Summer is a time for devouring books like you eat popcorn! Silly books, mysteries, fantasy, series books…whatever strikes your fancy! (Rereading favorites is fun too.)
One of my favorite series growing up was the Famous Five series, by Enid Blyton. I never could decide which one was my favorite so I’ll just start with the first one–Five on a Treasure Island.
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Julian, Dick and Anne barely knew they had a cousin, until their summer holiday plans fall through (Mother and Daddy are going to Scotland, and the summer beach house is not available). With nowhere else to go, Daddy decides they can go to stay with his brother, their Uncle Quentin at Kirrin Bay. Uncle Quentin is a scientist and quite terrifying, even to his brother…but his wife, their Aunt Fanny, seems to be quite nice. Georgina, their cousin, is another story.
Georgina doesn’t answer to her name, but prefers George. She’s also not very happy to have a bunch of other children hanging about to be entertained. She’s rather rude and abrupt. Julian, Dick and Anne persist in trying to become friends though. The three siblings are amazed to discover that George owns both an island and a castle…Kirrin Castle, which is on Kirrin Island, out in the middle of Kirrin Bay. When George finally thaws to her cousins, she tells them her big secret–Timothy, the big brown dog that neither of her parents know she has. She even brings her cousins out to the island, to explore the ruined castle and see the shipwreck under the ocean, just offshore.
But when a massive storm hits the seacoast, the old ship comes up out of the depths. The wreck yields a secret, and the cousins are determined to discover what it is. However, others have noticed the wrecked ship, now out of the water, and they’re willing to do almost anything to find the treasure as well. Will the cousins manage to decipher the clues and get there and uncover the treasure before their mysterious enemies?
* * *
I loved reading The Famous Five books as a kid–their adventures are so daring! They were allowed to go off by themselves anywhere they wanted–on weekend bicycle trips, in gypsy caravans for a week, to abandoned castles in the middle of the ocean overnight. They meet up with robbers and gangsters and crooks and stumble over a mystery wherever they go!
Looking at the books now, they’re definitely dated. The series was originally written in the 1940s; when expectations were very different for boys and girls. George fights so hard to be a boy, which for her, means having the freedom to wear trousers, climb trees, sail a boat and go outside and run. Something girls of today take for granted. Even if the 70s, when I read them, there was some truth to George having more freedom if people thought she was a boy, but she seemed over-the-top about it.
But even 60 years (gulp!) later, the mysteries are exciting, the kids are clever and the danger seems very real. And there is that ability to go off and be adult free for long periods of time. Kids still read the books now, and enjoy them.
I read and re-read Five on a Treasure Island, and all the other Famous Five books, from the summer I was nine to the summer I was thirteen. Comfortable beach reads, with lots of thrilling action, deadly danger, and smart kids. (And okay–my VERY favorite was Five Guard a Hidden Discovery–which, sadly, not one library in our network still owns.)