The Enid Blyton Society
The Surprising Caravan
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Book Details...

First edition: 1946
Publisher: Brockhampton Press
Illustrator: Eileen A. Soper
Category: Brockhampton Picture Books
Genre: Fantasy
Type: Short Story Series Books

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Artwork
Review by Terry Gustafson
Whole Book






Endpapers
On Page #3 as some small children climb a hill, Eileen Soper has allowed us a peek into a world where the wind is fresh, the daises abundant, and childhood of the mid-Forties is expressed in all its innocence.
Dick, Susan, and John are not quite as fortunate as we would like them to be because Mummy is ill and Daddy has no work. The children are young enough to take life as they see it and after working hard in the garden they're off to deliver a note to Mrs. Straw who is, of course, the farmer's wife. They take the route over a hill because there's such a lovely view at the top but as they approach the crest they see ahead of them the title of this book.

A caravan with legs! Such an unusual sight begs a little investigation so Dick knocks on the door but there's no reply. The curtains are drawn so they home and how Susan wishes it was theirs but at least they can have a sit down - after all they could do with a rest. They indulge.

The door unexpectedly blows shut and something extraordinary happens to the children's horror the caravan sets off down the hill using its legs to propel itself along at great speed. There's a stream at the bottom but the caravan simply jumps over it. The bump jerks the children off the little bunks where they've been sitting and they end up on the floor with one thought in mind Scram! They can't because the door won't open and when they look out of the windows the surroundings are unfamiliar. This is scary stuff so John tries the door again and this time it opens to allow the children their freedom. Freedom to do what? Well, they can wander around The Village of Goodies because that's where they are and what a strange place it is. The houses are built of cake with front doors fashioned from slabs of chocolate and other parts made of marzipan and toffee! Look at the trees they're growing biscuits and currant buns and there's a bush with little chocolates on it! What a treat for the children. They partake but when John breaks a couple of peppermint pieces off the gatepost of a nearby house the door flies open and a very angry man rushes out. The children are clued-up enough to figure out that he's of fairy origin and then to their dismay a fat little policeman appears. This turn of events signifies that the kids should disappear as fast as they can so they take to their heels.

They're lucky because the funny little caravan has been following them and when they bolt around a corner they see it there and thankfully jump in. The policeman and the angry little man rush towards it but the caravan uses its feet to good advantage and races away leaving them far behind. Eventually it stops at a sunny bank and when the kids emerge to survey their surroundings a passing goblin enquires as to whether they are taking their unusual caravan to sell at the market in a nearby village. They aren't of course but it might be worth a visit because a goblin market sounds a very interesting concept so they set off to have a look. What an exciting place it is - there are spells for sale and walking-talking dolls and black cats for witches, magic broom-sticks and even wings! A tall wizard walks by and seeing the caravan, he tells the children he'll buy it and they'd better sell it to him or he'll turn them into puppy-dogs. His name is Clever-One and it wouldn't do to cross him but the caravan's not affected by threats. It runs forward and gives the enchanter such a kick with its strong legs that the man sails up into the air and floats down to the ground again. Three things happen very quickly

1. The caravan disappears around a corner.
2. Clever-One grabs the children and shakes them hard.
3. A little red goblin slips a spell into John's hand with a label on it that the wizard happens to see. He gives a yell and takes off down the street!

Dick, Susan, and John seem to have accepted the fact that they're in a very strange and magic land and don't know how to get home. The average child might curl up on a bench and cry but these are Enid Blyton children and they're made of sterner stuff. John puts the bottle containing the magic spell in his pocket and they continue wandering round the market. A notice attracts their attention

LOST. A WALKING CARAVAN BELONGING TO DAME TRIT-TROT. A BAG OF GOLD IS OFFERED AS REWARD.

Goodness Me! Think what a help that would be to Mummy and Daddy but where's the caravan? They learn from a goblin that he spotted it heading for Toy-Town so the intrepid adventurers head off for the place where I suppose Noddy, Tiptoe, Jolly and a host of other characters reside. Toy-Town is, as you'd imagine it to be, a colourful place with houses, shops and farms built of toy bricks and toys walking all over the place. There's the inevitable clockwork clown who needs winding up (John obliges) and there are bouncing balls, humming tops, dolls and over on a bit of empty ground the children see exactly what they are looking for one caravan with legs instead of wheels but it has a big sign nearby

Caravan for Sale.

