As you may know I have been venturing back into some childhood books and especially a lot of Enid Blyton. I have covered the first Famous Five, the first Five Find Outers, the first Malory Towers and now here I am at the first ‘Naughtiest Girl in the School’ series. I remember reading them, but I had forgotten how different they were to Malory Towers and I do have rather a love of school stories!
The cover I have shown above, I think is the one I had but that is a very hazy memory and I am sure the one I had was a hardback as well. There is no way of checking as it will have probably passed through many hands by now. I hope it has been enjoyed by all on its journey.
Back to the book! This is the first of four books which are set at Whyteleafe School, a mixed boarding school where the children are in charge, and the structure and form of the education is very different to that of Malory Towers of St Clare’s. In fact you get a sense of the school being quite small and select. Unsure of the size and the cross section of ages gives this school story a different slant.
Elizabeth Allen is spoilt. There is no getting away from it, and Enid Blyton does not hide us away from that fact. As readers we see exactly what she is like and on rereading she is as exasperating now as she was years ago when I read. In fact I would probably say now that she needed a good slap!
“It’s always difficult for spoilt children to fit in anywhere. They think the world’s made for them and them alone”
Elizabeth has had no formal schooling and has been educated by governess but her parents who are going to go away for a year think perhaps she needs to interact with others.
Elizabeth does not want to go and tries everything to stop it. It does not work, so she decides that the only way to get back home is to be so naughty that the teachers will send her back home. However she has not reckoned on Whyteleafe school which runs a rather forward thinking school. The children do the disciplining and try and help others to become well rounded individuals at the weekly meetings where everything is discussed.
Elizabeth tries everything to get what she wants, but she does have some sort of a conscience underneath the rather spoilt exterior.
“Well, I don’t mind making myself unhappy, if I can get what I want in the end-but I don’t want to make other people unhappy. I think I am a horrid girl…
Yes, Elizabeth you are. However Elizabeth enjoys school more than she ever thought she would. She has a talent for playing the piano, gets involved in the garden, rides the horses when she can and even starts to make friends with a girl called Joan. This friendship ends up being a catalyst for both Joan and Elizabeth.
Wanting to help and please, Elizabeth instead of giving up her gift of £1 to the school at the meeting. All money is given in and shared equally between them all (could this be a rather communist act?). Elizabeth keeps it and spends it all on Joan, for her birthday pretending that the gifts were from Joan’s parents. Elizabeth is rash and fool hardy and although the initial reaction was what Elizabeth wanted from Joan it is the fall out from it then Elizabeth forgets about. This results in Joan falling ill. Elizabeth then has some very hard lessons to learn.
A really good yarn, Blyton at her best some would say. Probably loads would not though! First written in 1940, I think this depiction of a boarding school would be seen as quite radical. Not nowadays but certainly then. There is a somewhat moralistic view perhaps throughout the book. How do you deal with cheats? Finding out why they were cheating and then punishing them is perhaps forward thinking, even more so when the teachers are not involved in the decision making process. As an adult rereading it, I hope that if something drastic happened in the school the headmistress would step in take control and charge. There are some things that children are ill equipped to deal with. As a child reading it, how exciting that the teachers never got involved, and everything was solvable by the weekly meeting and a fair and just system. There to teach the children a lesson in life.
Like Malory Towers, I would like to finish the rest of the series of these books. Simply to remind myself what happens to Elizabeth Allen and once to again to lose myself in a school story!