Tuesday, June 04, 2013

A Book from my Childhood by Hazel Edwards

I admit my secret. I was an Enid Blyton fan.

My grandfather had a private lending library and the children’s section was a wall of Enid Blyton. So I devoured The Famous Five and The Secret Seven, and then moved onto flying with Biggles by capt W.E. Johns. Sunday School prize books were the only other option. They were very moral tales of missionaries and far off places like Fiji and China.

But the book which impacted on my early life was Enid Blyton’s The Land of Far Beyond (Methuen Books, 1942).  Illustrated by Horace J. Knowles, the book is categorised as a "one-off" fantasy novel.

This was my first experience with an allegorical story, which was a quest, and where the characters had the names of their attributes. E.g. Mr Doubt, and the giant’s page boy called Fright. Even the places they travelled matched their names.  As an adult, when we orienteered on a real map with Mt Disappointment labelled, it reminded me of The Land of Far Beyond.

Because I no longer have my own copy, I Googled the title and had a feeling of familiarity as I looked at the cover on the Enid Blyton Society webpage.

Today’s children would consider this cover bland, but I loved the sense of a journey conveyed in the artwork. I liked the economy of a story with several meanings and layers. But the story ALSO needed adventure and danger with eccentric characters to interest me.

Animal Farm by George Orwell had the same multi-appeal because at one level it’s a children’s story of animals taking over the farm, and the pigs walking on their hind legs, but really it is a political satire.  It’s about the cycle of power.

I don’t think I knew The Land of Far Beyond was based on Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress until much later.  I still like symbolic shape and sub-text within a story.

Flying home from Kuala Lumpur, during Ramadan, I watched a translated reading of the Koran on the in-flight screen and decided the poetry was similar to Psalms.

Maybe reading The Land of Far Beyond contributed to family orienteering, a cartographer son called Quest, Antarctic expeditions and co-writing our ‘Duckstar’ satire of performing animals? But mainly it opened the possibility for me that a book could take you into imaginatively structured ‘other’ worlds, beyond suburbia.

About the Author

Best known for There's a Hippopotamus on Our Roof Eating Cake, Hazel writes across media, for adults & children.  Pocket Bonfire Productions made a short hippo film for the 30th anniversary.

Always passionate about literacy and creativity, Hazel has mentored gifted children, acted as both a judge and problem writer for the Tournament of Minds program and proudly held the title of Reading Ambassador for various organisations.  Currently a director  on the Committee of Management of the Australian Society of Authors, Hazel is also a professional writing lecturer. 

Recent e-books include Fake ID and Sleuth Astrid series about a hi-tech hen who rides a Harley.  Sir Edward ‘Weary’ Dunlop and Professor Fred Hollows in the Aussie Heroes series are her latest, non fiction books.  Co-written with ftm Ryan Kennedy, the Young Adult Fiction novel’ f2m the boy within’ about transitioning from female to male, is internationally available and a documentary is in progress with Kailash Studio.

Hazel is married with two adult children and two grandsons for whom she writes stories each birthday.

Hazel's website, www.hazeledwards.com has free downloadable teacher resources relating to Antarctica and free stuff for kids plus e-book mystery literacy series and a regular newsletter for which you can register.

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