14:59:46

Perhaps this is the difference, that I read them myself and didn't have them read to me.

Quangle Tue 15-Oct-13 15:00:46

For Little Black Sambo readers, it has been rewritten as the Story of Little Babaji - same story but new illustrations. I loved it as a child and obviously had no awareness of the race element. All I could have told you was that the boy was cool because he turned the tigers into butter. Nevertheless I wouldn't have read it with my own DCs because of the title so I was delighted to find it renamed and re-illustrated. It's still fab and Babaji is still the hero. DCs love it.

HormonalHousewife Tue 15-Oct-13 15:01:17

Racism, bullying and sexism in the Faraway tree ?

Really ?

I thought it was a lovely book

curlew Tue 15-Oct-13 15:02:28

Why not just read your children good books?

moondog Tue 15-Oct-13 15:03:21

Loving the Dick for Anne swap.
Dick was always a bit of a non entity wasn't he?
George was a good 'un so argument on females being of little relevance doesn't really hold.
Same for Carlotta in Circus Days.
What a girl!

projectbabyweight Tue 15-Oct-13 15:05:54

Not all children are more critical than we think. I was bright, but I'd had a very "do as you're told" upbringing and took everything at face value till mid-teens at the earliest.

If I'd read "Poor George she really thinks she's as good as a boy" in the Famous Five (which I think I did) I would absolutely taken that to mean - or add to the other evidence I'd absorbed - that girls were inferior.

I really do think children need a bit of protection, not all parents spend the time talking through these things.

SoWhatSoWhatSoWhat Tue 15-Oct-13 15:07:52

My fave was the Five Find-Outers series. The Five Find-Outers were a bunch of middle class kids (their families all had servants) whose leader was called 'Fatty'. The youngest girl was called Bets. 'Fatty' used a 'special voice' to speak to her because she was so young and a girl.

A working class boy called Ern was allowed to be a part-time member of their group as his father (the village policeman, who was working class) was awful and was treated as a laughing-stock. Ern was allowed to read out his 'pomes' (he couldn't pronounce the word 'poem' because he was working class and therefore couldn't talk properly) to the other FFOs in order to be patronised to death. The policeman's boss, the Superintendent, who used to pop up at the end of each story to congratulate Fatty & co on another success, was middle class and well spoken, so he was OK.

At the time, I didn't understand why Enid Blyton books had been removed from local libraries (1970s), so we swelled the coffers of her estate by buying the cheap paperback versions available en masse instead.

They really were opium for the masses. Surely there are better children's stories around today?!?

catandbabyequalschaos Tue 15-Oct-13 15:08:05

Project, I was much the same!

The thing about George that annoys me is that it isn't just that she enjoys doing "boyish" things but also LOOKS like a boy and has a boy's name.

It's also fine for girls to look like girls and be happy to be girls and STILL be brave and want adventures and so on.

Handbagsonnhold Tue 15-Oct-13 15:13:47

I adored reading E B especially the Naughtiest girl in the school series.... I used to dream about what 'tuck' I'd put in my box and midnight feasts etc!.....I hope my dd can enjoy them just as much as I did.....

curlew Tue 15-Oct-13 15:14:34

An don't forget, George was "almost as good as a boy"..........hmm

Honestly. Dump them. They're crap.

I loved all Enid Blyton books and read them over and over again. Faraway tree was a favourite. I didn't read any sexism or racist comments in them. I think I turned out ok.

However I loved the Malory towers and st Clares books and went off to boarding school thinking it would be great fun, midnight swims and stink bombs in the French lessons. Sadly it was nothing like it. Massive disappointment.

My mum did tell me when I was reading and loving the books that they had been banned some years before. When I asked why she said it was do do with the lashings of ginger beer?! I can imagine now what she was trying to tell me.

Yes I will let dc read them, but they are set so long ago now, it will all seem like a historical novel rather than real life.

projectbabyweight Tue 15-Oct-13 15:15:38

Agree. This sort of thing is important, it's seeping into young minds.

moondog Tue 15-Oct-13 15:15:59

I had tuck and a special box.
Not as much as some of the other girls though.

curlew Tue 15-Oct-13 15:18:00

"Same for Carlotta in Circus Days."

But what you don't remember about all these feisty girls is that over the course of the books they saw the error of their ways, and conformed, more or less, to the feminine stereotypes by the end. Like all the "experimental" working class girls in the school stories. They either tuned posh or left under a cloud.

MotherofBear Tue 15-Oct-13 15:19:21

See, none of this stuff about George ever occurred to me when I was reading them. It was a story, made up, not real. That's how life in the books was. Didn't at all affect how I saw life outside the books. Other than making an idiot of myself trying to 'properly introduce' a new girl at school to my friends. I did it ever so nicely Anne-style, and just got laughed at blush.

So, reading about George looking like a boy and wanting to be a boy didn't make me want to be girly like Anne any less! And what is wrong with George wanting to be a boy? There are lots of girls like that out there, and boys who want to be girls.

moondog Tue 15-Oct-13 15:20:28

What utter tripe.
Ask a kid what they like best. FF or some worthy tome about a one legged Palestinian boy who lives with his lesbian mother in Haringey and runs a Fair Trade fruit co-operative.

Donkeyok Tue 15-Oct-13 15:21:13

My dm read Little Black Sambo to me. I agree with Quangle I just thought he was a cool kid and loved the picture of the tiger rushing around into a circle. I had completely forgotten about it and didn't see it in the shops/library when it would have appealed to my dc. My dd enjoyed the famous 5 and M7 when she was younger 7-9ish. The emphasis was on adventure without parents presence. I regularly transpose name so my kids are the heroes.
You can always edit as you go as some of them go on a bit and I want to go downstairs and have drink wine.

curlew Tue 15-Oct-13 15:21:40

"boys who want to be girls."

Not in Enid Blyton there aren't!

MamaMary Tue 15-Oct-13 15:24:36

I read them all. My favourite series was the Five Find Outers (and Dog).

My brother read them all too. Neither of us have grown up to have racist or sexist views.

So I'll let my children read them too.

smile

projectbabyweight Tue 15-Oct-13 15:24:56

The choice isn't between sexist/racist/snobby or ridiculous though!

I can't be the only one who's parents just left me to essentially grow up by myself, so I learned an enormous amount from books. They were all I had to guide me, in a way.

Ok, not to all children, but to some these things really matter.

valiumredhead Tue 15-Oct-13 15:26:00

We read them and ds raised the issue of then being outdated and we discussed how old they were etc. The Adventure Series is fantastic imo for kids who are just starting to independently read.

Handbagsonnhold Tue 15-Oct-13 15:26:07

Moondog exactly....Julian....Dick, Anne,George and Timmy the dog please and more of it....oh, and not forgetting Aunt Fanny and Uncle Quentin.....u gotta love em! winksmile

DaftAda Tue 15-Oct-13 15:28:23

EB books were banned in my house when I was a child. I had one hidden and used to read it over and over in the hope of uncovering subversive messages. I never did.

OP YANBU. Your house, your rules. There are loads andloads of other books to choose from.

valiumredhead Tue 15-Oct-13 15:32:14

Most of the classics are full of sexist shite, should we stop reading them?

EnlightenedOwl Tue 15-Oct-13 15:38:23

I did enjoy reading Enid Blyton as a kid but as an adult - oh dear. There is a chapter in the Famous Five (Five go off to Camp) where George is described as black as a n****r. Thankfully that has been deleted in more contemporary versions.

I would read them to children but employ some editing skills if they were older versions containing these references. You wouldn't want your children repeating that in the playground.

curlew Tue 15-Oct-13 15:54:08

"Most of the classics are full of sexist shite, should we stop reading them?"

You're not seriously calling Enid Blyton a classic author, are you?

She wrote light, easy to read marshmallow books. And they were fantastic, beause they were probably the first books like that for children. But now there are loads. Better written, better stories, funnier, and without the sexism, racism etc etc etc................

Bowlersarm Tue 15-Oct-13 15:55:49

I would say that Enid Blyton is a classic children's author. Why wouldn't you?

curlew Tue 15-Oct-13 15:58:48

Because to be classic, in my opinion, an author has to be able to write.

