We Want a Story
First edition: 1948
Publisher: H.A. & W.L. Pitkin
Illustrator: George Bowe
Category: Pitkin Story Books
Type: Short Story Series Books
Publisher: H.A. & W.L. Pitkin
Illustrator: George Bowe
Category: Pitkin Story Books
Type: Short Story Series Books
On This Page...
- The Boy who Lost Things
Story: Sunny Stories No.202 Nov 22, 1940
- A Little Bit of Magic
Story: Sunny Stories No.84 Aug 19, 1938
- That Boy Next Door
Story: Sunny Stories No.163 Feb 23, 1940
- Kitty's Kettle
Story: Sunny Stories No.110 Feb 17, 1939
- Harry's Pigeon
Story: Sunny Stories No.119 Apr 21, 1939
- The Foolish Frog
Story: Sunny Stories No.164 Mar 1, 1940
- The Hidey Hole
Story: Sunday Mail No.1938 Nov 11, 1945
- The Scout and the Brownie
Story: Sunny Stories No.202 Nov 22, 1940
- The Sparrow, the Frog and the Duck
Story: Sunny Stories No.205 Dec 13, 1940
- The Cross Shepherd
Story: Sunny Stories No.179 Jun 14, 1940
- It Served Them Right
Story: Sunny Stories No.207 Dec 27, 1940
- You Never Know what will Happen
Story: Safety First
- The Proud Little Girl
Story: Sunny Stories No.202 Nov 22, 1940
- A Face as Long as a Fiddle
Story: Sunny Stories No.210 Jan 17, 1941
The time comes when the boy starts at a new school where there are rules about keeping your possessions in the proper place so Leslie is told off when he loses his ruler almost immediately. Things aren't going well because he also loses his pen and his pencil and even the teacher's pencil that was lent to him. Here's where his carelessness is going to cost because if he can't find Mr. White's pencil he'll have to pay for it! He does have to fork out for it and that means two shillings must be taken from his money box. You must remember, this tale appeared way back in 1940 or thereabouts so it would have been quite a drain on the boy's finances. Things go from bad to worse because he loses the two shillings extracted from his money-box (naturally) after putting it on the ground when doing up his shoelace. He simply forgets all about it and races off to buy the replacement pencil.
His mother, very benevolently, gives him another coin and tells him to wrap it up safely in his handkerchief but guess what? He's lost it! Leslie wanders off down the lane in a very sad state of mind and meets a tall man with slanting eyes who listens as the boy pours out his tale of woe. The stranger says he can offer some help and hands Leslie a green stone instructing him to rub it whenever he loses something, and then disappears down the lane. The school bell sounds and Leslie hastens but suddenly remembers he hasn't got the pencil for his teacher. However, he remembers what to do and rubs the "magic" stone.
Unfortunately he doesn't specify and we're treated to a picture of Leslie running wildly away from all the things he's ever lost that suddenly appear and start chasing after him! What a laugh for the children and Goodness Gracious Me, young Leslie doesn't seem old enough to have had the time to lose such a varied assortment of possessions, and it could make you wonder just why he hadn't actually lost his head at one stage! There can be only one decision to make after such an incident and we can but hope, that Leslie will follow the right course.
2. A Little Bit Of Magic involves a girl called Fanny who's just finished a book of fairy tales and she's so fascinated by the magic in it that she wants to see some. Here's a good opportunity for Enid Blyton to give us an example, as she often does, of "magic" in the natural world so Fanny's mother takes her outside and shows the girl a caterpillar.
There's nothing more to say really except that the caterpillar is put into a box with holes for air and Fanny witnesses the metamorphism of the grub into a beautiful butterfly. "Remember how the ugly Beast turned into a beautiful Prince?" says Mummy. There's no doubt about it, Fanny is convinced she's observed "real magic!"
3. There are lots of boys next door in the Enid Blyton tales and here's another but first we need to name the children who take part. Let's see now, what about Susan for the girl and ummmm ... how about Harry for her brother? That'll do! Bill is the boy next door and he doesn't seem a very nice person because he hasn't thrown back the two balls that Harry and Susan have accidentally chucked over into his garden. The kids seem determined to play in the same spot right next to the fence and now Harry fetches his top and is spinning it deftly until a hard flick with his whip sends it flying into the neighbours' property.
