Ah, the Famous Five! In this first book, we open with Julian, Dick and Anne at home with their parents, chatting around the breakfast table. Julian asks his mother if they're going to Polseath as usual for the summer holidays—but to the childrens' surprise their parents have decided they want to go away on their own to Scotland. The children must go to stay with their Aunt Fanny and Uncle Quentin, down by the sea at Kirrin Bay. They have a daughter by the name of Georgina, who is very lonely and could do with the company of a few cousins. And so plans are made, and they all pile into the car and set off.

We're introduced to Uncle Quentin, a clever scientist who spends all his time studying. He's a fierce-looking, short-tempered man who tries to be nice but can't help getting irritable at the slightest thing. We learn that he carries a heavy burden because his work, though important, just doesn't bring in enough money to ensure financial security for his family. The extent of this burden is unclear, but at this stage in the series there's no sign of a hired cook, which means they must be poor! Aunt Fanny makes all their picnics in this book, and she's a sweet woman who the children adore from the outset.

And then there's Georgina, who looks and acts like a boy and won't answer to her proper name. They must call her George, she tells her cousins, or else she'll ignore them. She makes a big deal about how boys are better and stronger at everything, and that she's a stronger swimmer than most boys and can row a boat like any boy can, and so on...and so therefore she wants to be treated as a boy and not a sissy girl like Anne, who still plays with dolls. There's a lot of tension at first; George has always been alone and believes she has no use for silly cousins. She hasn't decided whether or not she wants to be friends with them, she says. Julian, tall and bossy from the start, insists that he, Dick and Anne are keen to be friends but they're not going to beg for her friendship, and he makes the point that they might not want to be friends either—something George never considered. After that George decides that these cousins might be all right after all.

She then introduces a great friend of hers—Timothy the dog, whom she has hidden away at a fisherboy's house for a year because her father got annoyed one day and ordered she get rid of the mongrel. She pays Alf, the fisherboy, all her pocket money for dog food, so she has none to buy a round of ice creams with—something that Julian likes to do frequently, much to George's embarrassment. The children take to Timothy immediately, and he to them, which makes them "all right" in George's book. After that Julian insists he buys ice creams for George in return that she shares her dog with them all, and shows them around. That settled, she promises to take them all across to Kirrin Island, which belongs to her mother but has been promised to George when she gets older.

And so the adventure begins. The children visit the far side of Kirrin Island and peer down into the water to see an old wreck below the surface. It once contained gold, George explains, but no one ever found it. They return another day, this time bringing a picnic and staying longer so they can explore the castle and roam about the island. But a fierce storm comes along, so fierce that it brings up the old wreck and dashes it on the rocks, where it finally rests above water. The children are excited! The ship has been explored by divers before, but never above water! Perhaps they can find the missing gold!

The third visit to the island is very early the next morning. They want to get to the wreck before anyone else sails past the island and spots it up on the rocks. So off they go—and what a discovery they make! An old wooden box lined with tin, with something inside!

Without wanting to give too much away, the rest of the book follows the discovery of this box and its contents....
February 24, 2012  |  101 pages
Average Grade: B–    (switch to numeric scale)
L/E Ratio: 50% Literature, 50% Entertainment
Writing Quality:
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Low High
Movie Potential:
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Sequel Potential:
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