Oh, and probably not employ a team of people to write her books for her. (Sorry if anyone finds that shocking)

LightasaBreeze Tue 15-Oct-13 16:00:31

DS read them all when he was young, many of them the older versions which he got from book fairs. He enjoyed them very much and has grown up to be perfectly normal, not at all racist or sexist. In fact it gave him a love of reading which is more than a lot of children do nowadays.

I read them all too, they are just made up adventure stories and have turned out perfectly normal.

Bowlersarm Tue 15-Oct-13 16:01:35

curlew then that's your opinion. In my opinion, she's a classic children's author.

MrTumblesKnickers Tue 15-Oct-13 16:02:31

I'd call her a classic author too, why wouldn't you? A lot of classics don't seem particularly well written to our modern eyes - have you ever tried to read Moby Dick?! Dracula?

QueenArseClangers Tue 15-Oct-13 16:02:52

Hmmmmmmmm. I had to hastily change the name of some circus dogs in one of EB's books. Didn't really want my 5 and 7 year old to know that they were christened 'Nigger and Darkie'.
At least on the spot editing out of rascism/mysoginy etc. had me thinking on my toes. Felt like Eminem in an 8 Mile rap battle with all the quick improvisation going on!

MaidOfStars Tue 15-Oct-13 16:02:59

EnlightenedOwl There is a chapter in the Famous Five (Five go off to Camp) where George is described as black as a n****r. Thankfully that has been deleted in more contemporary versions.

Should we similarly edit Mark Twain, the father of American literature?

catandbabyequalschaos Tue 15-Oct-13 16:04:48

There are indeed some classical novels with abhorrent views.

I think that the difference is they generally have to be approached in SOME sort of context to make sense of the story. That's one reason fairy tales have been so damaging - perhaps if someone had said "well this is a story about Cinderella but don't judge her too harshly, in those days if you were poor and female, then yes, the only way out of it was to marry money" - perhaps Disney princess shite wouldn't have taken over!

Many classics indirectly challenge many of the attitudes that were ingrained at the time - Blyton certainly doesn't do that!

curlew Tue 15-Oct-13 16:05:22

Definition of classic "
1. An artist, author, or work generally considered to be of the highest rank or excellence, especially one of enduring significance.

Do you think the description fits?

EnlightenedOwl Tue 15-Oct-13 16:06:57

I take your point but you have to exercise some caution. Again you have to think about what a child may in innocence repeat.

catandbabyequalschaos Tue 15-Oct-13 16:10:41

Again, it's unlikely Mark Twain would be approached without at least some, even limited, knowledge about context.

curlew Tue 15-Oct-13 16:13:25

And Mark Twain, despite archaic language, was a man of wit, wisdom and humanity, with civilized values that pervade his work. Enid Blyton wasn't.

And he isn't usually read aloud to 3 year olds.

Bowlersarm Tue 15-Oct-13 16:14:10

Definition of a classic book:-

'....has been very popular and had a lot of influence for a long time'.

I would say that as she wrote her first book in 1922 and her last one in the 1960's, and they are still found in shops, libraries and being read by children 50+ years later, that Enid Blyton fits that description.

Ginnytonic82 Tue 15-Oct-13 16:14:35

They have had a go at updating some of the names and dialogue in Enid Blyton books, for example the famous five are now Joe, Beth, Frannie and Rick as opposed to Jo, Bess, Fanny and Dick. Also Dame Slap from The Faraway Tree is now Dame Snap. Still quite a few humdingers in there though!

MrTumblesKnickers Tue 15-Oct-13 16:15:13

Gosh, curlew you really don't like EB! I do consider her a classic author though (based on your definition) and I can't wait to read her books to my children.

Shallishanti Tue 15-Oct-13 16:16:32

Curlew is so right. I read masses of EB books, bought them from jumble sales, I had read ALL the books in the childrens section of the public library and there just wasn't the range of good children's literature that there is now (and even if there had been, I wouldn't have been able to afford it). I used to eat angel delight and freeze dried runner beans, it was all that was available, I thought it was OK, it did me no harm but now I want something better for me and DCs

curlew Tue 15-Oct-13 16:16:58

I don't like the idea that any old crap is good enough for children. Food, education, entertainment, music, books.......Children deserve the best we can give them.

Alexandrite Tue 15-Oct-13 16:17:24

I bought some 1980s Malory Tower books from Amazon to read to my dd as I loved them as a child. They are a good read, but the bits that have shocked me have been a) how vile they are to anyone who is different and b) the spanking bits. There is a bit in one of them where a character called Alicia tells the others that her older brother spanks her 12 year old cousin June (who also attends Malory Towers) in the school holidays, but that June still adores him. confused

MrTumblesKnickers Tue 15-Oct-13 16:18:20

"I don't like the idea that any old crap is good enough for children."

Who on earth thinks that?!

catandbabyequalschaos Tue 15-Oct-13 16:20:25

In a way, I think it's worse they've tried to update them.

Left as they are, they are old fashioned and that can be explained. 'Updated' they've tried to fit into the modern world and can't.

We could argue all day about what makes a classic! Honestly though there are some classics I would approach with caution for small children. I think it's because the idea of censorship and books make people uncomfortable and I understand this. I love Roald Dhal but I'd be cautious with some of his books - I got really frightened by The Witches and The BFG at a young age.

I'm sure people wouldn't permit their DCs at watch TV programmes referring to people as niggers, so why read books where they do?

HotBurrito1 Tue 15-Oct-13 16:22:50

DS2 (who is 6) and I were having a great chuckle about Anne wanting to set up the beds rather than go on an adventure with George and the boys. He laughs about the daft things the characters say, but enjoys the stories.

Bowlersarm Tue 15-Oct-13 16:25:03

OP, after your last post, I don't know why you are here asking about Enid Blyton then? It sounds like you have already made your mind up that you don't want your daughter to be enriched by her books.

<slightly tongue in cheek, but not much>

Retropear Tue 15-Oct-13 16:26:07

Sorry Curlew but children deserve to be given the tools to become avid readers as avid readers do better at school.The tools after the mechanics of reading are a steady supply of books they enjoy and millions of children around the world adore EB,Horrid Henry and a shed load of other authors we as adults may turn our noses up at.

Thankfully I've brought my kids up well enough fr them to enjoy a huge variety of books without them enacting out the less desirable bits.

They're avid readers of a huge variety of books and very literate.

They all cut their reading teeth on EB as did I.

catandbabyequalschaos Tue 15-Oct-13 16:27:52

Re-read my title Bowlers smile I'm wondering a) if other parents have had similar concerns and b) what they did about them.

I honestly wonder why anyone posts anything at all, at times!

cranberryorange Tue 15-Oct-13 16:28:54

For some odd reason i kept all of my Enid Blyton books from when i was a child back in the 70's. I absolutely loved them as a child and couldnt get enough of The Faraway Tree and Mr Pinkwhistle.

Dh nearly fell over when he saw my copy of The Three Golliwogs and flicked through the pages and i was bit embarrassed that i'd kept it for sentimental reasons (a gift from Gran). I'm guessing it must be banned now and rightly so.

My DDs were never interested in anything as drippy as Enid Blyton and preferred Harry Potter and Jacqueline Wilson but i wouldnt have handed my old versions over even though they were more than capable of spotting blatant racism and sexism.

Bowlersarm Tue 15-Oct-13 16:33:10

Oh. You're right. Sorry.

Then I say - no don't read with caution. Embrace and enjoy. Take them for what they are-books written 50 to nearly 100 years ago.

(I think I said similar in my first thread but it seems so long ago now, I appear to be going round in circles)

Bowlersarm Tue 15-Oct-13 16:33:55

....my first post not thread.....aggghh...

I'm on the fence on this one. I recently re-read several Famous Five books in a fit of nostalgia, and was quite horrified by how sexist, snobbish, racist and just poorly written they are.

And they're not even good stories. They're all basically the same:

1) School holidays, but Uncle Quentin is working on something top secret, so the children have to be sent away to a lighthouse.
2) They befriend a working class child, who refuses to wear shoes and can't talk properly.
3) Unshod WC child alerts them to the existence of an ancient tunnel.
4) Mysterious men are spotted in the vicinity of the tunnel.
5) The Five work out that something nefarious is afoot and capture the men in the tunnel.

