The Enid Blyton Society
The Naughtiest Girl in the School
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Book Details...

First edition: 1940
Publisher: George Newnes
Illustrator: W. Lindsay Cable
Category: Naughtiest Girl
Genre: School
Type: Novels/Novelettes

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Reprint Covers
Artwork
Review by Terry Gustafson
Further Illustrations

Reprints


1st Australian edition published by Angus and Robertson in 1949
re-illustrated cover by an uncredited artist
Many of the Enid Blyton books have been reprinted which is good news because, as they go right back to the Twenties, we are all comparative new-comers to the author's works. We have to keep searching and it's great that the more popular of the books are still available and will be for a long time although a little bit of alteration in the scripting is noticeable to those who have read previous versions.

A case in point regarding reprints is one which I pulled out of the bookshelf. It showed a picture of a little schoolgirl, with one eye closed, bending a ruler with a rubber held against it. She's about to flip the missile at Ruth who's sitting by the classroom window. The girl performing this naughty act is called Elizabeth Allen and she's the dominant character in a series which might very well equal the best of the revered school stories that were produced by Enid Blyton.

Elizabeth Allen is only one of the naughty girls around whom the author liked to weave tales and the she reflected her preference for naughtiness through another Elizabeth — Elizabeth Hilton, who once endured a story entitled The Little Saint. Elizabeth Hilton who's known as Bets in the Find-Outer tales was lent the book but she found that girls who acted like saints were a little boring. Bets preferred to read about naughty, lively children. To me, that makes sense because I think there is more stimulation in tales about wicked deeds and it can be enjoyable to sit back and read about people performing the deeds and at the same time knowing that you will not have to undergo any of the consequences.

The book I had taken from the shelf was published by Dean & Son, Ltd round the 1973 mark and I purchased it on November 25th, 2000 so it's a good example of how lucky Blytonites are to have reprints accessible. On the title page it says Revised Edition and I wondered what had been revised. The first picture is in beautiful colour and as I glanced through I came across one or two others similarly treated but as a few of the pictures were partially pigmented and others not at all I realised that a previous owner had got to work with crayons or something. That's one little aspect which is often a feature of second or fifth hand books but if the colouring-in is well done then it can be a bonus. This was a small bonus.
Elizabeth is being sent to a boarding school by her parents because they are going away for a year or so and Miss Scott who is rather fed up with the little girl is resigning from her position as Elizabeth's governess. Elizabeth has apparently been blessed with laughing blue eyes and intelligence and Miss Scott has remarked that she's 'Pretty, and Merry, and Rich' but she's also plain naughty. The governess is terrified of earwigs and one night she found some had been put into her bed and it wouldn't be very hard to guess who had put them there. Because Elizabeth is becoming so spoilt and naughty it's felt that going away to school will be good for her and perhaps rub off a few of her corners but she would have to leave her pony and her dog behind and go far away to live with strange girls and boys so Elizabeth is dead against the idea. This isn't the first time an EB character has felt the same way on learning such news. A positive aspect is that girls like the O'Sullivan Twins and Mirabel Unwin (St Clare's school series) who took similar stances were converted and ended up loving their boarding-school life. The place chosen for Elizabeth's rehabilitation is Whyteleafe and the only ammunition she has in her arsenal is to announce that she's going to be So Naughty that she will be expelled and sent back home. Elizabeth is certainly intelligent but she's still young and not really cognizant of the fact that if she succeeds in her ploy, the family home will be empty when she returns. Maybe she thinks she could stay with an aunt or something. First she makes an attempt to change her parents' minds by being very good. That doesn't work so she tries being very naughty by tearing a curtain and putting black beetles in Miss Scott's toothbrush mug and even squeezing seccotine into the ends of her shoes! Poor Miss Scott (Seccotine is an odd word but it appears to be an adhesive). However, Elizabeth's ploys do not work so she's doomed.

