I am often astounded how connections are made through the universe. When I posted my blog about James Joyce a couple of days ago, I did not have a clear picture of where it was going to lead.

If you have followed the subsequent thread, you may be musing how Enid Blyton came to be the next topic. Was it inspired by the binary nature of our lives: yin and yang, light and shade, black and white or specifically in this instance, literary versus popular?

Possibly. Maybe this is how the universe works: juxtaposition, enabling opportunity for learning and enlightenment through contrasts.

Now while this following disclosure is not strictly literary or related to books, it is a fitting example of how we shouldn’t discount any opportunity for learning and growth.

Since my Joyce blog, I have had the concept of this literary device ‘epiphany’ rolling around in my being, enchanting me.

My twelve year old and I sat down to watch an episode of Bones last night. For those not familiar, Dr Temperance Brennan is a forensic anthropologist with eccentricities and attachments to things other than living humans and who helps the FBI solve murder cases. The victim in this case displayed many similarities to Dr Brennan and this caused an epiphany for ‘Bones’ to see how her life was unfolding, what the future was likely to hold and importantly what she was withholding herself from.

I was deeply engaged with this life-changing moment for this character, felt the significance and thought I should share with my son. The question to my twelve year old was, ‘Do you know what an epiphany is?’

His reply, ‘Yes, Homer had one in The Simpson’s Movie.’

What! This literary device belongs to the cerebral world of literature not some animated TV sitcom!

I laughed out loud.

A superficial check into the genesis of this word reveals that it originally referred to insight through the divine. Today, this concept is used much more often and without such supernatural connotations.

It is claimed that the word’s secular usage may owe some of its popularity to James Joyce, who, as we know, used the device in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man and also within each short story of his collection Dubliners as his protagonists came to sudden recognitions that changed their view of themselves or their social condition and often sparking a reversal or change of heart.

So not only are these revered literary characters experiencing epiphanies, so too are Dr Temperance Brennan and Homer Simpson! In fact it seems Homer has had more than one epiphany thanks to interaction with the Inuit Medicine Woman (a.k.a. the ‘boob lady’ as described by Homer).

So, back to the debate about Enid Blyton’s books that painted an idyllic vision of rural England.

Enid Blyton is still the world’s most prolific storyteller for children. Her books are about children in jeopardy, children empowered, children winning through and I again contend that the insights available to young readers and the reading habit formed should not be overlooked.

I am in deep admiration of this literary device, epiphany and the many possible sources of this life-changing revelation.

Reading habits start early

Moon-Face, Mister Watzisname, Silky and the Saucepan Man, feasting on Pop Biscuits and Google Buns (no they’re not virtual food items delivered on your computer screen!)

How about dodging the dirty washing-water which Dame Washalot pours down the trunk at regular intervals and avoiding peeping in at the Angry Pixie, who throws things at those who poke and pry.

Do you recognize these characters?

I’ve always loved reading and my childhood was filled with these stories from The Magic Faraway Tree along with the other many characters created by prolific author, Enid Blyton (1897-1968).

Whether you’re a devotee or not, just look at these astonishing stats:

  • Blyton’s books have sold more than 600 million copies.
  • In the decade from 2000 she was still in the Top Ten authors, selling 7,910,758 copies worth £31.2m in the UK alone.
  • More than a million Famous Five books are sold worldwide each year.
  • Blyton’s books have been translated into more than 90 different languages.
  • The Magic Faraway Tree was voted no. 66 in the BBC’s Big Read.
  • 753 titles are credited to her over a 45 year career with an average of 16 titles published per year.

Creating good reading habits as a young child is essential for developing lifelong enjoyment of books and you need to start somewhere.

I still have my copy of Hello Mr Twiddle, received as a gift when I was seven. This book was well loved through the years and even now when flicking through I can find little gems to delight my inner child.

Mr Twiddle was always getting into trouble. This particular night after he was supposed to take Tinker outside to his kennel, we find the dog is under the bed and his doggy snores awaken Mrs Twiddle. A vexed Mrs Twiddle attempts to engage her husband in the reality that they are not alone in the bedroom. It is the lick to the nose that alerts Mrs Twiddle to who the ‘unwelcome’ person is and accuses Mr Twiddle of failing in his duty, but he is having nothing of it:

‘Well, I did put him there,’ said Mr Twiddle, feeling as if he were in some kind of peculiar dream. ‘But I’m not going out to put him there again, wife. If there’s a Tinker in the kennel and a Tinker here too, we’ve got two dogs, that’s all. Good-night!’

He, he, he! Delightfully farcical! Mr and Mrs Twiddle could be transplanted into any slapstick comedy!

The adventures of Julian, Dick, George, Anne and Timmy the dog in The Famous Five and of course Peter, Janet, Jack, Barbara, George, Pam and Colin in The Secret Seven have been devoured by generations of children, including my own twelve year old.

Blyton has had plenty of criticism such as claims that her vocabulary was too limited, that she presented too rosy a view of the world, even suggestions that little Noddy’s relationship with Big Ears was “suspect”, that he was a poor role model for boys because he sometimes wept when frustrated and the laws were politically incorrect. Her response to this criticism is said to be that she was not interested in the views of critics aged over 12.

Hear, hear.

Children still love to read Enid Blyton books and we, now as the ‘learned adults’, can postulate all the theories we want about the worth of this. We know the benefits of establishing good reading habits while children are young and if Enid Blyton books help achieve this, then this is ALL good. We lament often enough that kids lose their innocence too quickly, spend too much time on electronic devices and don’t explore the outside world around them.

There will be opportunity once ‘engaged’ for readers to move on from their first Blyton chapter books and start challenging their innocent knowledge of the world with the edgier and more demanding material available when older.

P.s. I was always saddened that my older sister owned The Magic Faraway Tree and not me…