Kindle Entertainment, the London based independent television production company has announced its plan to revive the celebrated ‘Famous Five’ series of children’s books. But how will the jolly, ginger beer-swilling band of Julian, Dick, Anne, George and Timmy the dog be received by today’s young audience?
It is almost 45 years since Enid Blyton passed away and approximately half a century since the last book from the ‘Famous Five’ series was published. Now, in what may appear to be a rather nostalgic departure, the crime fighting team of children are set to make a return to the small screen.
“What a spiffing idea”. I hear many people of the older generation cry. And in a way, I agree. The ‘Famous Five’ had something very wholesome about them. Every story was served with a good lashing of adventure and a healthy dollop of intrigue. The children’s books harked back to a period of innocence which many of us wish still existed. A time when children roamed freely about the countryside and were far more interested in outdoor pursuits such as camping or sailing rather than hunching round a Playstation or X – Box 360.
But the fact of the matter is that this rose-tinted world of innocent capering and ginger beer runs more than just a slight risk of being regarded as rather outdated in today’s world. Indeed, Blyton’s stories have received much criticism over the years for representing a very staid and stilted image of childhood.
In many instances, it was thought that the views expressed in her children’s books were, at best outdated, at worst offensive. The so called ‘Blyton Bans’ of the 1950s and 1980’s saw many of her novels removed from a number of library shelves. Critics attacked Blyton’s style, highlighting her limited vocabulary and long winded prose. Others pointed to her depiction of women as the weaker sex, not to mention her references to negros and golliwogs which today, would be censored in an instant. The BBC also had little regard for Enid’s literary talents, refusing to broadcast her work for many years on account of its snobbery and racist content.
Nevertheless, despite all the negative press, the popularity of her children’s books never really faltered. Quite the opposite. With around 600 titles to her name by the time of her death, Enid Blyton remains one of the most famous names in children’s literature. Yes, her stories are very much of their time, but their popularity remain due to a golden thread of adventure and excitement which is as appealing to the imagination of youngsters now, as it was fifty years ago.
It will be interesting to see how Kindle Entertainment inject new life into the ‘Famous Five’ series for a modern, 21st century audience. They will have a tough job to ensure the storylines maintain a sense of realism and relevance. If they get it right however, they could be onto a real winner and the shoot-‘em-up generation may just be distracted from their games consoles… if only for a little while.