The Enid Blyton Society
The Children at Green Meadows
Back Book 7 of 7 in this category Next

Book Details...

First edition: 1954
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 1958,
illustrated by G. von Wille-Burchardt with the title Four-legged Guests
The urge to care for an animal or a bird or some kind of aquatic life or even a few insects seems almost universal and it can begin at a very early age. Enid Blyton seized on this and used it for material in many of her stories and this entire book deals with a family who shared their love with a variety of animals and birds that were fortunate enough to be placed in a home called Green Meadows. The given title doesn't reveal much and one might consider the novel in the same light as perhaps The Happy House Children or others of the Enid Blyton family-life collection but when the fifth or so chapter is reached there's a feeling that there's a retinue of pets in store. Naturally, the thrill of preparing an environment for them can be re-experienced as we remember our own efforts to construct a cage for a budgie, a kennel for a dog or even a vivarium for a newt.
There are three children in the Marshall family at Green Meadows — seven year old Sam, Clare who's nine, and then there's Francis the oldest who's a philosophical and resourceful young boy. There's also Mr. Marshall who was wounded rather severely in the back during Hitler's war so he's confined to a wheel-chair and is looked after very lovingly by his wife. His Mother-in-Law completes the contingent unless you want to include Mr. Black! Mr. Black is actually a large cat — originally named Blackie but he grew up into such a fine looking and noble specimen that he was given a title.

Green Meadows is really a farm in size with its great old house, large gardens, stables and even a pigeon-coop but over the years the place has become dilapidated because money is scarce and little can be done in the way of repairs. Several rooms in the house are unused, some furniture has been sold and the upkeep of the land has been left to Nature. Why not sell up and move to a smaller place? This is suggested but the children's Granny is against it and as the place belongs to her, there's no more to be said.

The plot is all about the various creatures the Marshall family care for — creatures which by necessity have had to be parted from their owners. This comes about because of a nearby housing development where a couple of enormous blocks of flats are in the process of being completed one of which already has some tenants. Unfortunately you are not allowed to keep pets in the flats so those tenants who possess them need to find a new home for their creatures and that's how it all begins. Francis who features quite predominately in the book is mad on animals and birds and in this respect he reflects his Granny's passion. He's so desperate to have a dog that like Roddy in the book Six Cousins Again he begins imagining he has one and, to him, it is quite real. He calls it Paddy. Clare suspects he is so inclined and she mentions her suspicions to little Sam but they are sensitive enough even at their tender ages to keep the secret to themselves.

A fight between Francis and the owner of a dog is the prelude to the menagerie that grows within the confines of Green Meadows. In a way Francis starts the scuffle because he hits a boy who is teasing him about his pretend dog — Paddy. The boy fights back and wins in fine style. Poor battered Francis goes home and is rather furious with himself because he's a Scout and he should have possessed more control. You mustn't hit people if you are a Scout.

When the boy who thrashed Francis passes Green Meadows the next day, Clare, who is sorry for her poor brother, has a go at him but the enemy is too experienced in the art of self-defence and Clare ends up on the ground with a bump! After directing a threat at little Sam who has turned up as a kind of reinforcement, the boy departs. Curiously he reappears that evening in a very unhappy state. His name is Dan and he begs the children to keep his dog for him because he lives in one of the nearby flats where the "No Pets" rule is being enforced. If the children at Green Meadows won't take on his dog Rex — as a boarder, the animal will be placed in a home and chained up all day. Francis and his siblings very kindly agree to host Rex and it's not too surprising considering their love for animals and the fact that Scouts, Brownies and Cubs are expected to do good deeds. It's decided they’d better keep their extra-curricular activity a secret from the adults because their benevolence might not be looked upon from the same point of view as the children themselves gauge it — you know what grown-ups are like! Unfortunately, children often don't realise that subterfuge such as this can hardly go unnoticed and sure enough Rex is discovered by none other than their Granny. Fortunately, like Enid Blyton, Granny is also an animal lover and the children manage to persuade her to keep their guilty secret but ... it's impossible to keep a dog undiscovered as has already been demonstrated. Mother soon finds out but she's the same way inclined as Enid Blyton and Granny so things are looking up for the volunteer zoo-keepers and later on a kitten is brought in by another tenant of the nearby estate and then a pony called Flash joins the ranks — the latter being introduced as the result of a very brave act by Francis.

