Tuppeny. Feefo. And Jinks.
One may pick up this title and think “What in the world…?” I’m not sure if I thought so but I also didn’t think this would be one of my favorite story books to date.
Enid Blyton, a renowned English author, estimated to have written over 800 books, has been a favorite among the elder generation in my family. Introduced during the English rule over the subcontinent, her books have remained popular in India and Pakistan and are commonly found in bookstores there.
In Karachi there are several cloth markets lined with small shops where Pathans sell a brilliant variety of unstitched material, from cotton to linen, silk to chiffon. In the pathways between shops, sometimes an individual will have set up a book stall against a wall. These, I love. Whereas many of the “series” books by Enid Blyton are found in new printings at bookstores, these makeshift book stalls carry used, often early editions published in the UK. There’s a distinct charm in reading something that was published long ago, that may have traveled several nations, several owners, with sturdy beige paper and a mild scent of the early last century.
The charm to this book though, goes far beyond its archaic appearance.
The story is of three goblins from three different places that run into each other one day. They soon decide to open up a shop that will supply odd and impossible purchases catering to goblins, witches, fairies and elves. And so the adventures begin. Every chapter forward is a different tale about some obscure magical object that the goblins are asked to fetch. Sometimes it’s the Windy Wizard asking to retrieve his magic bucket from the Grumble Witch, who lives atop a hill in the middle of the Dancing Sea, and other times it’s Tiptoe Fairy’s uncle telling the goblins about a magic blue tablecloth that produces a fabulous meal whenever it is spread.
I found myself trying to read the book as slow as possible, one chapter per night. It reminded me of the stories my own father would tell me when I was young. There too, was an overarching story of a father and his daughter and within it he would make up a new story every day. Each day the father and daughter met new characters, each day they had a new adventure.
In Tuppeny, Feefo and Jinks, the author’s imagination and how she applies it to her storytelling is certainly remarkable. In only a few pages per chapter she is able to tell the entire tale with a delightful kind of detail, enabling the reader to actually envision what is happening in the story. The book has a wonderful flow to it. It is easy to read, yet not in a way that would make it less enjoyable for an adult than a child. An adult may perhaps be able to both enjoy the story as well as more consciously appreciate the creative subtleties that make the book a success.
The Dancing Sea, the Sugar Mountain, the twists and turns of Dreamland, the invisibility cloak (well preceding Harry Potter)—whether you’re 3 or 30, each step along the way there’s a wonderful story, and wonderful surprise.