In which Annie (high school teacher, mother of two young girls and a younger boy) and her aunt Deborah (children's bookseller, mother of two young women in their 20s) discuss children's books and come up with annotated lists.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Bygone eras

Dear Annie,

I'm quite fond of those yellow-spined Nancy Drew volumes: more than 60 of them, still in print.  They weren't part of my childhood -- Cherry Ames (Student Nurse/Visiting Nurse/Flight Nurse/Camp Nurse/Cruise Nurse/etc) was the only one of those series that hooked me.  Nancy is the keeper, though: every so often at the store someone will come searching for #34, which she has to read before #35, because she's doing them all in order.  I listened to The Secret of the Old Clock (#1) a while ago and was captivated on many levels.  Nancy goes through a clear process of deductive reasoning -- they're a good introduction to sleuthing.  She really figures stuff out.  Nancy's male counterparts, the blue-spined Hardy Boys books, also have that step-by-step thinking.

I love the Nancy articles you linked to -- my favorite quote was from an Atlantic reviewer:
The real allure of Nancy Drew is that, almost uniquely among classic or modern heroines, she can follow — is allowed to follow — a train of thought.
A bit of an overstatement, but a lovely sentiment.

Those yellow Nancy Drews also give parents the opportunity to explain An Earlier Era.  I often point out that Mr. Popper's Penguins, in addition to being a delightful book, calls on grown-ups to explain iceboxes and vaudeville.  There's a stunningly dated scene in The Secret of the Old Clock when Nancy goes to a department store -- buying a dress is a crucial part of the plot -- and has to wait until the saleslady finishes showing another customer some dresses before she can look at any.  Made me think of when I was a suburban 15 year-old shopping by myself at Saks Fifth Avenue in The City, carrying a note with my mother's letterhead (remember Grandma's stationery?) instructing the saleslady to put my purchases on her account.  No account number -- they didn't even keep the note.  Ah, a bygone era. 

Happy Fourth of July to you & yours.



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