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The Folk of the Faraway tree

The Folk of the Faraway Tree

Most people have a book that is synonymous with their childhood, I have many, but I think The Folk of the Faraway Tree is the book that probably had the biggest impact on my life. I was 7 years old when I was bought this copy of the book and, also, The Magic Faraway Tree. I have no idea who bought them for me, but I would hazard a guess that it would have been one of my aunties.

These beautiful little hardback books are the perfect size for little hands. They feel grown up enough to not be babyish, but they aren’t so big that they can’t easily be held to read. As a child I shared a room with my sister Jen and we had bunkbeds. My parents very cleverly had a tall, thin bookcase at the end of the beds with tip on reading lights so we could always read at bedtime. 

It was genius because we didn’t even have to get out of bed to choose another book. I would reach over from the top bunk and grab a Faraway Tree book and the snuggle down under the covers to read for as long as I thought I could get away with it. I remember many times quickly clicking the light off and tucking my book under the covers when I heard my parents on the stairs. They very cleverly turned both myself and my sister into readers by making it something that was both universally approved of and also had a cut off time, which of course made us want to keep reading even more!

These magical books were firm favourites with both myself and my sister. The fact that you could read one chapter and have a complete adventure made them easy to devour at bedtime and we would dip in a re-read favourite chapters and enjoy eating ‘pop biscuits’ with Silky and Moonface or visit a favourite land at the top of the tree.

I’m so glad my Mum kept most of my children’s books because there is something special about holding a book that you read almost 40 years ago and seeing the name you wrote in the front.

Controversy

Of course there is now a lot of controversy around the writings of Enid Blyton. Whilst she was a staple of my childhood, my generation, she has faded in popularity with more recent generations, partly due to her inclusion of characters such as Golliwogs (which were always portrayed as naughty) and also the view that her books are sexist, xenophobic and racist. This has lead to revisions in more recent editions which have seen Goblins replace the Golliwogs in Noddy.

Enid Blyton, it could be argued, was very much a product of her time but I feel it is important to separate the author from the work at times like this. She was such a prolific author that some of her books are bound to have ruffled a few feathers as she is very much of another time. 

As a child I loved her books and having started with Noddy, I moved onto the Faraway Tree and then onto the Famous Five and Secret Seven. Far from feeling sexist (although I can see aspects of that in some of her work), these were books aimed at children where the girls adventured with the boys. I wanted to be George. She was amazing. I was a real tomboy as a child and loved climbing trees and playing with bows and arrows and on my bike. I rarely played with girls because, apart from my sister, most of the children round my street were boys. I loved the adventures and taking a picnic off and exploring for the day. Blyton’s books showed me that that was ok. 

Kate

Empowering girls and developing imagination

Reading Enid Blyton’s books showed me that girls could go off exploring, there may have been some difference in the attitude between the girls and boys and the way they were treated by the adults in the books, but nothing like as much as there was in many of the other books. Her books also sparked my imagination and let my ideas run free. We would make believe wherever we were as children and there was no limit to the possibilities when we played in a woodland or on a beach, something many children struggle with now.

I’m not saying that I approve of everything that Enid Blyton wrote, and there are certainly aspects of her life which are questionable, but she is undoubtedly responsible for turning 7 year old me into the voracious reader I was. Many rainy days in our caravan were passed adventuring with the Famous Five and many nights were spent dreaming of adventures up the Faraway Tree. What we read when we first develop the ability to read with some fluency can make a big difference to how keen we are to read for the rest of our lives and her books captured my imagination and my heart and although I feel sure that something else would have triggered that love of reading had The Faraway Tree not come along, it was a compelling and magical start to my reading life. What books are responsible for starting your love of reading?

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