Six Cousins at Mistletoe Farm
By Enid Blyton
Evans Bros, 1948
Six Cousins at Mistletoe Farm is the first of Blyton's two Six Cousins stories, the second being Six Cousins Again. These are sort-of-almost mysteries, but really, they are just random adventures of a large family on the farm with a brief mystery tacked on at the end for form's sake.
Jack, Jane, and Susan are farm kids on a rather rural farm; their cousins Cyril, Melisande, and Roderick are rich, stuck-up town folk. They don't much like each other. Unfortunately, the rich kids' house burns down, and they are unceremoniously dumped on their aunt and uncle while their mother recuperates in a nursing home and their father looks for work. The farmhouse is small, and the children have to share rooms and get along, willy-nilly.
Naturally, the children all learn from each other and become better people. The eldest stuck-up cousin, Cyril, cuts his hair so he looks more like a boy, and learns to like sports. The older of the two farm girls learns to take care of herself and look more like a girl. Young Roderick learns that working outside is fun, and Melisande learns that there's more to life than clothes and hair. Jack and Susan were mostly okay to start with, apparently, and just learn to be a bit nicer to their cousins.
On top of that, they get to do all kinds of cool stuff, although it's more cool today than it would have been in the late 1940s. The farm kids ride to school on their horses, and sometimes have their horses spooked by the steam-powered farm equipment. Cyril, much to his dismay, has to learn how to take the bull for walks, leading it by the ring in its nose. Jack sneaks out of the house at night to watch badgers and otters do their nocturnal rounds. The kids make friends with an old tramp/poacher that often has an illegal trout in his pocket.
Mild spoilers in this paragraph; against all expectations, the odd old hermit that suddenly appeared in the area, wearing a robe and sandals, living in a cave and quoting poetry, wandering the woods at night mumbling to himself... is not what he seems! Naturally, the kids end up digging into this mystery. But he's not a smuggler and the cave is not an entrance to a secret network of tunnels leading to a mad scientist's liar in the old steam-train tunnels, so this is hardly an adventure by Blyton's standards. End spoilers.
Overall, this is a nice enough book. It is a little bit preachy and moralistic by today's standards, and not nearly as much of an adventure as some of the later marketing and book-covers would suggest, but it's a fun, light read. I would generally not recommend this to a kid unless they already thought rustic English farms were really cool -- Blyton assumes that her readers already know the basics of pre-combustion-engine farming -- but I found it pleasant enough. Given that most of us know Blyton almost exclusively for her books about exciting mysteries or fanciful magic, this makes an interesting change of pace.