The Enid Blyton Society
What an Adventure (Little Book No. 2)
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Book Details...

First edition: 1950
Publisher: Brockhampton Press
Illustrator: Eileen A. Soper
Category: Brockhampton Little Books
Genre: Family
Type: Short Story Series Books

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Review by Terry Gustafson

John reckons the local toy-shop proprietor (Mrs. Minty) could be a hundred years old because she seems to have been running her business forever - way back even when Mummy was a child. The lady also looks as if she might know a little magic because of her green eyes and we all know this is a feature of people who practise the magic arts.

This aside, the children are terribly disappointed over the news that Mrs. Minty is shutting up shop so they decide to visit her one last time with 'Goodbye' presents. Mary picks a bunch of daffodils whilst John decides to part with a wooden ship he carved all by himself; and that's quite a sacrifice because it the first thing he ever made.

The scene shifts to Mrs. Minty's parlour where a very grateful old woman is accepting the unexpected gifts and in return she wants to give John and Mary something as well. Now what could a toy-shop owner possibly give to children?

Plenty no doubt because it's all there, but Mary, thinking once again about Mrs. Minty's green eyes, wonders if the old woman has anything magical in stock. Mrs. Minty assures them she's not one of the fairy folk but after thinking for a moment the old woman fetches a queer looking box from a locked cupboard and hands it to them saying that it used to belong to her great-grandmother and has been sitting around for years, out of sight and out of mind. The children are intrigued, especially when the faded label tells them that inside the box are some of Jack's beans!

Although every man, woman, child and their dogs have heard of Jack's Beans, a casual reader may not necessarily make the connection so let's elaborate a little by mentioning the title of a story with which we are all familiar - 'Jack and the Beanstalk.' It looks as if there are going to be exciting times ahead for Jack and Mary although no one can be quite sure what may follow as yet, because Mrs. Minty has never tried planting any of the box's contents.

The children return home to assess their newest acquisition and no doubt, to follow the course taken by countless Blyton characters who have in the past been presented with 'Ways and Means.' The philosophy adopted by John The Sensible is that if they plant a seed this evening and find a beanstalk has actually sprung up overnight, they won't necessarily climb to the top. One has to be careful because as one knows, lands that visit the crests of extremely tall trees, or for that matter beanstalks, can occasionally turn out to be unsafe. In fact there is evidence that a hungry giant resided at the top of Jack's original beanstalk.

John and Mary carefully place a bean in the ground right by their bedroom window before going to bed that night and next morning we're treated to a full-page picture of both children staring out at an enormous beanstalk. It goes without saying that the temptation to climb the huge plant is too great to ignore, however a plan is formulated: if Giant Land is found at the top there's to be a mad rush back down again.

So ... just as Jo, Bessie and Fanny demonstrated approximately twelve years before, John and Mary climb the enormous beanstalk and after passing though a cloud at the top, find themselves in a strange new environment with a path that has a sign-post pointing the way to Birthday Land, the Town of Spells, and, enigmatically, to Mary's Land!

Well, it's obvious which path they take and eventually they enter an Eileen Soper village that has all the trappings of a not so ancient English market-square with shoppers milling everywhere amongst which are a sprinkling of fairyish looking characters. Enquiring as to where they might find 'Mary' they are directed to a nearby cottage in which an attractive young lady resides. She's supposed to be about ourMary's age but the girl actually looks to be in her late teens and yes, she's one of the 'original' Marys.

Mary has dolls and golliwogs galore and the children are fascinated with her collection. They each accept a gift and then accompany their new friend to the Town of Spells - a place inhabited by witches and goblins who have an array of wares for sale. It could be quite a hazardous place as there are some fairly dangerous items on sale and also there are chalk marks on the ground, which you step in at your peril. The descriptions of various spells are quite mind-boggling for instance you can buy a drink that will make you as tall as a house or as small as a beetle! Very sadly, Mary cannot buy a pair of wings that are on sale because they're sold only to fairy folk.

Just as there was a Land of Birthdays in 'The Enchanted Wood,' there's also one in Beanstalk Land and Mary the fairy (or whatever species she might be) takes the kids to this locale because it happens to be her birthday and the children are allowed to accompany her as guests. One can but imagine the treats awaiting them in that environment and sure enough it turns out to be an extremely exciting and magical experience.

The 'Horrible Shock' syndrome is still alive and healthy, although in this case it's momentary.
Beautiful colour pictures as ever by one of the author's top illustrators. Forget those that came along in later years - Soper's the one! Artists naturally have their individual styles so one might see young versions of Dick and Anne in the depictions of John and Mary. 'Dick and Anne!' Who are they?

Parlours feature in plenty of Enid Blyton stories and it might be interesting to note the origin of the word. A parlour is a room we can all visualize - a place for people to sit and talk with each other over tea and biscuits. Even those not familiar with the French language must have heard the sentence "Parlez-vous franšais" and know that it means "Do you speak French?" Talking, speaking, parlez or parler ... parlour. Stands to reason.

In 1938, Enid Blyton's Sunny Stories magazine began serializing 'The Enchanted Wood,' starring Jo, Bessie, and Fanny.

I can't see Mrs. Minty sailing John's ship in the bath so it was probably placed on the sideboard as a conversation piece.

The currency in the Town of Spells is gold pieces.

An 'original' Mary would be one of the nursery-rhyme characters so fetch your thinking cap ... and no, Mary in 'Mary's Land' is not the one who had a little lamb.

Similar plots are a feature of Enid Blyton stories and many fans will recall what happened when Peter and Molly (Wishing Chair owners) attended 'The Magician's Party.' They sat down at the table and were confronted with empty plates and glasses that instantly filled up with whatever they wished.

Mary (John's sister) has decided the Land of Birthdays is the nicest place she's ever visited; but of course she hasn't the obvious benefits of living near the Enchanted Wood.

This Little Book appeared round the 1950 mark.