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Enid Blyton’s work continues to appeal to children

She was a marketing and publicity success in a time when writers were just writers. She ensured her work as well as her name became a ‘brand’ before the concept was popularised.

editorials Updated: Aug 10, 2018 19:16 IST
Enid Blyton,Books,Children's fiction
Children's author Enid Blyton (1897 - 1968) (Getty Images)

One of the world’s most prolific children’s writers was born on this day 121 years ago in south London. Enid Blyton’s more than 750 books have sold more than 600 million copies, been translated into more than 90 languages, and still continue to sell about 8 million copies a year. In spite of having been criticised for lacking literary merit — the BBC had refused to broadcast her work till the 1950s for this reason — her books continue to spur children to read. In a world where children increasingly turn to other pursuits instead of reading, the importance of writers such as Blyton, Roald Dahl, and JK Rowling is more than just literary merit.

Blyton was a marketing and publicity success in a time when writers merely wrote. She ensured her work as well as her name became a brand before the concept was popularised. Her trademark signature on the covers of her books, her ability to capture the imagination of children, and the sheer number of books that she managed to write made her unique in the annals of children’s fiction. To her critics, she famously said that she didn’t care about any critic above the age of 12, and was unabashedly simple in her storylines. From Noddy to the Secret Seven, from the girls at Malory Towers to the lands on top of the Faraway Tree, Blyton’s work has appealed to children of all ages.

But alongside her fame, criticism of her work and her personal life has always clouded Blyton’s legacy. Her second daughter, Imogen Smallwood, has gone on record to call her mother emotionally immature and pretentious. But this account differs from that of her older daughter, Gillian Baverstock, who has said her mother was fair, loving, and a fascinating companion. Blyton was also once accused of having employed many ghost writers for it was considered impossible for a person to write as much as she did — a charge she vehemently denied.

In spite of the allegations of racism of the golliwogs and the simplistic tales of good versus wicked children, Blyton’s tales have enough complications to keep children asking for more. From the delightfully deaf Saucepan Man, who constantly mishears everything to the “tomboy” George in the Famous Five, who was a girl who loved to dress as a boy, the characters of Blyton’s many stories have enthralled readers for generations. Even the present generation of schoolchildren, with screens that compete with physical books, have found her charm irresistible.

First Published: Aug 10, 2018 19:16 IST