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35 review for The Happy House Children

  1. 5 out of 5

    Bionic Jean

    Welcome to Enid Blyton’s world. You might love it, or you might hate it. I personally am usually conflicted. The Happy House Children, written in 1946, sums up everything Enid Blyton is about with its very title, and tagline: “Happy House is a Dream Come True”. A dream world indeed, where all the children are good, and happy, well-fed, clean and nicely spoken, and get the better of any of the “horrid” children they meet. They are inevitable upper middle class and white. These rather humdrum stori Welcome to Enid Blyton’s world. You might love it, or you might hate it. I personally am usually conflicted. The Happy House Children, written in 1946, sums up everything Enid Blyton is about with its very title, and tagline: “Happy House is a Dream Come True”. A dream world indeed, where all the children are good, and happy, well-fed, clean and nicely spoken, and get the better of any of the “horrid” children they meet. They are inevitable upper middle class and white. These rather humdrum stories of domesticity were reprinted in different permutations: alone, in anthologies, or together in the popular “double bumper volumes” labelled “Two Fine Enid Blyton Books in One”. I owned several of these and read them over and over, as well as avidly reading what I could get my hands on in the library. No wonder the stories began to feel a bit familiar. The very first book in the collection was originally called “The Children at Happy House”. The one reviewed here is one of the bumper double books: “The Children at Happy House” and “The Happy House Children Again” published in 1966 by Collins, and entitled collectively: The Happy House Children. Each had also been printed in anthologies such as the typically Enid Blyton-titled “The Sunshine Book” (which I have also reviewed). The Happy House Children has a colourful cover with a picture of three terribly nice children cavorting with their dog. In the background is a large thatched cottage, surrounded by an immaculate lawn, trees and shrubs. The children are neatly dressed, with not a hair out of place, not a scratch or a smudge to be seen, smiles on their faces, the lawn smooth as glass—there’s not even a straw out of place on the thatch! It is an ideal “happy” delightful world. Intended for children of around 7-9 years old, The Happy House Children contains ten linked stories, plus a further twelve from the second volume. The book provides a cosy read about Jack, Jane and Bengy, plus their doting parents, who are all doing what children and families often seen to do at the start of an Enid Blyton book. They are creating a perfect fantasy world in the minds of their young readers: that of model children leaving the built-up and depressing city where they live, to establish a perfect life, in a “dear little house” in the open spaces and freedom of Enid Blyton’s idealised world of the country. As if this wasn’t desirable enough, along with them goes Hannah their maid, to a nice little village with “more trees than houses and … wild flowers to pick, and cows in the fields”. The first few pages continue in this vein, and the “dear little house” is included, with its “primrose-lined path to the blue front door”. There’s a village green where white ducks swim on the pond, and more yellow primroses and bluebells. The cosy kitchen of their lovely new house has a wide window ledge just right for Hannah’s geraniums. Jane will be able to lean out of her bedroom window and pick cherries off a nearby fruit tree, there’s a garden full of flowers to explore, and even a little stream. Just in case you are wondering where (or indeed if) the clichés stop, we get a little bit of action. The children are allowed to choose “the very nicest” darling little puppy from the nearby farm, and of course Mummy (who seems to be called “Mrs. Busy”) doesn’t mind one little bit. One day, Benjy, the (cry)baby of the trio has an argument with Jane over his very old toy monkey and her doll (it’s really too boring to recount) and on another day, Patter the puppy goes missing … but only for a couple of pages because he is “clever enough to know the way home and come home all by himself”. The children find that their next door neighbour doesn’t like children (what a surprise!) but does own a fascinating cuckoo-clock, which they are all dying to see. Somehow they contrive to solve this problem by encouraging her “darling little kitten … quite black with four white paws and a white nose” out of her garden and returning it and getting invited to tea by “Miss Plum” into the bargain. Whereupon Miss Plum confesses that she was just as scared that the children would not like her. It’s all too sweet for words. It really is. More days pass and Patter “has an adventure” (again) by escaping and getting on to a bus. (Patter is definitely the hero of this book for me!) Then there is a story where poor little Benjy becomes ill. He’s left in bed all by himself whilst Mummy takes Jack and Jane off to visit their Auntie Mary, and feels very sorry for himself. However things starts to look up when Miss Plum brings him some ice-cream. Then it is Mrs. Busy (the children’s mother)’s birthday but Jane has lost her purse. She hatches a plan to earn a few pennies and sixpences, and manages to collect five whole shillings! Now everyone is able to buy a little something for Mummy, and Jane has the best present of all for her: a vase, and a comb with its own case. The End. Are you still with me? For we have a Whole Other Book to get through yet. Can you stand the tension and excitement, do you think? To be fair, Enid Blyton does write far more exciting adventures than this, with quite involved mysteries sometimes. These tales, on the other hand are very home-based. However they are geared to young children, and as such may be satisfying to a child to whom reading is a fairly new experience. Reading them is easy and straightforward, with absolutely no challenging vocabulary. So let’s give her the benefit of the doubt and carry on with the second book in this volume: “The Happy House Children Again”, which was first published in 1947. So