The beginning of term arrives and Elizabeth needs to go through the ritual that so many of the author's schoolgirls have experienced — the train trip to a new school. She says 'Goodbye' to her pony and canary and Timmy her dog and she dresses up in her brand new Whyteleafe school uniform. This consists of a dark blue coat with yellow edging and matching hat with a yellow ribbon and school badge. It doesn't say anything about a tunic but I'm sure that's taken for granted otherwise there might be laughs from the word 'Go!' The cover on the Dean edition shows her in a light green pleated gym-slip so that's all right. Long brown stockings and brown shoes complete the ensemble. With her trunk and her tuck-box (currant cake, block of chocolate, tin of toffee, jam sandwich and a tin of shortbread) Elizabeth is ready for the trip to London with Miss Scott (Mr. And Mrs. Allen must have been a little busy at the time). In the great metropolis Elizabeth is put onto another train and she's bad-mannered right from the start as befits her Master Plan but it's early days yet and the mistress in charge is patient. She's bustled into a carriage and after a wistful moment when she parts from Miss Scott who waves encouragingly, Elizabeth leaves with the other girls and boys on a long journey into the country where Whyteleafe is situated. She makes a generally bad impression with the girls that she is thrust up against in the crowded carriage and she runs her mind over the fact that there are boys in another carriage — all bound for the same school. 'Boys! Nasty, rough creatures — well she'd show them a girl could be rough too!' They arrive at their destination and are taken up the hill to Whyteleafe School in a coach and Elizabeth gets her 'First Glimpse' — here it is: A beautiful building like an old country house — which indeed it once had been. Its deep red walls, green with creeper, glowed in the April sun. It had a broad flight of step leading from the green lawns up to the school terrace.

"Welcome to Whyteleafe, Elizabeth. I'm sure you will do well here and be very happy with us all."

"I shan't!!
Elizabeth Allen, the Naughtiest Girl, is rude and unfriendly to everyone. She meets the different students who will be her closest associates — Belinda, Helen, Eileen, Ruth, Joan, and Nora. Nora is an Irish girl who can be pretty stern when she wants to be — in her role as head of Elizabeth's dormitory. She loses no time in punishing Elizabeth when the girl begins her campaign by breaking rules. A strange thing is learnt by the five or so new entrants — at Whyteleafe School it doesn't matter how rich you are, you get only the same amount of pocket-money to spend as everyone else! You have to put all the cash you bring with you into a box and from that, each child gets 2/- (two shillings). In these days of fantastically enormous prices (you can hardly get away from any shop without breaking into a note) I suppose 2/- might have been equivalent to about 1.50 or the US$3 mark but possibly more because you can't do all that much with those amounts nowadays but you could make a bit of a mark with 2/- in Elizabeth's day. When I first read of this money-pooling I didn't like the idea at all because if I received 1 as a birthday present I would have had to give it all away.

Elizabeth is shown round the large sunny classrooms, the well-equipped gym, and the lovely grounds which include the cricket fields, the tennis courts and the flower gardens. She sees the bedrooms and learns that part of the school is set aside for the teachers including The Beauty and The Beast! The last two are the heads of the school — Miss Belle and Miss Best and Elizabeth is the innovative girl who thought up the nick-names. She meant them as derisory titles but, unexpectedly, they are adopted by the rest of the school and used whenever references are made to the headmistresses. There's also a headmaster called Mr. Johns who doesn't seem to have all that much to do so maybe he just keeps the headmistresses in check. Elizabeth is introduced to Miss Belle and Miss Best as are all the new kids and to her surprise the negative attitude she adopts doesn't seem to work. The two women just laugh when Elizabeth is rude and they inform her that any bad behaviour will be brought up at the weekly school Meeting. This sounds a bit ominous and it could well be — especially for a girl who is hell-bent on causing disruption.
Naughty Elizabeth wants to put more than the allowable number of items on her chest-of-drawers and she doesn't want to share her tuck-box with the others and she decides that eight o'clock is decidedly too early to retire so she goes out for a swing instead but she comes up against a bossy boy who gives her an insight into yet another aspect of school-life. He's a Monitor and there might be people around who don't know what one of these is — I didn't when I first read the book. A monitor would be the equivalent of a prefect and for those who still don't understand, a prefect is an older boy or girl who has the authority delegated by the school to order you about and see that you behave. Elizabeth doesn't behave — even towards a monitor, and when she swings into the boy and kicks him so that he falls right over he demonstrates his superiority and dispenses justice by grabbing hold of her dark curls and pulling them hard. She yells with pain and decides she'll get off to bed after all. It looks as if Elizabeth is going to have to get used to a new way of life or suffer the consequences.
Elizabeth continues on with her bad behaviour by refusing to get up when the morning bell rings. Nora, who is also a monitor, is fairly good at ensuring rules are kept and Elizabeth is simply tipped out of bed with Ruth's help. Elizabeth rushes to fight but Nora's bigger and stronger and threatens to use a hairbrush on her because sometimes monitors do that — but she wouldn't use it on Elizabeth's curly locks. The naughty girl subsides but still shows defiance by refusing to put her stockings on — socks will do and she prefers them. However, when she's treated as a baby for her preference she quickly reverts to wearing the right articles of leg apparel. It's a tough life but more is to come. Her very first teacher at Whyteleafe is Miss Ranger and although Elizabeth is well-advanced at reading, spelling and arithmetic she remembers that she must be true to her calling and be Very Naughty. This is where the cover picture comes in that illustrates the flicking of a rubber with a ruler. Although un-credited, the art in that book looks like Rene Cloke's work and in the original edition which was illustrated by W. Lindsay Cable there's a picture which shows that Elizabeth's a good shot because Ruth is holding her ear where she's just been struck.

