Come come Mr. Arabin, don’t let love interfere with your appetite. It never does with mine.Anthony Trollope, Barchester Towers (1857)
Image source: Pexels
Come come Mr. Arabin, don’t let love interfere with your appetite. It never does with mine.Anthony Trollope, Barchester Towers (1857)
Image source: Pexels
How do you like your toast at breakfast? Hot, buttered “cut thick , very brown on both sides, with the butter running through the holes in it in great golden drops, like honey from a honeycomb“, like Toad of Toad Hall, or with honey and condensed milk (but not the bread) like Winnie the Pooh? Or slathered thick with marmalade, may be?
The King in A.A. Milne’s poem, “The King’s Breakfast”, likes the first option, in fact simply must have it! In this fun and sweet children’s poem, the King makes a simple request to his Queen, who passes it on to the Dairymaid:
“Could we have some butter for
The Royal slide of bread?”
The Dairymaid says “Certainly,” and that she’ll go and tell the cow “Before she goes to bed.” So, off she goes to the Alderney to remind her not to forget, that little bit of butter for “The Royal slice of bread“. But the Alderney is sleepy, and perhaps because of it sends a message to His Majesty that
Many people nowadays
The chain of conversation proceeding in reverse, the Dairymaid exclaims “Fancy!,” heads back to the Queen, and though a little embarrassed, lets her know that Marmalade can be quite tasty, “if its very Thickly spread“. But when the Queen tells this to the poor King, he is understandably upset. He sobs that he is by no means a fussy man, but he does want a little bit of butter for his bread! And upset as he is, he gets back into bed. The Queen consoles her poor husband, “There there,” and once again goes to the Dairymaid, who in turn returns to the Alderney’s shed. This time the cow is more obliging, and says that she didn’t really mean it. And with that, she gives “milk for his porringer, And butter for his bread.”
His request fulfilled, the King is a new man, bouncing right out of bed. Sliding down the banister, he tells us once again, how no one can really call him a fussy man, but he does “like a little bit of butter to [his] bread!”
This is such a cute poem, and so much fun to read! I loved reading this as a child and still do! But fun elements apart, it does make one think of perfect breakfasts, buttered toast and hot tea or coffee, preserves–all things comfort. Breakfast is pretty much how one starts one’s day, and if that is perfect, the rest of the day will be too! Don’t you think? Winnie the Pooh, Milne’s most famous creation certainly thinks breakfast an exciting part of his day, the very first thing he thinks of:
“When you wake up in the morning, Pooh,” said Piglet at last, “what’s the first thing you say to yourself?”
“What’s for breakfast?” said Pooh. “What do you say, Piglet?”
“I say, I wonder what’s going to happen exciting today?” said Piglet.
Pooh nodded thoughtfully. “It’s the same thing,” he said.”
But when it comes to hot buttered toast specifically, Kenneth Grahame, I think, puts it beautifully:
“The smell of that buttered toast simply talked to Toad, and with no uncertain voice; talked of warm kitchens, of breakfasts on bright frosty mornings, of cosy parlour firesides on winter evenings, when one’s ramble was over and slippered feet were propped on the fender; of the purring of contented cats, and the twitter of sleeping canaries.”Kenneth Grahame, The Wind in The Willows (1908)
Have you read this poem before? How do you like it? What does your breakfast mean to you? Are you excited about it like dear old Pooh, or does it give you a few moments of peace and comfort in your otherwise busy day? Looking forward to your thoughts!
The font in the picture is a little too tiny. Find the full poem here: https://www.poemhunter.com/poem/the-king-s-breakfast/
Book #4 for my Malory Towers challenge. I would like to clarify that for this ‘challenge’ I’m only reading the original six books written by Enid Blyton herself. There are six further books by Pamela Cox which explore more of Felicity’s adventures. Read a little about them on the World of Blyton Blog here.
Upper Fourth at Malory Towers picks up a couple of terms after the previous book when Darrell and her friends were in their third form. Now they have spent some time in the Upper Forth taught by Miss Williams and are preparing to take their certificate exams. But that doesn’t of course stop school life from going on as it usually does. This is the first term in which Felicity has joined Malory Towers. Darrell is excited to show her little sister around and help settle her in, but before she can do that Alicia’s rather nasty little cousin, June, takes Felicity under her wing, and out of Darrell’s way, something the latter can’t approve. To add to the situation, Darrell has been made head-girl of the form, a post she is proud to occupy but her temper rears its ugly head again, putting everything that she’s been working for at risk. There are also new girls of course, the meek and unattractive Honourable Clarissa Carter, who Gwendolen (rather like St Clares’ Alison in this respect) is keen to befriend, and (non-identical) twins Connie and Ruth, opposites of each other in more than one way.
