The Enchanted Wood (by Enid Blyton)

I do like children's books. Like many adults of my generation, I started with Enid Blyton at a young age, and enjoyed her books right through my childhood and teens. The very earliest of her books that I remember reading and enjoying were the 'Faraway Tree' trilogy, about three children who have adventures in a magical tree. They were my favourite books from the time I was about five, probably until I was nine or ten.

Sadly, I have lost (or perhaps given away) the three hardback versions I had when I was a child. So I was pleased to be able to pick up inexpensive paperback editions - unabridged, as far as I know - in a charity shop. I read them to my sons when they were young. and recently retrieved them from my collection of children's books to read to a five-year-old friend.

I finished the first in the trilogy, 'The Enchanted Wood' a couple of days ago. I hope my small friend enjoyed it; I certainly did. The story is about three children. Jo, Bessie and Fanny are from rather a poor family, who move to live in the country. Their mother takes in washing to earn some money, and the children, who are apparently educated at home (since no mention is ever made of a school) help their parents in the house. At the end of their garden is a mysterious wood, and in the middle of it is an enormous tree with magical people living in it, and fantastic lands at the top of the tree.

It's a wonderful idea, with all kinds of possibilities, and Enid Blyton makes the most of them. Each adventure covers four or five chapters, with the children and their friends falling into difficulties, but - naturally, since it's a children's book - finding their way out of them again by ingenuity, or luck, or perhaps a little magic.

The children are a little too good to be true, the language is old-fashioned (unsurprisingly since 'The Enchanted Wood' is now seventy years old), the writing a bit trite in places... and yet, the plots are wonderful, exciting enough that I wanted to keep reading, but not too suspenseful for my young friend. I changed a few words here and there as I was reading, but not too many. I'm looking forward to reading her the other two books in the series soon.

Recommended as a read-aloud for a child of about four and upwards who is ready for chapter books with a few line drawings rather than picture books; or to early readers. I'm delighted to find that it's still in print, and hope that it will continue to be for many years to come.

Review copyright Sue's Book Reviews, 19th October 2010

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