The highlight of Whyteleafe activity seems to be The Meetings which are held each week and many references are made to this in the everyday life of the school. If you do someone a wrong you might be threatened with The Meeting, but it's not only bad behaviour such as bullying, unkindness, untruthfulness and disobedience that is addressed at these gatherings. If extra money is needed for some good cause that might be beneficial to the school as a whole or you need extra money for some genuine emergency then the appropriate funds can be extracted from The Box which is used to gather up any money that the children receive in the form of birthday presents or perhaps tips from aunts and uncles. Carrying this precept a little further — suppose a child was given an expensive toy or a pricey item of clothing — should this be shared by all?

Elizabeth experiences her first School Meeting and she finds that it's a very formal affair. It's held in the gym and the children all sit and face two tables at which the Judges and Jury reside. The former are the head boy and girl (William and Rita) and the latter are twelve monitors who sit round a table in front of them. Apparently the monitors are chosen monthly although I can't see why they couldn't keep the job for at least a term. The Meeting commences and The Box is brought around for everyone's money. Elizabeth is defiant — she's not going to put her money into the slot. Unfortunately she is challenged and her purse is adroitly snatched from her possession and emptied into The Box. It's here that I noticed a little revision had taken place. Little changes in the later books have been made to accommodate the more recent fans of the author's offerings so instead of Elizabeth parting with six shillings, two half-crowns and five sixpences (that's thirteen shillings and sixpence), the sum has been changed to 70p. It's my fault because I had started originally with a 1973 edition but switched to an earlier one and then changed about a bit so the 2/- pocket money has now become 20 pence which is more easily digested these days — certainly in England and associated Territories. Would 20p in 1973 have bought the same amount of stuff as 2/- in the 1940s which I estimated in today's currency as about 1.50? It can become quite confusing because we are told that 13/6d = 70p in 1973 but that's only insofar as it's a percentage of 1 — at least that's what I read into it. You might have to ask an economist or a banker ... anyway, Elizabeth is now broke but not only that — she doesn't even qualify for the weekly allowance of 20p because she hadn't offered to donate her money in the first place. Her crime is judged by the standards of The Meeting and she receives her sentence and after that a few other things are dealt with and the decisions, which seem righteous and just, are delivered fast and efficiently.
Elizabeth is determined to be sent back at the end of term and after the first meeting has ended she slips away by herself and ends up in the general area of the music room where she hears a lovely tune being played by the music master — Mr. Lewis. The haunting air reminds Elizabeth of the sea and when he finishes playing it, the master turns and notices the girl and they introduce themselves to each other. The earlier editions of the books are the ones generally used to supply the pictures on the Enid Blyton Society site so it can be noticed that Mr. Lewis has quite a learned and pleasant-looking face which reminds me a little of Buffalo Bill. Elizabeth is musical and Mr. Lewis forms a bond with the girl and encourages her talents despite the supposedly short time she's going to be at Whyteleafe. Elizabeth is anxious to buy a recording of the music that Mr. Lewis was playing and in those days a recording was a flat disc with grooves on it that you placed on a machine. An arm-like gadget was lowered onto the revolving disc and interpreted/channelled the resultant vibrations into music which poured forth from a speaker.

