The Enid Blyton Society
The Boy Next Door
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Book Details...

First edition: 1944
Publisher: George Newnes
Illustrator: Alfred E. Bestall
Category: One-off Novels
Genre: Mystery/Adventure
Type: Novels/Novelettes

On This Page...

Reprint Covers
Artwork
Review by Terry Gustafson
Further Illustrations

Reprints


Wraparound dustwrapper from the 1st edition, illustrated by Alfred E. Bestall



1st Australian edition published by Angus and Robertson in 1949
re-illustrated cover by an uncredited artist.



Frontis from the 1951 Collins reprint, illustrated by Gilbert Dunlop
Brief Summary by Julie Heginbotham: :- "A boy here! There is no boy here at all!" These words came from the fierce looking woman as she glared at Robin, Betty and Lucy. But the children knew there was a boy living in the large house next door. So why did the she say that? What is the mystery of the boy?
The children are soon in the middle of an amazing adventure, with 'the boy next door', including a wicked uncle, a house-boat and kidnappers! This is a most exciting book, one of Blyton's best, and you can't put it down until finished!

Full Review (This may contain spoilers):

Terry Gustafson's Review
If the Mannerings and the Trents had not existed in 1944 then maybe the characters in The Boy Next Door could have played the parts although, instead of a fox or a goat or a hedgehog or a snake or a puffin or a talking parrot, there would be a little dog named Sandy to represent the animal side of things. Kit has Jack Trent's skill at tree-climbing but on a more advanced scale and he might also be a little stronger. Robin could be Philip. Lucy could sub for her namesake (Lucy-Ann) and Betty could be the Dinah of the series but how would they have fared when immersed in the situations of international intrigue that were faced by the Smugs crowd? I wonder a little about that because The Boy Next Door takes place almost exclusively within the confines of two houses save the odd trip along the river. Perhaps the Arnold kids (Secret Island, Spiggy Holes, etc) would be more eligible as they themselves have considerable experience of strange and exotic locations.
Robin, Betty and their friend Lucy are three of the actors in this drama and when they climb a tree to look down into the next-door garden they spy a boy of about their age performing a wonderful war-dance in a Red Indian costume complete with feathered head-dress. In their wish to spice-up the school holidays they decide to dress as Red Indians also, creep next door, and then pounce on the boy and give him a real fright.

They carry out their plan but very unfortunately all three of them are captured by the resident Indian and each tied to a tree where once again they experience the dramatic war-dance. Then their captor states that he will fetch a bow and some arrows so that he can shoot them all! There is a picture of Robin, Betty and Lucy all roped up and it symbolizes the action and excitement which is just the stuff that children love in a story because it's local and could feasibly happen in their own lives. Cowboys such as Buffalo Bill, Hopalong Cassidy, Billy the Kid, Roy Rogers, The Lone Ranger and others were always meeting up with Red Indians and Enid Blyton surely capitalized on the American movies of that era which supplied moving images to the TV and computer-starved kiddies who fought the Indians in the school playground and on the back lawn at home or amongst the bushes in the park.

One thing I remember from when I first read this book is the apprehension I felt when I heard there was a Dragon in it. Although there are plenty of those in the Enid Blyton fairy stories I doubt if any other of her tales about real live people feature such a monster but to be honest it turns out that The Dragon is, in reality, a very fierce-looking woman who is one of Kit's guardians and, horrifically, she rounds a bush and discovers the helpless "Red Indians." She looks so astonished that Betty wants to burst out laughing despite the serious situation they are in and Robin's way of handling the situation is to look as if it's the most ordinary thing in the world to be tied to a tree in someone else's garden — but it doesn't work. When he states that they simply came over to play with the boy the ferocious Dragon roars and practically breathes smoke at the children as she sends them packing after telling them that there is "NO BOY HERE!"

There is definitely an air of mystery hanging over the house next door. The boy turns out to be an American orphan named Kit Anthony Armstrong who is under close supervision by The Dragon and one other guardian but he is desirous of company his own age. He's not short of ideas and easily figures out a means of communicating with the children in the garden adjoining his. He does so in a very clever way and the children take heed of the suggestion he makes and work on a plan to invade foreign territory once again. They are successful despite the chain-link fence that was very quickly installed after their previous trip, and there is a secret reunion at night but this time it is on a much friendlier basis. Kit's a pretty cool lad who's rather special because he is an heir but as often happens in tales of old there is a crooked relative who wants him out of the way for fairly obvious reasons.

Robin, Betty, Lucy, and Sandy (Lucy's dog) meet up with Kit over the ensuing days but always in secret. It has to be that way and Kit even manages to sneak out to accompany them on a walk across the fields for a boat-trip. They row to a little island in the river and further on they come across an abandoned houseboat which they adopt as their own and very industriously give it a lick of paint and a tidy-up. As you can see this book has plenty in it besides Red Indians and war-dances. There are secret meetings and now a secret hideaway not to mention the biggest secret of all — their friendship with Kit. The houseboat plays a good part in the story and they are quite thrilled with their little abode but then the owner appears and catches them trespassing on his property namely — The Black Swan! It can be seen that diplomacy is needed because apart from this set-back there is a later confrontation when the children (i.e. Robin & the girls) are interrogated. It has been reported to Robin and Betty's mother that they know a certain boy and she wants a few facts. It is a tense moment indeed when she asks them a direct question the answer to which would probably reveal their knowledge of Kit. They must try in every way to resist telling the truth because it could affect their friend but how on earth can they avoid answering? Can they tell a white lie? No, I don't think an Enid Blyton book could countenance this way of solving a problem — at least not by the heroes of the story. If you read Chapter #11 you will see what happens. Yes, there are many secrets but: — is there a secret passage? It can be revealed to potential readers of this book that a token one exists and it's unusual because it would probably be the only Blyton secret passage that is created by the children themselves.

There is a chapter further on entitled "Plenty of Excitement" and you can say that again. Enid Blyton had a knack of pacing many of her stories so that as the conclusion neared there were situations building up on all fronts and The Boy Next Door would be one of the best examples. There are enquiries being made about Kit and there are enemies who are closing in and it's all getting to be a little frantic. Kit has to escape from his guardians and all of his resourcefulness is brought into play. The Dragon is involved of course and also a Wicked Uncle so the plot builds up into cliff-hanging mode. Robin and Kit dash about all over the place — Kit in his bid to be free and Robin in a bid to assist his friend. The children (minus Kit) finally confront the terrible Dragon. How will she react? Why on earth would they go to her at all? Perhaps it's because things are becoming so desperate. Kit is called upon again to use his wits and after fingernails have been bitten right down the story of The Boy Next Door comes to an end but with a poignant twist that should bring tears to the eyes of the more sensitive readers.

The renowned Alfred Bestall drew the pictures and I have to agree with the final words on the blurb: "It is the kind of book you can not put down until you have finished it, a real adventure story, one of Enid Blyton's best." These illustrations are hidden by default to ensure faster browsing. Loading the illustrations is recommended for high-speed internet users only.