LASHINGS OF GINGER BEER

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The Independent Culture
"Where can you find the Snoogle, the Nice-Looking Witch and Sir Stamp- a-Lot?" "Which Enid Blyton character was named after the writer's second husband?" "Why was Big Ears worried about Noddy?"

You will find the answer to these queries, and many others, in the pages of Who's Who in Enid Blyton by Eva Rice (Richard Cohen Books, pounds 12.99). Even more gripping is the revelation that Tim Rice (the author's father) "has always been a great fan" of the St Clare series. Eva Rice stresses in her foreword that this is not an exhaustive compendium: "I know that I will be upsetting someone who cannot understand why, for instance, Barker, the black spaniel from Hollow Tree House, has not been listed, or Prickles the hedgehog ..."

Rice enlisted the help of fellow fans to meet the deadline imposed by the 100th anniversary of Blyton's birth last Monday. Hurrah for cousin Alex, who tackled the Famous Five! Three cheers for James Preece, "a 22- year-old self-confessed Blyton obsessive whose knowledge of the Faraway Tree and the Wishing Chair remains unparalled". Quite a lot of the entries read like a bad acid trip ("Winks is imprisoned for eating part of someone's house, but escapes by eating through the chocolate-cake prison walls") - perhaps Blyton on the fairy folk is best left to specialists like James.

Perhaps most enjoyable for the general reader are the entries on such famous series as Malory Towers ("[in Alicia Johns] Blyton comes close to producing the Jennifer Saunders of her generation"), and of course the Famous Five, whose "adventures always take place in the school holidays and appear to span 12 years" - so the oldest member, Julian, would be 24 by the end. Exactly what breed of dog Timmy is remains a matter for conjecture.

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