A secret agent needs to go to earth for a while to evade some dangerous criminals who are out to get him. Four children and a parrot need to convalescA secret agent needs to go to earth for a while to evade some dangerous criminals who are out to get him. Four children and a parrot need to convalesce from the measles. These two events really shouldn't coincide, but they do, as the children's friend Bill Smugs, presumably of the Secret Service (either that or he has a VERY rich fantasy life), takes them all off for a camping and bird-watching holiday in the Hebrides. It's all fun and games (not to mention Spam and ginger beer) until Bill goes off to the boat to transmit a message to London...and doesn't come back.
In this book I really noticed the difference between these four and the seafaring children of Antonia Forest's or Arthur Ransome's books. The children and Bill travel by motor-boat, so when the engine is wrecked by the bad guys, they are stranded. While the cloak and dagger stuff is, as usual, pretty silly, and Bill seems less James Bond, more Johnny English, there are wonderful descriptions of the islands, of a violent storm that sweeps over them, and especially of the bird life. Blyton's powers of characterisation seem to be strongest with animals and birds. The Adventure books feature the adorable parrot Kiki, whose repertoire includes, "Fetch a doctor", "Pop goes the weasel" and "God save the King" - not to mention numerous other noises which she comes out with at the most inopportune moments. In this book she has some very funny encounters with gulls and two puffins who follow the children round.
Being a cynical adult I can only give The Sea of Adventure four stars - but I wish every book I read could be as hard to put down as this one....more
This typical Blyton romp starts with four children and their friend, Prince Paul of Baronia, tucking into a calorific tea (buttered toast, hot scones,This typical Blyton romp starts with four children and their friend, Prince Paul of Baronia, tucking into a calorific tea (buttered toast, hot scones, home-made eclairs and a huge chocolate sponge cake). Their mother (unusually for Blyton, a career woman - a trained pilot) has news for them: she is going to rent a castle for Prince Paul's royal parents - and they're all invited to stay there. This is exactly the sort of holiday you would want as a ten-year-old, but aren't very likely to get.
Soon after they arrive at Moon Castle the excitement gets kicked up a notch when spooky events begin to occur - books fly off library shelves and musical instruments start to play themselves. The castle caretakers claim the place is haunted, but this is Blyton, so it can't be - while she made use of many of the props of Gothic fiction, in her books apparently supernatural events always have an explanation. Happily, this one is more intriguing than the usual gang of smugglers. I had to dock the book a star for not making it clear how very dangerous it is to explore an abandoned mine and also for suggesting that the effects of radiation are about as serious as sunburn - but on the whole this is a solid tale of adventure which doesn't disappoint....more
Just bought this as a first-birthday gift - small children love this type of book and this is a lovely example. Cute, fun, vocabulary-expanding and thJust bought this as a first-birthday gift - small children love this type of book and this is a lovely example. Cute, fun, vocabulary-expanding and there's a mouse to look for on every page. ...more
The Box of Delights is a 1935 children’s book by John Masefield. It’s a sequel to The Midnight Folk (which I haven’t read) and in both books the centrThe Box of Delights is a 1935 children’s book by John Masefield. It’s a sequel to The Midnight Folk (which I haven’t read) and in both books the central character is Kay Harker.
On the way home from his first term at boarding school, Kay meets a mysterious Punch and Judy showman, Cole Hawlings, who warns him that, “The Wolves are Running” and seems to have magical powers – he finds Kay’s lost railway ticket and somehow knows that he will be having buttered eggs for lunch. Later Cole entrusts him with the magical Box of Delights. The Box gives its owner the power to shrink to a tiny size (“go small”), get places at lightning speed (“go swift”) or both at once. It’s also a portal into the past (Kay goes back to the time of the Trojan Wars in search of another time traveller) and into a kind of parallel universe. The villain of the book, Abner Brown, is after the Box and will stop at nothing to get it. He’s also determined to prevent the millennial Midnight Mass due to be held at Tatchester Cathedral from taking place. In the run up to Christmas Eve, clergy begin to disappear. Kay and the four Jones children, Peter, Susan, Maria and Jemima, who are staying with him for the holidays, have to keep the Box safe and use it to solve the kidnappings (or scrobblings, a word Masefield coined in The Midnight Folk).
In the best tradition of children’s mysteries, the adults disappear early on and the police are no help whatsoever. And as usual, the protagonist is not the most interesting character – that would be Maria Jones. Maria is eminently quotable. She gets kidnapped at one point (“I’ve been scrobbled just like a greenhorn. I knew what it would be, not taking a pistol.”)
This is a book where the sense of the past is strong even in the parts set in what was then the present day. However, there’s plenty of modernity in the mix. “Christmas ought to be brought up to date,” Maria says, “it ought to have gangsters, and aeroplanes and a lot of automatic pistols.” In this book there are gangsters, cars, aeroplanes and cars which turn into aeroplanes, as well as a lot of delightfully old-fashioned magic, both black and white. As a contrast to the dangers the children face in The Box of Delights there is the safe haven of Kay’s home Seekings and beautifully festive descriptions.
The Box of Delights is long for a children’s book – over 400 pages in early hardback editions – and not as plot-driven as The Hobbit or The Chronicles of Narnia. There are excursions which, while fun to read, don’t have much to do with the plot. It’s a sequel without much backstory, so it might be better to read The Midnight Folk first. Having said that, there wasn’t a page which disappointed me – apart from the very last two.
Bottom line: Magical vintage Christmas story. Slightly spoiled by a cliched ending but don’t let that put you off reading it.