The Enid Blyton Society
Run-About's Holiday
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Book Details...

First edition: 1955
Publisher: Lutterworth Press
Illustrator: Lilian Chivers
Category: Young Family
Genre: Fantasy
Type: Novels/Novelettes

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Reprint Covers
Artwork
Review by Robert Houghton
Further Illustrations

Reprints


Wraparound dustwrapper from the 1st edition, illustrated by Lilian Chivers



Frontis from the 1st edition, illustrated by Lilian Chivers
Another Playways story to be written with wish-fulfilment in mind, Run-About's Holiday was the tenth simple yet effective book to be added to the series of books published through the magazine. The story takes its main theme from several of Enid's shorter stories for young children, in which toys belonging to the two main child characters are found to be useful to Run-About the brownie, who lives not far away. As in 'Amelia Jane and the Aeroplane', and many other similar stories, the children's toys come in useful and take on the attributes of their real-life counterparts during the dozen or so adventures they encounter. As before, following a pattern laid out in her Playways serials since The Caravan Family, it is easy to see why children would find this idea attractive. After all, children spend most of their time pretending that their toy animals, dolls, aeroplanes, cars and trains etc are all actually real working models, and it must be every child's dream to discover that this imagining has actually become reality (remember, for example, The Very Big Secret). Along with this simple yet effective idea Enid embellishes her tales with other dream-come-true ideas, such as being allowed to visit Fairyland, using their own toys as transport and being shrunk, surely every child's idea of adventure, from the days of Alice in Wonderland right up to the more modern Honey, I shrunk the Kids. Enid even manages to reward the children at the end of the novel with another dream possession in the shape of a magic sweet bag, which can never be empted. All in all, Runabout's Holiday must be the one book in the Playways series that above all others relies most heavily upon that very successful 'wish-fulfilment' element Enid exploited so shamelessly.

Unlike most of the other books in the Playways magazines, Run-About's Holiday is extremely quick to start: Enid introducing the two children who are to be the main characters and Run-About in the first page and a half. She is keen to get the story underway, which is a definite strength of the book, and by page three we are already well in to the main plot idea, with Run-About asking the children if he might borrow their toy train to take him back to Brownie Town and the children agreeing as long as they can go and visit his home at the same time. Enid dispenses with small talk almost entirely, Run-About agreeing to the children's proposition without hesitation. By the end of chapter one (and only five and a half pages) the children are excitedly preparing to start their adventures in Fairyland with a little man they hardly know! Not a good advert for don't talk to strangers!

The children journey with Run-About in the toy train to fairyland, watching giant butterflies and passing daisies that look so big that Betty feels she could sit comfortably on their yellow centres. They rattle past the children's gardener, giving him a fright, then through a gap in a hedge and into a field behind. The train takes one of Blyton's favourite ways into Fairyland: entering a rabbit hole rather like Alice-in-Wonderland, proving that sometimes the doorways to Fairyland are closer than we might think. They reach Fairyland in a matter of minutes, and the first thing the children notice (shades of The Land of Goodies) is a biscuit tree, which has 'biscuits growing on it instead of flowers!' The children immediately go to pick some, and find, of course, that they are 'most delicious.'

This particular Fairyland seems more like Enid's 'Land of Marvels', containing as it does a tower that reaches 'right up into the clouds', a palace with 'fifty thousand windows' and a castle that disappeared and came back the next day. Run-About's house has no door, but he draws one with a pencil and it magically becomes real. They sit down to eat a typical Blytonian tea of 'pies and cakes and tarts and biscuits' and Run-About explains that he is a messenger in Fairyland, always 'running about all over the place', hence his name, trying to find people to put things right. It seems he's been very busy of late, and has been ordered to take a holiday, because when he's tired he can't do magic and if he can't do magic he will be no use in Fairyland. Thus, the children suggest he stays with them, leaving their address so that he might be contacted in case something happens that needs his help, and within three chapters the scene has been set for the rest of the book, whereby Run-About's Holiday turns out to be something of a bus-man's holiday for the poor brownie. Why didnít the powers that be in Fairyland employ another 'messenger' whilst he took a well-earned break, one might ask?!

Run-About goes to stay in the playroom, a bit like Chinky, of 'Wishing Chair' fame, living in the dolls house, cooking on the toy stove and cleaning the house into the bargain. He sails the toy boat around the bath, and tells the children 'all kinds of curious tales — stories of witches and wizards, and spells and enchantments' — see what I mean about the wish-fulfilment idea? In between, the children accompany the brownie on frequent trips to Fairyland, in which their various toys are found most useful in solving any problems that come their way. For example, their first problem, a broken bridge, is solved with a box of Meccano, a new bridge being built to replace the old one, destroyed by giants, which, as Robin exclaims is a 'real bridge, meant to be used' and so much better than just building a toy one. Shortly after this the Princess Goldie, coming home from a dance on her bat (!) is rescued from the branches of a tree with the help of the children's toy aeroplane, an adventure which mirrors many a short story in which assorted dolls and fairies are rescued in similar ways. Of course, the children get to fly with Run-About in their aeroplane and to take part in the rescue, having being shrunk to Run-About's size once more, making this another 'dream come true' for most child readers. Continuing this theme, the children are invited back to the princesses castle, eat a 'wonderful supper' and then fall asleep, but wake up in their own beds, due to a spell rubbed onto their eyes by the Princess Goldie which would make them wake up in their own beds. Once again, to an adult reader at any rate, this comes across as a typical Blyton 'cop-out' — a way to get the children back home without their mother realising they've been gone. Enid explains it away with just a few lines: 'Magic can never be understood', said Run- About, 'So don't worry about it...' and then she gets on with the story.

Runabout's Holiday has many similarities to 'The Wishing Chair' stories — a brownie living with the children in secret, frequent trips to Fairyland and other magical places, days spent waiting for an adventure. Indeed, the idea could easily have been expanded into a series of books very similar to 'The Wishing Chair' or 'Faraway Tree', although it has to be said that nothing in this present story comes even close to the imaginative tales Enid spins for either of these earlier classic series.

Runabout's Holiday must also qualify as being one of the last of Enid's forays into the fantasy world (except of course for those encountered in her 'Noddy' books), being written after 'The Wishing Chair' and 'Faraway Tree' books had come to an end.

After a series of magical adventures, each one solved quickly and simply with the aid of one of the children's toys, Runabout's holiday comes to an end, with him inviting the children to his birthday party and promising he'll come and borrow their toys should he need them in the future. Enid seems happy to leave the story open for a sequel — but one never materialised, maybe because most of these stories, though amusing, might only be said to be pale imitations of those Enid had written previously for her more popular fantasy titles. These illustrations are hidden by default to ensure faster browsing. Loading the illustrations is recommended for high-speed internet users only.