The Enid Blyton Society
Those Dreadful Children
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Book Details...

First edition: 1949
Publisher: Lutterworth Press
Illustrator: Grace Lodge
Category: Family Stories
Genre: Family
Type: Novels/Novelettes

On This Page...

Reprint Covers
Review by Terry Gustafson
Further Illustrations


Wraparound dustwrapper from the 1st edition, illustrated by Grace Lodge

Frontis from the 1st edition, illustrated by Grace Lodge

1st German edition published by Erika Klopp Verlag in 1953,
illustrated by Walter Born with the title Those Posers
Brief Summary by Fiona Brough: The three Carlton children - John, Margery and Annette - are excited when a new family move into the house at the bottom of the garden. However, the older Taggertys - Pat, Maureen and Biddy are loud, rough, dirty and not at all the sort of children the prim, tidy Carltons want to associate with. Due to an old friendship of their fathers they are forced together - two sets of Dreadful Children - who have to take a hard look at their own behaviours as they learn to get along.

Full Review (This may contain spoilers):

Terry Gustafson's Review
It's the Carltons versus the Taggertys and looking at it from a philosopher's point of view — just who are the "Dreadful Children?" The Taggertys are supposed to be but according to them, the Carltons are.
The Taggertys move into the house at the bottom of the Carltons' garden and the new children on the block consist of Pat, Maureen, Biddy and Michael the baby. P, M & B are uncouth, bad-mannered, untidy, selfish, and out of control. On the other hand the Carlton children consisting of ten year old John, eight year old Margery and Annette who's five, are well brought up — immaculately behaved, clean and tidy, and they also go to church and Sunday school. Despite their positive upbringing they aren't perfect. John harbours grudges far too long and he's a bit namby-pamby. His father would like him to be a real boy as in "Boy" — he'd like him to swarm up trees, tear his clothes a little, crawl through bushes, splash through puddles and generally do what boys generally do. Margery is rather timid and flighty — she's scared of mice, bats, moths, beetles, worms, earwigs and everything else. Annette is a spoilt little Mummy's girl who's not averse to telling tales and bursting into tears if things don't go the way she'd like them to. So, once again — Who are the Dreadful Children? In chapter #2 it's John and Margery labelling the Taggertys thus and in Chapter #5 it's revealed that the Taggertys consider the Carltons as T. D. C.

Being so handily situated there has to be a getting together of both sides — and eventually there is. The Carltons are looking forward to meeting their new neighbours but before they move in John and Margery feel drawn to the garden of the empty residence. They climb over the wall a number of times during the next few days and explore the territory. They discover a summer-house, a fish-pond, and a large weeping-willow tree that spreads around and creates a kind of leafy cave. Their visits are naturally kept secret from little Annette because of her tale-telling inclinations. Unfortunately they are caught one evening by none other than the new owner's children who have arrived to look over the place. John and Margery endure a very unpleasant experience because The Horrid, Rough, Unkind, Dirty, Dreadful children throw them to the ground, rough them up, and even tie John's hands together before running off at their mother's call thus allowing the Carlton duo to up-and-over over the wall again as if all the dogs in hell were after them!

That's it! There will be no more contact with Those Dreadful Children as far as the Carltons are concerned but there is still an interest because the Taggertys seem to enjoy life a little more than they do. They play lively games such as Red Indians and Pirates and they crawl about in the undergrowth with "Dopey" who is the Taggerty's zany and uncontrollable dog. Such activities are rather outside the experience of the wholesome Carlton kids. O.K. there's a certain charm about those Taggertys and Margery has remarked on their nice faces and lovely blue eyes but the Likes of Them mustn't mix with the Likes of Us. This attitude is reinforced by Mrs. Carlton who is of the Old School. She's heard from Mrs. Wilson down the road that the Taggertys have no manners at all and furthermore, Mrs. Taggerty borrowed something and didn't return it ... and she's untidy ... and her dog romped all over the geraniums! Mrs. Carlton: "Oh, dear. I'm afraid they'll be impossible as friends. I must warn the children to have nothing to do with them."

Unfortunately (or fortunately for the sake of a good story) the two sets of children have to meet up again and this is brought about by the fact that Mr. C. and Mr. T. are old school friends. Say No More. The children end up going to dinner at each other's houses and there are a few tense and prickly moments. When the Taggerty children arrive they take over the place and Mrs. Carlton seems a little out of her depth. She hovers in the background trying to think what's best to do whilst she watches her children's possessions commandeered and carted out into the garden. Fortunately the telephone rings and she is able to escape. Dopey the dog jumps the garden wall and joins in the merriment whereby Annette, the smallest Carlton, threatens to go and tell Mummy about him. This is where she learns a few stark facts of life from Pat the oldest Taggerty who grabs hold of her dress. "Sit down, tell-tale. Do you know what you want? You want a jolly good spanking — one that hurts. If I were John I'd slap you every time you told tales or yelled." When Annette actually kicks the dog she is shouted at again and she very quickly learns through her fright that she'd better change herself a little — or at least when the Taggertys are near. As has happened before in many Blyton tales there is much that can be learnt when opposites are thrust together and in this book even the mothers and fathers' attitudes alter a little in respect of their neighbours. Mrs. Carlton for one loses a little of her prim and proper attitudes and becomes more tolerant of boisterous behaviour and over-excited animals. The men don't register all that much so it's a little hard to judge the changes in their lives but they are very appreciative of the alterations as far as sons and daughters go.

