Enid Blyton's Nature Lover's Book
First edition: 1944
Publisher: Evans Brothers
Illustrator: Donia Nachshen and Noel Hopking
Category: Nature and Other Annual Courses
Type: Courses and Encyclopaedias
Publisher: Evans Brothers
Illustrator: Donia Nachshen and Noel Hopking
Category: Nature and Other Annual Courses
Type: Courses and Encyclopaedias
On This Page...
- The Poplar Tree
Poem: Teachers World No.1721 May 20, 1936
- The Little Nest
Poem: Teachers World No.1671 Jun 5, 1935
- March Comes In
Poem: Teachers World No.1709 Feb 26, 1936
- The Cuckoo
Poem: Teachers World No.1613 Apr 25, 1934
- Pixie Lessons
Poem: Teachers World No.1618 May 30, 1934
- The Yellow-Hammer Bird
Poem: Teachers World No.1889 Aug 9, 1939
- A Calm Day
Poem: Teachers World No.1876 May 10, 1939
- The Adventurer
Poem: Teachers World No.1640 Oct 31, 1934
- Blackberry Time
Poem: Teachers World No.1740 Sep 30, 1936
Poem: Teachers World No.1636 Oct 3, 1934
- Pixie Coats
Poem: Teachers World No.1845 Oct 5, 1938
- The Fir Tree
Poem: Teachers World No.1781 Jul 14, 1937
- Did You Ever Hear Such a Thing?
Story: Sunny Stories No.12 Apr 2, 1937
- The Mouse and the Squirrel
Story: Sunny Stories No.6 Feb 19, 1937
- The Tick-Tock Goblin
Story: Sunny Stories No.20 May 28, 1937
- Aha! Mister Rat!
Story: Sunny Stories No.34 Sep 3, 1937
- The Wrong Dinner-Time
Story: Sunny Stories No.14 Apr 16, 1937
- The Lovely Beak [The Beautiful Beak]
Story: Sunny Stories No.16 Apr 30, 1937
Three children live with their mother in the village of Greenwoods and like many other instances, there doesn't seem to be a father around but there's usually a man somewhere and in this case it's a single one who comes to live next door He's a writer of books about birds although he's a lover of all nature and Enid Blyton's Nature Lover's Book deals with a series of walks that the children experience with their new neighbour whom they meet when he comes over to borrow the newspaper ... well, that's what the children surmise when they look out of the window and see him coming through the gate. His name is Mr. Meredith and he's A Man Called Peter.
He offers to take Janet and John (approximately 10 and 6 years respectively) and their eleven year old brother Pat, on twice-monthly walks to explore the flora and fauna which the surrounding countryside has to offer. By doing this the children take in a whole year of observation and become very aware of the intricacies involved in the survival of plants, birds and the animals. There's a stack of information because each walk deals with a variety of subjects. They are accompanied on their rambles by Fergus, who is a small and very friendly Scottie dog. Many people who are familiar with the Blyton-World will immediately associate Fergus with another of his kind. Their first walk's in January when everything is "...so bare and bleak", according to Pat. What on earth could you see in January? What indeed — Mr. Meredith has high hopes because he's In The Business. He explains that animals are everywhere — many are sleeping in hollow trees and leaf-lined holes and the frogs are in the frozen pond. Some, however, are moving about and then they spot a hare, and also a weasel slinking through the hedge. They observe sparrows and robins and peewits (they're birds) and there're hazel catkins to pick and take home. Nettles are discovered and each flower, animal or bird is commented on by Mr. Meredith. He seems to know everything about the natural world and he gets quite technical at times — " ... you can tell a member of the dead-nettle family by the square stem. Look at the shape of the flower — it's divided into two lips, the upper one large, and the lower one small. We call the family the 'Lip Family' or 'Labiate Family' and to it belong a great number of valuable plants." The children are not completely without knowledge of the plants and animal life and John, the youngest, asks if lavender and wild thyme belongs to the same family because they have lips too. He's correct. 'Shepherd's Purse' is different however — that flower belongs to the 'Cross Family', the 'Cruciferae' as it is called. Janet suggests that a wallflower might belong to the same family. She's correct. Mr. Meredith tells them that trees belong to different families too as do birds, butterflies, moths, crabs and shrimps — everything. They come across gorse on the wind-swept common —
"Gorse is out all the year round, isn't it?" said Janet.
"Yes, you can usually find a blossom or two on the gorse even in the middle of winter," said Mr. Meredith. "Don't you know the old saying — 'When the gorse is out of bloom, then kissing's out of fashion'."