This was another interesting instalment in the series once again focusing on the girls’ different temperaments, and how this leads them to like or repel each other, and causes differences as well. At the end of the day, the message if one can call it that, which comes through is that one must be responsible for one’s own acts, face up to one’s own failings and deal with them if one wishes to be a good human being, not merely a winner of prizes and scholarships (the very same that Miss Grayling gives her new students each year). Some of the girls (Clarrisa, for one, Felicity another) must learn to see their ‘so-called’ friends for who they really are rather than the face they put on for them. Darrell must learn to face her temper and deal with it, or else face the consequences, just as Gwendolen must do for her deception and machinations. The twins have to learn to deal with each other’s personalities, and not get overshadowed by the other, while Alicia has to learn not to scorn other just because she has some gifts that others do not. For some these lessons have long-term results, but others merely fall back into their own ways.
Another Cover (Harper Collins 1971): The girls having their midnight feast by the pool.
That was the serious side, but there is a lighter side too. This was the first of the Malory Towers books where the girls actually had a midnight feast (St Clares seemed to have far more), which is fun though it does get interrupted and has some unpleasant cosequences. They also play a trick, once again on the unsuspecting Mam’zelle Dupont, who doesn’t realise what is happening (not even once its all over), much to the amusement of the girls, and Miss Williams. And of course, there is the usual fun of term time, a picnic, games and swimming which some girls are excited about while others perpetually try to get out of, Belinda and Irene’s madcap antics, and the usual fun. All-in-all a good read again. I think I’m appreciating these better reading them now, than when I read them as a child.
p.s.: An interesting fact I learnt from this book was that EB was a regular contributor to Encyclopaedia Britannica on English fauna. I knew she wrote nature books and was very knowledgeable about nature (something that reflects in her other books too) but not that she was a contributor to Britannica too.
My thanks to NetGalley for a review copy of this one.
This was my very first manga read. I have watched some of the animated versions of course, Fushigi Yuugi (Curious Play), Nodame Cantabile, Emma, and Yatitake Japan, among them but had never really read any. So when I saw this on NetGalley, and the cover looked like fun, with a theme/plot something that could be interesting, I decided to give it a shot.
This is the first volume of the Manga, and the author is known for her other series, Princess Jellyfish (which makes an ‘appearance’ in the book as well–something I thought cute). The title roughly translates to the Tokyo ‘What-if’ Girls’. This one features three girls/women—Rinko (who is our ‘heroine’) and her friends Kaori and Koyuki who she has known from high school. Rinko is a reasonably successful screen writer for web series and has set up her own office, but remains single at 33 as do her two friends, and the three often spend their evenings getting very drunk, gorging on snacks (their favourites being milt with ponzu sauce and liver), and discussing ‘What-if’ we had done this or that scenarios. A young man who observes them at the bar quite often, tries to talk some sense into them but to no avail. Then Rinko’s career begins to take a downward turn as well. The book also has two interesting ‘food’ characters, the Codfish milt (tara) and Liver (reba) who appear to speak to Rinko, when she is under the influence, always raising the what-if, what-if, what-if…
So as I said, this was my first time actually reading manga, and when I started reading, for about 16–17 pages I read the… er… normal way, and wondered why things were not quite sitting right, why Rinko would graduate after she had become a successful writer, and only then remember that Manga was supposed to be read the other way (right–left), and then went straight back to the start and things began to finally make some sense 🙂
But anyway, as for the book itself, I liked the idea of the story, of characters who realise that a large part of their life seems to have passed them by, without quite realising where it all went, and the things you had thought you would do by now, haven’t really happened at all, and there seems no likelihood of them happening either. One can understand Rinko’s frustration, her need to vent (but then you also realise that only doing this is going to get you nowhere), but what I couldn’t connect with was her need to get herself so drunk every day that she ends up literally walking into things and hurting herself—and doesn’t seem to even stop to question this. Perhaps partly because of this, and also because of her near obsessive focus of needing to ‘find a husband’, I didn’t really take to Rinko or her friends very much. But I did enjoy the two ‘food’ characters and thought they were good fun. The explanations of local and cultural references at the end I also found really helpful. While this wasn’t a book I can say I loved or even liked very much, it was still an ok read, and I wouldn’t mind reading the next instalment to see how things pan out for them.
The first of my ‘theme’ reads this month (my reading theme is here), and this ‘King’ in question in this one is the Maratha warrior–king Shivaji, who ruled in the latter part of the seventeenth century. More about him here. This book, originally Bengali was written by Sardindu Bandhyopadhyay, a screenwriter (for both Bollywood and Bengali cinema) as well as writer whose best known creation is perhaps his detective Byomkesh Bakshi, who with his Watson, Ajit Bandhyopadhyay solves some very interesting puzzles. Bandhyopadhyay (Sardindu, not Ajit) also wrote historical fiction, ghost stories, and children’s fiction. I read the translation in English (Penguin, 2005) of Band of Soldiers by Sreejata Guha, whose translation of one collection Bandhyopadhyay’s Byomkesh Bakshi mysteries, Picture Imperfect I’ve read earlier.