This involvement with animals is having a positive effect on the family as the days go by. Granny, who was rather a cantankerous old lady finds a new purpose in life and is becoming more relaxed and alive with the fresh air and exercise she gets when she's bustling back and forth to help with the dog and the kitten and the pony and what have you. Daddy in his wheelchair and Mummy are enjoying this new slant on life and they are very proud of their son Francis when they hear of his heroic act regarding the pony. Francis is a chip off the old block because amongst his Father's war medals is one for Great Bravery.

When it's discovered that Flash the pony has an annoying wound on his leg we are introduced to the Animal Van belonging to the People's Dispensary for Sick Animals. Enid Blyton who championed organisations such as the Cubs and Scouts and Brownies also involved herself personally in charitable societies and clubs such as the P.D.S.A. and its junior branch. The children with Granny and Flash the pony troupe off one evening to the Animal Van and a Technical Officer or 'Van Doctor' tends to the pony's leg. How did Flash get the wound in the first place? Well, I don't want to reveal too much but it's connected with Francis and his bravery.

More animals arrive and life goes on. Dan, the owner of Rex the dog, has become a good friend and at Francis' suggestion has joined the Scouts so now they are all members of the Baden-Powell Movement (Clare is a Brownie and Sam's a Cub). The derelict pigeon-house is restored by a couple of handymen whose pets are being looked after at Green Meadows and it's now populated by half-a-dozen white pigeons. The Marshall family is benefiting from their kindness to the locals and some tit-for-tat help is being supplied by grateful pet-owners. Not only is the pigeon-house repaired, but a lick of paint is being applied here and there, the overgrown gardens are being restored to their former grandeur, the stables are being looked at as well, and Dan's mother is helping out in the house once a week thus giving Mrs. Marshall a bit of a break. Green Meadows is humming and that's not only because the kids have all become Busy Bees which is a children's version of the P.D.S.A. catering to those whose love embraces the many unfortunate animals on this planet.

Another dog — a big one, arrives to take up residence and the story picks up pace when this animal is taunted by some unruly children. He runs away and Francis searches him out — then things happen fast. Francis courts danger, the dog nearly loses its life, and then an amazing stroke of luck comes the boy's way and it affects the whole family. An offer that could well change their way of living is on the cards but first there is a period of extreme anxiety to endure. Will things turn out 100% perfect as most things do in Enid Blyton books or will the cup of fruitfulness be 50% full? 75%? The last chapter will reveal all.
A Blyton stalwart - Grace Lodge supplies the illustrations in the 1950's version.

Rex — the dog has feathers! Feathers? Yes, feathers! "Oh, where are his feathers?" said Sam. "The shaggy fur at the back of his legs is called feathers," said Dan with a laugh.

When Granny was little and forgot her P's and Q's her nurse cut out a whole lot of letters — all P's and Q's, and pinned them onto her frock for a punishment! This procedure was used by Enid Blyton about a decade and a half earlier when she wrote 'Polly's P's and Q's.' The idea is that Polly kept forgetting to say 'Please' and 'Thank You' (P for 'Please' and Q for 'Thank-you' or 'Than-Q').

For some people in faraway lands who may never have heard of Scouts, Cubs and Brownies — and Guides, the Scouting movement was founded by Robert Powell (later - Baden-Powell) after a successful camp for boys which was held on Brownsea Island a few years after the turn of the century.

Enid Blyton shares with us some of her rich references to those enhancements of life that can make us pause and reflect for a few moments when we wish to withdraw briefly from reality and wallow a little in the stored memories of early childhood:

"Mother, I've found the very first snowdrop out in the garden."

"It's St. Valentine's Day, the day all the birds marry — hark at them singing."

"There's a crocus peeping up and over there is a violet in that sheltered corner at the foot of the wall."

"Has anyone counted the daffodils out in the dell?" Lovely Christopher Robin language. These illustrations are hidden by default to ensure faster browsing. Loading the illustrations is recommended for high-speed internet users only.