Five on a Treasure Island
by Enid Blyton
Knight Books, 1942
Five on a Treasure Island is the first book in the Famous Five series. This was an enormously popular mystery series for children for over 30 years in the UK, and was one of Enid Blyton's most popular series. It is one if the best and worst adventure series for children, ever.
A standard disclaimer for Famous Five books must be given: 70 years ago, females were second class citizens. It's hard to understand how very much this was the case until you read about four kids going up against hardened criminals, winning, but two of these kids forever being treated as brain-damaged infants... by the narrator. These are still great books, but you should know what your kids are getting into.
Anywho... Julian, Dick, and Annie are disappointed that their usual family vacation is cancelled this summer, but maybe it won't be too bad; at least they get to go and stay with their aunt and uncle by the coast. They are surprised to learn that they have a cousin they didn't even know about, an eleven year-old girl named Georgina.
When they get to Kirrin Cottage they find a number of surprises. Georgina is not very friendly, mostly because she has severe gender dysphoria. The term 'transgender' is still decades in the future, and a girl who insists on being called George and being treated as a boy is a prime target for mockery and righteous censure. Once they get over their cousin being a complete nutter, though, she's pretty much okay. She has a secret dog that she keeps hidden from her parents, she owns a small island out in the bay (well, technically her mother owns it, but George is the only one who goes there), and the island has a ruined castle on it. And as if that wasn't enough the island also has a old shipwreck just off shore.
But it doesn't stay there for long -- the five (Timmy the dog counts, of course) take a picnic out to the island, and midday a terrible storm brews, trapping them there. When the storm dies down, they see that the wrecked ship has washed up on the shore of the island. They explore the ship and find very little of interest -- except for a mysterious lockbox, containing what appears to be a treasure map of Kirrin Island. Their excitement is short lived, however, for just the day after the ship washes up a man offers to buy the island for a good bit of money, and George's father agrees.
The five have to rush to find the secret of Kirrin Island before the purchase goes through, and in doing so they will discover even more secrets, capture some criminals, and perhaps even redeem Timmy.
All of the Famous Five books are full of interesting secrets and vile villains, but this first story is perhaps the most over-the-top for sheer number of amazing discoveries. This is not a bad thing, but once Blyton gets the pacing to a more reasonable speed things become a bit more believable. Of course, that's not the point. These books, and this book especially, are all about ruined castles, secret passages, daring escapes, and hidden treasures. This was one of my favorite series growing up, and one that I still return to periodically -- no one has ever done mystery adventures for 10-year-olds better than Blyton.
The second book in the series is Five Go Adventuring Again.