here we are again with Jack, who is now nine, Jane who is seven, and five year old Benjy. They all live at … yes, “Happy House” with their parents and Hannah the maid, and Patter the dog. Miss Plum is a friendly old lady who lives next door. (You can just feel all Enid Blyton’s happy little fans tuck themselves up cosily for another easy read, can’t you?) The weather is hot, and the Busy family are not going away to the seaside this year, because Daddy says he “has had to spend quite a lot of money on Happy House” (though he does have the grace to say that he will go if Mummy thinks it is a good idea. And I am beginning to wonder if Hannah worries where her next wages are coming from.) Will it be a boring Summer in Happy House then? Unthinkable! What transpires to relieve us all from impending stultification is a visit from Miss Plum’s niece and nephew, who are are coming to stay with her for a week. Of course she is slightly apprehensive about this because (remember?) she’s not really used to having children around. She has coped with the three next door, but Tommy and Betty are a new challenge. Tommy is eight and Betty is seven. Jack, Jane and Benjy volunteer to meet them (I hope you are remembering all these names. There will be a test shortly …) when they arrive on the bus, and show them the way to their aunt’s house. Tommy seems a bit too big for his boots in several ways, boasting that he can ride his bike for miles, and is sure he could drive a car—and he could ride a horse because when he came across one that was bolting he leapt up, grabbed the reins and forced it to a standstill … (we begin to wonder if Tommy is just a little bit of a fantasist). But they do not like the way he talks about his aunt, or the way he treats his sister. Tommy thinks girls are silly and useless—and then he fairly hammers on Miss Plum’s door—BLIM-BLAM-BLAM! and then the children are sure that they don’t like him one little bit: “‘How dare he knock like that!’ said Benjy. ‘Plummy won’t like it all all!’” Over the next few days they see just how arrogant, bossy, and selfish Tommy is. He has no idea how to play “Red Indians”, grabbing the Indian head-gear belonging to Jane and Benjy and then telling everyone what they have to do. He wants both girls for his squaws, and orders them to cook his dinner. Jack is ordered to tie Benjy up—and then says he will shoot poor Benjy with his bow and arrow! Thank goodness for Patter, who like any dog wants to join in the fun …. but oh no! Tommy shoots Patter! How dreadful. But not to worry, Miss Plum appears to save the day and it’s ginger-beer all round. His sister Betty is no angel either. She breaks a wheel off Benjy’s toy car and tells fibs about Jane, and Tommy continues to be belligerent and loud-mouthed. Then comes the final straw (although personally I would have thought Patter getting shot was time to call it a day). Tommy smashes a glass pane in Miss Plum’s cucumber frame but blames Jack for it! Things between the children get very nasty indeed, with worse threats from Tommy. We then have a nice example of the pathetic fallacy from Enid Blyton (now tell me honestly, you never expected that, did you?) Just as things couldn’t get any worse, a storm wells up with lots of thunder and lightning. Since both Tommy and Betty are scared of thunder, the wind is taken right out of Tommy’s sails. The truth is revealed about Tommy’s behaviour, and he and his sister are almost banished from Miss Plum’s house but (goody-girl) Jane intervenes and they are allowed to stay. From now on Tommy and his sister learn good behaviour from the Happy House children. As the chapter heading indicates, they are “Much Nicer Children”. The rest of their visit is just perfect. The second half of the second book starts with a visit to a nearby farm. Jane is very brave when she witnesses the abuse of a little black kitten. Naturally this results in another pet being obtained for “Happy House”. But how well will the kitten, called “Jumpy” by the children, get on with Patter? In fact she is so cute and friendly, that she soon manages to win the dog round too. There’s a bit of a skirmish between Jane and Benjy, over their toys. Monkey is a very old much-loved stuffed animal belonging now to little Benjy. Jane takes Monkey outside for a while, to be with Angela her doll in the garden, by the stream. She means well, but accidentally knocks Monkey into the water. Now this makes Benjy very angry indeed. He completely loses his temper—and is sent to bed in disgrace. Benjy decides he wants to run away! But as always, Benjy calms down and things calm down again, and he apologises for his outburst. In the final chapter the Happy House family all go for a picnic on Breezy Hill. Even Jumpy, their little kitten, is there, as she manages to stow away in the car. Everything is just perfect, as Benjy says: “‘There’s only one thing I like better than leaving Happy House and going for a picnic.’ ‘What’s that?’ asked Mummy. ‘Why, leaving the picnic and going back to dear old Happy House again, of course,’ said Benjy.“ All together now … “Aaaaah.” All the Happy House stories are feel-good stories, and several of them have a moral message. On the plus side, they are from a simpler time, with little to object to, and stories which keen readers will devour as they are fast-moving page-turners. Enid Blyton wrote such a wealth of stories that some, including these, are inevitably pot-boilers. The books about the Happy House children do not seem to have made it past the 1960s, and certainly feel very dated now. They seemed innocent and innocuous enough at the time, but have little relevance to daily life now. I do wonder though, whether the reading over and over again of Enid Blyton’s books is partly responsible for my naturally fast reading rate now. Because I enjoy classics, and wish to get the most out of them that I can, I have to deliberately slow my rate down. No longer do I think it’s a good thing to be able to read a hefty Victorian novel in a few days … but it’s quite nice to have the choice. So did Enid Blyton actually do us all a service after all, with this cosy, homespun tosh? I wonder.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Adelheid

