What to read after... Enid Blyton

Published on: 20 Awst 2018 Author: Emily Drabble

Whether it's The Famous FiveMalory Towers or The Magic Faraway Tree, everyone has a favourite Enid Blyton book. But where should you turn next? We have ideas and we want your recommendations too!

An image of various Enid Blyton books: The Secret Seven, The Famous Five, The Magic Faraway Tree, Malory Towers, The Naughtiest Girl in School, The Adventure series

We wouldn't be surprised if your summer holiday has included an enjoyable Enid Blyton book or two, perhaps after raiding older relatives' bookshelves or in a holiday let - so we thought it would be a nice time to investigate what to read next.

Enid Blyton wrote over 600 children's books, so it's not like children will run out any time soon! But this article focuses on books to read after the most popular series for ages 7+ rather than, say, Noddy. Here we go...

For those who dream of midnight feasts

An image of the covers of The Book Case and St Grizzles School for Girls, Goats and Random Boys

Got hooked on the excitement of boarding school life in Malory Towers and St Clare's? Try Dave Shelton's truly hilarious and deadpan Emily Lime mysteries, starting with The Book Case.

You could also check out the original boarding school magic series, Jill Murphy's The Worst Witch, or for a nastier boarding school experience try Back Home by Michelle Margorian, set just after the Second World War. Poor Rusty doesn't have the best time in her horrible school, but it's a great book.

For a lighter, funnier boarding school book, go for Karen MacCombie's St Grizzles School for Girls, Goats and Random Boys,which features amusing illustrations by Becka Moor.

For those that love the fantastical worlds of The Magic Faraway Tree, The Enchanted Wood and The Wishing Chair

Images from the covers of The Wishing Spell, Wed Wabbit, Ottoline Goes to School and The Land of Neverendings

Have you fallen in love with Moon Face and Silky? Now try The Wishing Spell by Chris Colfer (and all of his Land of Stories series) which stars twins Alex and Connor - their life turns magical when their grandma gives them a book that takes them on many adventures! Or fall into the magical world of Smockeroon in Kate Saunders' masterful, funny and deeply poignant The Land of Neverendings, set in the world Emily imagined with her sister Holly before she died.

Lissa Evans's Wed Wabbit is also recommended as a great adventure into an imaginary world of come-alive toys, with its hideous bunny overlord. Elsewhere, Chris Riddell's Ottoline series, including Ottoline Goes to School, is a treasure trove of strange characters and lovely tales.

Or if it was the wholesomeness of Enid Blyton's books that was so alluring, then read Milly-Molly-Mandy by Joyce Lankester Brisley, which was published around the same time as Blyton. Lots of picking blackberries and charming tales... with no mobile phones!

For those who loved the no-adult mystery solving

An image from the cover of one of Helen Moss's Adventure Island books

If Blyton's Famous Five and Secret Seven appealed to you and your children with all their picnics, lashings of ginger beer and mystery solving, then we have good news! The magnificent Pamela Butchart has written a new Secret Seven book, The Secret Seven and the Mystery of the Skull. It's just as good as the original, a wonderful, romping read - and we have five copies to give away here.

Elsewhere, please don't miss Helen Moss's Adventure Island books in which Jack, Scott and Emily (the cleverest... and a girl!) solve many mysteries on their small island, starting with The Mystery of the Whistling Caves. These books are just brilliant! And @MissFlowerYr6 agreed, telling us on Twitter that the series reminds her of the Famous Five with a 'modern twist'.

And whatever you do, read Katherine Woodfine's mystery books set in Edwardian times, which have a Blyton-esque feel - try The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow and The Mystery of the Jewelled Moth. And then there's Robin Stevens's 1930s set Wells and Wong series, starting with Murder Most Unladylike - it's been described as Blyton meets Agatha Christie! 