Shivaji took on, among others, both the Mughals and the Bijapur sultanate, and established his own kingdom at Raigarh. This story is set in the time when Shivaji and his band occupy the fort at Torne, and are fighting essentially the armies of the Bijapur Sultan, whose vassals include at that point, Shivaji’s father Shahji. The story is told from the perspective of sixteen-year-old Sadashiv, who is thrown out from his village of Dongarhpur where he has been living with his uncle, to go and fend for himself. He decides (partly at the suggestion of his friend Kunku) to go and join the band of the brave Shivaji. He not only does that, but once trained as a soldier, he proves himself a brave and clever aide undertaking several dangerous missions like infiltrating the enemy camp, delivering messages in enemy territory and to people not so easy to reach, even outwitting dacoits, besides playing an important role in helping Shivaji fulfil his plans. There is also a little touch of ‘romance’ for Sadashiv but saying any more would just be a spoiler (but it does bring him some further adventure). The book is in the form of five connected, yet separate parts, each a complete adventure in itself.
(The Coronation of Shivaji)
Image Source:By Chitrashala Press – http://www.columbia.edu/itc/mealac/pritchett/00routesdata/1600_1699/marathas/raigarh/raigarh.html, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=18970994
Band of Soldiers made for a fairly fast paced and exciting read, which I enjoyed very much. Sadashiv is a likeable ‘hero’, courageous as well as resourceful, with presence of mind to do what the situation calls for and accomplish the task which he is assigned to do. I also felt that as the stories go on, we see Sadashiv grow as well―in the sense that while even initially he does prove his intelligence carrying out his missions, in the latter stories, he also comes up with the broader plans himself, when Shivaji’s own don’t work out as expected. He reminded me very much of G.A. Henty’s ‘heroes’, also in the same age bracket, showing similar bravado, and having similar adventures, and of the other book I’m currently reading Letter for the King, which also falls into the same category. I liked how the adventures of Sadhashiv have been woven into the stories of the historical characters, Shivaji, Tanaji, Jijabai and Shahji, among them. Unlike some (not all, of course) other historical fiction where historical characters merely make an appearance, or play a smaller part, in what is essentially the fictional character’s story, in this one, they are very much a part of the fictional character’s story as he is of theirs, and in a very believable way. The book also gives one a ‘feel’ of the period it is set in, from the uncertainty, danger, and want that was the daily life of people caught amidst warring armies, to things like what journeys for someone in Sadhashiv’s position would have been like, or even the kind of food (I always go there) that would have been eaten. We also see Shivaji’s progress through the stories as he captures through war and strategy fort after fort and more territory, on the way to establishing his kingdom. In fact, I read somewhere that Bandhyopadhyay was planning to write more these stories tracing the whole of Shivaji’s reign, but unfortunately didn’t end up finishing this. More about this here.
(Sadashiv finds treasure: illustration by Dipankar Bhattacharya, back cover of Band of Soldiers (Penguin, 2005) (apologies for the bad picture))
The translator I thought has done a very good job overall, and except at one or two points, one hardly feels one is reading a translation. I also loved the cover illustrations (both front and back) by Dipankar Bhattacharya, and wish that the publishers had thought to include some inside as well. As I mentioned, I’d only read one collection of Bandhyopadhya’s detective stories featuring Byomkesh Bakshi earlier, and this book, in a totally different genre, and indeed a completely different setting (both place and time) proved a very pleasant experience. I really enjoyed reading it and am looking forward to reading his other book By the Tungabhadra (also historical fiction, and available in translated form). Great read!
Last October onwards, I began reading the Five Findouters books by Enid Blyton, in chronological order for the first time. This was one of my favourite series as a child, and Blyton among my favourite authors (she still is), but while I had read all of the books (some many times over), I’d never read them in order. The Findouters are siblings Laurence ‘Larry’ and Margaret “Daisy’ Daykin, and Philip ‘Pip’ and Elizabeth ‘Bets’ Hilton, and Frederick Algernon Trotteville whose initials give him a very fitting nickname, Fatty, all of whom live in the English village of Peterswood. Larry is thirteen, the oldest of the lot, Pip, Fatty, and Daisy, twelve, and Bets only eight. The Findouters are of course not complete without Fatty’s Scottie Buster, who is as much part of the group and of any adventure they have, as children themselves. (They are after all the Five Findouters and Dog; this is unlike the Famous Five books where Timmy is one of the five).
The Findouters and Dog with Mr Goon, the village constable. The illustration is by Mary Gernat from the Mystery of the Spiteful Letters (Armada ed., 1988) and also appears in Eva Rice’s Who’s Who in Enid Blyton.
