Thursday, March 31, 2016

At Holiday House with Enid Blyton!!

The end of March signifies the end of exams... for most primary and middle school kids as there's still time before we lose sleep over big exams ( Thank God!)! The end of March also ushers in the beginning of summer holidays ... again, mainly for younger kids as with the syllabus getting tougher year after year... You never know when summer vacations get eschewed by tuitions and advance classes!! Similarly, with all kinds of summer camps-cricket camp-sport camps-science camps starting from April, March-end is probably all there is left for unstructured play for the kids today!:-) 

So before the madness of summer vacations begins, we stole some quiet relaxing time at our very own holiday house, Shristi, my parents' farm at Dharmasthala. Of course reading snd relaxing always go together... So as our first read for the summer, we chose an an author whom I and many from my generation grew up reading..."The Riddle of the Holiday House" by the original children's author, the one and only, Enid Blyton!! Gifted by a dear friend over a year ago, this book couldn't have been any more apt for Abhay as he begins his summer vacation at his favourite holiday house!! 

For most of us who grew up in the eighties, we made our first foray into reading with Enid Blyton's books. Those were the days before the advent of satellite television, and in many ways, Blyton's books also served as our window to the western world. Though the stories are set in what now appears to be a little parochial and privileged backgrounds, and more often than not, a predictable storyline, Enid Blyton's adventure or fantasy based stories are a great way to get kids into voracious reading. Be it the Famous Five or the Secret Seven series or the Malory Towers series, you can't just read one ... you have to read them all!!  Believe me, Blyton's bold and daring characters, lighted hearted humour, and stories of friendship and loyalty often backed by a strong moral framework continue to interest children even today. We began reading the first couple of chapters together after which I had to break for the day.. and by the time I got down to resuming reading, I had discovered that Abhay had finished the book all by himself.... he simply could not stand the suspense!!!!! Now doesn't that sound familiar????

Originally published as "The Holiday House" in 1955, this book has been altered and edited by her daughter Gillian Baverstock to become a part of the Riddles series. The first book in this Young Adventurer series, the protagonists being the young brother-sister duo, Nick and Katie, who are excited to spend their summer holidays at a  beachside kids -only "Holiday house" run by one Mrs. Holly who takes in unaccompanied kids along their pets (Wow!) The story follows their experiences at the holiday house, including their run-ins with the insufferable Clare, Mrs. Holly's nosy daughter and other fellow guests like the mysterious boy Gareth. As the daring duo go on to explore the surroundings, the plot thickens and falls into a pattern typical of Enid Blyton mystery series, with a stray discovery leading on to uncovering ugly truths and dark secrets from seemingly innocuous characters who try to deliberately mislead the protagonists into doubting a mysterious character who surprisingly ( or rather predictably ) turns out to be a Good Samaritan! Replete with page turning plots, fascinating adventures, red herrings and  roundabouts, follow the tween siblings as they ultimately save the day sending out the usual  "triumph of good over bad" message common to most Enid Blyton's stories. Of course like most Enid Blyton's stories, the Holiday house transports you into a different world altogether ... On reading the book, Abhay wanted to know if he and his sister could stay all by themselves at a holiday house and gorge on hot scones and fruit cake:-))) 

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