Bill is obviously keeping the unexpected gifts but he denies all knowledge of them when the children shout over a request for their possessions to be returned. Unfortunately Bill never sends anything into their garden so a bargaining arrangement is a non-starter but that doesn't stop Harry from fetching his kite and launching it with his sister's help. It has to happen of course. The wind lessens and the precious kite drops down into the next-door garden, as fate decrees. Bill is obviously building up quite a collection and the children are furious!
One day, Bill's birthday arrives and he yells across to his neighbours that he's got a new train and an aeroplane. He's a very proud fellow and wants to show off his toys, so he brings out the aeroplane and makes it fly up into the air by using an elastic cord to launch it. There's usually a little balance in the EB stories and in this case the plane glides around and then falls down into a copper-beach tree; a tree that grows, not in Bill's garden, but in Harry and Susan's.
The kind children allow Bill to enter their garden knowing full well that he's scared of climbing trees so the bargaining arrangement mentioned earlier is now on the cards and all that's needed is the follow-through.
4. Kitty has a toy stove but her mother won't let her cook anything in the oven in case she burns herself. The little girl's quite unhappy about that because she'd love to try her hand at a few cakes or perhaps a tiny pudding in a dish.
One afternoon, a gnome called Snubby peeps into the nursery window and sees Kitty's kettle on the stove so he hops in and makes off with it because his own kettle leaks. He just wants to use it to make the tea before returning same. He reaches his oak-tree and the kettle is put on to boil so that a pot of tea can be made to accompany the cakes and scones baked earlier on and then Flitter, his guest, arrives. Snubby tells her he'll just run back to return the kettle he's borrowed while the tea is brewing in the pot and he does so. When he arrives at Kitty's nursery window he finds her crying bitterly and Mummy trying to comfort her. Kitty had wanted to show her kettle to her friend Mollie who's visiting, but where can it be? Mollie tells her to cheer up and suggests they go to the kitchen and play with the kittens belonging to the cook so they depart and Snubby, sitting outside, feels awful about it. He wants to make Kitty feel better so he dashes back to his place and grabs some hot scones and cakes before returning to the nursery where he puts them inside the oven and places the kettle back on the stove. When he hears Mummy coming upstairs with the girls he flees back to his afternoon tea with Flitter.
You can imagine the surprise that greets the threesome when they discover the tiny buns and scones in the oven and the lost kettle sitting on the stove. They sample the goods and unfortunately, they miss out on an explanation because they fail to look over to where Snubby and Flitter are visiting with their noses pressed to the window as they observe what the Big People are doing.
5. There's a boy called Harry. Harry? Yes, but it's not the Harry who was in Story No.#3. This is another one who owns a grey-blue pigeon that suddenly appeared in his garden one day. He befriended the bird and was given permission by his mother to keep it, as no one else seemed to know where it came from.
Unfortunately, it's mischievous and is rapidly causing despair in the household. Once it fell into the rain-butt and another time managed to get into the larder where it ate part of a pie and then knocked over a jug of milk when Mummy was shooing it out. The bird also makes Daddy angry by pecking the shoots of the carnation plants and just when we're all thinking it's starting to behave somewhat, the pigeon falls down a chimney.
At first they can't figure out which chimney because it hasn't come out into either of the fireplaces but Mummy suddenly hears the sound of fluttering in the dining room chimney. She fetches a stick and pokes it up trying to ease it round the bend because the flue is a rather twisty one, and then something dislodges and falls onto the hearth. It's a sooty old box with something inside that jingles!
This is one of those tales featuring an annoying or mischievous pet that inadvertently brings unexpected joy to the household.
6. The oldest frog of all is Squatter and he gives the order to the other frogs that it's time to dig down into the mud at the bottom of the pond and hibernate. Hopper's not too happy about it because he likes playing about in the water or on the damp banks, but he reluctantly follows suit.
