Tuesday, 1 March 2016

Enid Blyton, Famous Five books, reading and collecting in the bookshop

Complex questions about book collecting in my bookshop often come from very young customers, more of this later in the post, however things get serious around the age of eight or nine when children start reading alone.

This is a serious business for adults as reading to your self as a child often is a major factor in sorting out the future brain surgeons from the future shelf fillers, but for children it is just an adventure.

Of all the children’s books that feature in this process I think Famous Fives have been the most enduring with customer age ranging from about eight or nine to about eighty or ninety.

For one reason or another, perhaps technological distractions for the younger end and technological phobias at the older end but mainly the retention of some memory of what happened in chapter one when you are reading chapter ten all the way through, the physical book features in this.

Because of this the reader develops books on shelves, and some readers want them to look right, this can happen at a very early age, the customer who has the Mr Men or the Little Miss book without part of the big writing on the spine, so it doesn’t fit in, can become understandably quite agitated at the age of two or three.

Once the reader has got the books on their shelves right then a major factor related to owning your own books becomes apparent, your friends notice them and they inspire conversations.

We moved house when I was six so I have a milestone by which I can judge significant events in my childhood, and before we moved I remember one of my friends had a full set of Noddy books arranged in numerical order. My parents disapproved of Enid Blyton books, which they considered lacked literary merit, so I spent a considerable time with my friend deciphering what then was a very demanding read. 

So now let’s get down to the secondhand books in the bookshop, I would say the stock of Enid Blyton books in my bookshop, which I photographed today to illustrate this blog post is about average for a largish general secondhand bookshop.

Price wise, the price of an individual Famous Five book here varies between about 20p and about £30 in my bookshop today. Sometimes it goes a bit wider, a really bad copy selling for 5p and a first edition of the first book Five on a Treasure Island selling for up to around £350, but I haven’t got either today.

These prices apply to walk in customers who buy books off the shelves, internet/postal prices would be more, depending on the costs involved, to be frank here I don’t want to sell all of my stock of Famous Five books postally and not have any for my walk in customers.

So sticking with the first book in the series, Five on a Treasure Island, the first book in a series is usually more difficult to find than the others and we only have three different copies of it in stock.

Two fairly scruffy paperbacks at 99p each these would be cheaper if it wasn’t for the first book in the series problem and the other one.

This is not a first edition which in this condition would be over £300, but is a very nice copy of a sixteenth impression of the reset and uniform edition of 1956 published in 1963. It isn’t price clipped and hasn’t been written in.

The price is in the £30 ball park, however because of the internet, prices fluctuate, added to this is the likelihood that a walk in customer for this is likely to have collectable books that they have bought for the purpose of swapping with the bookseller, to finance their book collecting – well how long is a piece of string?    

Going on to the second book in the series, we have a nasty copy (foxed – possibly beared and alligatored too) at 20p, a pretty bad copy at 50p and an ok paperback copy at 99p. on the hardback front we have a 1950 (pre uniform) fifth impression of the first edition – sometimes described as first edition thus – with a torn jacket that has considerable loss to spine at about £8 and a twelfth impression with a couple of plates coloured in neatly at about £8.

I can’t do this for every book in stock so we will go for a hike together half way up the series we have numerous copies of number 10 Five go for a Hike Together, so we have an absolutely pristine as new modern hardback at £2.50 a very good condition 1970s paperback at 99p a couple of 1950s hardbacks without dust wrappers at £2 and £3 and a 1958 reprint in a fairly scruffy dust wrapper at £10. So which one would you prefer dear reader, it says a lot about you as a book collector.

A lot of books for a 20 book series but then here is the link to the books we priced yesterday http://michaelsbookshop.blogspot.co.uk/2016/02/guildford-in-bookshop-in-ramsgate.html and I have been doing this for well over thirty years.

So to wrap up, do I read children’s books now? The answer here is yes, but not Enid Blyton. Which children’s authors do I read? The answer is a lot, booksellers don’t have to be particularly literate, and missing most of junior school because of being disabled as a child – well this means I can’t spell and wots grammer – but I did read a lot when I was a child – because of being not at school. My father ran the main bookshop in Salisbury, so there were a lot of books in the house, booksellers were sent proofs so they could decide which books to buy and proofs are like paperbacks with no picture or blurb on the cover, so it was a bit like unlucky dip.

I do read a lot of books now including a lot of children's books, on one wants to encounter the vegetarian butcher outside of fiction. 

Favourite children’s books now, as an adult with four children aged between fourteen and twenty seven, falls into two halves, the ones I enjoy reading to myself and the ones read to my children, or that they read to themselves and read bits out from.

My, read to myself favourites, all of Neil Gaimen’s and all of Terry Pratchet’s children’s books, the Philip Pullman His Dark Materials is a trilogy, Alice in.. well all of Lewis Carroll, Harry Potter and Adrian Mole.. Lots more I am reading Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children at the moment, which I think is a children’s book and may well become one of my favourites.

Since the list of my favourites above are fantasy books instead of trying to do the ones my children read, I think it is the Worst Witch series they enjoyed the most out of all the children's fantasy books.


  1. Michael I loved Enid Blyton as a child and read several to both my own children and subsequently my childrens children. In fact I am under strict orders to keep all the books read to our son for when he has his own children. Obviously it wasnt all Enid Blyton and I can remember the last time I read to our son because I wanted to find out how Harry Potter got on but had to wait until he had finished reading the remaining half of the book. I must get over to see you again as soon as the weather warms up. I did venture out in the electric wheelchair today so maybe it wont be long before I manage to visit

  2. I look forward to seeing you again Don, so which of the copies of Five Go on a Hike Together would you want to own?


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