For fans of wild adventures

An image of the covers of To The Edge of the World, An Island of Our Own, and Sky Chasers

Enid Blyton's eight-book Adventure series including The Island of Adventure and The Sea of Adventure is a real favourite among fans, with thrills of the natural world at the heart of it. Once you've read those, try Julia Green's To The Edge of the World, a real adventure set on a tiny island in the Outer Hebrides which explores how to be brave.

Sally Nicholls is a great modern day adventure writer, - give An Island of Our Own a go. Enid never allowed real ghosts, but if you want a bit more fantasy, a brilliant adventure is Yaba Badoe's A Jigsaw of Fire and Stars, in which a girl who is washed ashore in a treasure chest grows up to join the circus.

Also read Kiran Millwood Hargrave's great adventure stories and modern day classics A Girl of Ink and Stars and The Island At the End of Everything. Oh, and Emma Carroll writes great, usually historical, adventures: try Sky Chasers and her new book Secrets of a Sun King.

If you want ideas from someone who really knows her Blyton...

An image from the cover of The Great Hamster Massacre

As mentioned, Pamela Butchart has just written her very own Secret Seven story - so after all that reading and research, she must know her Blyton! We got in touch with her to ask which books she would recommend to Enid fans...

'If you read and loved the Secret Seven, I suggest you try Katie Davie's fantastic (and hilarious!) mystery-solving series, which begins with The Great Hamster Massacre. I love this series of books; I think The Great Cat Conspiracy is my favourite. And for fans of The Famous Five, I recommend the translated German bestseller The Pasta Detectives by Andreas Steinhofel - it's ace!'

We also asked children's book expert and reviewer Imogen Russell Williams - aka @ImogenRW on Twitter - to share her recommendations:

An image of the covers of Pea's Book of Best Friends and Dead Man's Cove'Susie Day's Pea books are adventurous and fun, but much more modern, inclusive and vivid than Blyton. Pea's Book of Best Friends is the perfect, up-to-date take on the idea of moving somewhere totally new and having to fit in and find friends there - while Pea's Book of Holidays is a hilarious story of what might happen now if you actually tried to have a Blyton adventure by yourself...

'Or, if you want mysteries that are a bit more taxing and scary than the Famous Five's, try Lauren St John's Laura Marlin books - full of atmosphere, strange characters and children using their wits and resources to save the day. Her new series of Wolfe and Lamb books has also just kicked off with Kat Wolfe Investigates - it's jam-packed with animal capers, deadly assassins, sleeper spies and a wildcat a bit like George's Timmy, but much wilder and more mysterious...'

Your suggestions

As always, we asked you to suggest books that would fit the bill for people looking to move on from Enid Blyton - and you really surpassed yourselves! Here are just some of the recommendations you came up with...

Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome

An illustration from the cover of Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome

This one just kept coming up, recommended by @MatthewElmslie and @fechtbuch (for 'outdoors adventures and slap-up feasts') among others.

Over on Facebook, Liz was also a fan of Arthur Ransome's classic and took the opportunity to go on a little trip down memory lane, saying: 'In the 1950s, I belonged to Foyles book club and chose a book for 5/- from a monthly list. At age 12, I'd bunk off school, go up to London by train and walk from Waterloo to Charing Cross to spend all day in Foyles bookshop.' Sounds like an adventure worthy of the Famous Five to us!

For kids who love the nature in Blyton's books

@groweatgift came up trumps for fans of the natural world, suggesting: 'Dick King-Smith and The Lost Words by Jackie Morris and Rob Macfarlane for kids who love the nature in Enid Blyton. Anne of Green Gables and A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, too.' Elsewhere, @LydiaTarot revealed that she moved on to the Follyfoot books by Monica Dickens, all about a home for old and unwanted horses.

For fans of The Magic Faraway Tree and the fantasy side of Enid Blyton

An image of Chris Riddell's cover for Neil Gaiman's book Coraline

Two names kept coming up: Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman, with lots of readers saying they followed Blyton with Pratchett's Discworld series (@groweatgift threw Douglas Adams into the mix, too, while @Dhenuka added in The HobbitA Series of Unfortunate Events and the Thursday Next series by Jasper Fforde).

