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.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Young sleuths

Dear Aunt Debbie,

We just read the dramatic department store scene tonight!  I'm interested to see where it goes, and will report back when we finish our first full Nancy Drew mystery.  So far, Eleanor is totally engaged, but there's a lot to explain, starting with what it means to make a will.

I've been thinking about your point about Nancy Drew (and the Hardy Boys, who I've never read -- in my experience, people read one series or the other, but not both) being models of clear deductive reasoning.  I've written before about my love of mysteries, and have pinpointed Nancy Drew as the beginning of that love, or close to it.  But around the same time, perhaps slightly later, I also read a lot of Donald J. Sobel's Encyclopedia Brown.  

The Encyclopedia Brown stories had a very different feel than Nancy Drew.  From what I remember, the stakes were always much lower, and most of the mysteries focused on kids and their interactions with each other.  The stories were short -- ten to a book -- and offered the same kind of teasing, almost-solvable pleasure that Christie's Poirot mysteries played with later.  You could almost figure these things out, and sometimes maybe you could, but most often you'd just get enough so that when Encyclopedia announced the answer you'd feel a little bit smarter.  The feeling wasn't so much following a train of thought as experiencing or observing a moment of insight.

I still remember a number of random facts gathered from the solutions to these mysteries: a hard-boiled egg spins better than a raw one; the word "bookkeeper" has three consecutive sets of repeated letters; you can use peanut butter to remove chewing gum from hair; tears fall from the inner corner of your eyes, not the outer one, because that's where your tear ducts are.  The first three of these solutions had to do with contests: an egg-spinning contest, a contest at a library, a bubble-blowing contest.  Lots of contests in Idaville, apparently.  The fourth had to do with a girl pretending to cry and using eye drops to fake it, but I forget over what.

I don't feel the same visceral love of Encyclopedia Brown as I do of Nancy Drew, but he was a lot of fun to read, and gave me a taste for puzzling that has served me well.

Love, Annie

1 comment:

  1. I read both Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew. Nancy did more reasoning than the boys, who often relied on an exciting chase to figure stuff out. There was more mind work in the yellow books than the blue, maybe because Nancy was much less likely to prevail in fisticuffs.