If You've Read/Liked Nancy Drew, I May Have Some Ebooks for You...

Girl Sleuth: Nancy Drew and the Women Who Created Her - Melanie Rehak

Because I've been easily distracted in the past few months I've been playing a steady game of musical reads - like musical chairs, only I pick up one book after another until I'm reading a small stack. So far it's worked well - this way I can always find a book to suit my mood. Girl Sleuth has actually been great for this - it's the kind of book you can easily set aside and come back to.

 

I'll go into more detail in the full review - but the short version is that generations of girls who grew up reading Nancy Drew mysteries had no idea that the books' author Carolyn Keene never existed. It was a pseudonym dreamed up by the owner of the Stratemeyer Syndicate, Edward Stratemeyer. Stratemeyer would outline stories, then hand them off to authors who would be paid for writing the book but not allowed to ever mention their authorship. And of course there were no future royalties - that all went to Stratemeyer. While Stratemeyer may have thought up Nancy Drew, the true author of most of the books was Mildred Wirt Benson - though her books would be carefully edited for content by Stratemeyer and then later Stratemeyer's daughters who took over the business.

 

Here's the fun part - while Mildred Wirt's prose was often edited (she apparently liked the make her female characters more daring or use more slang than was allowed in the Drew books), she eventually went on to write many books under her own name. And she did so while continuing to write the Nancy Drew books. (I'll be gushing over her a lot in the review because she was such an interesting person, and seemed to truly enjoy writing.)

 

Why am I mentioning all this now and not in the review? Because it only just now occurred to me to see if I could find Mildred's books online. And yes I found some - 24 of them! So if you want to see how these books hold up to the Nancy Drew books of your memories here's your Gutenberg link! If you've not read any "girl's books" from this era be prepared to giggle a bit over what was considered daring in those days - for example, participating in sports and driving a car. Also the wholesomeness of the kids' books in this era is as over the top as those old black and white short films they once showed...oh I'll just link:

 

The Home Economics Story - MST3K

 

A Date with Your Family - MST3K

 

Oddly they showed these kinds of old films (lots of hygiene stuff) to us in elementary school (in the 70s), because kids will watch anything if it means they get out of regular class. (Only recently did I wonder where the hell they got their hands on all those old films.) Anyway the sort of tone in those films is what I think of when I've read children's books of that period - what they considered "fun" and "dangerous" now seems laughable.

 

I haven't read any of Mildred's books myself - just looked at some of the artwork so far. Let me know if you find anything amusing in the bunch.