The findouters have their first outing in the Mystery of the Burnt Cottage, where Larry and Daisy, and their friends Pip and Bets smell a fire one night and step out to investigate. It is there, at the scene of the fire, in one of their neighbours’ homes, that the four first encounter a ‘fat boy’, who’s been staying at the local inn with his parents and who they don’t much like but who has a Scottie they all love. Before long, the five have formed a detective club of sorts, looking into the secret behind the fire at the cottage and staying a step ahead of the somewhat bumbling village Constable Mr Goon, who soon becomes something of an enemy. Along the way, they also make friends with Inspector Jenks who thinks highly of their skills and supports, and even relies on them through all the books. Inspector Jenks, who goes on to be Chief Inspector, and Superintendent as the series progresses, also gives them a talking to when they need it or when their tricks go that little bit too far. (My review of book 1 is on this page here: https://potpourri2015.wordpress.com/2017/10/28/reading-challenge-five-findouters/)
Burnt Cottage cover (1943 Methuen)
By the second book, the Mystery of the Disappearing Cat, Fatty’s parents have bought a house in and moved to Peterswood, so the findouters are together again in the next holiday (the four older children attend different boarding schools while Bets is still at home), this time to tackle the case of a prize Siamese cat, Dark Queen who belongs to the Hiltons’ neighbour, and who disappears not once but twice. My review is here https://potpourri2015.wordpress.com/2017/11/01/96/
Disappearing Cat cover (1990 Dean and Sons)
It is really in the third book, the Mystery of the Secret Room (no I’m not discussing each of the fifteen in separate paras) that Fatty begins to develop his detective skills, and pass them on to the others. He is by now thirteen (and Bets has turned nine), and he promises to teach the others what he’s learnt only if he is made head of the Findouters which the children agree to since of course, it is really he who solves all the mysteries. This adventure takes them to a mystery ‘furnished’ room in an otherwise empty house, and the secret that it holds. My review is here:https://potpourri2015.wordpress.com/2017/11/04/findouters-challenge-disguises-invisible-ink-and-secret-rooms/
With book 3 Fatty has begun to develop his detective skills, and these include over the books, writing in invisible ink (or since that’s much too expensive, orange/lemon juice, an effective substitute- it’s been used in real life), escaping from a locked room (if the key’s been left in the keyhole, outside, of course), disguising himself, and ventriloquism. Fatty uses all of these skills or a combination of different ones in their different adventures and also passes them on to the others. From tramp to old woman, to rag-and-bone man, Fatty assumes many guises fooling poor Mr Goon and most of the others almost always. Bets however, manages to spot him much of the time. He and the others use disguises to solve cases of course but also to prank poor Mr Goon, and even his nephew Ern (who makes his first appearance in the Mystery of the Hidden House [review: https://potpourri2015.wordpress.com/2017/11/15/findouters-challenge-enter-ern-goon/%5D, and after this in 5 titles, become more and more a friend of the children and a fairly good detective in his own right). Mr Goon is not to be left behind in the disguise game and tries his own hand at them (in the Mystery of the Missing Man [review: https://potpourri2015.wordpress.com/2018/03/20/findouters-challenge-where-fatty-meets-his-match-in-a-way/%5D, and in the Mystery of the Invisible Thief [review: https://potpourri2015.wordpress.com/2017/12/12/findouters-challenge-the-battle-of-the-disguises/%5D).
Fatty in disguise in the Mystery of the Missing Man. Illustration by Mary Gernat (Granada ed., 1984).
PC Goon in disguise, also in the Mystery of the Missing Man (1975 ed.). I used a book cover here because none of the pictures I took came through properly.
Each of the Findouters 15 mysteries pops up in successive school holidays, Easter, Summer, Christmas breaks. Their cases come to them in different ways, sometimes they simply stumble upon them, sometimes their friend Inspector Jenks seeks their help when they’ve come across something, and sometimes the tricks they play (upon Goon, Ern, and others) with false clues and mysteries lead them into real mysteries and adventures. Their ‘cases’ range from missing people and kidnapped children to robbery and stolen jewels, and even a poison pen (The Mystery of the Spiteful Letters, review: https://potpourri2015.wordpress.com/2017/11/05/findouters-challenge-a-poison-pen-in-peterswood/).