The naughtiest girl in the school continues her plan and gets up to all kinds of mischief in the classroom and she even breaks bounds and nips off to the village unaccompanied which is a No-No! A student must have someone with them when they leave the school grounds but no one wants to accompany Elizabeth and for good reason. She's bold and she's bad and she's become known as The Bold Bad Girl! Her foray into the village is cut short because she's seen by none other than the head girl — Rita. Enid Blyton's head girls were usually the type whom Miss Grayling of Malory Towers (another Blyton series) encouraged to be loved and trusted, good-hearted, kind and sensible — sound women the world can lean on. Rita would be a good example and this is evidenced by the fact that Elizabeth, despite being caught red-handed, can't help liking her as she is taken back to school like a lost lamb. The head-girl performs a little psycho-analysis along the way and manages to get Elizabeth interested in another student of whom she has privileged knowledge. Joan Townsend is a pupil in Elizabeth's class who is worried about the lack of interest she receives from her parents. Could Elizabeth befriend her and make her life more bearable?

Elizabeth rises to the challenge because deep down she's really a good girl as strange as it may seem. She approaches Joan and is rebuffed but she persists and penetrates the barrier. They become friends and in the Enid Blyton way, friends help each other so Joan benefits and so does Elizabeth. Joan is sometimes jeered at because of her tendency to mope which can often be the case with those who aren't seen as one-of-the-crowd but as Elizabeth can stick up for herself due to her strong character she wastes no time in defending her friend from jibes.

Another Meeting is held. John Terry asks for money to buy a new spade. He's the green-fingered boy who spends most of his time in the garden and he loves it. Through his industry the school enjoys green peas and other delights for their meals and he's granted 12/6d immediately (there you are — that's near enough to 70 pence for a garden spade). A class-cheat is reported. His name is Harry and his serious misdemeanour is handled by William who is the head boy and one of the judges. He enlists Mr. Johns' help as well. Elizabeth herself is reported and it's probably not all that surprising seeing that she's the Naughtiest Girl. An unexpected ally speaks up for her before she is punished by the school and then she storms out of the gym!

The next chapter is entitled — Elizabeth has a Bad Time and that's about it. Privileges have been taken from her, life is hard. There is a little respite when she is allowed to practice a piano-duet with one of the big boys whose name is Richard Watson even though her actual piano tutoring has been denied her whilst she is in disgrace. She wants to recover her privileges however so she makes an attempt at being a bit good and her class-mistress is delighted. Her friendship with Joan is growing and she's even expressed an interest in helping John Terry with the gardening.

Yet another meeting is held and as always, it's interesting to see what moans and groans have accumulated over the week. Tarra-Tarra! Elizabeth gets a splendid report. She is granted extra money to buy the sea music that she heard the music-master playing when she had run off by herself after the first school Meeting and she's thrilled but she still makes it known that she desires to leave at the end of the term. This is a complicated problem and is discussed by the school in her absence. Even Miss Belle and Miss Best, the wise head-mistresses, contribute and a solution is worked out. Part of Elizabeth's dilemma is due to the philosophy she holds that it is a sign of weakness to change one's mind!

The title to a chapter further on is A Lovely Week and it's exactly that for Elizabeth. Her privileges are restored. She goes riding and attends a dance and visits the village to buy sweets and also some lettuce seeds to plant in the garden and she receives a chocolate cake from her granny which she shares — a marked contrast to the selfish attitude with her tuck-box when she first arrived. After a little prejudice is aired regarding the thought of how degrading it would be to have to play a duet with a girl, Richard, the serious boy who's going to be a musician when he grows up, decides that Elizabeth would make a better partner than Harry who plays '... as if his fingers were a bunch of bananas!' Elizabeth is delighted and life is rosy. She's beginning to like boys so she thinks she'd better play a trick on one to show that she doesn't really. She does so and a counter-trick is played on her and then she reacts rather badly in her rage and becomes violent and derogatory towards Harry who was simply returning tit-for-tat. Fortunately, Elizabeth's good side comes to her rescue and the situation is prevented from escalating.

