Reading challenge book 5 – A book from your childhood
The Famous Five and the Blue Bear Mystery, by Claude Voilier (!)
Amazon link here
Enid Blyton wrote the original Famous Five series, which had twenty-one books, but, what many people will not know is that there was another Famous Five series! Written by Claude Voilier, in French! And then translated into English, because the English public just couldn’t get enough of the Famous Five!
You may mock, but I was a die-hard Famous Five fan when I was little, and I couldn’t get enough of the books. I remember spending all my pocket-money on the Famous Five books, and I accepted (mostly) unquestioningly the fact that there were two series of Famous Five books – even though some of the books in the second series were uncannily similar to the originals! (Very suspicious! Seriously though, there were a couple that pretty much had the exact same plots – how Voilier escaped plagiarism charges, I’m not quite sure!)
So, as a teeny person, I read all of the original series and all of the bizarre French series, except for one – you’ve guessed it – the Blue Bear Mystery. Mum and I couldn’t get it anywhere, despite visiting book shops all across London which not only didn’t stock the book but were unable to order it in.
A mystery indeed!
My mother assumed that it had been withdrawn because it was horrifically un-PC in some way and, eventually, I resigned myself to never reading it. But then came along this book challenge and I realised that with the power of the interwebs, I could fulfil my destiny!
It’s probably not surprising that after twenty-five plus years of anticipation, I was underwhelmed!
First off, the blue bear was not (as I had hoped) a polar bear dyed blue and smuggled out of a circus or something similar, but was a little teddy-bear that Julian bought for Anne that just happened to contain a Clue! The rest of the plot was pretty prosaic – biking around the countryside, investigating a Mystery, discovering stolen paintings, etc etc. There wasn’t any ginger beer. Timmy said ‘Woof!’ multiple times – apparently dogs don’t bark in Enid Blyton land, but they don’t exactly have a wide vocabulary either.
Enid Blyton is now seriously out-of-fashion, so why did I enjoy her books so much as a child?
Some of her books showed incredible imagination and creativity, such as the Faraway Tree series. While some series like the Famous Five were predominantly set in England or the wider UK, heroes and heroines from other books travelled to exciting and exotic locations such as Egypt (at least, I think) and far-off war-torn countries. All of her books allowed the children starring in them a significant degree of freedom – to explore the woods, go camping for a week, and to be captured by an African cult living inside a mountain for sacrifice.
There were some wonderful descriptions of pets and affectionate human-animal relationships within Enid’s books. George and Timmy, Jack and Kiki, Philip and every animal he ever met… Huffin and Puffin in the Sea of Adventure! While obviously not a naturalist, I think it’s fair to say that Enid Blyton loved animals and passed on that love to her characters.
Finally, who could fail to love the descriptions of midnight feasts which included fruit cake, tinned peaches, slabs of chocolates, and lashings and lashings of ginger beer? My childhood was full of sleepovers where my friends and I would try to stay awake until midnight for a midnight feast. (Most of the time we didn’t manage and ended up having six in the morning feasts instead.) I was lucky in that my parents were much more tolerant of such attempts than hose of most of my friends!
So, who would I recommend this book to? Sadly, I don’t think I’d recommend it to anyone. But I do have a lot of nostalgia for my days of reading Enid Blyton, and if I had a daughter, I hope that she would love the Mallory Towers series as much as I did.