And all shot through with plentiful descriptions of unfeasibly large meals, with Anne and George doing the washing-up afterwards.

On the other hand, I got sooooo much pleasure out of them all as a child- Secret Seven, Five Find-Outers (and Dog), Famous Five and particularly the Barney books and the Adventure series, and I'm a bit of a wet liberal, if anything.

valiumredhead Tue 15-Oct-13 16:43:28

Catandbaby-actually ds and I recently watched The Help, he was 11 , it contains the N word. He loved the film and I'm sure that's partly because we discussed just how much things have thankfully changed now.

We read a very old Tom Sawyer book when he was about 6, it's quite shocking to see what was acceptable 30 years ago (it was my book, like an annual with lovely pictures) but even at 6 ds knew there were words in it that were not used today as they were hurtful and nasty. I think we should credit kids with some sense tbh.

MotherofBear Tue 15-Oct-13 16:43:44

Curlew, you're right, there are absolutely no boys who want to be girls in Enid Blyton's books!

I think they are still just stories though, and they reflect the views of the times they were written. Yes, it was an time when sexism and racism abounded and that isn't good. But if you are teaching your children that sexism and racism and other 'isms' are wrong, then surely it will do them no harm to read books with those attitudes. They'll know, from us, their parents, that it in no way reflects the attitudes we/they should have now.

If you prevent children from reading anything with outdated attitudes in, then they won't be able to read anything much prior to this century grin

OP In answer to your actual question, if you feel the need to be cautious then of course you should be. If you dislike certain aspects, then discuss them with your child and explain how different things are nowadays. If you really are uncomfortable, then don't read the books at all and find ones you are happy with. But please don't choose Horrid Henry instead, they're awful! grin

MotherofBear Tue 15-Oct-13 16:44:30

'a' time, not 'an' time!

manicinsomniac Tue 15-Oct-13 16:54:48

I think I have almost every book EB ever published. And they are all 1970s editions or older as they were my mum's before they were mine and now they belong to my children. Children aren't stupid. My 6 and 10 year olds have, over the last 4 or 5 years, read or had read to them all the 'Golly, Wolly and Nigger' stories as well as all the other racist, sexist, classist etc examples on this thread. I've yet to hear them repeat such sentiments or seen any evidence that they think they are true or acceptable. They also read plenty of other books to counteract the attitudes they will find in EB. I don't see censorship as necessary.

AliaTheEvilLeaper Tue 15-Oct-13 16:55:13

I LOVED Enid Blyton as a child and have thus far managed to avoid being a racist bigot. I really don't its an issue.

This! I was a huge Enid Blyton fan as a child. I read all the Famous Five, Secret Seven, Adventurous Four, Five Finder Outers and Dog, all the boarding school ones and the mischievous ones like Mr Twiddle/Meddle etc.
Basically, if it was Enid Blyton I read it! grin
I'm not racist or homophobic as a result.
I think it's a sad state of affairs if you start censoring children's literature.

AliaTheEvilLeaper Tue 15-Oct-13 17:11:13

I always substitute Dick for Anne whenever she is cooking/cleaning, means that DD thinks boys do all the domestic chores in the famous five

What happens when you know, your child grows up and is able to read for themselves and knows you swapped stories about or made things up to suit you? confused
This thread reminds me of that episode of Friends where Phoebe's mum used to shut off all the films before the end as she didn't want to traumatise her.
Cue a grown up Phoebe wondering what the hell kind of film she was watching when she was watching Old Yeller.
He had babies, not rabies! Then when he got taken out the back and shot she was traumatised as that wasn't the ending!
Her mum had switched it off at a 'nice' bit and said "the end!" smile
You do realise that's you lot, don't you, doing the exact same thing, but with books?!

valiumredhead Tue 15-Oct-13 17:14:08

You are right Alia. I love that episodegrin

BeCool Tue 15-Oct-13 17:14:15

I just picked up a beautifully illustrated book of EB bedtime stories at a car boot and really did enjoy reading them to DD's who enjoyed them too.

Luckily the Golliwog story was the first one in the book and so the DD's didn't notice that some pages had been removed.

BeCool Tue 15-Oct-13 17:14:54

Yes I did censor it, but I feel for good reason.

manicinsomniac Tue 15-Oct-13 17:15:03

I don't even consider them to be racist/sexist books really. They are products of their time. If they were written in 2013 they would be very racist/sexist. But when they were written in the 1950s those attitudes were normal and acceptable. Enid Blyton wasn't a bigot, she was a woman of those decades.

valiumredhead Tue 15-Oct-13 17:18:26

I agree manic.

AliaTheEvilLeaper Tue 15-Oct-13 17:23:42

But when they were written in the 1950s those attitudes were normal and acceptable

Exactly. That's the way things were back in the 1950's. It is a book of its era, and has dated in the modern world.
I absolutely love Enid Blyton books, but if a child's book was written this year in the same tone, I wouldn't think it was acceptable.
The language she uses is part of history. It is a bygone time. Just because it isn't acceptable now (and rightly so) doesn't mean it has always been that way.
Why do some feel the need to airbrush history and pretend it didn't happen?
I'd rather let my kids read Enid Blyton and explain it is of a different era and some of the terminology used is not acceptable today and why.
There are some great adventure stories from a child's perspective, too - why should we ban them because we're thinking of an adult's perspective (I re-read them as an adult and thought SS should be called on some of the stories grin )
There's a reason they're KIDS books. Adults tend to over analyze and hyperventilate over things!

moondog Tue 15-Oct-13 18:00:37

I'm a great fan of Laura Ingalls Wilder too as are my kids but they are clever enough to realise it is not a dastardly trick to make them tackle locust plagues and churn butter.

Sukebind Tue 15-Oct-13 18:37:17

I loved the school stories and my DDs will probably read them when they are a bit older. I have left the Far Away Tree and some others on the shelf and I expect they will try them at some point. I loved them but when I did start reading them aloud to my elder DD she did not like all the slapping, shouting, pinching and anger that went on - she doesn't like books with any mild peril or confrontation at all (which can be a bit frustrating).
I haven't bothered with any of EB's lesser known books as they tend to be a lot about misdeeds and punishments. I remember one where a girl saw some boys lighting a fire in a field and told a man she thought was the farmer - he was really a pixie or something and sent her to the Land of Tattle-Tales where she had to stay til she learned not to tell tales. So... boys setting stuff alight on private property is fine whereas girls going to an adult with something worrying them are kidnapped and punished. hmm

viperslast Tue 15-Oct-13 19:08:03

I just can't see how this argument works? So many posters saying they read them and they are sexist etc and that they are not suitable. But you read them and you grew up to know the views are not appropriate in this day and age I doubt your parents sat and dissected the attitudes with you. You learn from more than just a few of the books you read and it is actually positive to have views to challenge and prompt thinking at any age.

Fwiw I didn't realise until I was in my 30s that the narnia books were about religion - and I was shocked. However in my early teens I was able to challenge the family stand on religion, think through and formulate my own argument and make a valid choice (even though I loved singing in the choir grin). I suspect that, on some level, the books prompted me to think and challenge something that I probably would have just blindly accepted because it was just the way our family did things!

DS and I read FF - and I always correct the sexism smile He's used to me now banging on about how women are equal. Pity his dad (my ex) continues to be so sexist sad

valiumredhead Tue 15-Oct-13 19:29:25

Viper- I realised late too about the Narnia books, it was only when I was reading them to ds that I saw the book with fresh eyes.

jamdonut Tue 15-Oct-13 19:39:32

I used to devour Enid Blyton books (back in the 70's) I read an AWFUL lot of them,including all the Secret Seven , Famous 5, Six, Malory Towers, Faraway Tree and Wishing Chair stories to mention a few.

Somehow, I knew,even then, that the children in the stories were a bit snobby and privileged,but that did not stop me from enjoying them.

My favourite book, which I re-read several times, was Hollow Tree House, about a "poor" girl living with her wicked step-mother,who, with the help of a friend, ran away from home to live in a hollow tree stump in a nearby wood where she had the best home she had ever known.

