Sunday, May 1, 2016

The Famous Five...adventure one!

Five on a Treasure Island by Enid Blyton
This is the first in a series of mystery adventures written for children by Enid Blyton.
The series is known as The Famous Five, whom we meet in this first book.
Between 1942 and 1963, a total of 21 books were released in this series!
And, somehow, although I am 60 years old, I managed to have no knowledge of them!
I'm sure I would have read them all as a child, if I had known about them!
She also wrote a number of short stories featuring these same five characters: 
George (Georgina), Anne, Julian, Dick, and Jimmy.
Anne is 10 years old, Georgina and Dick are 11 years old, and Julian is 12 years old.
Oh, and we do not know Jimmy's age. *Spoiler* He's a canine! :)
These stories were collected and published together in one volume in 1995: 
Five Have a Puzzling Time and Other Stories.

Do not purchase this edition!
I was so anxious to own a copy of this book, 
I had my local indie bookstore order a copy for me. 
Neither of us expected anything but a genuine copy of the book.
I will forewarn all others to beware of the only copy of this book available through 
Books-A-Million and Barnes & Noble;
it is an absolutely deplorable excuse for a book!
Especially a children's book. 
DO NOT buy this edition pictured on the right! 
Purchase any copy but this one, please!
Birch Tree Publishing included NO illustrations AND
the text looks as if it was simply all single-spaced and "dumped" into an electronic file "as is" with no demarcation of paragraphs, etc. There were random sentences repeated or simply inserted where they made no sense. 
I quit reading this copy at page 30 and 
checked out a copy of this book from my library system. 
I did a bit of research and it looks as if I will be ordering copies for my grandchildren 
This is the copy I checked
out from my library system!
The hardback version I
plan to purchase from
Book Depository!
from The Book Depository
Yes! There is an affordable
online alternative to Amazon.
Check it out!
I think my grandchildren would 
appreciate the illustrations in the 
Special Gift Edition hardback!
I always prefer to give them 
hardbacks whenever possible, 
since they last longer 
than paperbacks do!
This is especially pertinent for the
one family of 6 children and
other family of 4 children!

          Now that we have that out of the way!
 On to the book! 

I was immediately struck by the fact that this family had money! Their children were all educated at boarding schools and then they typically took a summer-long holiday. The whole family. A summer-long vacation. Wow... Though this year their usual place is unavailable for the summer and besides, the 'rents are going to Scotland by themselves for the summer holiday. So they must find a place for the children to stay. My childhood included none of that. A few vacations throughout the years, but no summer-long holiday! And definitely no boarding school! I have a feeling I would have been kicked out, 'cause there's no way I would have stood being bullied without fighting back. I can be thankful that was NOT part of my childhood! Public school in the rural midwestern U.S. was tough enough, thank you very much! :)

As it turns out, the children are scheduled to stay with their Aunt Fanny and Uncle Quentin. They have one child, a daughter named Georgina, who is the same age as Dick. The children have never met Georgina and barely know their Aunt and Uncle, but they are excited, nonetheless, to visit Kirrin Bay! (I'm pretty sure I would have been, too!) Once they arrive, Anne asks where Georgina is. 
"Oh, the naughty girl! I told her to wait in the garden for you," said her aunt. "Now she's gone off somewhere. I must tell you, children, you may find George a bit difficult at first--she's always been one on her own, you know, and at first, may not like you being here."...
"Do you call her 'George,'" asked Anne, in surprise. "I thought her name was Georgina."
"So it is," said her aunt. "But George hates being a girl, and we have to call her George, as if she were a boy. The naughty girl won't answer if we call her Georgina." (10)
Good thing they were warned. George definitely did not like them being there! As it got later that evening, Anne said to her aunt,
"I do wish Georgina would come. I want to see what she's like."
"Well, she's a funny little girl," said her aunt. "She can be very rude and haughty--but she's kind at heart, very loyal, and absolutely truthful. Once she makes friends with you, she will always be your friend--but she finds it very difficult indeed to make friends, which is a great pity. 
Anne suddenly yawned. The boys frowned at her, because they knew what would happen next. 
And it did! (11)
Aunt Fanny sent them all right up to bed! As Julian is griping at Anne for being an "idiot," she apologizes but then points out that they are both yawning also! 
So they were. They were as sleepy as could be with their long drive. 
Secretly all of them longed to cuddle down into bed and shut their eyes. (12)
None of them saw Georgina until the next day! As her mother, I would have looked until I found her and drug her back to the house! Obviously, Aunt Fanny was much more patient with her daughter than I would have been. :) And maybe that's better.

The first day outside, Anne sites 
'a curious rocky island with what looked like an old ruined castle on the top of it.'
'Isn't that a funny place?' she said. 'I wonder what it's called.'
'It's called Kirrin Island,' said George, her eyes as blue as the sea as she turned to look at it. 
'It's a lovely place to go to. If I like you, I may take you there some day. But I don't promise. 
 The only way to get there is by boat.' 
'Who does the funny island belong to?' asked Julian. 
George made a most surprising answer. 'It belongs to me,' she said. 
''At least, it will belong to me--some day! 
It will be my very own island--and my very own castle!' (18)
George has a secret that she lets them in on from the start. She has a dog that her parents wouldn't allow her to keep, so she pays a 'fisher-boy' to keep him for her. She was determined not to accept any ice creams, etc., from the other children, but finally relented. Since they agreed she would take them to the island in return. George is very fair-minded. She doesn't want you to do anything for her that she cannot return in kind. 
Tim turned big sorrowful eyes on to George. He and George agreed about every single thing except rabbits. To Tim rabbits were made for one thing--to chase! He never could understand why George wouldn't let him do this. But he held himself in and walked solemnly by the children, his eyes watching the lolloping rabbits longingly. (49)
Remember? Tim is the canine! :) (Had ya worried for a minute there, huh?) ;) While eating on the island...
All the children had four biscuits each. 'I think I shall give all mine to Tim,' said George. 'I didn't bring him any of his own biscuits., and he does seem so hungry.'
'No, don't do that,' said Julian. 'We'll each give him a biscuit--that will be four for him--and we'll still have three left each. That will be plenty for us.'
'You are really nice,' said George. 'Tim, don't you think they are nice?'
Tim did. He licked everyone and made them laugh. Then he rolled over on his back and let Julian tickle him underneath. (57-58)
I was quite impressed with the way these children cooperated with each other. Not that they didn't get angry and frustrated, but overall, they were kind, generous, and respectful of each other. 

