Naughty and Nice

by John Holbo on December 25, 2007

Belle found this one in her stocking this morning. I think Santa selected wisely.


Russell says all names are really just disguised descriptions. So why shouldn’t that be a perfectly grammatical title? We haven’t read it yet, but the series sounds intriguing:

… Though the story is similar to Blyton’s other school series St. Clare’s and Malory Towers, the setting, Whyteleafe School, is a very different kind of school. It is coeducational and extremely “progressive”. The students hold a weekly meeting, presided over by a Head Boy, a Head Girl, and a group of Monitors, at which decisions are made and troublemakers are disciplined. The children only apply to the teachers when there is a problem they feel they cannot solve.

Though a student-run school might sound to some like a recipe for a cross between 1984 and Lord of the Flies, in The Naughtiest Girl in the School, it is used to emphasize the lessons which Elizabeth needs to learn. (For a very different view of “progressive school” in the era, see the beginning of C.S. Lewis’ The Silver Chair, where Eustace and Jill have their lives made unbearable by the children at “Experiment House”.) As with Blyton’s other stories, a premium is played on getting on with communal life, sharing, and the favourite (if vague) expression having “your corners knocked off”. Selfishness and cowardliness are the two greatest crimes, both of which Elizabeth comes to suspect herself of, and vows to change.

The Naughtiest Girl in the School is very much a Blyton book in its style. The writing is not demanding, or even very interesting: Elizabeth always seems to express anger by stamping her foot, and the vocabulary is extremely limited. Adjectives and emotions rarely get further than “rude”, “jolly”, “queer”, “funny”, etc. Possibly because of the “progressive” setting, Whyteleafe School lacks the sense of place and the school ethos which St. Clare’s and Malory Towers provide.

The Naughtiest Girl Is A Monitor has an especially attractive, panoptical patina, to my eye; who will recycle Juvenal for the juveniles?

Basically, there is something very wholesome about the cosmic, yin/yang wossname of naughtiness and niceness; the siren allure of niceness. As Tom Waits sings, “Goddamn there’s always such a big temptation to be good, to be good.” The spice of the naughty. I am reminded of a seasonally-appropriate bit by Steve Martin:

Carolyn wanted so much to give Roger something nice for Christmas, but they didn’t have much money, and they had to spend every last cent on candy for the baby. She walked down the icy streets and peered into shop windows.

“Roger is so proud of his shinbones. If only I could find some way to get money to buy shinbone polish.”

Just then, a sign caught her eye. “Cuticles bought and sold.” Many people had told Carolyn of her beautiful cuticles, and Roger was especially proud of them, but she thought, “This is the way I could buy Roger the shinbone polish!” And she rushed into the store.

Later at home, she waited anxiously as Roger came up the steps of their flat. He opened the door and wobbled over to the fireplace, suspiciously holding one arm behind his back.

“Merry Christmas!” they both said, almost simultaneously.

Roger spoke. “Hey, Nutsy, I got you a little something for Christmas.”

“Me too,” said Carolyn, and they exchanged packages.

Carolyn hurriedly opened her package staring in disbelief. “Cuticle Frames?! But Roger, I sold my cuticles so I could afford to buy you some shinbone polish!”

“Shinbone polish!” said Roger, “I sold my shinbones to buy you the cuticle frames!” Roger wobbled over to her.

“Well, I’ll be hog-tied,” said Carolyn.

“You will? Oh, boy!” said Roger.

And it turned out to be a great Christmas after all.

I hope you had a Christmas as nice as that.



Mike 12.25.07 at 3:35 pm

Well, I don’t know about anyone else, but I was expecting something quite — ah — different from The Naughtiest Girl.

Ah, well.


Barry 12.25.07 at 4:02 pm

I’m sure that Belle will reciprocate :)


tom 12.25.07 at 4:12 pm

The Steve Martin story is simply a repackaged vesion of O. Henry’s The Gift of the Magi.


Lazygal 12.25.07 at 4:18 pm

Wow. I didn’t know this one existed (I have three “Naughtiest Girl” books, and many other Blytons)… much less that anyone would read them in this day and age.

Belle, enjoy!


Russell Arben Fox 12.25.07 at 4:19 pm

The Silver Chair is actually one of the better Narnia books, as C.S. Lewis shows some actual wit in that one. In the end, the Head of the “progressive school,” having been driven partly nuts by an appearence at the school by Aslan himself, is packed off by the board of directors to various other schools, where she continues to be a complete monster, and then finally is elected to Parliament, where she does fine. A pretty good ending, that, though I wouldn’t doubt The Naughtiest Girl could come up with something even better.


"Q" the Enchanter 12.25.07 at 5:05 pm

“Russell says all names are really just disguised descriptions. So why shouldn’t that be a perfectly grammatical title?”

So do her friends call her “The”?


ben wolfson 12.25.07 at 5:37 pm

You don’t say, tom. My god.


a very public sociologist 12.25.07 at 6:09 pm

My Christmas was as nice as that … with the added bonus of having managed to rattle off a blog post AND still having Dr Who to look forward to!!!


Mike 12.25.07 at 9:07 pm

Having just suffered through the latest Doctor Who, my guess is you’re going to have to settle for just the blog post.

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