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Famous Five at 75: Why the books are still popular today

By Heather Large | Featured articles | Published:

They're just spiffing! And, as the Famous Five books mark their 75th birthday, a new generation have grown to love them.

Famous Five fans at Ryders Hayes School in Pelsall

The adventures of Julian, Dick, Anne, George and, of course, Timmy the dog, are ones many of us grew up with.

The Famous Five's antics, often fuelled by lashings of ginger beer and plenty of potted meat sandwiches, have delighted generations of young readers.

This year marks the anniversary of the publication of Enid Blyton's first book featuring the quintet – Five On a Treasure Island.

Children are still reaching to read the Famous Five

And while they are dismissed as old fashioned and irrelevant by some, they continue to boast a big following among today's young readers.

The anniversary has brought renewed interest, with many schools dusting off the books and introducing them to pupils. Specialist online game producer Kuato Studios last month also announced the launch of a new Famous Five mystery game on the App Store, aimed at helping primary school children develop their literacy skills through storytelling and gameplay.

The books are still loved by schoolchildren today including young readers at Ryders Hayes School in Pelsall.

Among those eagerly turning the pages is six-year-old Matilda Wade, who is working her way through the books as well as the associated Blyton series The Secret Seven.

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She said: "I like them because they are exciting. I like the characters especially Georgina and Timmy the dog," she said.

Classmate George Donnellan, also aged six, said: "Julian is one of my favourite characters because he's really funny. I also like Georgina and Timmy the dog. I really like these books."

Five On a Treasure Island introduced readers to siblings Julian, Dick and Anne who are sent to stay with their Aunt Fanny and Uncle Quentin, down by the sea at Kirrin Bay.

There they meet their cousin and tomboy Georgina, who will only answer to the name George, and her beloved mongrel dog Timmy.

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Soon they get involved in an exciting search for long-lost treasure from a shipwreck on her parents' own Kirrin Island.

The junior mystery and crime-solving gang go on to have many more adventures, often involving catching bad guys, spanning a total of 21 books between 1942 and 1963 when the final instalment Five Are Together Again was published.

Blyton, who died in 1968, had originally only intended to write only six or eight books in the series but was spurred on by the way they were flying off the shelves and the response from readers.

Due to the popularity of their escapades, the books were also adapted for television with two different series broadcast in 1978 and 1995.

Despite the decades that have passed, Famous Five books are still considered by their fans to be full of timeless and entertaining stories, and they are still being enjoyed today.

It is estimated that more than one million copies continue to be sold each year, making them one of the biggest-selling series for children ever written. They have also spawned an affectionate series of spook books aimed at adults who remember the original books. Titles for the spoof include Five go Gluten Free and Five Do Dry January.

Staffordshire author Anouska Knight said there remains a huge following for the Famous Five books and today's children continue to be hooked by the adventure storylines within them.

Isabelle Bentley

She said: "We usually inherited an influx of Famous Five books somewhere in the summer holidays, hand-me-downs from older cousins who had been made to spend the first week of their summer holidays having a jolly good clear out.

"They've resonated with generation after generation of children, I think, because they're everything a child wants for her or himself – adventure.

"Adult-free, glorious outdoor adventure, somewhere off in the great unknown where anything can happen.

"These books were particularly relatable to us when we were kids because we were out all day too. A million miles and a decade or two away from Xboxes and Netflix. We only ever went home for our tea.

"And they're still relatable now because, as every kid knows, the biggest downside to childhood is the grown-ups being in charge all the time.

"It's empowering for youngsters to be swept away with another group of boys and girls and their dog, getting through the day by their wits and camaraderie, making their discoveries and toppling the odd bad guy. Plus, who ever found a secret passageway anything but utterly thrilling?"

While Robert Hazel, who is a community library manager in Sandwell, said: "The books are timeless adventure stories and real page turners.

"Often they were the first stories you encountered at school and you always looked forward to see what scrapes they got into next and part of being a child is losing yourself in a bit of escapism for a while."

Heather Large

By Heather Large
Special projects reporter - @HeatherL_star

Senior reporter and part of the Express & Star special projects team specialising in education and human interest features.

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