What's this? The children have a proprietary interest in that caravan and they'd better do something fast because a group of soldiers are interested in purchasing it. The Captain explains to the children that they want accommodation such as this to bunk down in and to give them a lift when they are marching. It belongs to Dame Trit-Trot though, and the children make their intentions known they want to return it to her. Unfortunately for Dick, Susan and John, soldiers are usually armed and these ones certainly are. The Captain draws his sword and threatens the Three. Dick bravely tells him to put it away but that only makes the rest of the troupe draw their swords as well!

What can they do?

Of course the Spell. John takes the bottle of magic liquid from his pocket and empties it all over the soldiers and that's the finish of any threat to the children's safety. They prepare to take the caravan back to Dame Trit-Trot but it doesn't want to go and runs off. They give chase and when Dick threatens it with the Spell. the caravan immediately stops and waits for the children to enter. John commands it to set off for home and the caravan does so, albeit rather reluctantly, whilst the children have a meal of eggs with bread and butter that they find in one of the cupboards. When they finish, the boys as befits them, are told to take a nap in the bunks whilst the girl, as befits her, washes the dishes and tidies the caravan.

That's what happens and the end is nigh because a voice suddenly rings out

"Oh, you bad caravan, you've come home again, have you?"

The door opens and an old dame with twinkling eyes looks in and explanations follow. Apparently the caravan ran away when someone erroneously said that it was going to be turned into a hen-house and now Dame Trit-Trot, because that's who the woman is, shows her gratitude by presenting the children with a bag of gold. What a wonderful end to their adventure. Now, how will they get back to their own land? Simple ... in the caravan, but they must rub a spell (supplied by the Dame) on it's feet when they arrive home so that it will return to it's owner.

You can imagine the welcome the children get when they finally reach familiar territory because, not only do Mummy and Daddy have their children back, but now the doctor's bill can be paid and they'll be able to buy plenty of food and clothes. Presumably, they'll all live happily ever after because I think a bag of gold would go a very long way indeed to supplying a family with all life's comforts for evermore.
The Soper illustrations, as usual, are delightful.

Amongst the Enid Blyton stories, is another caravan with legs (or feet) instead of wheels, and it belongs to a Mr. Tumpy.

The Village of Goodies has rivals. There's The Land of Goodies in a Blyton book called The Magic Faraway Tree and it's Dick in that story who breaks off someone's barley sugar door-knocker.

Here's The Land of Goodies from "The Wishing Chair Again" Molly's eyes grew wide. "Look-look, Peter there's a bush growing currant buns and there's a hedge with funny fruit it's bars of chocolate!" "Look at that house!" cried Peter. It's all decorated with icing sugar and it's got little silver balls here and there in its walls." They came to a bungalow. "Why, it's built the shape of a cake!" cried Molly. "It's got cherries sticking out of the walls and nuts on the roof." "Glad to meet you," said Pipkin. "Now-how would you like to see my biscuit tree to begin with?" ... and more of the same.

Who put up the Caravan for Sale notice? As John happened to say, "It must be selling itself!" If that's what happened then the caravan must be even cleverer than we thought. Come to think of it though, if the soldiers had bought it, what would be the procedure? There's no price stated, but if they decided to have a whip-around and produce a handful of silver, whom would they pay? I suppose they could place the cash inside a drawer in the caravan in perpetuity but I don't think that would make much sense. Perhaps just for a while, and then they could take it out and spend it. Might as well!

Noddy is a little wooden man whose adventures are related (by Enid Blyton) in a host of colourful books. Tiptoe and Jolly are EB characters as well - a little fairy doll, and her husband who is a sailor.

What was that wonderful Spell all about? Well, the label on the bottle said: "To Turn An Angry Person From Big To Little," so those arrogant soldiers were reduced in size to that of the nursery variety and, swords or no swords, they would have been no match whatsoever for three normal-sized children. The caravan was scared of the spell too but why? Maybe it worked equally well on caravans!
The whole book from a scarce book that has never been reprinted in this format.