I used to be full of indignation at the step-mother who refused to sign a permission slip for the girl to go on a school day-trip to the seaside. She had never been to the seaside before, and yet with the help of the friend (and a teacher, I think) she managed to get to go with lots of subterfuge! It was very sad when her hiding place was found and she had to go back to the house where she wasn't loved. It had a happy ending though!

I loved that story so much!!

My own children, partcularly my DD and DS2 both also loved the Faraway Tree and Wishing Chair stories.

I think that children realise that the values are of a different age, so it doesn't make a lot of difference to them. They know things are not like that now.

campion Tue 15-Oct-13 19:44:40

Greater writers than Enid Blyton had views which we now find unacceptable but we haven't banned them, thank goodness.

I ,too, loved all the EB boarding school ones. I had no wish at all to go to BS but loved the descriptions of the midnight feasts - nestles milk, tinned peaches, potted meat and ginger beer. I hate tinned peaches but thought it sounded fun (sheltered childhood obv). And some of the friendship storylines had a ring of truth.

I loved EB as a child and was really sad that my DD didn't share my taste in books at all. Not just EB, but all the other authors I loved. Laura Ingalls Wilder, LM Baum, CS Lewis, Tolkein etc, etc. (who knew that Lord of the Rings was about religion, as well as Narnia?) Read them or don't is a personal choice, as is whether you read the Bible, the Koran or Harry Potter. Do I want my DCs growing up to think that EB characters are great role models - probably not, but I could say the same about Tracey Beaker, Horrid Henry etc. Just because a book/ author is "modern" doesn't make it any better than an old one. Just one other point, leave the books alone, don't update them, not EB, not Agatha Christie, not Jane Austin, if you want to write a book - write one!

Osmiornica Tue 15-Oct-13 19:50:26

So everyone saying there are better books out there .. what ones would you recommend for a 7 year old who loves adventure stories but nothing scarey.

jamdonut Tue 15-Oct-13 19:51:20

I just looked Hollow Tree House up...I loved that book so much, but I had forgotten it was about a brother and sister living with their horrid Aunt and Uncle!!! Ah well...It just brought back memories. I still loved it!

jamdonut Tue 15-Oct-13 19:55:34

pictures.abebooks.com/KENWORTHYBOOKS/1368205173.jpg

The book cover as I remember it!

Osmiornica Tue 15-Oct-13 20:02:10

scarey?? I meant scary

Peelie69 Tue 15-Oct-13 20:03:28

If you are asking the question then it's probably fine...does make for interesting discussions about 'the olden days'. Love that phrase! I choke on one of the Peppa Pig stories.....'it is not the winning that counts but the taking part'. Ummmm......that will see you through life then.

Osmiornica Trying to remember what my own children liked reading at that age, Roman Mysteries by someone Lawrence, Jack Stalwart, Michael Morpurgo, Dick King Smith, Philip Ardagh(??).

KittyShcherbatskaya Tue 15-Oct-13 20:07:47

I'm not so sure about the "well everyone had those views back then" argument. The Swallows and Amazons manage to befriend working class children without patronizing them. The Narnia books are actively anti-bullying. The Borrowers champions diversity. I think EB was a bit nasty even in her time.

Oooh yeah, Swallows and Amazons, had forgotten about those! Why does everyone remember one book from an author, such as Swallows and Amazons or The Wizard of Oz, or Little House on the Prairie etc without the rest of the series though? It was the same with The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe - at least until the films came out, more people have woken up to the fact that there is a series of books - even if they have missed half of them out!

FreudiansSlipper Tue 15-Oct-13 20:13:11

I had Noddy books when I was young I liked those but I did not like the famous five it for some reason annoyed me

There is theme through her books of them and us, them being not white and/or not middle class, not quite so good and us middle class though occasionally the not quite so good people do well

There are plenty of other books I would prefer ds to read without having to constantly explain that attitudes have moved in, if it was not so prevalent in her books it may not matter so much

Turniptwirl Tue 15-Oct-13 20:17:56

Enid Blyton had many faults but some of her stories are wonderful and I remember adoring them as a child (Malory towers and the adventurous four in particular, as well as done of the x of adventure books). I did harbour a longing to go to boarding school for many years, but I'm certainly not racist, a snob, sexist or any of the other things the books are criticised for.

You're not letting the books raise your children. Kids who read a variety of things (and watch and experience as well) will be able to make their own judgements. I wouldn't turn them into a lecture on why we don't have those attitudes anymore but just say they were written a long time ago and some people thought differently to how we think now. As long as you've done your job as a parent to any decent standard, books won't turn your child into a racist, sexist snobbish bigot!

AllabouttheE Tue 15-Oct-13 20:19:28

Sorry not read whole thread

Just wait till school when the books they have to read are 30 years old and complexly sexist and ageist.

Turniptwirl Tue 15-Oct-13 20:19:33

Ahh I loved the hollow tree house!!!

howrudeforme Tue 15-Oct-13 20:22:13

I liked EB when I was v. young - Malory Towers - but I immediated noted how a character called Carlotta was treated and the general bullying attitudes. Didn't turn me into a racist or think I'm above anyone is fat because they were portrayed as lazy.

I've given them to my 7 year old but he finds the books sluggish and boring. But if he didn't I'd give him as many as he wanted.

She was a reportedly nasty time in a different era.

I really am going to have dig them all out and reread them aren't I? grin
I think Mr Galliano's Circus had to be my favourite set! Well, either that or The RubaDub Mystery set, or how about The Secret Island or ....
I know - The Treasure Hunters - that was great!

MamaMary Tue 15-Oct-13 20:38:45

Tried to re-read some St Clare's books recently and couldn't get over how poorly written they are.

But I loved them as a child and read them all - St Clare's, Malory Towers, Famous Five, Secret Seven, Five Find-Outers and some of the Faraway Tree series. As a child I recognised that they weren't well-written, compared to say Roald Dahl books, but I still enjoyed the stories of children solving mysteries etc.

I am glad I was given the freedom by my parents to read whatever I wanted. I read EB and (a bit later) Sweet Valley Twins rubbish but I also read children's classics such as Narnia, Railway Children, Noel Streatfield, Tom's midnight garden, The Secret Garden etc. I went on to study English lit at uni smile

KittyShcherbatskaya Tue 15-Oct-13 20:39:49

I can see how you could screen out the racism with some fast improvisation, and explain away the sexism as an attitude of its time - but what do you do with the spanking? "Well darling, back then it was considered perfectly normal for girls to smack each others bottoms with hairbrushes". Hmmm.

On a side note I would be interested to see the Venn diagram of Mumsnetters who don't think they've taken on board any of the sexism in EB/Mumsnetters who do 90% of the childcare and housework.

KittyShcherbatskaya Tue 15-Oct-13 20:41:39

Ah the RubADub one - didn't that have a character with a learning disability who was called "Dummy"?

<rests her case>

jellybeans Tue 15-Oct-13 20:51:00

I don't have a problem with EB and would let my kids read them. I loved them as a child. In fact my DD do have some. have a full set of F5 as well.

Kitty as a avid EB reader as a child I admit that housework is split 90% - 10% in this house - however it is very much DH who does the lions share! grin As they say, I learned my lessons well! wink

(have to admit that I had forgotten the character called "Dummy", just remembered Barney and the monkey! blush)

nametakenagain Tue 15-Oct-13 21:29:13

I really loved the Enid Blyton books, I couldn't get enough. However, some of the messages conflicted with my understanding of the world, which left me confused.

They promote sexism, racism, and snobbery, and I will not be giving them to my dcs. There is no shortage of good books, and they can read EB when they are older if they are so inclined.

Quangle Wed 16-Oct-13 13:22:56

Also I'm not sure how "snobby and privileged" the children in EB are in some ways - they are always being sent away for months to live with stern aunts and uncles (Uncle Quentin!) or parents die and they have to bring up their own siblings (can't quite remember what happens in the Family at Red Roofs but it's something like that).