"Well, kissing never stops," said Janet, remembering how she kissed her mother every night, "so gorse can never be out of bloom."
Their first walk has been a great success and Mr. Meredith feels as if he's found two nephews and a niece which is really very nice according to him. Nephews and nieces need uncles so it's John who christens Mr. Meredith — 'Uncle Merry'.
Further excursions take in other aspects of the natural world as the months sidle by and there's always plenty to see. Surely there's nothing much to be observed during a stroll round the garden of their house but there is and Uncle Merry, as Mr. Meredith is now known, instructs the children accordingly. They learn about 'Aconites' which are the earliest flowers of the year although the 'Winter Jasmine' rivals them and they also learn of flowers with names I've never heard of — at least I didn't recognise 'Laurestinus' although I know what 'Dandelions' look like. Each flower or living creature that shows itself is described and we, together with Pat, Janet and John, are informed of the various characteristics.
Blackbirds and thrushes and chaffinches are dealt with on their St. Valentine's Day walk. The different bird-songs are pointed out and described. There's the Lark and the Wood-Pigeon and also Rooks which build their nests in the enormous elm trees. Big tits, small tits such as the Blue tits and the tinier Coal tits — they're all there and one bird is mentioned which I don't think I've seen but the moment I read the description of what it does I thought again. The small brown Tree-Creeper scurries around the trunks of trees looking for insects and maybe I have seen one because it brought up a very clear picture of a little feathered thing scaling trees in a spiralling fashion as squirrels do. John's already keeping a nature-chart on which he records the information learned from his proxy Uncle and there's another February walk with relevant discoveries too numerous to mention but one animal can be recorded that makes its presence felt throughout the year — Fergus!
Every now and again a lovely colour illustration appears of birds or animals they encounter on their trips and this adds to the overall quality of the book. The knowledge that Uncle Merry imparts is brief and to the point and he also answers the various questions that are put to him, so a lot is covered although little is dwelt upon. Into March they go with its blustery days, noisy nights and quick storms of rain and this time they learn of the 'Compositae Family'. Mr. & Mrs. Compositae are actually representatives of the Coltsfoot plant — another little item which Uncle Merry passes on to the children. Fergus is quite interested in nature too — he would love to catch a rabbit and examine it closely. He encounters hedgehogs a few times though but finds that examining these is a rather painful task! The frogs and tadpoles section reminded me of the various collections I had gathered together in the past and observed in line with Blyton instructions. 'Wild Arum' has an interesting story which brings to mind the David Attenborough forays into the world of nature (particularly those in The Private Life of Plants) when Uncle Merry describes how flies are trapped into pollinating the plant. It's almost as if the arum can think because after the flies have performed their service they are given a hearty meal and are set free.
To divert: "A flash of brilliant blue shot down the stream by them and all three children cried out in wonder." It's a Kingfisher and it would be interesting to watch one of those birds in action but my only glimpses are rationed to a handful per year when I see one perching on the telephone lines. Many of the descriptions that Enid Blyton presents us with via Uncle Merry are reflected in her other books — especially those dealing with the natural world. In an April walk the children learn how robins like to nest in something belonging to Man — an old kettle or boot or perhaps the pocket of a scarecrow and this characteristic of the bird is repeated several times in other stories but that's all right because the circumstances are slightly different and as they are part of another tale or nature instruction they blend in well. An example of duplication can be seen when a robin nests in a watering can belonging to a boy (also called Robin) in My Enid Blyton Bedside Book. The sticky glue on chestnut tree buds is explained to the children by Uncle Merry in this book and in The Adventures of Pip the information is weaved into a fairy story The cuckoo, the swallow, and the swift are touched upon when they go for their second April walk and up comes a mystery which I've yet to solve — do swifts really sleep on the wing? Were this to be true, what an extraordinary element of nature that would be. Yes, the mysteries are there and we want the answers sooner rather than later.
"There is such a lot to learn," said Janet. "I don't know how you remember everything, Uncle."
"I love the countryside ... perhaps when you're my age you will know ten times more than I do."
Janet thought that was quite impossible. She slipped her hand into Uncle Merry's and thought how lovely it would be to know so much and love so much. She squeezed her uncle's hand —
"When I see things I feel as if I'd like to write a poem about them, and keep them forever," she half-whispered.
Uncle Merry looked down at her, a wise smile in his brown eyes, "You feel as artists do when they long to paint something. They want to catch the beautiful thing their eyes see and keep it prisoner forever on their canvas. Poets want to capture it and hold it imprisoned in words. Musicians entangle it in music. Janet, it is a precious gift to be able to feel like that. Let it grow."