  3. 4 out of 5

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  4. 5 out of 5

    Gia

  5. 5 out of 5

    Ruben

  6. 5 out of 5

    Travis Lim

  7. 5 out of 5

    Lila

  8. 5 out of 5

    Saviour

  9. 4 out of 5

    Janet

  10. 5 out of 5

    Iru Sai

  11. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth B

  12. 4 out of 5

    M-Jean

  13. 4 out of 5

    Stephanie Vikernes

  14. 5 out of 5

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  15. 5 out of 5

    Andrea Hickman Walker

  16. 4 out of 5

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  17. 4 out of 5

    Jenny

  18. 4 out of 5

    Fiona

  19. 4 out of 5

    Katy

  20. 5 out of 5

    Melanie

  21. 5 out of 5

    Yvonne L

  22. 5 out of 5

    Buried In Print

  23. 4 out of 5

    Padmaja

  24. 5 out of 5

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  25. 5 out of 5

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  26. 5 out of 5

    Lydia

  27. 4 out of 5

    K.L.

  28. 5 out of 5

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  29. 4 out of 5

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  30. 5 out of 5

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  31. 5 out of 5

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  32. 5 out of 5

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  33. 4 out of 5

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  34. 5 out of 5

    Tammy Manning

  35. 4 out of 5

    kristen hajdari

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