Enid Blyton. And really, to be honest, I don’t remember reading anything else. Even though I read voraciously, and steamed through the library’s children’s section as soon as I was allowed to join, and then the school library, the books that stand out in my mind are the Enid Blyton ones.
I may have had some of her fairy books, gifted by well-meaning relatives, but the first series I got into was Noddy, and I had the entire collection at one time, golliwogs, Mr Plod the policeman and all. They aren’t remotely politically correct these days, but they were very much the norm in the mid-twentieth century, when they were first published. They were popular for years, too. Everybody read them.
Then there were the Famous Five books, with Julian, Dick, George, Anne and Timmy the dog. Again, not at all politically correct, with hindsight. Julian and Dick, the two boys, were the leaders and brains, George (Georgina) was the tomboyish wanna-be boy, and Anne, the girly-girl was terribly wet. But they did all the sorts of things that I would have loved to do but wasn’t allowed to, like going off camping alone and using their initiative and managing perfectly well without any adults to oversee them. And, naturally, they solved the mystery and presented the case, neatly tied up with a ribbon, to the flat-footed local police.
There was a Secret Seven series, too, but I never liked that as much. The other series I remember well was the Five Find-Outers, starting with The Mystery of the Burnt Cottage. I loved these because the fat character was the smart one, and not just comic relief. I remember him doing all sorts of clever things with invisible ink, and escaping from a locked room. I liked the Barney series, too, which started with The Rockingham Mystery. There were some ingenious solutions to the mysteries — in one, a theft was accomplished by a trained monkey who could break in through a tiny window. But in all of them, the children were thinking, observing, weighing evidence and generally being smart and independent. I loved them.
Then, when I was sixteen, someone suggested I read Lord of the Rings, and I discovered fantasy… My reading was never the same after that.
Footnote: Authors Answer is the brainchild of blogger Jay Dee Archer, of I Read Encyclopedias For Fun. You can read the answers to this question by his eclectic bunch of authors here. More recently, Erica Dakin, of the Theft And Sorcery blog, has been answering the questions independently. You can read her answer to this question here.