The Carltons visit the Taggertys who have asked them to come in old clothes. Old clothes to the Carltons consist of attire that could safely be worn to church and another lesson is learnt: When you play Red Indians it is best to dress accordingly. Quite incredibly Annette has a fight with little Biddy and despite the fact that her adversary is a Taggerty, she survives — mainly because Pat separates them. She has another try but this time she receives a slap — Pat's had enough of her. Another rough game is a bit much for tender Margery so she's taken inside and introduced to Michael the Taggerty baby. She falls in love with him. This is her calling. She wants a baby of her own. She talks to him and cuddles him and titivates him and generally makes herself very useful to Bridget the Scottish mother's-help who is employed at the Taggerty home.

A Horrid Quarrel occurs and there is a separation of the Taggerty and Carlton children. Baby Michael has an accident and there is much concern over Dopey the dog who's going to be sent away because of his involvement. This will break Pat's heart and something has to be done about it. Something is done about it and the rift is healed. John is becoming a boy's boy under the rough Taggerty influence. Annette no longer tells tales and is becoming less self-centred. Margery is learning not to be so scared of creatures like Dopey and she even consents to look at some pet mice! Under the Carlton sway Pat is learning to be a little more mannerly and gentle to his sisters — in fact, overall, the Taggertys are changing for the better. Their manners have improved and they don't tell so many fibs (just a few).

This is a very readable book and it contains the Enid Blyton touches that are a feature of so many of her more popular works such as The Boy Next Door of which there are slight similarities but in this case the book is obviously suited to a slightly younger audience. There's plenty of interaction amongst the characters with each child making his or her presence felt. Dopey the dog plays his part in similar vein to the parrot in the Bill Smugs story-books or the dog which accompanies the Find-Outers everywhere (two examples of well known works by the author).

A very clever bit of psychological one-upmanship is featured in Chapter #13 and could well stimulate memories from years gone by when kids used to play the "I Dare You To" game of "Chicken". Many teenagers risked life and limb taking part in this but John is more sensible and he uses his intellectual superiority to counter the situation that arises.

The Taggertys according to the Carltons are "heathens" which marks them as uncivilized or irreligious persons and although Pat seems a Lost Cause, John feels that Maureen & Annette should work on the Taggerty girls to see if they can be won over. Margery is certainly in agreement as far as little Michael goes and she already has some ideas which fall in line with her religious instruction. She might introduce a few sacred concepts to the baby boy when he's a little more receptive because it's most desirous to get 'em when they're young!

There's a party — it's Annette's sixth birthday: She is dressed up in a blue silk dress with a lovely sash, blue socks and shoes to match. She looks very pretty and she knows it. She momentarily forgets her Taggerty education concerning vanity — probably from all the excitement of the party: "Don't I look nice she cries dancing over to Maureen, Pat and Biddy. Do you like my new frock?" "It's awful!" says Pat at once and Annette pouts. No tears though, because she's a changed girl.

Maureen prays to God with a request — could He make the Amazon River reside in Italy because that's what she wrote on her school test-paper! Margery has to put her right on that one and instruct her a little more re the correct procedure when she Speaks to the Sky — but at least one of the Taggertys is now praying.

More things happen. John yearns for a dog. Will he get one? School is a problem for Pat. There are punishments for his poor work and then in true Blyton tradition there is a chapter headed: "A Terrible Shock!" The interest rises. Is God the answer to the calamity? Time will tell but meantime that all pervasive Entity is becoming more real in the Taggerty world. The story builds up to a Grand Climax which should not fail to make an impact on any reader who has feelings towards their fellow human beings.
Grace Lodge once again supplies the pictures. There's a nice colourful cover and a quite poignant illustration in Chapter #12. The work of this artist is fairly easy to recognize.

We are educated into at least one word of dog-language: If Dopey goes "Woof" it means "Fibber". This is attested to in Chapter #14 — "Going to School."

The end letters of "Taggertys" always make it look, to me, as if the word is misspelt.

Here's one of those little idiosyncrasies which are a feature of the author's world: If you are a complete neophyte and glance closely at the jacket of the 1949 edition you might think that Eniel Blyton wrote Those Dreadful Children.

The "Chicken" craze of the Fifties referred to resulted in a few deaths because of the reluctance to be labelled "Chicken". The film Wild for Kicks (a.k.a — Beat Girl) contained a fairly graphic portrayal of this practice namely — a group of kids laying their heads on a railway line and awaiting the train. It was excised from the prints that screened in the less liberal countries.

If a diagram was made up of the most popular Blyton works — i.e: the books that showed the author at her best, it might range somewhere between 1937 to perhaps the 1952 mark and Those Dreadful Children is naturally included within that period. The graph could be only a rough estimate though because there'd always be fans pumping for a few each side — amongst whom would be those persons dedicated to The River of Adventure! These illustrations are hidden by default to ensure faster browsing. Loading the illustrations is recommended for high-speed internet users only.