The Enid Blyton Society
The Children of Cherry Tree Farm
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Book Details...

First edition: 1940
Publisher: Country Life
Illustrator: Harry Rountree
Category: Farm Series
Genre: Farm
Type: Novels/Novelettes

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Reprint Covers
Review by Anita Bensoussane
Further Illustrations


Wraparound dustwrapper from the 1st edition, illustrated by Harry Rountree
In The Children of Cherry Tree Farm, four brothers and sisters (Rory, Sheila, Benjy and Penny), who have been ill, are sent to live on Cherry Tree Farm while their parents go to America on business. Cherry Tree Farm is owned by their Uncle Tim and Auntie Bess and the children are excited at the thought of being in the countryside, rather than at home in London, for the next few months.

The city is associated with all that is dreary and sickly and is described in images of confinement, with the children gazing "out of a window" upon a busy street and "a patch of trees and grass with a tall railing round them." By contrast, the countryside is a place of vibrancy and freedom where the children plan to "go wild." Even the name of the farm — Cherry Tree Farm — conjures up a vision of trees hung with ripe cherries; a picture of health and abundance.

We are told that Rory, the eldest of the four, is thirteen and that his hobby is painting. Funnily enough, he is never shown doing any sketching or painting, despite being surrounded by picture-postcard scenery in all three books, so I can only assume that Blyton forgot about this as she wrote. Twelve-year-old Sheila enjoys making things (she takes her work-basket to the farm), Benjy, aged ten, loves nature, and seven-year-old Penny is fond of cuddly toys (she soon extends her love for her toys to baby animals.)

Cherry Tree Farm consists of an old-fashioned, thatched farmhouse set amid beautiful countryside, and Auntie Bess loads the table with food (much of it home-made or home-grown) at mealtimes. The grown-ups of the farm are very much in the background in this story, though.

In their early days on the farm, the children meet the baby animals and help to feed the lambs and milk the cows. Rory has a close shave with a bull and Penny conquers her fear of the hissing geese. However, it is when Tammylan comes into their lives that the children really get to know the countryside. Tammylan is a hermit or "wild man" who lives alone in a cave (or, in the summer, in a house of willow.) He understands the ways of wild things, helping birds and animals in need and concocting food and medicines from roots and herbs. He is described in animal terms himself, with a hand that "seemed more like a paw, it was so thin and brown," and he relates to animals more easily than to people.

Benjy too feels that the wild animals are his friends and Tammylan singles him out for special attention, saying of the boy, "He has the low voice and the quiet hands of those who love the wild creatures."

The Children of Cherry Tree Farm is not so much about life on a farm as about the wonders of the British countryside. During the course of the book the four children observe the natural world and learn all kinds of things about British wildlife — how a squirrel makes its drey; that the hare leaps sideways to break its scent when being pursued by a fox; the distinguishing features of different snakes; why frogs may be seen travelling en masse; and many other things.

The children's misconceptions about the countryside are challenged. Penny learns that a snake does not "sting" and Sheila is told firmly by Tammylan that, contrary to what she has heard, bats do not "get into your hair." Benjy is surprised to discover that not all toadstools are poisonous.

Enid Blyton does not paint a wholly rosy picture of rural life — she explores the cruel side of nature too. We have sad stories of otters and squirrels being killed, while Uncle Tim explains that, although foxes, rabbits and moles may be friends to Tammylan, they are pests to farmers.

The children spend almost a year on Cherry Tree farm and are able to observe the countryside in every season — spring, summer, autumn and winter (they arrive at the farm in early spring and leave just after Christmas.) The reader learns about nature along with them.

There are one or two passages in this book that may make the modern reader feel uncomfortable. At one point Benjy is shown pretending to smoke, imitating Uncle Tim: "Uncle Tim looked so contented and comfortable as he leaned on a gate, looking at his wide fields, with his pipe in his mouth. Benjy leaned too, and pretended that he was puffing away at a pipe, though his pipe was only a bit of twig." Smoking is associated with peace and contentment — not something we would wish to convey to children these days, now that we know more about the health risks.

What shocked me even more is that Penny (with Tammylan's approval!) takes a baby hedgehog from the wild to keep as a pet. Surely this is cruel, though we find out in More Adventures On Willow Farm that the hedgehog was returned to the wild — albeit less well-equipped to survive — when it grew bigger.

The Children of Cherry Tree Farm does not have much of a storyline and the children undergo only subtle changes in character. They are decent to begin with and remain so throughout, though they do develop a greater understanding of the countryside during the course of the story and their eyes are opened to what is really important in life. When making Christmas presents, for example, they sense that country life is more "real" to them than the somewhat artificial life they led in London, where entertainment was laid on for them and gifts were bought ready-made from the shops. While he and Rory are busy making a wooden stool for Tammylan, Benjy remarks, "You know, all this sort of thing is much nicer than going out to parties and shows and cinemas ... Things we do here seem to matter, somehow." Rory voiced a similar sentiment earlier when he said, "Things feel real, somehow, out in the country ... There's plenty of room, for one thing, and your eyes can look for miles. And there's the good animal, earthy smell — and everybody's doing something that matters — you know — milking cows, or selling eggs, or driving geese."

The children have discovered that life is far more meaningful if you take an active part in things, especially when it comes to doing things that will benefit others. If you are prepared to participate and give of yourself, rather than accept a passive role, your life will be purposeful and you will increase in confidence and resourcefulness. Making their own entertainment, doing jobs on the farm and working on gifts for others have helped to teach the four children these lessons. Most importantly, time spent with Tammylan has given them a deep respect for all living things and an understanding of the natural cycles and patterns of life. They will surely treasure the carved wooden animals that Tammylan has made for them more than any of the expensive presents that their parents may have brought back for them from America. The carvings will forever remind them of what they learnt at Cherry Tree Farm.

The pace of The Children of Cherry Tree Farm is slow, but that is part of the book's charm. I remember finding it absorbing as a child, and falling under Tammylan's spell. These illustrations are hidden by default to ensure faster browsing. Loading the illustrations is recommended for high-speed internet users only.