An India-born author based in London, who grew up reading Enid Blyton stories, has penned her own set of adventures for the Famous Five characters created by the celebrated English children’s writer, more reflective of modern British life.
Sufiya Ahmed, originally from Surat, recently released the second in a four-book series commissioned by the publishers behind Blyton bestsellers and has been buoyed by the enduring popularity of the characters.
While injecting some south Asian flavour into Five and the Runaway Dog, Ahmed feels her new adventures are an ode to the much-loved writings of the 20th century children's author.
“These new adventures of the Famous Five are more reflective of modern times,” said Ahmed.
“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 South Asian heritage – 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,” she said.
The first book, Timmy and the Treasure, was released in January and has been making waves not just in the UK but also in Spain and Portugal.
The third book in the series, Message in a Bottle, is now undergoing the finishing touches with illustrations and proofreading, and Ahmed is already working on book number four. All four books should be available by May 2023, including in India.
“Enid Blyton is Hachette Children’s Group's 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 adventures,” said Ahmed.
The author feels that many adults, worldwide, feel nostalgic about Blyton’s books and would 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 children all over the world,” shared Ahmed.
Asked about some criticism of Enid Blyton in the modern-day cancel culture context over certain questionable references within her books, Ahmed points out that the editions now available are very sensitively updated while preserving the period and original setting.
“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,” she explained.
“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,” she said.
Earlier this year, the children’s author released My Story: Princess Sophia Duleep Singh, intended to complement Britain’s school curriculum for nine to 13-year-olds around the country’s suffragette movement as it celebrates the royal’s tireless campaign for women’s right to vote.
Bringing the story of the granddaughter of Maharaja Ranjit Singh and goddaughter of Queen Victoria to the fore has been inspiring for Ahmed, who wants to write about more diverse female role models such as Queen Lakshmi Bai of Jhansi, Razia Sultan and Nur Jahan.