My eldest is making her way through her first Secret Seven book. So far, very little has happened; three chapters in and they still haven’t come across the “spooky old house in the snow” the jacket blurb promised. We get the impression she’s not enjoying it much but upwards and onwards. She might be a Barbie and Disney princess addict (which is more about the dressing up clothes anyway) but she’s not a fan of genteel stories involving copious buns and homemade jam, she’s more thrilled by dark, stormy, uncanny adventure stories. She watches Doctor Who on repeat, chooses to watch Indiana Jones films and is now obsessed with BBC’s Sherlock – and has been asking about Sherlock Holmes books. She’s a modern child, fluff, the quaint and the genteel just won’t cut it. So, are Enid Blyton’s books now outdated to her generation?
I’m not sure they are but there’s a lot to be said for the way things are being presented to kids. To be perfectly honest, I’m not sure the new Secret Seven covers look particularly enticing to anyone, never mind adventure-minded kids looking for an exciting story. The characters look blobby and so cartoonish, it looks like the story must utterly trivial – they look even less thrilling than The Nancy Boys and Hardy Drew. The Secret Seven books in my old school library were published in the 1960s and looked suitably exciting, intriguing and practically forced you to read them, much like the very first book I chose from that library, an old, battered but thrilling-looking Mystery Stories collection. As I recall, I very much judged the book by its cover (albeit as a 6-year-old) and it worked for me. I’m not sure how well the new editions of The Secret Seven series are doing, sales-wise, but I simply cannot imagine any imaginative, adventurous young thrill-seeker choosing one of them from the racks.
I hope she can be persuaded that The Secret Seven stories are worth pursuing, though – although I was more of a Famous Five fan, myself. My introduction to Enid Blyton was actually the book at the top, Mr Meddle’s Muddles, bought for me by my grandmother. From the cover (as well as the title) you can tell that the protagonist is someone who, with the very best of intentions, makes a balls of everything and is avoided by practically everyone in his village. It’s a timely reminder, as if we needed it, that you must be so careful about what books to buy for children at such an early stage of their development.