I devoured all these books as a child and I was aware that this was not my life (I was never allowed to row a rowing boat to camp out on a remote unpopulated island with my cousins or to set up camp behind a waterfall or to engage in hand to hand combat with spies!) but that made it all the more fascinating. The fact that it wasn't the same as my life. And as for the sexism, what I took from the FF was that the girls actually did have freedom and agency and they certainly weren't at home sewing - they were camping behind waterfalls ffs!

I think EB books are absolutely fantastic for developing readers. If you devoured these books as a child you will probably end up a reader - because you accidentally developed reading stamina and involvement in reading while you were racing through trying to find out what happened at Kirrin Cottage. When DD went through the Rainbow Fairies stage, I didn't discourage her at all. It got her from being capable of reading to devouring books and taking ownership of books and thinking of herself as a reader.

valiumredhead Wed 16-Oct-13 13:26:02

I remembered last night that apart from my love of picnics that the only thing I've applied to my adult life is the fact I no longer bite my nailsgrin there was a story about a girl with 'horribly bitten nails' and she grew them out one at a time, and that's exactly what I didgrin

Greensleeves Wed 16-Oct-13 13:27:15

I read the wishing chair books to my boys because I loved them as a child

and the faraway tree ones as well

like others, I was a bit shocked at just how offensive they are through a modern lens - I edited out all the racist, sexist and child-beating bits (although IME kids LOVE children being whacked in stories, they think it's hilarious - it's me that thinks it's awful)

the snobbery and appalling social values are still there though

treas Wed 16-Oct-13 13:39:11

Please credit children with having minds of their own that can distinguish between the values you teach them, the environment they live in and a "story" book.

Let them read the flaming books which are basically a jolly good read when you are young. If you have taught them the values that you believe then any thing that they read that is opposed to those values they will question.

Or would you prefer them to read sanitised, boring crap that they don't need to use their brains to question and argue against.

LadyRabbit Wed 16-Oct-13 13:39:20

Interesting one. I'm usually pretty laid back about stuff like this and agree with posters who say that if it's read and contextualised within present day attitudes then it's not the end of the world to read it.

However, and I realise that what I'm about to say comes with my own baggage, BUT as a kid from a mixed race background who was (and never will be) blonde haired, blue eyed, banker daddy, SAHM type, I really aspired to be like certain characters (remember loving Daryl from Malory Towers) and feeling I was always going to come up short. It was exacerbated by the fact that everybody else around me was very much of that background.

I am so happy - and slightly envious - that kids growing up today see so many different kinds of people represents in books and TV. You can't underestimate how important this is. It was only til I read Zadie Smith I felt that I had just as much right to be English as the next person.

Does that make sense or am I being hypersensitive?!

Quangle Wed 16-Oct-13 13:42:21

just out of interest, where is most of the racism? I recall the naughty golliwogs in Noddy (which have now been edited out) but haven't come across it in the ones DD is reading (naughtiest girl, famous five - unless they've been edited too?) except that everyone is clearly white. But then for the time, that's not exceptional and is perfectly realistic for a small, probably Home Counties boarding school etc. It sounds as though there are issues in Faraway Tree and Wishing Chair which DD hasn't read yet and which I don't really remember. Just would like to know so I can do some vetting or make sure to buy new versions.

LadyRabbit Wed 16-Oct-13 13:42:37

My post above is FULL of typos, sorry, I meant to write wasn't and never will be; overestimate instead of underestimate and represented instead of represents.

Mumsnet on a phone just makes me illiterate. Apologies!

Quangle Wed 16-Oct-13 13:51:42

No you are not being oversensitive LadyRabbit. Although I think, as I said in my post, I loved the books because I couldn't identify rather than because I could. I appreciate it may be easier to enjoy not identifying if you are free to identify most of the time (being white). But almost everything about the books was not identifiable to me. It was all slightly weird to me and exotic and in a good way. No one I knew had a life even approaching any of the lives EB depicts - it wasn't like reading Jacqueline Wilson iykwim.

I think what I liked about it also was that the stories are often about children with no adults around (because of the boarding school setting or because of being sent away to frankly negligent relatives!) and so the children had freedom and agency. That in itself is unrecognisable to most children, I think.

EeTraceyluv Wed 16-Oct-13 14:11:48

I recall only one blatantly racist comment in a Famous Five book. Anne and Dick were camping somewhere because Ju and George had gone off to end world war two or something and anne wakes up screaming because she sees a 'horrid dark face' peer in. She sobs to Dick 'he looked like a black man' at which Dick was suitably outraged. I think it was in Five Go Camping, and was my sisters copy - so would have been printed in the late 1950s.

TheBigJessie Wed 16-Oct-13 14:23:43

I haven't re-read them but I can remember the stuff I felt uncomfortable with back then.

The class-ism. (Five Finder-outers and Ern getting above his station with poetry) The way tne French teachers are depicted as not being fluent in English, despite being immersed in English all day for years. The attitude towards Roma.

The working classes are thick and slovenly and incapable of high-minded stuff basically.

The gender roles are not such a problem. There is,^ for the time^, quite a feminist slant. Betsy and Pip in the five find-outers for example. Pip constantly patronises his little sister, but frequently she is the saving force who notices key details. It is clear that he's a twit and that Fatty thinks she's brighter than him.

In modern language he's a mansplainer and he isn't presented well there, either!

chrome100 Wed 16-Oct-13 14:42:39

I read and enjoyed Enid Blyton as a child in the 80s and 90s. I knew they were outdated and they didn't stop me growing up to be a leftie guardian reader. I wouldn't worry too much.

somewherewest Wed 16-Oct-13 14:45:37

I think children are brighter than we give them credit for. I read The Famous Five as a child in the 80s and was completely aware of the snobbery and sexism and in no doubt that Timmy the dog was probably the posse's brightest intellect. Amazingly enough I survived grin. I actually think books like EB's can be useful in helping children think through these issues. Girls for example need to be introduced to the idea that the opportunities they enjoy weren't always there.

curlew Wed 16-Oct-13 15:18:44

"Or would you prefer them to read sanitised, boring crap that they don't need to use their brains to question and argue against."

What, like Hilary Mackay, Michelle Paver, Karen McCombie, Anthony Horovitz, JK Rowling..............

valiumredhead Wed 16-Oct-13 15:35:43

By the time you are one to Anthony Horovitz and JK Rowling though you are a bit too old for EB ime.

I can't really think of any books that filled that gap for when ds was just starting to love proper story books and just before he launched into Harry Potter.

valiumredhead Wed 16-Oct-13 15:39:33

On to

TheBigJessie Wed 16-Oct-13 15:44:54

What age range would you say EB books are for? Trying to think of replacement authors here.

monicalewinski Wed 16-Oct-13 15:46:14

I wanted to be George - I grew up in the 70s/80s and wholeheartedly believed I could be 'just as good as' the boys.

I was, and still am, better than a lot of the boys (and have worked for the last 18 years in a very male dominated job - usually the only female or one of a couple amongst 200+ men).

Enid Blyton made me rail against the stereotype of what I "should" have aspired to tbh. I loved all the boarding school books aswell as the girls were all v independent and not playing second fiddle to boys.

HesMyLobster Wed 16-Oct-13 15:52:07

My DD13 has made her way through all of the Secret 7s, Famous 5's and Wishing Faraway Trees, plus St Clare's and Mallory Towers.
We have had conversations about the differences she's discovered between then and now - it's actually very interesting to hear her points of view.
She hasn't turned into a racist or a homophobe or a snob . . .

... I have overheard the occasional "Gee Willikers!" though grin

valiumredhead Wed 16-Oct-13 15:56:25

Secret 7, FF etc are for seven to 8 year olds I think.

I was reading Malory Towers at about 8.

Faraway Tree, I read that to ds when he was 5 ish.

curlew Wed 16-Oct-13 16:11:09

"By the time you are one to Anthony Horovitz and JK Rowling though you are a bit too old for EB ime."

Not on mumsnet surely!

valiumredhead Wed 16-Oct-13 16:14:26

Well, I was talking about other children curlew ds read all the Harry Potter series in French at three wink

curlew Wed 16-Oct-13 16:40:28

3?????. <light laugh> oh, well, children learn different things at different times. I'm sure there are loads of other things he's good at........