The fifth month arrives and bluebells enter into the world together with another mystery — do bluebells grow only on forest floors? If so, why? I think I've always visualised the flowers in clusters on the floor of the forest but Uncle Merry doesn't answer that one. The heat of May brings out the heather and in July it's raining frogs ... well not really, but it sure looks like it. The exodus of these amphibians from the ponds has coloured many villagers' tales over the years. In August the children together with Uncle Merry and Fergus visit the beach a couple of times to take in the sea versions of wildlife with their associated shells and complimentary seaweed. Most of the items described are familiar to us because we too have waded in the salt-water, dug deep into the sand and explored the rock-pools.
Their first early-morning walk comes in the month of September — a time so beautifully described by John Keats —
"Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness, close bosom-friend of the maturing sun ... "
The dew is heavy on the grass, the trees are turning colour and on the hedges there are gleaming red and yellow bramble leaves. The explorations continue and the children obtain more knowledge which helps to satisfy their enquiring minds. The squirrels are collecting nuts to store away and the robin sings more beautifully as befits Uncle Merry's description — "...the real autumn songster." Now, the last swallows are leaving and up into the autumn skies they soar — higher and higher. They turn ... and head south to commence their long journey across the oceans where they will search out warmer climes.
November is damp, dreary and also misty. There's a ramble though the woods and over ploughed fields to discover still more of nature's bounty which never ceases to amaze. Uncle Merry teaches the children how the word 'Lapwing' was coined to describe a survival-trick practised by the Peewits. Jackdaws, Peacock Butterflies and Wasps are touched upon as is Old Man's Beard which is mentioned in many of the Blyton books Page after page of nature-study brings us to December when Uncle Merry is away until Christmas Eve and the children leave presents for him on his table. A Christmas tree is needed but the grocer has none left (didn't know grocers sold trees). The Great Day dawns brilliantly because snow is thick on the ground and the reflected light is dazzling. Uncle Merry has returned the night before and has even visited but that was when the children were all in bed, and Mrs. Thomson (the children's mother) was probably in the sitting room. Presents for every one of course and Janet's gift to Fergus is a wonderful collar with a plaid pattern all round it. A tree is acquired because Uncle Merry can always solve little things like that — he digs a nice little spruce fir up from his garden. A regular feature of EB books appears here in the form of a bird-table — a present from Uncle Merry and naturally, it supplies still more information about birds once it's set up and subsequently visited by thrushes, sparrows, chaffinches and other feathered friends. There's also a visit by a turkey that doesn't move around like the other birds do but it does help immensely with the Christmas dinner. There's one last trip for Janet, John, Pat, Uncle Merry, and Fergus and it comes after they have partaken of their Yuletide cheer. Off they go to examine the marks that animals and birds leave in the snow and then they return and admire the lovely tree that mother has decorated whilst they were out. The candles are lit (yes, it seems it was candles in those days of the early 1940s), the ornaments shine brightly, and Fergus gazes up at the fairy doll which sits right at the very top. Uncle Merry is hugged by three grateful children when he leaves and Janet tells him they've learnt to know and love a thousand things.
Says John: "The biggest present you've given us is the key of the countryside, Uncle!"
Uncle Merry assures them, "Once you've got it, you never, never lose it!"
The year has ended but the thrill of learning about the wildlife of the countryside can continue forever. Now, it's 'Goodnight' to Uncle Merry and to his ever-faithful Fergus who follows his master out into the darkness and into their adjoining abode where there might be a log-fire burning and a small Christmas tree for just the two of them with its candles a-glowing and ornaments a-tinkling.
Is this the end? No it isn't because there are almost a hundred more pages that contain a variety of items. Poems by Enid Blyton that naturally follow the theme of the book and there are 'Some interesting Things to Do' such as Nature Charts, Pressing Flowers and even making little toys from those things that Nature leaves lying around. Want to know how to make an aquarium or leaf-prints? Fir-Cone Birds perhaps? There are names and descriptions of dozens and dozens of flowers which would be particularly helpful to prospective British zoologists because the book naturally deals with the author's environment. Want to know about birds? OK — view the pictures and descriptions. Trees? The same. Enid Blyton is famous enough but feast your eyes on the compositions of other well-known people in the form of poets who wax lyrical about our natural heritage in verse such as 'Will Spring Return?', 'The Thrush's Nest', and the poem for April is one that has a line familiar to many — 'Oh, to be in England ...' Now surely this is the end of the book ... but no, there's more — the compendium ends with several excellent short stories by the world's greatest author and we finally reach the conclusion where we see a picture of the children and Uncle Merry on one of their rambles deep in the woods.