At the beginning of February there comes a warm spell and Hopper awakes. He swims up to the surface and thinks that Spring has arrived but Crawler the toad who's resting under a nearby stone, tells him that a few days sunshine doesn't make it Spring - Hopper should go back to sleep. Hopper doesn't want to and, becoming lonely, he dives to the bottom of the pond and awakes the others. The frogs believe him when he tells them it's spring and they're glad, but nine-year-old Squatter has the benefit of experience. He tells them it's not yet time to wake up and orders them back. Hopper just laughs and swims up to the surface again.
The sun goes down and the cold settles in. There's a frost starting to freeze the pond and poor Hopper's caught in the ice. He would certainly perish if it weren't for John the farmer's boy who happens to pass by at that moment. Carefully he takes Hopper out and carries him home where the frog is placed into a bowl of water for the night.
Next morning the warm February sunshine is thawing the pond so John takes the frog back and releases it. Hopper immediately swims to the mud at the bottom to join his friends and doesn't come up again until spring really arrives. He's too ashamed to tell the others what happened but you can be sure he's now the most obedient frog in the pond.
7. Wily the goblin wants to steal Witch Know-a-Lot's book of spells and sell it to the wizard who lives in Cloud-Castle. He'll need wings to fly up there of course so he just goes out and filches Light-Feet's when she takes hers off to polish them. He grabs the wings when her back is turned.
This is considered a serious crime in the world of Little People and Wily know it. He hides the wings in a hollow tree for safekeeping and then the bad gnome commits another crime. When Witch Know-a-Lot is out shopping one Saturday evening, he sneaks into her cottage and steals the book of magic. This causes a hullabaloo naturally and the witch storms up and down the village trying to find out who dared to enter her house.
Wily's frightened he might be found out so he sets off to retrieve the wings as soon as he can. Early in November he makes the journey but when he puts his hand into the hollow tree he finds it full of sleeping snakes! They won't budge and he finds it impossible to get hold of the wings because those snakes aren't going to wake up until spring arrives. Frogs, snakes and many other animals sleep the winter away unfortunately for Wily and now, retribution is going to raise its ugly head.
8. Jack and his sister Susan are Boy Scout and Brownie respectively, and they're very dependable. Scouts and Brownies are supposed to do someone a good turn every day so Jack might run an errand for someone and Susan could perhaps wash up the cups and saucers at teatime because girls are very good at that!
One windy October day a calamity strikes. Maybe it's not Front Page News but the children are dismayed because neither of them has performed their daily task. Unfortunately no one seems to want anything done. Mother's pretty well set up for the day so the children are beginning to despair when suddenly they look over the fence into old Mrs. Lucas' garden and notice piles of leaves blowing about. They run over to tell her they'll sweep them all up but Mrs. Lucas can't pay them anything because she recently lost three pound-notes.
There are two things to learn now. One is that Scouts and Brownies and Cubs and Guides don't charge for their good turns and ... once the beginning of a story has been read, it's often possible to predict how it will end!
9. Once there were a sparrow, a frog, and a duck. Basically, what happens here is that the cat is stalking the bird but the frog, by leaping high into the air next to the cat's nose, manages to stave off the pending slaughter by warning the bird. Frog and bird make themselves scarce.
The frog now has a friend for life and then, next day, he receives a shock. A flock of ducks has taken over the pond and he fears for his life. The sparrow flies down to visit him and is shocked to see his friend has been caught by a duck and is wriggling in the bird's beak. That sparrow is no birdbrain luckily, and he uses a little ingenuity to engineer the release of his pal. Long live the frog!
10. Dick jumps into his car and makes off for a nearby field to look at the little lambs jumping about. He loves the little creatures so much that he climbs over the gate to join them. Just as he picks one up to cuddle it an angry voice is heard.
"Put that lamb down and get out of the field!"
A cross old shepherd is standing at the door of his hut waving a stick. He won't listen to Dick when the boy says he was only hugging the lamb. Shepherds sometimes have good reason to chase people away because trippers often leave gates open or injure the animals. Sometimes they may even abduct the odd lamb so the man's having none of Dick's excuses and when he threatens to come over the boy thinks he'd better leave, so he climbs back over the gate, gets into his car, and drives off. After a while he feels it's about time for dinner so he turns to go home.
