The Enid Blyton Society
Benjy and the Others
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Book Details...

First edition: 1955
Publisher: Latimer House
Cover Art: Dorothy Brook
Illustrator: Kathleen M. Gell
Category: Happy House
Genre: Family
Type: Novels/Novelettes

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Review by Tony Summerfield
Further Illustrations

Cover from the 1st edition, illustrated by Dorothy Brook
The third book about the Happy House Children, Benjy and the Others, is a scarce little book, and as nobody has rushed forward with a review, I have assumed that our regular scribes are unable to lay their hands on a copy, so I thought I had better read it myself. It is clearly aimed at younger readers and possibly doesn't have quite the same pull as J K Rowling or Anthony Horowitz.

It is also unusual that this was the only Blyton story to be serialised in Sunny Stories that was not immediately published as a book on completion. It ran between July and December in 1952, but only appeared in book form when the first two books in the series were republished by Latimer House in 1955. One of the reasons for its scarcity is that I don't believe it was ever reprinted.

As the title suggests, five year-old Benjy is very much the star of the show and the other occupants of Happy House, humans, animals and toys, merely take supporting roles. These are brother and sister, Jack (9) and Jane (7), Mummy and Daddy, Hannah the maid and Miss Plum the next door neighbour. Jane's doll, Angela and Benjy's stuffed toy, Monkey, also play their part as do Patter the dog and Jumpy the kitten. I was intrigued by this final name, as a similar character appeared in a monthly picture strip for three years in Good Housekeeping with the title 'Golly the Wog and Jumpy the Kitten' — not surprisingly this one didn't make it into book form.

The whole book revolves around Benjy's passionate desire to got to school, but Mummy has told him that he must wait until he is 6, and although Benjy himself can only count up to twelve, sister Jane tells him that his birthday is in October in another forty days, so we have 12 chapters of Benjy in a 40 day home wilderness. We are also told that the school will only take children when they can read and Miss Brown (there is a familiar Blyton name for a school mistress!) would not accept a child who can't read. As Benjy's only knowledge of the alphabet is ABC (though he is able to draw the letter 'O') he is clearly between a rock and a hard place as it seems nobody has made any effort to teach him anything at all. I also wondered whether he wasn't perhaps the sharpest knife in the drawer.

During the next forty days things develop. He is allowed to attend afternoon games of netball at Jane's school, a disaster at first until a big boy called Michael takes him in hand. Miss Plum takes them to the zoo and when asked what he enjoyed most Benjy picks out the moving stairs on the underground. At Hannah's suggestion Jane starts a school for her doll Angela and Benjy is allowed to attend and at last he starts learning something. Perhaps in those days, 'Mummys' were too busy organising the maids to worry about whether or not their children could read.

The book draws to an exciting climax with Benjy's birthday, when he receives everything a little prospective school boy needs as presents, pencil box, satchel etc. I was a bit surprised that because his birthday fell on a Sunday he was unable to have a party — perhaps Enid was trying to keep the Lord's Day Observance people happy! There is a slight blip when he gets ready for school next day and gets told that he can't start in the middle of a term, but not too many tears and tantrums as all comes right in the end.

Kathleen Gell who had illustrated the first two books in her own distinctive style, also added the illustrations for this third one, with Dorothy Brook illustrating the attractive cover. These illustrations are hidden by default to ensure faster browsing. Loading the illustrations is recommended for high-speed internet users only.