A Man Called Peter was one of those movies that everyone remembers — at least I think they would. It came out in the mid 1950s.
Enid Blyton was fond of conveying information — through intermediaries. There's Mr. Meredith of course, but there are others who do the work just as well. I think the style that is the closest match to this book would be when Uncle Nat who's Peter and Mary's real uncle takes them rambling all over the place although each chapter of that book deals more specifically with one subject rather than the myriad of flowers and creatures featured in this book. There's Tammylan and Twigg in other books and also Tony and Mollie's Uncle Jack (another real uncle) who teaches them all about the 'Birds of Our Gardens'.
The age we live in is amply illustrated by the fact that before Christmas the children went into Uncle Merry's house to decorate his study and leave presents for him. He was apparently away so, in the early 1940s I guess the locksmiths didn't have all that much work to do because people could leave their doors unlocked if they wanted to.
This book is a good reference source for the budding naturalist who wants to gather a little more information about something he or she spots in the garden or out in the paddocks. There's a four-page index at the front so the information can be found very quickly. I tried it out when I read a story called 'A Fairy Secret' (Enid Blyton's Good Morning Book). This short tale revealed how the fairies hide their dancing shoes in the White Dead-Nettle flower. There are many instances where EB substitutes parts of flowers for items that the fairy-folk use in everyday life and I was curious to see what part of the flower was not unlike tiny shoes. Unfortunately, comprehensive as it is, although there was a good description there was no picture of that particular bloom, however it's fairly common so it shouldn't be hard to find.
Enid Blyton's way of making everyday things interesting could be one of the factors that make her books so popular. Forever and a day, I had looked upon sea-shells as things you just find on beaches and I knew that some of them were inhabited by tiny creatures such as the hermit crab or the limpet. I think the word 'Molluscs' would apply to them and I also remember some Blyton book mentioning 'Bivalves' so I knew the correct names but my knowledge wasn't complete. Despite reading the book many times in the past I had never cottoned on to the fact that all shells once contained inhabitants. Uncle Merry mentions this and I thought about it and wondered how the plain, slightly round shell you see on the beach could act as protection. Sometimes one doesn't comprehend items of knowledge completely with the first or second reading — one has to 'cognize' so I thought about the flattish bit on the shell edge and realised it was part of a hinge — two shells were once hinged to each other which meant the creature inside was fully covered. As the years passed the shells had simply broken apart when the sea-creature died and the hinges became old. Now the cognizance was real and Enid Blyton with Uncle Merry's help completed my education regarding the fact that ALL shells once harboured sea creatures!
The author has mentioned swallows and swifts many times and her writings solved another mystery for me. What was the bird described in the beautiful and haunting Loudermilk song?
There's a little bird that somebody sendsWhenever I sang it I wondered about the bird and then I analysed the lyrics through Enid Blyton's eyes. I also changed a few of the words to suit including these two examples '... he sleeps on the wind' — I preferred 'wing', and 'out of reach of human eye' which I altered to 'out of reach of you and I'.
... down to the earth to live on the wind
Borne on the wind and he sleeps on the wing
... this little bird that somebody sends
He's light and fragile and feathered sky blue
So thin and graceful the sun shines through
This little bird that lives on the wind
This little bird that somebody sends
He flies so high up in the sky out of reach of you and I
And the only time that he touches the ground
... is when that little bird
... .is when that little bird
... is when that little bird
The Blyton books have many descriptions of bird songs and it's worth listening to them to see if they are accurate and with the internet it is, of course, possible. I tried the chaffinch which, according to EB, sings thus: 'Chip-chip-chip-cherry-erry-erry-chippy-oooEEEar'. The one I listened to didn't sound all that much like the description but it may be down to how your imagination interprets sounds. There might also be various types of chaffinches and I could have been listening to one from Spain which of course wouldn't speak English! The yellowhammer was another I listened to with the same result — it didn't sound all that much like 'Little bit of bread and NO cheese' but, once again, it may be up to the individual.
The detailed illustrations are mainly of the different animals, plants, and birds the children and their 'uncle' observed but there are also pictures of Meredith and his young friends which are quite satisfactory and they seemed a little similar to others I'd noticed in one or two unrelated Blyton books but it doesn't seem to be the case. Donia Nachshen looks like a one-off.
Enid Blyton certainly had an intense interest in the world around her and to retain all that knowledge I think she would have needed an excellent memory. Some people can look at a page of writing once and retain what they've seen forever in their minds and others have to be content with being able to hold on to their observations for half a minute or so!