MrTumblesKnickers Wed 16-Oct-13 16:52:27

grin @ curlew

valiumredhead Wed 16-Oct-13 17:33:13

Yes there certainly are! angry <hoists bosom in indignation and starts a stroppy AIBU thread..>

monicalewinski Wed 16-Oct-13 17:33:26

grin @ curlew & valium

5Foot5 Wed 16-Oct-13 17:54:44

I LOVED Enid Blyton as a child and have thus far managed to avoid being a racist bigot. I really don't its an issue.

Exactly!!

No need to get in to an earnest discussion or try to censor them. Your child will probably have enough common sense to realise this is fiction and a tad old-fashioned but still enjoy them

DD has read quite a few EB and has turned in to a well-balanced, non-racist, non-sexist 17yo. She first read Malory Towers at about 7 and thoroughly enjoyed it. However, she surprised me by spotting for herself that the main characters did bully the less-favoured girls. I certainly didn't pick up on that at her age.

ohmymimi Wed 16-Oct-13 17:58:04

The Family at One End Street, Norman and Henry Bones, Jennings, What Katy Did, Little Black Sambo, Steamboat Bill, Biggles, Black Beauty, anything by Dennis Wheatley, MMM, Naughty Sophia, Swallows and Amazons, Gerald Durrell, Hilaire Belloc, Edward Lear, Lewis Carol, Arthur Connan Doyle, Jules Verne, M R James, Shakespeare, Charles Dickens, A A Milne, Albert Schweitzer - all read by the time I was 11. No EB, though, my dad thought she was rubbish (I don't think he knew about Dennis W - devil worship for pre-teens would not have been on the menu, but it was wonderfully scary and racy). I think I missed out, I might give her a try.

Eldestoffive Wed 16-Oct-13 19:27:15

I loved Enid blyton as a child!
The language is simple and repetitive ideal for learning to read, and what is wrong with promoting independence, which these books do!
The racism and sexism seems outdated now and I always point it out, my only problem is I have two boys so Malory towers probably won't appeal!

Eldestoffive Wed 16-Oct-13 19:28:13

Ps when I got my hands on Dennis Wheatley at the age of eight wow!!!!

cory Wed 16-Oct-13 20:16:48

curlew Tue 15-Oct-13 15:58:48

"Oh, and probably not employ a team of people to write her books for her. (Sorry if anyone finds that shocking)"

Crosses Dumas off the list of classics.

pourmeanotherglass Wed 16-Oct-13 20:39:47

My DDs are 9 and 11 and still like being read to - so we've read a huge variety of books together, including some Enid Blyton.
As others have said, we have talked about how it was written a long time ago when things were different.
We have read some other older books (the secret garden, some Noel Streatfield, Tom's midnight garden, the Hobbit, Narnia, those Pamela Brown books about the kids that form a theatre company, Anne of Green Gables, Just William). I think Enid Blyton made me feel more uncomfortable than most of the others (Dame slap a lot, 'chinky', fanny, over-use of the word 'queer' meaning 'odd', Anne always doing the dishes), but we did talk about some of these issues.
If you want to read boarding school books, the Trebizon series is slightly less dated than the Enid Blyton ones, and we enjoyed those.
We have also read loads of more modern stuff (Harry Potter, Percy Jackson, Jaqueline Wilson books, how to train your dragon books, Roman Mysteries, David Walliams books, worst witch, etc). My older daughter and I have also both read and really enjoyed the Hunger Games. There are loads of fantastic series out there if you want to avoid Enid Blyton. But I don't think you need to avoid it completely, as some of her books have good storylines, and provide an opportunity to discuss how attitudes have changed.

Alexandrite Wed 16-Oct-13 20:43:56

That's not true that EB employed a team of people to write her books for her. People thought that because she churned out so many so quickly, but she was just a very prolific writer. She didn't plan them, she just sat and wrote what came into her head. She took action against someone who claimed she employed a team of ghost writers and they had to apologise to her in court.

valiumredhead Wed 16-Oct-13 21:05:44

My mum still still say 'oh I feel a bit queer' if she feels oddgrin

Chinkyshock that didn't actually register at all as a child, in fact the only time I have ever heard it said was 5 years ago and it was used to describe the local take away.
hmm

I LOVED the Dame Slap stories!

NulliusInBlurba Wed 16-Oct-13 21:38:31

I wouldn't have had any great problem with the DC reading EB, if they had wanted do, but they never showed any interest. But there was one book we were given many years ago when DD1 was a toddler which I found so repulsively racist that I binned it. It was a present from my DM and I'm sure she got it from a pound shop or bargain basement type thing. It was a picture book aimed at younger readers and it was actually the illustrations rather than the text that was so poisonous - but I can't remember if it was the original illustrations or not.

I can't remember the title, but it was the delightful tale of the toys in Toyland. A new family of goblins moved in and at the same time things started going missing. So the brave toys set a trap and the evil goblin was exposed as a thief and forced to leave Toyland. Way to go with stereotypes of evil outsiders! But the worst thing was the visual depictions of the goblins, which was perilously close to Nazi images of Jewish people - not saying this was necessarily deliberate, I suppose it depends on when they were drawn (and I don't think EB did them herself). I live in Germany, which has a bit of bad history for anti-semitism - this book would probably not be allowed to be published here. I didn't want my children seeing that kind of thing unless it was in a museum environment where the social context is explained. Now they're old enough to work out what crap it is all by themselves.

TheBigJessie Thu 17-Oct-13 23:55:18

Jenny Nimmo's Charlie Bone series could be good for 7-8 year olds. Also some of Diana Wynne Jones' books for younger children.

Am I way off the mark?

squoosh Fri 18-Oct-13 00:13:04

Oh how I adored Enid Blyton. I was never a fan of her books for young children, Magic Faraway Tree, Mr Pinkwhistle Interferes (!) etc. and wouldn't be encouraging a child to read a book featuring a charcter called 'Chinky'. But I absolutely devoured Famous Five, Five Find-Outers, R Mysteries, Adventure Series, Malory Towers, St Clares etc.

To be honest they were as obviously dated when I was reading them in the mid 1980s as they are now and I was more than capable aged 7 of seeing what a sexist dickwad Julian was, and how ridiculously passive Anne was.

The most upsetting thing about EB to me is that they really don't stand up to revisiting as an adult as some childrens books do. The writing is repetitive, predictable, simplistic and plodding. Nothing like I remember them. So I conclude that the real magic of reading EB as a nipper is that she sparks the imagination, gives you some badly drawn characters and a plot by numbers and whooooooosh, your own imagination takes over and turns it into some kind of magic.

squoosh Fri 18-Oct-13 00:18:52

EeTraceyluv I remember feeling very uneasy reading the Six Bad Boys, Enid Blyton does 'kitchen sink'. One set of parents split up because the wife was a nag hmm. Then there was a hard faced glamorous young widow, she had a son, she wore lipstick, gasp, and had a job, horror, andwent out of an evening to non church related social events, harlot!

Oh these awful working class families!

It really exposed EB for the colossal snob she was.

daisychain01 Fri 18-Oct-13 06:33:05

EB would probably be slated for being a child neglector and incompetent Mother these days.

Apparently her children used to tiptoe round the house for fear of angering dear Mamma and disturbing her work. Meanwhile EB was hammering away at her manual Adler typewriter dream up stories depicting idyllic childhood days with "jolly fairy cakes and lashings of ginger beer" on tap.

I bet her kids must have smiled wryly at the hypocracy of it all!

But as a girl, I read everything from The Magic Faraway Tree to The Famous Five and Five Findouters (and their Dog) and I cannot remember ever picking up on racism, sexism, or classism. Just loved the predictable, formulaic papp and invariably had an EB on reserve at the local library as they were so popular! I agree with the posters who say that it engenders a lifelong love of reading, which it has done for me.

Tanith Fri 18-Oct-13 07:45:44

I think Moni does have a point that George in the Famous Five did encourage girls to rail against the unfairness of boys having all the fun. I picked up on that myself as a child.

George was based on Enid Blyton herself. Tom and his miserable, infighting family in 6 Bad Boys was based on her own family while she was growing up.

