Friday, 21 August 2015

Summer of Children's Classics - My Favourite Classic by Nicki - Solving mysteries, finding clues and meeting the five find-outers

My favourite classics are probably the Mystery Series by Enid Blyton, particularly as I have been reading and enjoying them all over again with my own children very recently.

I loved Enid Blyton. I loved those epic friendships of Darrell Rivers in Malory Towers with its sea-bathing and midnight feasts, I got caught up in the adventures of the Famous Five and Secret Seven. But my favourites, the ones I loved most, were the slightly lesser-known, but utterly brilliant, Mystery stories.

The first was published in 1943, with around one a year published until 1957. The final mystery ‘The Mystery of Banshee Towers’ appeared in 1961, just seven years before Blyton’s death.

I loved the fact that the mysteries were straightforward, yet always supremely clever. None of your murders and international espionage here. They were about friends being accused of stealing, of investigating why a room should be fully furnished in an empty house, of locked room puzzles and stolen pets. The sort of mysteries you could definitely picture yourself stumbling upon in real life (and solving of course).

I think that’s what I loved about them – that and the clues. The clues were brilliant. Usually the oddest and most obscure one that no-one take seriously and no-one can figure out is the one that cracks the case wide open.

I also loved all the detective tips. Possibly my favourite is ‘The Mystery of the Secret Room’ because the lead detective, Fatty, gets captured by the crooks and has to hope the other find-outers will be clever enough to spot he has written a secret note in invisible ink to save them all walking into a trap. Plus, they learn how to get out of a locked room, something else I remember trying myself when I was thrilled to eventually find the right sort of door (basically big key and no carpet – I can show you how).

There is something about going to back to an old favourite book that can make you approach with jitters. One of the great joys of reading surely has to be that we always put something of ourselves into the activity of reading, so we definitely get different things out of books at different times. Perhaps that is why some books simply fail to have that same impact when we go back to them.

So I was really relieved when I started to read the Mystery stories to my own children that not only have they absolutely loved them, but I have enjoyed reading them again as well and I’ve appreciated them all over again as an adult.

What I had forgotten was the humour. So much of the story isn’t about a mystery at all – it is all about the children’s relationship with the awful Mr Goon, the local bobby, who hates the children and always wants to solve any mysteries first (but fails, of course).

Fatty puts on disguises to fool him and the children are not above leaving false clues and trails, and sending him up terribly and in return he locks them up and reports them to their parents at every opportunity. But of course the children always ultimately get the better of him.

So they are funny, clever and exciting all at the same time and definitely stand up to being read again, particularly if you like mystery/adventure stories.

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