The Famous One
by Kate Forsyth
KATE FORSYTH comes out fighting for ENID BLYTON, the author she loved most passionately as an eight-year-old and who, like Agatha Christie, has suffered from a poor press in recent years.
For quite a few years, nothing gave me such a thrill as being given a new Famous Five book. Since there were 21 in the series, my family found choosing Christmas and birthday presents a breeze. I daydreamed about exploring secret passages and mysterious castles, thwarting smugglers, discovering buried treasure and having a dog called Timmy with an uncanny prescience of danger. My sister and I used to fight over who would get to be George, the girl-who-was-as-good-as-a-boy.
Confessing to all this is actually quite hard. Blyton has been sneered at for so many years. One critic described her as 'colourless, dead and totally undemanding'; another as 'slow poison' (ouch!) If one wants to be taken seriously, one does not admit to a childish love of Enid Blyton. Let alone to still enjoying her as a grownup.Noddy books were banned for many years, ostensibly because of their racism. Critics condemned Blyton for 'habitually presenting (golliwogs) & in evil and menacing roles', thereby giving children a negative impression of black people. Blyton herself protested that she depicted more bad teddies than golliwogs. Statistically she was right. A close examination of the Noddy books shows that golliwogs were wicked in only one story, out of twenty-four books in total, with the real villains more likely to be monkeys or goblins. Nonetheless, the Noddy books became such an active signifier of racism that the mere mention of the name could provoke a ban, as happened with a production of David Wood's play Noddy in 1993.
From the July, 2006 magazine.