A few weeks ago an article on Book Riot caught my attention. Called “The Impact of a Single Book”, the post featured an installation by Mexican mixed-media artist Jorge Méndez Blake: a copy of Franz Kafka’s The Castle placed in a brick wall changed what would have been a series of parallel lines running from left to right into small hills with gaps and deep grooves, illustrating how one book can shape the course of a path.
The project made me think about the books that have shaped my path both as a reader and as a person. This is definitely a topic for a longer post, so for now I’m going to focus on just one series of books.
I was introduced to Enid Blyton as a child, and her series The Five Find-Outers and Dog was my absolute favorite. The stories follow five children detectives around their small town as they solve mysteries and annoy the local policeman. Fatty, Larry, Daisy, Pip, and Bets made me wish I was growing up in England, the place where kids were sent off to boarding school, were free to run around by themselves in adorable villages, and called their breaks “holidays” instead of “vacations” (these were important things for the 8-year-old me).
Each story features a unique mystery that the kids solve while on break from school. Despite being a children’s series, the crimes are surprisingly complex and sometimes include red herrings and plot twists. Blyton builds suspense effectively and brings out each character’s personality nicely (an important thing for the 26-year-old me).
I enjoyed the Five Find-Outers and Dog (as well as The Secret Seven, another mystery series by Blyton) as a child because they weren’t patronizing. Do you remember being told you were too young to do X thing? Well, here are five kids that are tired of hearing that and decide to fight crime because they can. That’s right, show the adults how mysteries should be solved!
Enid Blyton was a huge part of my childhood. Her books were the reason reading became a passion of mine, and her relative invisibility in the U.S. market meant very few people knew about her, which I liked (there’s nothing more intimate than a book making you feel like it was written just for you). It was one of the first times I explored a culture different from my own through the lens of a book, and I like to think that my love of traveling comes in part from the Five Find-Outers and Dog.
Has there been a book, a series, or an author that has shaped you as a reader? Share your stories in the comments!