Enid Blyton voted favourite author

Author J.K. Rowling poses at The South Bank Show Awards at Dorchester Hotel in London, January 29, 2008. REUTERS/Anthony Harvey

LONDON (Reuters) - Bestselling writer J.K. Rowling suffered a rare literary defeat on Tuesday when Enid Blyton was voted top of a poll to find Britain’s best-loved author.

In second place was “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” author Roald Dahl, with Rowling third.

Blyton has sold more than 500 million books worldwide and is best known for her “Famous Five” books of the 1940s and 50s in which Julian, Dick, Anne and George and Timmy the dog foil kidnappers and smugglers aided by “lashings” of ginger beer and cream buns.

Critics have long branded her books sexist, racist and overly simplistic, but Blyton’s stories remain hugely popular, selling more than 10 million copies a year, drawing readers into a bygone world of carefree kids and “beastly” grown-ups.

“We are delighted that the British public has voted Enid Blyton its best-loved author,” said Jeff Norton, director of Brand Development at Chorion, owners of the Enid Blyton estate.

“Her storytelling is timeless and this result confirms that her books are still a firm favourite today.”

With the top three of the poll dominated by children’s authors, Jane Austen came fourth and Shakespeare was fifth, while authors such as Philip Pullman and James Bond creator Ian Fleming failed to make the top 50.

The poll of 2,000 adults was commissioned to mark the 2008 Costa Book Awards. It was carried out in the first two weeks of August by One Poll.

“What’s interesting about this research is how it reinforces the importance of childhood reading and demonstrates how influenced we are in later life by the authors and books we read as a child,” said a Costa spokesman.

Reporting by John Joseph; Editing by Steve Addison