Spiteful Letters cover (Armada, 1988)
Solving their ‘cases’ involves not only clues the children pick up on, but also interviews of suspects and witnesses, shadowing, and proper detective work. Also, many of their cases are pretty complicated with a twist or two along the way which makes for interesting reading (the Disappearing Cat, and the Mystery of the Invisible Thief [review: https://potpourri2015.wordpress.com/2017/12/12/findouters-challenge-the-battle-of-the-disguises/%5D, for instance). What makes these books also stand out for me as mysteries (as a child and even now) is how imaginative some of the solutions are. This is not the case in all of the books but quite a few of them, and this is something that I enjoyed in all my revisits. Among the most imaginative are the Disappearing Cat, Missing Necklace (review:https://potpourri2015.wordpress.com/2017/11/07/findouters-challenge-on-the-trail-of-a-missing-necklace/), Holly Lane (review: https://potpourri2015.wordpress.com/2018/01/14/findouters-challenge-a-robbery-lots-of-food-and-some-well-deserved-payback/), Vanished Prince (review: https://potpourri2015.wordpress.com/2017/12/28/findouters-challenge-a-little-prince-goes-missing/), Strange Bundle (review: https://potpourri2015.wordpress.com/2017/12/30/findouters-challenge-fatty-the-venriloquist/), and Tally-Ho Cottage (review: https://potpourri2015.wordpress.com/2018/03/11/findouters-challenge-of-a-poodle-and-a-stolen-painting/ ).
Holly Lane and Vanished Prince: Some of the Findouters’ Cases with quite creative solutions. (Holly Lane cover, 1991 Dean and Sons; Vanished Prince cover 1951 Methuen). More disguises on the Vanished Prince cover.
All the children play a role in the investigations in most of the books, following suspects, following up on clues, and interviewing various people, and all this is done in a believable way, through family connections, people they meet in the course of the day, and such. But it is Fatty who puts everything together at the end, piecing together the jigsaw and coming up with the solution. (Fatty is a whiz at many things, though a bit of a boaster, but has usually done whatever he boasts of.)
Fatty (in the Mystery of Holly Lane, Dean and Sons, 1991, Illustration by Trevor Evans.
And very often, it is little Bets who picks up on the most important clue in the case―her observations or remarks are what leads Fatty to ultimately solve everything.The other children, Pip especially fails to see this often chiding her (in an older-brother way) for being childish and not knowing things. Pip too finds the all-important link in one book (the Invisible Thief). Ern Goon, Mr Goon’s nephew who the children initially make the target of one of their pranks, too plays an active role in many of the books that he appears in (Vanished Prince, Tally-Ho Cottage, Strange Messages, and Banshee Towers [review: https://potpourri2015.wordpress.com/2018/04/29/findouters-challenge-sea-paintings-and-two-crazy-dogs/%5D). In Tally-Ho Cottage and Strange Messages, particularly I though he showed great resourcefulness and courage, besides always being a loyal friend. One can’t write about Ern without writing about his ‘portry’ as he calls it (many of which start with ‘the Pore/Poor Old…’, which he always manages to begin can never finish, but Fatty who among his many skills sprouts poetry, can finish in no time. One of my favourites (or at least one that I always remember) from the Mystery of the Vanished Prince (started by Ern and finished by Fatty)
A pore old gardener said, “Ah me!
My days is almost done.
I’ve got rheumatics in me knee,
And now it’s hard to run.
I’ve got a measle in my foot,
And chilblains on my nose,
And bless me if I haven’t got,
Pneumonia in my toes.
All my hair has fallen out,
My teeth have fallen in,
I’m really getting rather stout,
Although I’m much too thin.
My nose is deaf, my ears are dumb,
My tongue is tied in knots,
And now my barrow and my spade,
Have all come out in spots.
My watering can is…”
And speaking of Ern, one must also mention his twin brothers Sid and Perce; Sid always has his mouth stuck with toffee which makes it hard for him to speak even when he has important things to tell. (Sid and Perce only appear in Vanished Prince but we hear of them in other stories as well). He also has twin cousins Liz and Glad who appear in Tally-Ho Cottage.
(Tally-Ho Cottage, 1965 Armada ed.)
Still on Ern, reading these stories as an adult I couldn’t help notice and disapprove of their attitude to Ern (especially initially) and Mr Goon. As far as Ern is concerned, they’re invariable checking him for his manners and commenting (Pip, particularly) on his being a coward as he’s scared of Mr Goon, but they think nothing of playing a mean trick on him which gets him into a fair bit of trouble with Goon, nor Pip of the fact that he himself is pretty terrified of his own parents. Plus, the children (other than Bets) seem always to doubt Ern’s intelligence or observations, not even always trusting what he says (probably because he belongs to a different (read: lower) rung of society), but still, in this I thought their behaviour not really acceptable. And then Goon (I never thought I’d be writing in his defence) but there are times when their tricks do go too far, and let’s face it, the children may be cleverer than Goon and able to put two and two together faster, but he is the policeman, so deliberately planting false clues and misleading him doesn’t exactly qualify as outsmarting him or good detective work. There are of course occasions when Goon too crosses the line, especially when it comes to Buster, and one can’t help but dislike him there (Holly Lane), and feel for poor Buster and the children, and cheer on when Fatty gets back at him.
Goon with Fatty and Mr Trotteville in Holly Lane, Fatty having outsmarted him after his nasty trick with Buster. Illustration by Trever Evans from the 1991 ed. (Dean and Sons).
