Enid Blyton! Oh noes!

Five on a Treasure Island 2Enid Blyton, an English author who dominated children’s reading material in the UK and Commonwealth countries for forty years, wrote a jaw-dropping 762 books. As you might guess, she was not deep or complex. She specialized in insipid tales for young children, with titles like The Adventures of Binkle and Flip, The Talking Teapot, Little Noddy Goes to Toyland, and Enid Blyton’s Happy Story Book.

She also wrote adventures for middle-grade children, formulaic mysteries with lots of kidnapping, spies, secret tunnels, and stolen documents, and flat characters who are often noxiously moralistic.

So I can’t believe I’m doing this, but I’m going to recommend Five on a Treasure Island (1942). It involves a ruined castle, a shipwreck rumored to contain gold, a treasure map, old dungeons, and being captured by bad guys. The titular four children plus their dog manage the whole operation themselves, only bringing in the police after they have marooned the bad guys.

The nice thing about reading books as a child is that you don’t yet know that clichés are clichés. Five on a Treasure Island shamelessly pulls out all the stops, and that’s its appeal for a reader not yet jaded by genre fiction.

This is the first of the Famous Five books, in which the children endlessly foil the plots of bad guys during their holidays. It’s hard to say if Five on a Treasure Island is the best of the series. Probably, whichever one a child reads first is the best for them forever after.

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