The ensuing section of the book deals with a period in Elizabeth's school-life which has far-reaching effects and is the cause of much misery and consternation. The eventual outcome however must be considered when weighing up the various factors in which plenty of feeling and emotion is involved. The incident is so complicated that it takes up about six chapters and this leads us almost to the end where Elizabeth is going to have to make a decision as to whether she wants to stay at Whyteleafe or be sent home. Things are going to be rather spoilt if she does turn her back on the school ... there's the piano-duet which is destined to be played before all the parents when they visit and there's Elizabeth's love of gardening with John not to mention her relationships with the girls and especially her close friend, Joan. These are commitments in the long-term arena and Elizabeth has to choose her path. Life can be so difficult can it not?

The Naughtiest Girl in the School comes to an end — in story only of course, but there are follow-ups which will undoubtedly be welcomed by the many fans of Blyton stories that deal with life at Whyteleafe School far away in the heart of England.
W. Lindsay Cable also illustrated the St. Clare's books but I get the feeling that the Whyteleafe ones carry a little more Zing. Perhaps this is because they are a bit darker and are more numerous than St. Clare's has to offer. It might be noted when you see the original illustrations, that in the first three or so, Elizabeth looks very young ... more like a six or seven-year-old. The picture on the Dean cover is a tiny bit wrong (Big Deal). Elizabeth had donned her stockings before entering the classroom and assaulting Ruth with a rubber.

What was the name of the sea-piece that Elizabeth so loved? Sadly, we do not know because she and Mr. Lewis never mention the title. The forum notice-boards on this site which is controlled by The Enid Blyton Society, show that at least one member suggested Debussy's "La Mer". Sounds reasonable.

One thing that makes this book a little different from the other school series is that there's little mention of other classes so Whyteleafe School may be rather small and select. It was in fact once a country house so perhaps there's not all that much room for other grades but you never know. Maybe the follow-up books will enlighten us more. The Naughtiest Girl is actually the first of the school-life books and as the years went by the author introduced more into the stable and rounded the theme out a little by creating many characters in the form of teachers and children who became much-loved and well-remembered — this was amply demonstrated in the St. Clare's and Malory Towers books.

The confiscation of the pupils' money and the doling out of 2/- each from the box was the basis for accusations of communistic practices which were rampant — at least around the Fifties. Some people didn't like the sound of it! Overall, the kids themselves didn't seem to mind but then children aren't all that political — it's mainly the parents and guardians who pass on any relative prejudice.

The School Meetings are an interesting facet of Whyteleafe and they actually exist in real life. I visited a place called Summerhill which at the time was classed as a very liberal school where the children could do more-or-less what they liked — within reason. School meetings were held regularly although there wasn't one on during the time I was there. Summerhill received a lot of criticism for its easy-going ways and the fact that it wasn't a den of delinquents was explained by some as being due to the preponderance of children from the more upper-class families — especially Americans. Well-heeled and higher-IQ kids don't seem to get into as much trouble as members of the more poverty-ridden families who often hang round the streets looking for kicks. At another institution however, where I stayed overnight, I was privileged to sit in on a School Meeting which was held after tea. This was in Cheltenham and the school was called New Barns and when I first saw the building I had to describe it to myself after the fashion of the 'First Glimpses' ... an ancient crumbling manor of brick and stone. How did the Meeting compare with one at Whyteleafe? There was a sizeable degree of difference because there was little formality. Those who attended lounged around in a common room and an older lad got up and asked if there were any complaints — or anything. One girl mentioned a lost doll and a staff member said that someone had broken some game or other and not owned up so it was basically a chance for things to be aired amongst the pupils and any teacher who happened to be there. At Whyteleafe there was bags of formality with the whole school attending and sitting quietly in the gym with the judge and jury In Charge. The decisions made were basically well thought out but this wasn't due to William and Rita and the jury. In reality, they were coming from Enid Blyton who was an adult and who had plenty of school-teaching experience herself and that's probably why they seemed so fair and reasonable. Here's one example: The boy who had cheated was exposed in front of the whole school but a reason for his actions was revealed. The lad had been sick and missed a lot of his school-work so the meeting's decision was that he be given extra coaching and in the meantime he must sit apart from the rest of the class. This solved the problem in as good a storybook way as possible and it worked — in the storybook. The head-mistresses did not take part in this particular instance so Enid Blyton was, in a way, substituting for them but you never really know because William who supplied the solution, despite being in his teens, might have been a very intelligent guy! These illustrations are hidden by default to ensure faster browsing. Loading the illustrations is recommended for high-speed internet users only.