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Enid Blyton

From Academic Kids

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Enid Blyton (1897–1968)

Enid Blyton (August 11, 1897November 28, 1968) was a British children's author. She is noted particularly for numerous series of books, based on recurring characters and designed for different age groups.

Her prolific output involved mainly escapist children's fantasy, which sometimes involved the supernatural. Her books were immensely popular in Britain and Australia, and were translated into 40 languages, including Spanish, French, German, Japanese and Hebrew. Translated versions became and have remained extremely popular in many parts of Europe.

Best known of her works are:

She wrote hundreds of other books for young and older children—an estimate puts her total book publication at around 600 titles, not including decades of magazine writing. It is said at one point she produced 10,000 words a day. Such astonishingly prolific output led many to believe that some of her work was ghost written, but such ghost writers have not emerged.

In her last few years of life she suffered from Alzheimer's Disease, and her work rate rapidly declined almost to nothing.

Subject matter and controversies

Blyton's books managed to tap into the dreams of pre-pubertal children. The code words are 'mystery' and 'adventure'. Children are free to play and explore without adult interference, more clearly than in most authors before or since.

The books are very much of their time, particularly the 1950s titles. They reflect a none-too-subtle version of Britain's class system, as in rough versus well-behaved. Undoubtedly present are some stereotypes on gender. Some argue, from a current perspective, that the portrayal of Golliwogs, amongst others, was racist. On the other hand, the Famous Five displayed a remarkably modern equality of teamwork between the sexes.

It was frequently reported, in the 1950s and also from the 1980s onwards, that various children's libraries removed some of Blyton's works from the shelves. The history of such 'Blyton bans' is confused. Some librarians certainly at times felt that Blyton's restricted use of language, a conscious product of her teaching background, militated against appreciation of more literary qualities.

Much play has been made of naive language permitting double entendre (e.g. a tendency to imagine sexual connotations, for instance, Noddy "jumping into bed" with Big Ears, another character, clearly not intended by the author). This is probably journalistic froth. This whole area is subject to urban myths and the carefree retelling in newspapers of anecdotes as factual (recycling the old press cuttings, in fact) making it somewhat difficult to discern the truth.

A more careful account of anti-Blyton attacks is given in Chapter 4 of Robert Druce's This Day Our Daily Fictions. The British Journal of Education in 1955 carried a piece by Janice Dohn, an American children's librarian, considering Blyton's writing together with authors of formula fiction, and making negative comments about Blyton's devices and tone. A 1958 article in Encounter by Colin Welch, directed against the Noddy character, was reprinted in a New Zealand librarians' periodical. This gave rise to the first rumour of a New Zealand 'library ban' on Blyton’s books, a recurrent press canard. Policy on buying and stocking Blyton's books by British public libraries drew attention in newspaper reports from the early 1960s to the end of the 1970s, as local decisions were made by a London borough, Birmingham, Nottingham and other central libraries. There is no evidence that her books' popularity ever suffered. She was defended by populist journalists, and others.

Modern reprints of some books have had changes made (such as the replacement of Golliwogs with teddy bears). This is publishers' reaction to contemporary attitudes on racial stereotypes, and probably enforced by market conditions. It has itself drawn some criticism, from those adults who view it as tampering with an important piece of the history of children's literature. The Druce book brings up a single case of a story, The Little Black Doll, with a clear racist message (the doll wanted to be pink), which was turned on its head in a reprint.

See also

References

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Enid Blyton Biography
  • Enid Blyton (1952) The Story of My Life
  • Barbara Stoney (1974) Enid Blyton, 1992 The Enid Blyton Biography, Hodder, London ISBN 0340583487 (paperback) ISBN 0340165146
  • S. G. Ray (1982) The Blyton Phenomenon
  • Bob Mullan (1987) The Enid Blyton Story
  • George Greenfield (1998) Enid Blyton
  • Robert Druce (1992) This Day Our Daily Fictions: An Enquiry into the Multi-Million Bestseller Status of Enid Blyton and Ian Fleming

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