He coasts downhill and, reaching the stream, notices that a stray lamb has fallen into the water and is struggling vigorously. The banks are too high for a dry land rescue so Dick takes the only possible action and jumps in. He rescues the lamb and finds it's two front legs are out of action so the scene is set for a homecoming with the help of his car, and an encounter with the cross old shepherd.
11. Enter the Squabbles. That's all Mr. & Mrs. seem to do, because during the first two pages they squabble over the kind of food they'll have for tea, the jam they'll use, the noise Mrs. S. makes when she raps on the table with her rolling-pin, and the jam again. Their continuous bickering ends up with a couple of jars being smashed, a jam sandwich being destroyed, and the dog having a feast! A curious ending sees them receiving a fine by a Mr. Snoopy for allowing their dog to gobble up two flavours of jam! Aren't you allowed to let a dog indulge?
12. It's true, you never know what will happen and in this case, John and Susan find it out for themselves. The rule is that John must always hold his sister's hand when they cross the road but he's getting a bit fed up with it. He wants to walk independently and one Saturday when his mother is out shopping he tells Susan that he wants to visit the toy emporium to spend his sixpence. Susan says that he can't go alone and would need to hold her hand when they cross the street. An argument ensues over that little requirement, but they set off and when they reach the crossing John refuses any help and runs out into the road by himself.
The result is very painful but not for John. He manages to avoid being hit by the car that swerves and swipes the bus that runs into a lady carrying a shopping basket. The poor woman is taken away in an ambulance and when the truth is realized, a sobbing Susan doesn't take her brother home. They both set off for their Auntie Nell's place.
13. Somewhere, there's a proud little girl called Annette who has just received a new coat. Standing in front of the mirror she describes herself.
"What a pretty child I am and how this new coat suits me. All the children admire me because I'm as pretty as a picture."
This has laid the foundation for an Enid Blyton Comeuppance of reasonable proportions. Annette decides to go for a walk to show off her new acquisition so she slips away, despite the fact that she's not meant to step out unless accompanied, and trips along the footpath flaunting herself unabashedly. Yes just as she thought, the children who pass by admire her hat and think the coat is very pretty indeed. There's only one thing they don't like and that's the girl wearing them. Silly Annette.
Meanwhile, there's another child called Maria walking along the footpath with her nose in the latest copy of "Sunny Stories" as she reads all about Mister Meddle and his antics. Maria comes from a poor family so her coat is old and ragged, the sleeves are too short, the collar's torn, and the buttons are odd ones. As for her hat! That's just an old piece of cloth with a feather in it but she appears happy as she laughs away at old Meddle.
One girl with her nose in a magazine and another with her nose in the air is a prelude to collision and that's what takes place. Annette remonstrates as one can imagine.
"How dare you bump into me like that? You might have spoilt my new coat!"
Well, a coat can't be hurt by a bump but the altercation gives Annette a chance to express her criticism of Maria's gear. She makes some very scornful remarks about the state of the girl's clothing, in fact she advises Maria to give her hat to the dog to chew! Well, just because the rich girl is lucky enough to possess lovely things is no reason for her to speak so horribly about the poor girl's clothing, and there happens to be someone else who agrees with that sentiment. Unfortunately for the proud girl, her father just happens to be sitting in his car nearby and hears what she has said.
Annette's in trouble now because she's out all by herself parading around like a peacock, and being terribly insulting. What happens next is quite degrading for the rich girl and rather nice for the poor girl although Maria initially refuses to take the coat and hat offered to her because she's a polite and kind child. Mr. Hill (Annette's father) is impressed with her manners and even takes down the girl's address so that she can be invited for tea in the near future because he thinks she'd be a good influence on his own little girl. Things sort themselves out in the end ... as they always do.
14. A Face as Long as a Fiddle is the final story in this small book. Grumpiness and sulkiness can make your face long and thin according to Enid Blyton and that sounds a reasonable supposition because the description fits Katie and Martin quite well. They grumble when told to go outside, and grumble if they're asked to stay indoors. Their mother says they have faces as long as a fiddle and the children think that's a silly thing to say.