@LSheasby had another idea, telling us: 'Best Christmas gift my mum ever got me - the entire The Worlds of Chrestomanci series by Diana Wynne Jones. Opened the door to a lot more fantasy and fantastic fiction.' 

Elsewhere, @fechtbuch recommended His Dark Materials for readers who enjoyed The Magic Faraway Tree's parallel worlds, while @beabella123 revealed that her daughters have enjoyed Liz Kessler's Emily Windsnap series, all about a mermaid.

For readers looking for 'all the magical elements with more in-depth stories', @_sunshinebooks advised checking out books by Eoin Colfer, Michelle Harrison and Derek Landy.

For fans of the Famous Five and the Secret Seven who want more crime-solving, mystery and adventure

An illustration from the cover of a Marsh Road Mysteries book

You came up with heaps of brilliant suggestions for these young readers - here are just some of them:

  • @bookloverJo had a great idea for us, saying, 'I would have to recommend Elen Caldecott's Marsh Road Mysteries - wonderfully diverse, full of mystery and mayhem with just the right amount of peril. Perfect for Famous Five fans.'
  • Anthony Horowitz's Diamond Brothers books came highly recommended by @PartyPyrex, who said that The Falcon's Maltesers and the other stories are 'good mysteries' but couldn't guarantee we'd get as much food as in Blyton's books ('Maltesers notwithstanding!')
  • Robin Stevens' Murder Most Unladylike series was mentioned a lot, including by @NorfolkELS, who also proposed Maisie Hitchins by Holly Webb and Anthony Read and Tim Piggott-Smith's Baker Street Irregulars stories.
  • @_bellebluegrass had a personal favourite to recommend - The Beaver Towers series by Nigel Hinton, which offers 'adventure and whimsy'. 'I haven't forgotten the joy they brought since reading them 21 years ago!'

An illustration from the cover of a Beaver Towers book

  • Meanwhile, @littleoutlaws wanted to wanted to big up a 'forgotten classic', saying: 'Written and set at a similar time to The Famous Five, Alan Campbell McLean's The Hill of Red Fox - captures the time and place like no other.'
  • @MsMoonlight4 suggested Terror at the Zoo by Peg Kehret for adventure fans, while @AtmaSinnan said, 'If you like adventure and descriptions of food in children's books, I recommend the Redwall series by Brian Jacques.'
  • @IAmInPrint used to love reading The Secret Seven in the garden shed, so we trust their recommendations! 'Would highly recommend Helen Dennis's Secret Breakers - full of hidden messages, code cracking, a race against time and food... always the food.' (We have to agree on the food.)
  • And if this doesn't warm your heart, we don't know what will - @blackerschat's 9-year-old hijacked his Twitter to say it's 'amazing to live in an age of so many great adventure writers', before mentioning some of his favourites: MG Leonard, Christopher Edge, Katherine Rundell, Andy Shepherd, SF Said, Lauren St John and Abi Elphinstone. Lovely.

For those who want more school stories

An illustration from the cover of a Chalet School book

If the likes of Malory Towers and The Naughtiest Girl in School are your bag, @_ccroberts recommended the Chalet School books and Ballet Shoeswhile @MatthewElsmlie recommended Gordon Korman's Macdonald Hall series (and 'Harry Potter if you haven't already read it!') 

Elsewhere, @T00many made the bold claim that Charlotte Sometimes is 'the best school story' and @MsMoonlight4 recommended the Trebizon series by Anne Digby, Just Patty and When Patty Went to College by Jean Webster, and What Katy Did at School by Susan Coolidge, describing them all as 'splendid'.

More suggestions

We can't possibly include all the brilliant recommendations we received, but we did want to give a special shout out to @272BookFaith, who dazzled us with heaps of suggestions (click on her name to see them for yourself). Thanks everyone for getting involved - and don't forget, you can still keep sharing your thoughts in the comments below!

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