Reminders of Adventures Past
After this article appeared in Red Room, several people contacted me about Kiki and their memories how such books started them writing.
Adventuring With Enid Every Saturday
As an American author with a slightly nomadic upbringing (my parents detoured from Seattle to Scotland in my grade school years), my formative "children's adventure" years were spent in a tiny town in Scotland where the public library had exactly one shelf of children's books.
I'd brought some Oz books, a couple of Tarzan paperbacks, and the Lord of the Rings to Scotland with me, but my other books had been packed up or given away. Being a skilled reader from first grade on, I loved books, considered them my primary form of entertainment, and read constantly.
After completing the complete Narnia and Borrower's series housed at the library...as well as Charles Dickens' Oliver Twist and a copy of Green Mansions...I was forced to look elsewhere for excitement. Luckily, being the child of a highly functional family, my folks were more than willing to let me spend my allowance on books.
Which started a Saturday tradition of heading to the local sweet shop (more completely described at Nathan Crowder's Fringe Candy) and picking up a Enid Blyton paperback.
If you're a child who grew up in any part of the English-speaking world not located in the United States, you'll know Enid. If you're an American, you've probably missed her. The woman churned out series in a manner that is awe inspiring today -- particularily if you consider that she wrote them before the advent of the computer.
Detective stories, boarding school stories, and more poured out of Enid's fertile brain. My particular favorites were the "Adventure" series, where a pack of children and Kiki the Parrot voyage off to exotic places, get trapped in caves or worse, battle villains, and emerge victorious to journey home for a proper tea. But I cheerfully swapped paperbacks with other girls in my class at school. One friend like the Malory Towers best, and I'd grab those from her and give her my "Famous Five."
When my family returned to the States, the paperbacks stayed behind, given away to friends. I missed them for awhile and then discovered similar series published here: Nancy Drew, Alfred Hitchcock and the Three Investigators, and more. Like Enid, these will never be classified as "literature" by the intelligensia, but they did teach me a great deal about the power of a story.
When wandering through an used bookstore a few years back, I came across some 1950s hardback copies of the Adventure series. Much nicer and older than those paperbacks I so blithely jettisoned on my journeys. I started flipping through pages and there was Kiki...and so many memories. The books came home with me and occupy a cheerful spot on a top shelf, dust jackets facing out as they should (I display dust jackets the way that other people display art).
There they go, speeding up the river, a reminder of adventures taken so many years ago.