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Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Five on a Treasure Island - From the Stacks Challenge

I read Five on a Treasure Island for one of my From the Stacks Challenge books. Enid Blyton had cropped up on so many lists of Beloved Children's Books that I ordered the first in the Famous Five series and The Faraway Tree to get a taste of Blyton.

Unfortunately, I don't have that special feeling that envelopes a book that you've read and loved in your own childhood. (For me that would include L.M. Montgomery's Ann books, Pippi Longstocking, The Borrowers, The Five Little Peppers, etc.) Fortunately, I discovered these and can pass them on to my grandchildren. The book is, as is often the case from this earlier time period, a potent mixture of innocence and adventure. The characters are thinly drawn, there are didactic messages of the importance of friendship, loyalty, and sharing, and there is remarkable freedom from parental supervision. Add a dash of deserted island, the ruins of a castle, the mystery of hidden gold, some bad guys, and the creative resourcefulness of children and voila: a perfect confection for early readers.

The freedom from parental supervision is a common theme in children's books, and is even more evident in light of current practices. How many parents today would allow their children the freedom at 9, 10, and 11 years old to row out to the island, negotiate the danger of the rocky coast, and not be particularly worried when a bad storm develops? No life jackets. And those are the minimal skills of these children, who think fast and take decisive action to defeat the adults who would steal the gold and who threaten to shoot the beloved dog Tim.

My daughter and I have discussed the changes in the area of freedom in children's lives before--the freedom my parents had as children, the freedom of my own childhood, the more circumscribed life of my children, and the even more closely supervised lives of children today. Easy to see the appeal of children who are allowed the independence of the Famous Five (or the Boxcar Children or Pippi).

Since Five on a Treasure Island is the first in this series, some time is committed to the circumstances in which Julian, Dick, and Ann meet their cousin George (Georgina), develop their friendship, and bond with George's dog Tim. I imagine the rest of the series falls more quickly into the mystery/adventure narrative.
The books are for very young readers or (one of the things I loved beyond telling when my children were young) for the reading of a parent to the child. What a great way to end the day, one chapter at a time.


  1. Count me as another one who never read these books as a child. At least you discovered some more reading material for your grandkids!

    Anne holds a special place in my heart, too. I still have my collection (along with the Little House series).

  2. Hi, Jenclair

    I grew up reading "The Famous Five" and "The Secret Seven" series, but I wonder how I would feel to read them today. You've made me want to pick up one of those books just to see if I would still rate them as some of the best-loved books of my childhood.

  3. Lesley - I started making my way back through the Ann books this summer, but have gotten side-tracked. :(

    Lotus - I don't think Five on a Treasure Island would hold up in the way that some children's books do, which is why I put "early readers" in my post. Some children's books continue their appeal in content and style, others have more the "first love" quality that wouldn't appeal later.

    However, as I didn't fall in love with The Famous Five as a child, I'm not sure. I sincerely doubt that The Boxcar Children and The Five Little Peppers would have the same appeal for me today. Not that it changes my love for them!

  4. I, too, have never read any books by Enid Blyton and have only learned about them from other bloggers. I am also sad to say that I didn't read that much as a child and so I've never read Anne or Boxcar Children or The Five Little Peppers, although I am familiar with the titles.