One other thing I had a problem with (besides the childrens’ behaviour) was not to do with Blyton herself but with the ‘updated’ editions of these books (of which I happen to own a copy of Strange Messages) which make what I felt were unnecessary language changes which any child can understand (as did we), as well as one for political correctness that spoiled the whole intent behind its usage. I won’t rant too much here but I have in my review: https://potpourri2015.wordpress.com/2018/04/16/findouters-challenge-anonymous-messages-and-hidden-secrets-and-a-rant-about-the-new-eds/
On the point of pc-ness, an aspect of the books that might bother readers looking at these books with a ‘modern’ or present-day pov is that these aren’t the most politically correct books so bear that in mind when you read them. As far as I understand this, this was simply a reflection of the time when the books were written, I feel one needn’t attach too much to it (even if one does raise one’s eyebrows).
One can’t write about the Five Findouters or for that matter, any Enid Blyton book without talking about food. Most of the books are rather full with food (some overflowing), with not so much breakfasts and lunches and dinners (though these are there too), but more the teas and little treats in between, sandwiches and cake, macaroons and hot buns, lemonade and icecream in summer, and hot cocoa (and coffee, in one instance―Missing Man) in winter. Buster (and in the last book Ern’s dog Bingo) has his share too, with biscuits topped with potted meat, bones, and biscuits besides sharing the childrens’ icecreams as well (At the tea shop, separate ices are ordered for him too). In pretty much all of my reviews, I’ve rated the books on a ‘foodmeter’ not specific marks but low, average, and high (Pantomime Cat [review: https://potpourri2015.wordpress.com/2017/12/07/findouters-challenge-the-findouters-go-to-the-pantomime/%5D and Invisible Thief are among the ‘highs’).
Missing Man (another cover, Granada 1984)
This was overall a very enjoyable reading experience for me and while noticing issues such as the childrens’ behaviour did change the impression I had of the books (from my childhood reading), it didn’t spoil my enjoyment of them too much. I had great fun revisiting these, watching how the children first met, and developed their skills as detectives, how the findouters leadership changed (and rightly so), and especially, finding that the solutions to the mysteries that I found interesting (and different) as a child (and also on revisits from time to time) still come across as creative, and make these ‘proper’ detective stories, which stand out from Blyton’s other series.
For my next EB challenge, I plan to pick up a shorter series, and one that I haven’t really read that much as a child, Malory Towers (I read the St Clares books more and am thus more familiar with those as well). Like this challenge, I will of course be reading them in order, and my reviews will appear on this page as these have. So, time to set off to school!
First Term at Malory Towers cover (1946, Methuen)
[Pictures of illustrations are all mine: I’m not very good at this. All my reviews of the books (linked) are spoiler-free]
Findouters challenge: Book 15. The final book of the findouters series, this marks the end of my findouters challenge which I began last October. This one opens a little differently from the rest as while the children are setting out to receive Fatty as usual, this time around he comes by bus rather than train. There is no mystery waiting for Fatty to solve at the start, and as the childrens’ parents want them out of their hair, they suggest the children go on expeditions to different places around Peterswood. Meanwhile Ern has also come to the village, staying once again with Mr Goon, as one of his sisters has the measles, and this time around he’s brought with him his very own dog Bingo, who not only the children but also Buster takes to instantly. Ern gets into a bit of trouble with Mr Goon and moves into Fatty’s shed thereby also getting the time to join them on their expeditions. So almost Famous-Five-like, their first ‘trip’ takes them to Banshee Towers, an old house that now houses a gallery of sorts for sea pictures. Ern and Bets are awfully keen on seeing these and it is their interest, and Ern’s keen eye that gives them the first hint of mystery. On their very first trip they find some mysterious and rather unfriendly characters in Banshee Towers, the owner included, and also that a banshee actually wails there at a certain hour. Not only that, there is a mysterious trap door, and also a secret path from the outside, which Buster and Bingo have discovered, When Fatty and Ern return a second time to investigate, Ern notices something wrong with one of the paintings he was admiring the previous day. While the other children are not inclined to believe him at the start, Bets has noticed the same thing, and so begins their ‘investigation’ to discover what’s really going on in Banshee Towers.