One day there's a knock on the door and in walks a small round woman with green eyes who's holding a violin. Her name is Mrs. Look-Around and she tells Katie and Martin that the enchanter Higgle requires someone with a face as long as a fiddle for an old and strange spell he's creating. The weird woman then goes up to Katie and holds the violin next to her face.
"Not quite long enough!"
She then tries it on Martin and is pleased because his looks just right. Katie is alarmed – she doesn't want her brother whisked off to Goodness-Knows-Where so she quickly whispers to him that he must alter his face immediately. Martin cottons on and replaces his usual grumpy look with a smile that lights up his dial and the woman measures it again with a disappointing result. She shakes her head and figures she must have made a mistake so she leaves with a parting remark.
"I'll come again some time and see if your faces have grown longer - then I'll take one of you to the enchanter."
There's a lesson in that little encounter and for the next few days their mother is delighted to see how cheerful and happy they both look. It doesn't last long however and when they're told to get some bread from the village they set off with very long faces until Mrs. Look-Around once more appears with her violin. This time when she holds it against both of the children's faces they measure up adequately so she prepares to abduct them. The only defence the children have of course is to replace their grumpy looks with broad smiles, which they do and once again the woman is stymied – but, "One of These Days ...!" and she disappears into the hedge.
The conclusion is obvious and it looks as if Mrs. Look-Around may have to look around for some other long-faced children so that Enchanter Higgle can complete his spell.
"Do you ever have a face as long as a fiddle?"
1. Two shillings would be quite a high price for a pencil in 1940 but the one belonging to Leslie's teacher was "nice" – with a silvery case.
The 2/- (two shillings) Leslie lost when he placed it on the ground was found by a dishonest old woman who used it to buy half a pound of tea for herself – a half pound being about 225 grams.
2. The wonders of nature could be well-described as "magic" because there are many we don't fully understand. Once upon a time, mankind would have been at a loss to explain how rain occurred. As its origin seemed magical, yet answers were required for everything no matter what, a supernatural Being was created to explain the cause. When the truth was learnt however, the Rain-God disappeared, so there's a good argument for stating that the "Supernatural" is simply the Unexplained.
3. Bill's mother is Mrs. White but Mr. White (Leslie's teacher), is probably not her spouse.
5. It's nice to live in the modern age because most houses these days have water supplied by the twist of a tap handle. A rain-butt is a container like a barrel that's placed by the house to collect water that runs down from the roof when it rains. The method is probably still around in those areas that haven't quite caught up with the play.
The jug of milk in the larder is another feature of past times and we can wonder how long it lasted in a drinkable condition – especially in the summertime. One or two days maybe?
7. The Hidey Hole is also the name of a book written by Enid Blyton in the latter stage of her career.
I'm not sure if Magic Folk are able to take their wings off seeing they probably grow with the body, but maybe there's a special way of doing it.
In the picture, Wily looks as if he's wearing wings but it may be a small cape or similar garment.
10. Dick's car is worked with pedals naturally.
There are one or two other tales where a child uses his or her vehicle to do a good turn for someone and reaps a reward. There's also Amanda who finds a lame duck that she puts into her doll's pram for safe transport back to the farm from whence it wandered (A Lame Duck and a Stile_Second Bedside Book).
13. Sunny Stories magazine is of course the booklet Enid Blyton produced and the bulk of her short stories would have originated through that medium. The magazine is mentioned in several of her stories as are various characters she created. Mr. Meddle was one and he starred in his own series of about three books.
There's a picture for every tale, plus one extra for Story Number #10. The illustration on the cover of this rather diminutive book doesn't seem to have any connection with the tales inside. The reprint that appeared about ten years later is sturdier, of marginally bigger format, and is bulkier. This must be due to thicker pages because everything else looks the same size.
What's it worth? Anything you personally feel it might be worth (and are prepared to pay) ... that's "you" as in you. An artificial kind of speculation together with publicity that may be accidental or accidental-on-purpose, pushes up the prices of selected EB books every so often and warnings have been broadcast every so often as well. One can find oneself in a cleft stick if one, unfamiliar with "down to earth" prices, is impulsive beyond all reason!