British Indian author Sufiya Ahmed, originally from Surat in , is excited about her latest children’s book project – penning down adventures starring the Famous Five characters created by well-known 20th century children’s writer Enid Blyton.
Here, London-based Ahmed shares her experiences with iGlobal as she wraps up the fourth book in the new series launched earlier this year, the South Asian character in her latest and the enduring appeal of Blyton with readers worldwide, including India.
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What make these books more inclusive?
These new adventures of the Famous Five are more reflective of modern times. There are more diverse characters in Kirrin village, which is the setting of the Famous Five books, and in the second story I’ve written, ‘Five and the Runaway Dog’, we have Simi – a girl of – and her family who have moved into the village. Simi plays a major part in the story and is also featured on the front cover.
Will these books be available in India too?
Yes. Enid Blyton is Hachette Children’s Group top-selling author in India, so it’s very exciting to be part of that. I’m hoping to be invited to the Indian book festivals with my Famous Five .
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What has the response been like to the first book, released in January?
I think it has been positive. The books have been received well by young audiences – and not just in the UK, but Spain and Portugal, too. Many adults feel nostalgic about Blyton’s books. The Famous Five is a firm favourite amongst Blyton’s books and adults want to share them with the children in their lives.
I was so delighted when Hachette commissioned me to extend this series with, inclusive adventures for the beloved characters Julian, Dick, Anne, George and Tim. It’s part of Hachette’s strategy to keep Enid Blyton’s books enjoyable, accessible and relevant for all over the world.
What is the next adventure about and when is that is expected?
My third book in the series, ‘Message in a Bottle’, is written and is undergoing the finishing touches with illustrations and proofreading. It’s another great adventure for the Famous Five that sees them exploring some caves and reuniting an elderly lady with something special from her . I’m working on Book 4 at the moment.
I’ve taken the Five back to Kirrin Island where they are camping in the shadow of the castle. The nights are filled with a mysterious noise that the Five are determined to solve. All four books should be available by May 2023.
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What are your thoughts on some modern-day racial sensitivity issues associated with Enid Blyton’s books?
I grew up loving Blyton’s stories. I read them in the 1980s when many of the stories had already been updated to remove problematic lines. My public library was my favourite place, my safe and happy place which gave me access to all those free books that I could devour.
Blyton is still popular today because adults remember the pleasure her adventures, and boarding schools invoked. The editions now published by Hachette are very sensitively updated so that they are not offensive but preserve the period and original setting that so many fans love. Whether it’s the Five, the Secret Seven or the girls at Malory Towers, these are beloved characters and I’m just making the setting for their adventures more reflective of the world that young readers live in, without changing the essence of their appeal.
The Five still love the countryside and the coast, go camping on their island, and are good-hearted children who help their friends and neighbours and of course are devoted to Timmy the dog!