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Magic Faraway Tree by Enid Blyton
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Magic Faraway Tree (original 1943; edition 1985)

by Enid Blyton

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739912,617 (4.05)31
Member:souloftherose
Title:Magic Faraway Tree
Authors:Enid Blyton
Info:Red Fox (1985), Edition: New edition, Paperback, 192 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:
Tags:20th century fiction, Children's, Old-fashioned children's story, Published: 1943, Location: spare room - children's

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The Magic Faraway Tree by Enid Blyton (1943)

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  Cheryl_in_CC_NV | Apr 14, 2015 |
This is an important book to me. The Faraway Tree is the book that made me 'click on' to reading. I still remember my father coming home with it one day -- there must have been a book club at his office -- and he read me one chapter before dinner. I remember begging him to continue. The chapters always seemed far too short. Fortunately I was almost at the age where I could read myself, and before long I had my hands on the prequel and the sequel and I must have read them many times over between the ages of five and eight or so.

I'm keen to click my own daughter onto reading. I wonder if it was different a generation ago, when the only real competitor for a five year old's attention was a few hours of Playschool and The Smurfs per day (not real competitors at all). Now, here in Australia there are two entire television channels dedicated to advertisement free children's programming -- ABC 2 for the little ones and ABC 3 for the slightly older ones. My daughter is now at the age where she's done with ABC 2 (Peppa Pig excluded) and I'm keen to keep her away from the mindless cartoons of ABC 3. I'm determined that the kid will love reading, whether she likes it or not.

Except she loves iPad games and Steam games and happens to be surprisingly adept at them. Her father is the same. I can see into the future, the two of them sitting side by side playing networked Terraria, which is all well and good, except I want the kid to be one of those increasingly rare individuals who love both gaming AND reading in equal measure. Strategy games have their own charms, and I'd have loved them too, had they existed, but please dog, not at the expense of the books.

So it's with great relief that I pulled out The Magic Faraway Tree -- for the third time over a period of months -- and finally managed to engage her attention. I was wondering if the story might have dated too much, if what seemed like fantasy to me back in the early 80s has been eclipsed by the fantasy of computer games and a wider variety of TV. Perhaps after an early childhood of well-written picturebooks, the language of Enid Blyton seemed dull, expository and dated, even to a child's ear?

But no, I think these worries are unfounded. It's exactly the childlike turn of phrase that draws a five year old in, as it drew me in a full two generations after the series was first published. I have to remind myself: It was old even then.

And it was wonderful to have my daughter run to me throughout the day clasping this beautifully illustrated deluxe edition, begging me to read another chapter, snuggling in despite the heat of summer, jumping up and down at the mention of Pop Biscuits. On that point, I have promised to buy her a packet of 'Pop Biscuits' upon completion of the story, and that's a big deal in our house because we rarely bring sugar into the house. Growing up in New Zealand, I always thought 'Pop Biscuits' were probably 'Toffee Pops' manufactured by Griffins, which are unavailable in Australia, so I'll have to find something similar. I think I've seen a toffee pop rip-off at Aldi. I will divide the packet and wrap them up in coloured foil. I hope they live up to my daughter's expectations. I'm glad I promised Pop Biscuits rather than Toffee Shocks.

Although I did bribe my kid into getting through this book, and I did it with sugar, it did work. All of this demonstrates how important food is in fiction, to both beneficial and not so beneficial effect. (As I type, eggs are boiling on the stove, because yesterday Peppa Pig ate boiled eggs for breakfast at her grandmother's. Ergo, we must eat boiled eggs for breakfast at ours.)

There are well-known problems with the work of Enid Blyton in a world which no longer has such tolerance for sexism and racism. The sexism shines particularly brightly in this series. Although this book is an ensemble cast of two boys and two girls, the spotlight shines firmly upon the two boys. Bessie is a mute female analogue of Jo, and Fanny is seen but not heard. When quizzed on her favourite character, my daughter mentioned 'Dick, because he is naughty'. Dick is indeed interesting, and Jo is responsible, coming up with every single solution and good idea. 'Hurry along with those sandwiches, Bessie and Fanny,' orders Jo at one stage. I was one of the minority who thought that the new updated version of The Famous Five was a brilliant idea -- Blyton's excellent storytelling combined with more enlightened roles for girls sounds like a match made in heaven, though I haven't read any of those yet so I don't know how well that worked. What a parent may do when reading The Faraway Tree to a young modern reader is occasionally give the girls some of the good ideas by switching out Jo's lines with the names of Bessie or Fanny. If I'd been more alert I'd have done just that, though I do have two more books during which to give this a go.

Perhaps the most troublesome aspect of this book was something I'd forgotten all about, and obviously thought nothing of as a child -- the violence, otherwise known as 'spanking'. The chapter called 'Dick Gets Everyone Into Trouble' is really odd and as an adult reader I couldn't help but read all sorts of extra things into it. Domestic violence, for example. It's easy to forget that spanking was a completely acceptable way of discipline just three generations ago.

Since I own the deluxe editions of this series, I'm left wishing for more illustrated editions of chapter books. I don't mean simple line drawings and cartoons, either, I mean hardbacks with dust covers and illustrations on the colophon, beautifully coloured pages on beautiful smelling paper and wonderfully detailed painterly illustrations which invite the reader to linger. This book was a good reminder to me how important illustrations are to young readers. It's worth buying beautifully illustrated books for children, because even if they do seem expensive, printing has become a lot more affordable since the 1980s when these were published, and I feel lucky to own these exact books, because it seems the deluxe versions are no longer available.
( )
  LynleyS | Feb 8, 2014 |
This was one of my favourite books as a child, the idea of climbing a tree to a new land and the land changing each time you climbed gave me many hours of happy imagining 'what if'. ( )
  Peace2 | Jan 19, 2014 |
Do you live right by a magical tree that always has a magical land at the top? I do. Hi, I’m Frannie. My cousin, Rick, has come to stay with Joe, Beth, and me until his mother gets better. We show him the magical faraway tree. We have a lot of exiting adventures and seem to get into trouble every time. In the land of Topsy-Turvy, Joe gets himself turned upside-down. Another time, our friend saucepan, accidentally spills his spell and makes us all turn gigantic. We can’t fit down the hole that leads to the faraway tree, and we’re afraid that we might have to stay in this land forever. We get into trouble again when saucepan gets himself put in jail. Joe has an excellent idea to get him out. If you want to find out if Joe’s plan works and if we get saucepan out of jail, you have to read The Magic Faraway Tree by Enid Blyton.
  sasgrade4 | Feb 12, 2010 |
4/10. In the Magic Faraway tree live Moon-Face, Saucepan Man and Silky the Fairy and they all go on adventures to the magical lands atop the tree with some local children. ( )
  theboylatham | Jan 25, 2010 |
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» Add other authors (1 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Enid Blytonprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Hargreaves, GeorginaIllustratormain authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wheeler, Dorothy M.Illustratormain authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Three children enjoy a magical adventure in the fantasy land of the Faraway Tree. Joe, Beth and Frannie take their cousin Rick on an adventure he'll never forget.

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