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Meet the characters

Philip Mannering is the very first character we meet in the Adventure series, as he sits beneath a tree on a hillside puzzling over algebra. He'd developed scarlet fever during the school term and had missed a lot of school work, so he and a few others are staying at Mr Roy's (one of the teachers) to be crammed. He has brown wavy hair with a tuft at the front, prompting his friend Jack to nickname him Tufty (but only because Philip calls his friend Freckles). Philip has a weird liking for small animals. Not just mice, which he frequently hides about his clothing, but caterpillars, lizards, and even seasnails. His sister Dinah finds this habit disgusting, and Philip loves to torment her by shoving a starfish in her face or letting his caterpillar crawl towards her. Philip is not easily cowed, and stands up to the nasty handyman Joe and his bossy Aunt Polly. According to the first book, The Island of Adventure, Philip guesses Jack is "about fourteen" and believes himself to be a little younger...so I'm guessing Philip is thirteen.

Dinah Mannering, Philip's sister, is twelve. She has the same brown wavy hair with a tuft at the front, and is tall for her age. She cannot stand Philip's "disgusting habit" regarding pet animals hidden about his person. And boy, does she have a fiery temper! Most of the time it's her brother's pets that sets her off. But as quick as she is to explode, she's also quick to cool—so while her quarrels with her annoying brother are often loud and physical, they're over very quickly and there seems to be no evidence of her bearing grudges or sulking. In the car after picking up Philip, Jack and Lucy-Ann from the train station, she spots Philip's mouse and tries to dislodge it from his shirt collar. He pushes her and she bangs her head on the window, so she slaps him and tells him he's a beast and should go with his "horrid friends" back to Mr Roy's house. But her anger fades instantly moments later and she's as sweet as can be again. The great thing about her is that, as hot-headed as she is, you don't get any feeling of malice or general nastiness...she's just a nice girl with a quick temper. And despite her temper, she's a little afraid of Aunt Polly so ends up doing more chores than Philip.

Jack Trent is, Philip guesses, fourteen years old—so the eldest of the group. Jack is red-haired and green-eyed, and has freckles upon freckles, hence Philip's imaginative nickname for him: Freckles. He's had a pet parrot, Kiki, for about four years and loves birds of all kinds. When he meets Philip and hears about Craggy-Tops, the old half-ruined house on the cliff by the sea where Philip and Dinah live, his eyes glaze over as he thinks about all the bird-watching he could do if he ever got a chance to visit. So he's very happy when he and his sister get to stay for the rest of the holidays. Jack doesn't seem to mind at all that his younger sister Lucy-Ann tags along with him wherever he goes, and he's generally quiet by nature.

Lucy-Ann is the youngest of the group, a year younger than Dinah. She has the same red hair, green eyes, and freckles as her older brother, who she absolutely adores and can't be without for a minute. When Jack has to go to Mr Roy's house to be crammed, or coached, she goes along too—not to work, but to be with him. She says she's been without him all through the school term and doesn't want to be without him during the holidays too. Jack really doesn't seem to mind her tagging along everywhere, but Philip's not entirely happy about it at one point. In this respect Lucy-Ann is the complete opposite of Dinah, who would never openly dote on her older brother. Lucy-Ann is a very sweet-natured girl, quite timid. It's funny to note the difference in opinion of other readers; for instance, one says "she's so sweet, and just dotes on her older brother" while another says "what an annoying little drip Lucy-Ann is! She's worse than Famous Five's Anne, if that's possible..." I agree with both opinions; while her utter devotion to Jack is sweet, I think I'd be a bit irritated by her if I were Philip or Dinah.

Kiki the parrot is Jack's pride and joy and has instilled herself very quickly in the first book as a major character, with her amazing knack of coming out with just the right phrase for the situation. Aunt Polly, for instance, won't hear of having a bird in the house until Kiki says soothingly, "Poor Polly, poor old Polly, dear old Polly..." Naturally Aunt Polly thinks the bird must be very clever, so accepts her immediately. But Kiki's amazing ability for joining in with conversation doesn't end there, and she frequently tells people to wipe their feet or use a handkerchief right when it seems appropriate. Although this is all a little too convenient to be real, somehow Blyton gets away with it and the presence of Kiki isn't as irritating as you might expect.

There are other characters, some I've come across already and others I haven't yet met. Jack and Lucy-Ann's parents are dead (so we're not likely to ever meet them!) and so the brother and sister normally stay in Lippinton with their Uncle Geoffrey and his housekeeper, both of whom (according to Lucy-Ann) hate it when the kids are home for the holidays.

Philip and Dinah's father is dead too, but while their mother is alive and well, she's away pretty much all the time, working to earn a living and send money back to Craggy-Tops. Philip and Dinah's Aunt Polly is a bossy, fussy woman, struggling to make ends meet, while their Uncle Jocelyn is an eccentric old man who's made it his life's work to write up the history of Craggy-Tops, where battles were once fought. Right at the end we meet the mother, and I suspect she'll play a larger part in future books now that she doesn't need to be away earning so much money.

And then there's Bill Smugs, who first turns up in The Island of Adventure a mile and half along the beach, where he seems to be spending a little time camped out in an old shack beneath a cliff, with his boat moored a little way out. He's a red-faced, jolly-looking man with twinkling eyes and a bald head, but with thick hair around the sides. So far he's a real friend to the children, although a little later in the first book the children start to suspect he's got a few secrets. Is he in cahoots with the bad people on the island? Naw...Bill Smugs is the good guy! But he does have a few secrets, nevertheless.

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