How the Famous Five became a burden for Enid Blyton

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The Independent Online
Enid Blyton grew tired of writing her Famous Five books, and only continued because her publishers insisted, the author's daughter Gillian Baverstock told the Edinburgh Book Festival yesterday.

Miss Baverstock said her mother had only wanted to write six of the Famous Five series but churned out 21 between 1942 and 1963. "She told me she was getting a bit tired of some of the characters," Ms Baverstock said.

Today is the 100th anniversary of Enid Blyton's birth and her daughter began the celebrations yesterday by leading a workshop for young children at the festival. It was a little confusing for some of the under-fives, a few of whom confessed afterwards that they thought it had been Enid Blyton herself talking to them.

Miss Baverstock said her mother never planned a story in advance, and wrote each Famous Five story in five days. She said she would come in from school each day, pick up a pile of papers that her mother had been writing, rush up to her bedroom and read them and ask her mother what happened next. She would reply: "I don't know what's coming next. I won't know until I've finished the story." Typing 10,000 words a day was not a problem for her mother, she said.

Miss Baverstock is lending her support to a new marketing campaign to sell Enid Blyton to the Americans. Though Blyton sells 8.5 million copies a year worldwide, her sales in America are tiny. Now, the Enid Blyton Company, owned by Trocadero plc which bought the rights to Blyton last year, has authorised a new animation of Noddy complete with American accents for showing on American television next year. Miss Baverstock defended this yesterday, saying: "Quite honestly, you have to translate books to go into the USA now. Real English has diverged so much from American English."

The new Noddy animation series will be made in a Canadian animation house called Catalyst. There will also be some film in the series from the British company Cosgrove Hall, but the bulk will be Canadian and both Noddy and Big Ears will have North American accents. The series will be shown on PBS, America's public broadcasting service, next year.

Miss Baverstock also said her mother had written many stories that were never published, and the Enid Blyton Company confirmed yesterday that it was examining 300 unpublished stories in the Blyton archives, and intended to turn some into television series.

Signing Noddy, Famous Five and Secret Seven books for children at the book festival yesterday, Miss Baverstock delighted each child and parent by telling them what her mother thought about the book, when and how it was written and also giving her own opinion of it. The queue moved very slowly.

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