Also, having reread them as an adult, they aren't as bad as their detractors make out. Sure, there are some outrageous bits, but how many times do the Famous Five get it completely wrong because they arrogantly assumed they knew best? In some of the books, if they'd only listened to Morgan or Mr. Penruthlan and kept out of it, instead of assuming they were the bad guys, they wouldn't have risked nearly wrecking the whole operation with their interfering!

And, yes, Carlotta in St. Clare's was a circus girl. She was also one of the most popular girls in the school and she saves Sadie with the help of her circus friends. It is middle class Prudence who is loathed and who enables Sadie to be kidnapped in the first place.

Madmum24 Fri 18-Oct-13 07:46:19

I do wonder now though was Enid Blyton a secret sexual deviant; aunt Fanny and Uncle Dick spanking in the gay bedroom anyone?

TheBigJessie Fri 18-Oct-13 08:55:24

I thought Chinky was simply given an semi-onomatopoeic nams/descriptive name, like all the other magic characters are in Enid Blyton books. I thought she did a lot of chinking of china, etc, when she was cleaning.

Are you sure it was actually a random racist reference? sad

gazzalw Fri 18-Oct-13 08:57:40

What always strikes me about the books is that the characters who are not middle class like the child protagonists are definitely looked down upon. It amazed me, reading The Secret Seven books with DS a few years ago, that they are terribly condescending even to the policeman (Mr Potts??)

curlew Fri 18-Oct-13 09:02:09

Gazz- that's nothing to what happens to a working class child who by some freak accident ends up in St Clare's or Malory Towers.

Tanith Fri 18-Oct-13 09:21:20

Do you mean Eileen, curlew?

Because it's emphasised that she's perfectly entitled to be there - it's her family problems that cause her to leave - her decision - and it's made clear that she is welcome to stay on if she wants to.
Claudine, the other girl there on reduced fees because her aunt teaches, is another very popular character and later joined by her sister.

Angela, the very rich and snobbish girl who looks down on them both, is disliked and pulled up on her attitude countless times.

Jengnr Fri 18-Oct-13 09:22:32

From what I can gather about Enid Blyton she was a massive cunt and that kind of colours me wanting to read her books to my son. BUT I loved them as a child so I'll probably let him read them if he wants to.

Mind you, I read the Narnia books again recently and whilst I love them CS Lewis is a massive racist and misogynist.

I remember thinking with Enid Blyton, and the Chalet School books (I know they're not EB) how odd some of the things they did was - I wanted to be a master of disguise like Fatty and wondered how my Dad recognised me when I dressed up as someone else one morning. And I remember Jo on the Chalet School saying she couldn't very well do something-or-other and I couldn't understand why because I did it.

curlew Fri 18-Oct-13 09:57:44

I was actually thinking about the girl who 'a dad was the vulgar self made man- was it Jo?

ohmymimi Fri 18-Oct-13 10:06:20

Eldest - thlenvy I was obviously a bit of a late developer!

Retropear Fri 18-Oct-13 10:18:37

Gazz you want to read E Nesbit's books then.Far more classism but they and EB make fab teaching points imvho.

I got loads of discussion points out of 5 Children and It with my 3. Wouldn't dream of not letting them read them though.

TheBigJessie Fri 18-Oct-13 10:23:19

I think the most difficult thing about EB is the all pervasive snobbery. That a local accent is synonymous with actual low intelligence, rather than meaning one does not have a wireless on which to listen to RP.

Very much like our modern hatred towards "chavs".

It's a constant through her books, and I think I did absorb it for a while unquestioningly. She's hardly the only author guilty of snobbery, of course.

I am very conflicted about it all, because I loved Enid Blyton from 6-10 and she did make me a confident, prolific reader. But do her books also make one more vulnerable to "feckless lower classes" rhetoric? I fear they do. I think there's always going to be a part of me that sees Other Poor People with City Accents the way Enid did!

Good thing I did at least have an epiphany about it all due to one chapter in one book, otherwise I might be a Daily Mail reader now!

noddingoff Fri 18-Oct-13 11:10:08

I liked pony books: Ruby Ferguson's "Jill" series, Patricia Leitch's "Jinny" series, Monica Dickens' Follyfoot Farm books and K.M Peyton's Fly by Night books. The protagonists in these aren't spoilt snobbish brats.
I liked the Swallons and Amazons books but I don't think we ever had an Enid Blyton book in the house- I think my mum disliked them growing up so she never bought them for me.

momb Fri 18-Oct-13 11:31:21

My YD, 9, is just really getting into her stride as an independent reader and is racing through The faraway tree, wishing chair and secret sevens (we're listening to SS in the car on CD too (sigh).
She is very aware that they are dated, that the children are not very nice sometimes, and that they judge people (and creatures) by criteria which we just don't use any more. We have had some great discussions engendered by these books.
My question though: what is there at a similar reading level with the same type of fantasy/adventure/excitement? I'll happily buy those instead if she'll enjoy them as much.

Jengnr Fri 18-Oct-13 11:36:57

I think there was a a girl in St Clare's who 'even sometimes dropped her h's' smile

squoosh Fri 18-Oct-13 11:40:17

The only EB series I didn't have much time for was The Secret Seven...................I'm ashamed to admit why.............because they only went to the local day school, I looked down on them because they weren't spiffingly middle class enough to go to boarding school! Oh Enid, you made a snob of me! grin

TheBigJessie Fri 18-Oct-13 11:45:26

curlew yep, that's Jo and her disastrous year at Malory Towers. The rest of the parents genteelly shuddered at him, and his braying, didn't they?

There's also the girl at St Clare's who annoyed everyone by using "oughtn't". It turned out her mother used to clean for the head-girl's family, before they got money.

That was Enid being nice to working class people with money!

Jengnr Fri 18-Oct-13 11:48:03

She didn't wash her neck either Jessie smile

Working class scrubbers!

squoosh Fri 18-Oct-13 11:49:49

There was someone whose father was aw'fly new money, She was brash, had an over developed bosom and even wore lipstick.

TheBigJessie Fri 18-Oct-13 11:52:54

Working classes, eh?

I'm a bit uncertain about age-groups, but I remember Susan Cooper's books fondly, as well as Trebizon school books. Would second Patricia Leitch!

Penelope Lively, too.

TheOriginalSteamingNit Fri 18-Oct-13 12:11:07

Jessie - Not 'oughtn't' - 'didn't ought'!

Jo Jones terrible father makes Miss Grayling shudder and be very unprofessional in slagging him off to other parents, doesn't he?

TheBigJessie Fri 18-Oct-13 12:34:30

SteamingNit that was it! Didn't ought!

I'd also forgotten the scene where the headmistress talks about Jo's father to Darrell's parents. My lord. That's dreadful behaviour.

curlew Fri 18-Oct-13 12:37:59

I also hate the way they plan bullying "for the victim's own good. Gwendoline was the butt of one of those experiments. And Sadie.

Viviennemary Fri 18-Oct-13 12:43:37

I was a great Enid Blyton fan. And as for George wanting to be a boy. I thought she could have short hair climb trees and so on without being a boy so I didn't really understand the issue at all.

curlew Fri 18-Oct-13 12:46:32

You didn't notice the "almost as good as a boy" comments, then?

Viviennemary Fri 18-Oct-13 12:54:22

I just thought it was in George's own head. No adult ever said that as far as I remember. So I would have thought it was just Julilan being a pain. As much as Anne being a silly cry baby was just in her own head. It was her personality and not her sex.

Alexandrite Fri 18-Oct-13 13:01:07

One of the worst episodes of planned bullying in MT I remember was in the book where Darrell wrote a panto. Maureen I think it was had been boasting about being good at dress design, writing music etc, so they asked her to provide a sample of each and planned to roar with laughter at it all. They do this and she runs out of the room. Really nasty. They are also really horrible to Catherine "St Catherine" just because she is kind and always tries to help people.

valiumredhead Fri 18-Oct-13 13:03:14

At the time it was written women weren't seen as equal to men. She's echoing the general feeling of the time through her writing.

If an author churned out stuff like that now it would be totally unacceptable but these books were written way back.