In the midst of a fierce storm, an old sunken ship out at the island is uprooted from the bottom of the sea and dashed against the jagged rocks along the edge of the island. Of course, once the water level goes down, the children climb up into the boat and explore. They happen upon a wooden box lined with tin in an old cupboard that had been locked. Once they open the box, they discover a map. However, in the process of opening it, by dropping it from an upstairs window onto the walkway, they rouse the ire of Uncle Quentin and he confiscates it! But they manage to sneak it out of his office, copy the map, and return it without his knowledge! Good thing, too, since he ends up selling the box to an antique collector, who then mysteriously returns, offering to purchase the whole island! George is extremely upset, especially since the children are firmly convinced there are gold ingots hidden in the castle dungeons on the island and they just need time to explore and find them. They're certain this man is simply wanting to do the same thing himself now that he has a map! After all, even Uncle Quentin believed that the gold had probably been hidden and not lost with the ship that his great-grandfather had commandeered. 

Even with the map, it wasn't easy. The children had packed equipment, planning to spend a couple of days on the island, allowing them time to fully explore using the map. They were hoping to locate the 'ingots' noted on the map. Tim inadvertently located the well, then Anne inadvertently located the entrance to the dungeons, but pulling the top off that entrance was quite an task, and it took all of them to lift the stone. And once they did it still wasn't easy to get to the gold. Just as George, Julian, and Tim locate the gold, in walks the man who purchased the box and was buying the island, accompanied by another man.

Sure enough! They were only after the gold, too! They heard Julian and George hollering for Anne and Dick as they entered the dungeons, so they know there are more people on the island, but they don't know where they are. Since they have a revolver they threaten to shoot Tim unless George writes a note. She finally relents and writes as he dictates,
'"Dear Dick and Anne. We've found the gold. Come on down at once and see it." 
Then sign your name, whatever it is.'
George wrote what the man had said. The she signed her name. But instead of writing 'George' she put 'Georgina.' She knew that the others would feel certain she would never sign herself that--and she hoped it would warn them that something odd was up. The man took the note and fastened it to Tim's collar. 
'Now tell him to go and find your friends,' said the man.
'Find Dick and Anne,' commanded George. 'Go on, Tim. Find Dick and Anne. 
Give them the note.' (144)
Once Tim returns sans said note, the men begin hunting for Anne and Dick when they don't show up in the dungeons. Meanwhile, Dick and Anne are hiding in the well so the men won't locate them. Once the men leave the island they manage to rescue the other three from the room with the gold, but although their rowboat was still on the island, there were no oars. That's how the men assured themselves the children would remain on the island. 

The men returned and Dick was waiting for them in the dungeons, intent on trapping them in the same room with the ingots, locking them in just as they had done to George and Julian! He just about made it, but not quite and narrowly escaped, using the well. The children all ran to the cove where the boats were, and while three of them got the oars and put the rowboat in the water, George took an axe to the men's motorboat, rendering it useless. Just as they were rowing away from the island, the men appeared and discovered they were stranded without a boat! They were angry and shouting, but George kept rowing. When they arrived home and told everything to Uncle Quentin, he asked,
'But why didn't you tell me?'...
'Why don't you answer?' said their uncle. His wife answered for them, in a gentle voice.
'Quentin, you scare the children, you know, and I don't expect they liked to go to you. 
But now that they have, you will be able to take matters into your own hands. 
The children cannot do any more. 
You must ring up the police and see what they have to say about all this.'
'Right,' said Uncle Quentin, and he got up at once. He patted Julian on the back. '
You have all done well,' he said. Then he ruffled George's short curly hair. 
'And I'm proud of you, too, George,' he said. 
'Oh, father!' said George, going red with surprise and pleasure. 
She smiled at him and he smiled back. (176)

As you might imagine, all's well that end's well!
Aunt Fanny and Uncle Quentin get the gold and will be able 
to afford boarding school for George, as well as other things. me at least, the best thing of all is that George 
will be allowed to keep Tim with her at all times! 
No more being kept by the fisher-boy and George just visiting with him when she can! 
He even gets to sleep with her that night!

According to Wikipedia, Blyton's books 
have been criticized as being "elitist, sexist, racist, xenophobic, and at odds 
with the more liberal environment 
emerging in post-war Britain," though
they have continued to be best-sellers, 
even after her death in 1968. 

Although this book was a bit 
predictable and simple in writing style, 
I feel children's literature 
(just as with reading materials 
geared toward adults) 
doesn't need to always be intense 
and complex. I know I like to vary 
my own reading, and I feel many children are probably the same. 
So it doesn't hurt to diversify reading materials. 
In fact, I believe there are benefits to doing that!
I will definitely look to read more of the books in this series, 
as well as some of Blyton's other works.

Are you familiar with these books?
Have you read any?
What are your thoughts?

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