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to read Enid Blyton with caution?

(244 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.

BettySwollocksandaCrustyRack Tue 15-Oct-13 14:22:56

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

MoaningMingeWhingesAgain Tue 15-Oct-13 14:23:50

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.

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

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