1. Enid Mary Blyton (1897-1968) was an extremely popular British writer of children’s books. Her books have been translated into 60 languages, and have sold more than 600 million copies. She also received commissions to write articles and texts on nature. She ran four children’s clubs which contributed to charitable causes.
2. Blyton was the oldest of three children. When she was a baby, she almost died of whooping cough, but her father looked after her all night. She was very attached to her father, and he encouraged her early interest in writing. Her mother was not supportive, considering her pursuits a waste of time. From her father, she also got her love of nature. She later observed that he had a wealth of knowledge about plants and animals, which he shared with her on their rambles in the country. He taught her to play the piano, and she became good enough to seriously consider a career in music.
3. When Blyton was about 13, her father left home to live with another woman. Her mother forbade the children to admit this to anyone, telling them to say that their father was away for a long time. It is thought that the loss of her father’s support and the attitude of denial cast a shadow on Blyton which affected her emotional dealings all her life.
4. Despite the turmoil in her family, or perhaps because of it, Blyton excelled in school, becoming head girl at St. Christopher’s School. She kept up with her writing, and in 1916, her poem, Have you? was published in Nash’s Magazine. She trained as a teacher and taught at a boys’ school from 1918 to 1920. She then accepted a position as governess to an architect’s four sons. Several other children in the neighbourhood joined the classes, and she called it ‘my experimental school.’
6. In 1922, Enid Blyton’s first book of poems, Child Whispers, was published. In the same year, she started contributing to a journal called Teacher’s World, which was circulated in British schools. She gained wide readership among teachers, and went on to write several manuals for educators.
7. In 1924, she married book editor Hugh Alexander Pollock. He helped Blyton to establish herself as a writer, and insisted that she use a typewriter. She got accustomed to the business side of authorship with his guidance. They had two daughters, but the marriage deteriorated later, and they divorced in 1942. She later married Dr. Kenneth Fraser Darrell Waters.
8. While she was married to Pollock, Blyton wrote regularly, editing a children’s magazine, and writing a book of plays (1927). In 1929, she and her husband moved to a 16th century cottage, Old Thatch. She delighted in the atmosphere, likening it to ‘a house in a fairy tale’. The house had a beautiful garden, and she was happy to be close to nature. She also kept a number of pets, immortalising her dog Bobs in a column in Teachers World called Letters From Bobs. She published collections of short stories, Greek myths and stories of Robin Hood.
9. She published The Secret Island in 1938. This was her first full length adventure story. She followed it up with Mr. Galliano’s Circus, the next year. From 1940, she started most of her well-known series, some of which are the Naughtiest Girl, St. Clare’s, Mary Mouse, Famous Five, Malory Towers and the Find-Outers. Noddy made his first appearance in 1949. By 1950, Blyton was putting out more than 50 titles a year. In 1962, her books were published in paperback by Armada, making them affordable for many more young readers. By 1960, Blyton’s health worsened, and she concluded many of her long series, notably Famous Five and Secret Seven. Her second husband died in 1967, and in November, 1968, she passed away at the age of 71.
10. Critics have levelled many charges against Blyton’s books, calling them racist, gender discriminate and lacking in literary merit. Though this caused her popularity to wane for some time in the last century, her books have sold steadily the world over. In this century, her work is being favourably re-evaluated.In 2004, The Ginger Pop Shop opened near Corfe Castle, Dorset, a place that Enid Blyton visited in 1940. Her loyal readers will testify that through her books, they have discovered that girls are capable of valour, and gollies are not always a menace; indeed, Mr. Golly gave Noddy a job and rewarded him with the famous little taxi. Jo, the circus girl, became friend and ally to the Five, and school children learnt how to deal with bullies, cheats and thieves with compassion and tolerance. Kindness and moral rectitude are the underpinnings of her tales, and the ultimate message is that faith, hope and love will endure.