We had all twenty-one Famous Five books when I was young, and I read them all. Actually, we had twenty, number two in the series was missing so I begged my mum to buy it because I needed to read them all! With much older siblings (aged 12, 11, 10 & 5 when I was born) the books had been bought over the years and had a variety of covers from late 1960’s versions to late 1970’s with pictures from the TV series (which I’ve still never seen) I forget what ‘my’ cover was, whatever was published in about 1983/4 when I voraciously read the series aged 8 or 9.
Mighty-Girl is now seven and although a great reader, she doesn’t seem to have the concentration span to read novels and gets distracted very easily. Something I find hard to relate to as I was powering my way through books at her age! She loves colour pictures too, so finds novels off-putting, but most colour reads are too ‘easy’ for her.
I therefore jumped at the chance to review one of these Famous Five colour short stories aimed at 7-9 year olds. However, getting MG to read it in time for a review is apparently a tall order (she does things her way) so I ended up reading it aloud instead. It works well as a read aloud, and is short enough to read in one sitting. At 80 pages split into eight chapters, it’s also challenging enough for newly independent readers to get their teeth into.
It was hard not to giggle at some of the language with an adult mind, but of course children aren’t aware of the connotations of Dick or Aunt Fanny, and also aren’t phased by phrases like “golly gosh” (I went to school with someone who used this phrase in all seriousness) and “jolly exciting”. I’m not entirely sure that Anne really should have been “fondling Timmy” though…
We received Five and a Half-Term Adventure, the first of a series of eight colour reads (two currently published, with two more following in April and a further two in September) and jokes about the language aside, it’s actually much fun.
The Five are at Kirrin cottage for half term (four whole days! I remember being mortified that my secondary school had four day half terms, although by the time I left they were longer) and decide to go for an Autumn walk. Silly old Ju has forgotten to wind his watch though, and by the time they realise it’s too late to walk back so they catch a train (this is pre-Beeching, of course, with local trains.) But who are those two suspicious characters on the train, and could it be a mystery to solve? I say!
What really makes these books though, is the fabulous artwork by Jamie Littler. Picturing the children as modern children, with modern trains, and modern phones, allows the story to work for a modern reader. And Timmy the dog is adorably cute! The pictures are full of interest and fun, I’d buy these books for the illustrations alone.
Oops, I seem to have managed to have written this entire review without mentioning Enid Blyton. She wrote the stories of course. But these gorgeous little books are all about the illustrations! You can see some of them at Jamie Littler’s blog. These are books which modern children will find a joy to read, and may tempt them into more ‘classics’ from bygone days…
Disclosure: Received for review from Hachette Children’s Books.