This past month, Sprinkles was excited to introduce Caramel to one of her favorite series from her childhood, the Famous Five, the classic children’s adventure book series written by the prolific British author Enid Blyton about four children and their dog Timothy. Today, Caramel shares his thoughts on Five on a Treasure Island, the first book about these five characters, published first in 1942, exactly eighty years ago. The book bunnies read the beautiful color edition from 2015 with illustrations by Babette Cole and Quentin Blake.
Sprinkles: So Caramel, I was so happy to read this book together with you!
Caramel: Yes. We read a chapter a night, more or less, and it was sometimes not easy to wait the whole day for the next chapter.
S: I know, right? Some of the events get you nervous and make you want to know what will happen next, and quickly.
C: I thought you had read this book before Sprinkles? Didn’t you remember what would happen?
S: Well, yes, I did read it, but many many years ago, and I knew of course that the kids would come out of their adventures safe and sound, but I did not remember at all how that would come to be.
C: Especially when they got locked up in the dungeon —
S: Wait! Let us not give away too many details. But maybe it would be a good idea to start from the beginning with the plot of the book so our readers can get a good idea abut what it is all about.
C: Okay. So there are three kids, Julian, Dick, and Anne, and they are siblings. They go visit their cousin George. Actually she is named Georgina, but she wants to be called George.
S: I see. This reminds me that a couple years ago, Marshmallow reviewed a book titled George, about a transgender child and her struggle to be accepted as who she is. People called her George but she wanted to be called Melissa. And it is important to call people by the name they would prefer, right?
C: Obviously. It is only the kind thing to do. And if you don’t they will be upset.
S: So yes, let us call the fourth character in our book George. But the book title promises us five characters. Who is the fifth one?
C: Tim, who is a dog. He is George’s dog, pretty much, though her family does not want her to keep Tim, so she has another boy take care of him most of the time.
S: Okay, these five remind me of Scooby Doo and the five characters there. Did you know that some folks think that people who created Scooby Doo were inspired by the Famous Five?
C: I had not thought about that! But that is kind of neat! I like Scooby Doo! So this is really interesting. I can even see some resemblances…
S: Hmm, we can speculate, of course. But let us get back to the book. Alright, so we now know who the famous five are. What is the treasure island about? Tell us more about the story.
C: George does not seem too nice at the beginning, but eventually, they become close. The three siblings learn about the nearby Kirrin Island, George says it is hers, and then the kids think that there may be some treasure hidden somewhere on the island. They figure out that there are supposed to be many “ingots of gold” there, according to a very old map.
S: And so the four kids and Tim the dog go and try to find the treasure, right?
C: Yes. And of course they get into trouble. There is someone who wants to buy the island and get the treasure for himself.
S: Yes, so there is some tension about this guy, who does not seem to be an exceptionally nice person.
C: Yes, he locks them up in the dungeon of the dilapidated castle.
S: Wow Caramel, that is a big word! But you are also giving away some of the major plot twists! So maybe it is time to stop talking about the plot.
S: How about talking about the main themes of the book next? Do you remember what is a theme in a book?
C: It is a main idea, or it can be a moral of the story sometimes.
S: Yes, that is right, Caramel. So what ideas or themes do you think would be the main themes of Five on a Treasure Island?
C: I think friendship is one. George is not used to having friends, she is used to being alone, on her own all the time. But then she becomes good friends with the three kids, and she realizes how much better life is with friends.
S: Right! You would agree, right?
C: Yes, of course. Life is much better with friends!
S: Okay, other than friendship, can you think of another theme?
C: Maybe cooperation and team work? Because the children solve the mystery together and then save one another.
S: I think that makes sense! Those are two good themes for this book. Hmm, let me ask you a couple other questions before we wrap things up, Caramel. First of all, I told you this is a pretty old book. It might be the oldest book you have read before now.
C: Not quite. I read The Little Engine That Could by Watty Piper and that was from 1930. But you are right, this is one of the older books I have read.
S: You are right, that book was older. But this one is pretty old too. And I wanted to ask you if you could tell. Did you think the book aged well? Or did you think it was very dated?
C: Well, I think the boy name Dick is not as common these days. And the kids sometimes use words strangely. For example Dick says “Rather!” and “Blow!” when he is excited and they say George’s mom is a “brick” and they mean she is awesome! So those were some interesting words, and made me think the book is from a different time. Or different place. Because different versions of English seem to have different idioms and slang words.
S: That’s right Caramel, that is a very good observation. Those words were unfamiliar in those uses for me too. But perhaps they used to be more common in 1940s in Britain. They did feel strange to us in the 2020s of course!
C: Right. And Anne was a bit too much of a crybaby, and seemed like what girls were supposed to be like and so George did not want to be a girl like that. She wanted to run and swim and do all the things that were supposed to be boy things. But today boys and girls can do all sorts of things. So that is also a bit different.
S: I agree Caramel. Those are good observations. Would you say that the book was fun to read though?
C: Yes, it was a lot of fun to read. And I think even younger bunnies, much younger than myself, could enjoy it if their grownups read it to them.
S: Again, I agree Caramel. And I am so happy you read this book and enjoyed it. Okay, one last question: What did you think about the illustrations? This was a special color illustration edition. And the illustrators are pretty established in their craft. Did you find them engaging?
C: Yes. They were very colorful. And there is one picture where they had a lot of bunnies watching the kids. That is my favorite. It is drawn almost from the bunnies’ point of view.
S: So it is perfect for us book bunnies.
C: Yep. That is why I posed for my photo above with that page open.
S: I love that Caramel! Okay, time to wrap this up then. What will you tell our readers now?
C: Stay tuned for more book bunny adventures!