Should we discourage people from reading
Pride and Prejudice as it's all geared towards getting everyone paired off and living happily ever after or see it as a product of its time?

The whole point of reading imo is that you form your own opinion and agree or disagree with the book, isn't that why book clubs are so popular? apart from wine and gossip

Alexandrite Fri 18-Oct-13 13:03:28

I went to a girls' grammar school in the 80s and I do actually remember two episodes where practically the whole class ganged up on someone for being a bit different /square. In the first instance it was not long after we started the first year there and the girl left soon afterwards. So perhaps it is realistic!

TheBigJessie Fri 18-Oct-13 13:05:18

Yes, everyone had to be put in their place by humiliation. There's some dreadful stuff in St Clare's, as well.

squoosh Fri 18-Oct-13 13:07:18

If we're only supposed to read books with kind and decent characters then please count me out!

valiumredhead Fri 18-Oct-13 13:09:39

Wrt the bullying, are we not allowed to even read about bullying now? Why, in case we 'catch it?' I used to read those books and it made me feel a bit better about the awful time I was having at school at the time. While it was bad it wasn't quite as bad as EB books.

valiumredhead Fri 18-Oct-13 13:10:53

Certainly realistic ime Alex unfortunately.

Alexandrite Fri 18-Oct-13 13:14:52

Yes we are allowed to read about bullying, but I think people are commenting on the fact that the characters that EB presents as being the good characters, are actually pretty vile and bullying to the characters she presents as being bad characters. Normally bullies are seen as the bad characters in a story. I still read them to my daughter as i think they are an enjoyable read, but I do mention to her how awful I think they are being!

valiumredhead Fri 18-Oct-13 13:17:00

Alex- but that's good isn't it, good discussion material?grin

TheBigJessie Fri 18-Oct-13 13:17:00

squoosh the problem was that the characters were presented as kind and decent while being well-spoken vicious little madams!

squoosh Fri 18-Oct-13 13:17:50

Did anyone see the BBC 4 biopic where EB was played by Helena Bonham Carter? Twas very good.

TheBigJessie Fri 18-Oct-13 13:19:05

Bullying is presented as the moral course of action, really.

C0ffeeN0biscuit Fri 18-Oct-13 13:19:07

I read them to my son but I edit and re-jig as I go along where necessary. My daughter read the whytleaf series which I hated though, so we discussed how self-satisfied they all were and how sexist the times were. 'mummy was delicate and wore beautiful gloves. Daddy was so sensible and clever'. I was reading something to my son where Julian's mother was dying and his intelligent father saved the day by inventing a new cure.

There was one set in a mountain in Africa (?) an old 1970s copy pulled off a shelf from my old bedroom. It was shocking. The racism and the lack of respect for non british beliefs and ways of life.

valiumredhead Fri 18-Oct-13 13:22:29

Yes squoosh I saw that, explains a lotgrin

valiumredhead Fri 18-Oct-13 13:28:18

Coffee-that was life in the 70's, it was shocking, there was a paint called n*** brown ffs, I mean I can't even begin to imagine living in a society where that was acceptable but it was. Do I want to censor all the books from that time, no way, people should know how crap it was and how far we've moved on. I want my ds to be outraged when he reads books like that, and thankfully he is.

5Foot5 Fri 18-Oct-13 13:28:30

One of the worst episodes of planned bullying in MT I remember was in the book where Darrell wrote a panto. Maureen I think it was had been boasting about being good at dress design, writing music etc, so they asked her to provide a sample of each and planned to roar with laughter at it all. They do this and she runs out of the room. Really nasty.

Well yes it was. But IIRC the protaginists didn't then have a good laugh at her expense. They all felt bad about it and commented on how they didn't feel very good about what they had done.

valiumredhead Fri 18-Oct-13 13:35:17

I can't actually remember the bullies getting away with anything really,I always remember them as getting their comeuppance eventually. Mind you, not read them for years. I seriously feel like having a re read of Mallory Towers nowgrin

C0ffeeN0biscuit Fri 18-Oct-13 13:51:32

Yes, and the first chapter of Amelia Jane is vile too. They gang up on her and exclude her but they seem to believe it's justified because of some fault they perceive in her. Horrible. I had an old copy, 60 years old maybe, I was going to send it to my God Daughter who is called Amelia but I had a quick read and thought, no way.

Bullying in books is ok so long as it is presented as wrong, but bullying in books presented as a favour, as though it were character building, and in the person's own good to be bullied................ no thanks.

TheBigJessie Fri 18-Oct-13 13:57:20

The emphasis on how one must never "tell tales" is certainly something to discuss with children, too.

TheOriginalSteamingNit Fri 18-Oct-13 14:38:09

I don't think it's true to say everyone was just sexist 'back then' and EB is a straightforward representation of this, though - look at Bronte's 'Shirley' where the main characters complain about women never being taken seriously or allowed to do anything fun or challenging, or Maggie Tulliver's struggle for education which George Eliot obvuiously recognizes and thinks is a terrible shame... not everyone in the 60s was a nasty racist bully - just the people EB liked to write about!

curlew Fri 18-Oct-13 14:50:03

I suspect that many of the modern children enjoying these books are enjoying them because their parents are enjoying reading them aloud so much. And because their parents are so pleased that they are reading them. I honestly think there is a nostalgia black hole that people fall into and lose all their critical faculties. This has happened to me over many things I hoped my children would enjoy, from bread and milk to Billy Connelly.

curlew Fri 18-Oct-13 14:53:16

"I can't actually remember the bullies getting away with anything really,I always remember them as getting their comeuppance eventually."

An individual child cast as "The Bully" did. When the group bullied( "shut up Gwendoline, Gwendoline shut up" ) springs to mind- it was always for the victim's own good.

squoosh Fri 18-Oct-13 14:57:33

I think if a child is showing an interest in reading they should be left to read whatever they want. Nothing more off putting for a 7 year old than to be told which books are 'good' for them.

EB may be a load of old tosh but she did plant the seed for a lifetime of avid reading in a lot of young minds.

valiumredhead Fri 18-Oct-13 15:17:43

The original- of course not everyone was but I listen to my fil talk about 'no dogs no Irish' signs in B and B's and how he was discriminated against when he first came over from Ireland and how my mother wasn't allowed to date an Asian man and how much things have changed for the better, do I do think EB's books represent what it was like then.

valiumredhead Fri 18-Oct-13 15:18:36

Curlew-why were they telling her to shut up I can't remember.

valiumredhead Fri 18-Oct-13 15:20:32

I agree squoosh.

PaperSeagull Fri 18-Oct-13 16:59:01

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?

EeTraceyluv Fri 18-Oct-13 21:31:03

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...

ZZZenagain Fri 18-Oct-13 21:33:51

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.

lottieandmia Fri 18-Oct-13 21:42:48

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.

ipadquietly Fri 18-Oct-13 21:44:57

At my school (in 1965!) Enid Blyton books were banned.

IHaveA Fri 18-Oct-13 22:04:59

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.

MythosLivetheDream Fri 18-Oct-13 22:27:29

Why read EB when there are so many other good books around? Sorry I don't get the appeal of EB.

lottieandmia Fri 18-Oct-13 22:30:46

Quite, Mythos

squoosh Fri 18-Oct-13 22:31:49

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.

Sonotkylie Mon 11-Nov-13 18:08:17

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!

Mouthfulofquiz Mon 11-Nov-13 18:48:23

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.

Boaty Mon 11-Nov-13 18:50:44

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 blush They acknowledged the books were written when their grandma was a schoolgirl and as such were 'old' grin
For those who don't like them can you suggest up to date books in a similar vein of adventure orientated?

Boaty Mon 11-Nov-13 18:58:26

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!

nooka Mon 11-Nov-13 19:27:39

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???

Sonotkylie Tue 12-Nov-13 10:27:55

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).

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....

slickrick Tue 12-Nov-13 10:43:59

My children could never get past chapter one they would be in hysterics when they got to the part with Dick and Fanny

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.

Scoobyblue Tue 12-Nov-13 14:07:54

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.....

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!

nooka Tue 12-Nov-13 16:41:27

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.

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