Enid Blyton wrote nearly 800 books over a 40-year career, many of them quite slim, as well as close to 5,000 short stories. She sold 200 million books in her lifetime, with few translations until the 1960s and 1970s, and has sold some 400 million altogether. About half of her titles are still in print, and they still sell 11 million copies a year, including a million for the Famous Five series and three million Noddy books.
Wow! Rowling thus far has sold 325 million. So she will overtake Blyton (within the year I reckon) selling fewer titles (7 as opposed to 800) much faster. For the sake of Rowling’s health and sanity I hope she doesn’t up her output: Blyton wrote 10,000 words a day. The most I’m able to consistently write a day is about 1,500. I have written 10,000 in a day but it was during the sprint to finish my PhD thesis and I was not a sane or happy bunny rabbit doing it.
Enid Blyton wrote the first chapter book I ever read by myself: The Magic Faraway Tree. I adored it so much that she was also the author of the second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh and etc. chapter books I read on my own. She was my first author crush. After the Faraway books I fell for the Naughtiest Girl books. Only to be disappointed when she learns her lesson and becomes good—goodness? Bleah! Why was she no longer throwing chalk?!
Then I became so deeply obsessed with the Mallory Towers and St. Clare’s books that I begged my parents to send me to boarding school. When they refused I’d bully my sister into having midnight feasts with me. I’m not sure if they ever actually happened at midnight, but. I was very little when I was devouring her books.
I also read Famous Five and Secret Seven but I never liked them as much as the others. Julian was a bully, Dick was a whinger, Anne was unspeakably wet, and George wasn’t nearly tough enough. I kept waiting for her to murder Dick and Anne. Never happened. I guess Timmy the Dog was okay. And the Secret Seven weren’t even memorable enough to rail against.
I’ve never gone back and read her books again. Frankly, I’m too frightened of what I might find. She was one of the strongest influences on my becoming a writer and in particular in becoming a genre writer. My love for the Faraway Tree books led to my being exposed to all sorts of other wondrous books like the Susan Cooper’s, The Hobbit, Alice in Wonderland and Ursula Le Guin’s Earthsea trilogy. I didn’t read these books just once but over and over again.
Blyton taught me how to read, how to tell a story, about drama and suspense and action,
how girls are better than boys, glasses make you ugly, and how dobbing your mates into the authorities is always best. Some of those lessons stuck a wee bit better than the others . . .
I know Enid Blyton had little impact in the USA, but did you yanquis have comparable authors you fell for as a first-time reader? And non-USians, come share the Blyton love! Testify!