Thursday, 7 April 2011

F is for... Famous Five

The Famous Five consisted of Julian, Dick, George, Anne, and Timmy the dog. They ate smashing picnics, went off on their own, and had amazing adventures that resulted in lost treasure being found, baddies being delivered to policemen, and no one ever getting hurt.

The characters are rather two-dimensional, and their personality hangs off the attributes Enid Blyton has given them - Julian is dependable and authoritative, Dick is impulsive and rash, George is stubborn and independent, Anne is quiet and gentle. They are rarely allowed to act another way – we don’t see Julian as insecure, Dick as cautious, George as needy, Anne as demanding. In this way the characters are very satisfying to young child-readers as they can predict outcomes and ways of behaviour. For older and adult readers, who are not the audience anyway, the characters are less satisfying for the same reason, although the books fulfil a nostalgic pleasure.

When I was little I called my first cat ‘Timmy’ so we could be the Famous Two. Sadly there was a distinct lack of castles, smugglers, caves, well-spoken apologetic baddies, islands, and gypsy caravans for us to make a real good go at things. Still, we solved the Mystery of the Missing Sock, so there’s some vindication.

I still have all my Famous Five books and love to occasionally dip back into those days, back to when the sun was always shining, and mysteries were around every corner... or, in the case of the Missing Sock, in every drawer.

The Famous Five
Published: 1942 – 1962
Author: Enid Blyton
Illustrator: Eileen Soper

Famous fact one: I used to interview celebrities
Famous fact two: Favourite actor interviews were with Will Smith, Josh Hartnett and Ryan Reynolds.
Famous fact three: Favourite music interviews were with Bananarama, Level 42, and Marti Pellow
Famous fact four: Favourite author/artist interviews were with Martin and Tanis Jordan, Jason Cockcroft, and Jill Barklem
Famous fact five: I also used to make costumes for West End musicals, including The Lion King and Phantom of the Opera

Three A-Z Highlights for 'F'
Katie Mills at Creepy Query Girl posts about the Family at Creepy Manor
Our lovely instigator, Arlee Bird at Tossing it Out, posts about a Faraway Friend
Misha at My First Book talks about Fear


Cheree said...

I haven't actually read any of the Famous Five's... I really need to start catching up on the earlier books.

Sophia Richardson said...

Oh good lord this is going to sound so creepy but I kind of want your life. Maybe just the interviewing Will Smith and making costumes for West End plays part. Did you design the costumes too? These sound like great books to read to a little person, you'd get so caught up in the adventure you wouldn't notice the 2d characters.
- Sophia.

Out on the prairie said...

So you are one of the five still.You have had some unique experiences.This series sounds real close to the Hardy Boys series, which I really enjoyed.

Old Kitty said...

The Famous Five!!!!! I have read them - but do I remember them?!?!

I have no idea why I can't remember a single one!! I must re-read!!!!

Take care

Carole Anne Carr said...

Oh gosh! The Famous Five. I grew up in the 40's and those books made the bleak war years bearable.

Laura Marcella said...

Your famous facts are so cool! What interesting jobs you've had.

KarenG said...

What? How did I miss these books? Were they only in the UK? This is just the kind of series I would have loved as a kid.

Sue H said...

I never read the Famous Five (or the Secret Seven, either!) - whenever I would go to the local library ALL the copies would be out on loan. There was a bit of snobby 'one-upmanship' amongst my schoolfriends about how many of these adventures they'd read - so probably just as well that I didn't jump on the bandwagon.

Maybe it's just a 'series' thing because I did read various Enid Blyton 'standalones' - 'The Treasure Hunters' and 'Shadow the Sheep Dog' were my favourites!

I agree with you about the stereoptyping of individual characters - but this was written in an age when conforming to society's unwritten rules was important!

SueH I refuse to go quietly!

lesleylsmith said...

Jayne, your "F" post was charming. :)
Thanks! Somehow, all your many adventures would make an awesome novel or two, or three...
Kids would love a "Famous Two" adventure series, I bet.
Adults would love a story about an interviewing, costume-making, etc. adventuress. :)
Good luck!

Donna Weaver said...

*gasp* I think I read these when I was a kid! Thanks for the reminder.

Nicole said...

I didn't read the Famous Five books as a kid and don't think I've ever been familiar with it but they sound pretty neat.

I also like the imagery here in your post. They look like paintings. Are they, or are they from the books?

None of those great things seem to top your life experiences though, interviewing celebrities and such.

I'd be interested to learn how you got those costume designing gigs and what your experiences (time frames for completion, working atmosphere, materials used, people you met, lessons you learned etc.) were for each of those productions.

The Madlab Post

Jayne said...

Sophia - Hee! You don't want my life really - it's pretty non-eventful at the moment! I didn't design the costumes, just made (some bits of) them - they were a collaborative effort!

KarenG - was Enid Blyton big in America? Perhaps she was more of a UK author, I have no idea! She was amazingly prolific - 40 books a year I think.

Nicole - the imagery is from the covers of the books, the larger pic is a detail from Five on a Treasure Island. As for the other questions - I think I'll do a blog post about it sometime. :)

Kit Courteney said...


Secret Seven and Famous Five were my absolute faves BMT (before Malory Towers) and I was SO George.

I sort of turned into Anne along the way though... Bit worrying really, as I had a massive crush on Julian!

Jeanne said...

Love your post. I have not heard of the Famous Five. I read lots of older books throughout my days but have not seen them. I love your humor and your voice. Will be following you to see what else is going on.

Noemi said...

I loved those books!! I have read them so many times that I knew them almost by heart.

Sara Harricharan said...

Lovely! I was introduced to these by my mother who remembers them as some of the first books she ever read. I loved them because of that simplistic quality.

Grandpa said...

Hi Jayne, you really bring me down memory lane with this. I grew up reading I think every single book in this series. Enid Blyton wrote in such a way that it was difficult to put the books down until you finished them. I felt like I was with the famous five in their adventures.

Life on The Farm

joss said...

awwww I remember the famous five been a long time since I read those books lol

Anonymous said...

I have all of Mum's hardback Famous Five books and read them over and over when I was growing up. I must get one out and read it again. Would be quite a laugh. :o)

Plain Jane said...

I think I read one of these books once, but never the series. It is ringing a bell, but not loudly.

Madeleine said...

My Ma in her wisdom never let me raed Enid Blyon. I read a couple when I was in my 30's and realised what everyone saw in them. :O)

Pamela Terry and Edward said...

Costumes??? I could use you on Halloween!

Anonymous said...

Keep posting stuff like this i really like it

Roxanne said...

I'm re-reading all the Famous Fives at the moment for my blog - totally agree with you about the 2D characters, I want Anne to just once prove to the others she's more than a silly little girl, but it hasn't happened so far... I think Timmy has a more rounded and developed character than poor Anne.