This one lacked quite a few of the ‘trademark’ elements of the findouters stories, Fatty not disguising himself even once, and the children not pranking Mr Goon (the second bit was more welcome, because as I’ve been noticing this time around, they do tend to unnecessarily bother him, and do interfere with his work), except one little trick at the end. Mr Goon too, though wanting the findouters out of his hair, isn’t at his worst, and by the end is even ready to extend a friendly hand to the children, and one begins to wonder if this will work, but of course…. In this one also, the children are in no direct ‘competition’ with Mr Goon to solve the case, which makes things somewhat smoother. But this doesn’t mean Fatty doesn’t get to use some of the tricks he’s learnt or that the mystery is any the less dangerous or exciting, or the villains, any the less menacing. Ern, as has been the case in the last few titles in which he appears, plays a much more active role, and shows that he too is very bright (he’s proved himself enterprising too before―the children unfortunately still have that somewhat arrogant opinion of Ern’s brains not perhaps being as good as their own), even if not as much so as Fatty, who as usual pieces together the puzzle and works out the answers in what seems like no time at all, leading Chief Inspector Jenks to remark that they would both make good policemen. In fact, he can’t wait for Fatty to grow up and join the force. Ern’s is still at his portry as well, of course, but for a change, his pome does begin with ‘The poor old…’ :). The mystery while not overly complex did have some interesting elements to it, and it was nice to see how Fatty worked out some parts of the puzzle. On the foodmeter, this was above average, though the children don’t go to the tea shop as often as usual, there are teas, toffee, and biscuits in the shed, breakfasts and suppers for Ern, and also some treats for Buster and Bingo. Buster and Bingo I thought made a fun pair of crazy dogs who also played their part in the mystery, besides snapping away at poor Goon’s ankles. This was a fun read and a good close to the series, though if one reads the last lines, it reads like any entry in the series anticipating another mystery, though in this case, no other comes. Which means of course, that one simply has to start back at the beginning 🙂
At some point next week I will have a post reviewing the series as a whole, my experiences with this challenge, and of course plans for my next Blyton challenge, because of course, there’s going to be another one 🙂
Findouters challenge: Book 13. The thirteenth of the findouters books begins as usual but also somewhat unusually as well. The children are home again, this time for Easter break, and Fatty to everyone’s surprise is slimming (or attempting to slim, at any rate) for he has been selected for the tennis team at school and while he can hit his shots, running around the court with his current weight isn’t the easiest of things. Meanwhile the Trottevilles have visitors, a friend of Mr Trotteville, Mr Tolling a coleopterist is in Peterswood for a conference and brings along his daughter Eunice who turns out to be the one person Fatty can’t manage to get the better of. Meanwhile his attempts at disguising as a tramp (only for fun and in his shed) lead to his discovering that there is another mystery for the findouters to solve. There is a man the police are looking for, an ace of sorts at disguises and the police are certain he’s in Peterswood. With the fair in the village, and also the conference there are plenty of places to hide. The children are of course trying to solve the mystery before Mr Goon, yet again, but also in a way that Eunice who annoys them doesn’t get wind of what’s going on.
Reading this book, I noticed so many things that were different from the usual findouters books. There are the usual elements of course, school holidays, a mystery, a touch of boasting from Fatty, disguises, Mr Goon and Buster, and food of course. But for one, this book was the first in which I noticed the children drinking coffee―so far (If I haven’t missed it), it was mostly cocoa/chocolate in winter and endless lemonade in summer, so while ages aren’t mentioned in this one, one begins to realise they’re growing older. And then the mention of perms which quite surprised me for while the children weren’t talking of fashion in this case, this wasn’t something that pops up in their vocabularies in general. Then of course, there is Eunice herself, the first time someone who manages to ‘boss’ Fatty around a bit, and who he can’t seem to escape or get the better of. So even he isn’t invincible. Still, while she can be overbearing, no doubt, she’s got some fun in her as well and turns out far better than one would expect from when the book starts off. One sees more of Mrs Trotteville’s lighter side as well in this one. And yes, their equation was Goon is a lot different in this one as well―he still calls Fatty, that ‘toad of a boy’ and doesn’t want his interference, and Fatty still plays a trick or two on him but there isn’t that outright unpleasantness between them that is apparent in many of the books.
Anyway back to the mystery itself, this was again one that I’ve read many times before so though I was reading it after a long-ish gap and had forgotten some of the details, I did remember the solution. While not one of the most interesting, the solution was still fairly so, and one which I as a result enjoyed. This time around though, it was Fatty who worked it all out by himself, literally all of it. The denouement too, come to think of it was very unlike the rest of the series, considering (well that might be a spoiler of sorts)… On the foodmeter, this was certainly much above average. With all that slimming and talk of it, it is only to be expected that Fatty eats a lot more than usual. So yet another enjoyable one, though it seemed very different from the rest of the series.
The original illustrations are available here (but beware, there is a review with spoilers): http://www.enidblytonsociety.co.uk/bo…
(The site mentions the illustrations are by Lilian Bucanan from the first ed, but there are several on this page that I have in my ed and those are by Mary Gernat).
Findouters challenge: book 12. I started the Findouters challenge last October and have been reading these books in order since. Last month I took a bit of a ‘break’ from it as I was reading mainly historical fiction. But now I’m back to it, and plan to finish the series this month. The Mystery of Tally-ho Cottage was a book I last read many years ago, probably still in school, but not after unlike some of the other books in the series so all I really remembered about it was that it had the Larkins and the Lorenzos but who they were or what the mystery was about I didn’t remember at all. When I began reading though, the solution came back to me, and is certainly among the more creative and fun ones in the series. The story begins more or less the same, though this time Pip and Bets, Larry and Daisy are all in Peterswood while Fatty has been away for two weeks of the Christmas holiday. So, the opening is of course, the four and Buster (who Pip and Bets have been dog-sitting) setting out to the railway station to meet Fatty, due to arrive that day. There they or rather Buster get into a quarrel of sorts with a couple they later learn are the Lorenzos (tenants at Tally-ho Cottage)―the latter having accused Buster of ‘attacking’ their poodle Poppet. The matter settles down as the Lorenzos are leaving town and Poppet is to stay with the rather nasty caretakers of the cottage, the Larkins. Soon it emerges that the Lorenzos have stolen a valuable painting and taken off, and there is once again a mystery to solve. Meanwhile Ern is back in Peterswood staying with his other relatives the Wooshes, who happen to live just next to Tally-Ho giving him an opportunity to keep an eye on Tally-ho for Superintendent Jenks has forbidden Fatty to get involved.
This was another fun entry in the series with, as I wrote already, a pretty creative solution. As far as the ‘investigations’ are concerned, Ern takes a bit of a lead, building a tree- house and involving his twin cousins Liz and Glad in the process. (While the children are friendly to him, their attitude but for Bets is once again the same as ever Pip (who won’t make a noise in his house for fear of his strict parents) accusing Ern of not being brave, and almost all the children believing him to be loose lipped). Still, he catches on to some important things though it is Fatty and the others who interpret them. Also as usual, it is Bets who points to the all-important clue, unwittingly though in this one and Fatty catches on putting all the pieces into place as a result. But none of this before a couple of adventures in ‘disguise’, including as an ‘Indian’ (these bits are a bit exaggerated and stereotypical, but in good fun) to lead Goon a merry dance, as well as a midnight adventure. But yes, none of the planting of false clues and such, only playing tricks on Goon a little. Fatty also uses his mimicry and ventriloquism skills but to entertain rather than to ‘detect’. On the foodmeter, this one rated just ‘ok’―there was eating and drinking (scones, cocoa, gingerbread, cake) but it didn’t seem overflowing with food as some of their adventures are. A fun and entertaining read overall which I quite enjoyed.
A few of the original illustrations are available on the Blyton Society Page here: http://www.enidblytonsociety.co.uk/bo… (but it has a review with spoilers so avoid that if you haven’t read the book but plan to).
Findouters Challenge: Book 11. It’s Easter holidays again, and Bets and Pip are preparing to meet Fatty at the station as Fatty’s school breaks a week later than their own. Quite sure that Fatty will be in disguise again, the children get into a bit of a muddle when they mistake a Frenchman who is in Peterswood to visit his sister for Fatty but when the real Fatty turns up and is able to placate him with his impeccable French, he soon enough befriends the children. Meanwhile having no mystery at hand, the children decide to play the fool yet again, with Fatty taking Mr Goon in as a foreign lady who can read palms and Larry posing as a window cleaner doing some practice “shadowing”. But of course, their tricks lead them into a new mystery once again, when an old, nearly blind man in Hollies, a cottage on Holly Lane is robbed of all his savings, and the very next day, all his furniture is mysteriously stolen at midnight. Fatty just happens to be there to retrieve a window-leather Larry had dropped when cleaning the windows at Hollies, though he doesn’t till the next day catch on to what’s been happening. Once again, the children are in a race against Goon to try and beat him out at solving the mystery, where the chief suspect ends up being the old man’s granddaughter Marian, who did in deed look after her granddad very well but was the only one who knew where his money was and mysteriously vanished just after the money did.
This was one of my favourites as a child since I enjoyed the very creative solution to the mystery or at least part of it very much and though I hadn’t forgotten it, still enjoyed reading it very much. The part with Mr Henri convalescing, sitting by the window at his sister’s house had a bit of a “rear window” touch to it. In some books in this series, I found myself finding fault with the children for the kind of tricks they played on Mr Goon, who isn’t the most likeable of people, no doubt but doesn’t always deserve how far they go. But in this one, my reaction was quite the opposite. Mr Goon does a rather detestable thing with Buster, having him falsely accused and captured and it was fun watching how Fatty got back at him. In fact, I enjoyed seeing Mr Trotteville, who usually comes across as quite stern, approving of Fatty’s “revenge” and having fun at watching it play out. On the foodmeter again, this one rates fairly high with plenty of scrumptious teas and icecream, cake and macaroons, and Buster getting his favourite dog biscuits topped with potted meat. This was also one where Chief-Inspector Jenks, now Superintendent Jenks takes the children out for a treat with plenty more food. As far as solving the case was concerned, in this one it was Fatty who really did pretty much everything, catching on to the important clues and solving everything at the end, besides of course having a very good time with his disguises. So a really fun read which I thoroughly enjoyed (though modern readers may find some things non-PC about this one).