Say two words to a certain generation of women in America–just two words–and you will strike a chord in their memory. The words?
Nancy Drew. She is easily one of my best memories of growing up. I remember the day I first received a Nancy Drew book. I was sick with a cold and my mother apparently sent my older sister to the library to get me a book or books to read.
Of course, I’m not that old, but that’s the edition the library would have had in those days. It would have had the dark blue, or even a lighter blue hardover, and the endpapers would picture Nancy and her chums silhouetted in orange.
I remember that I was afraid to read it—that it would be too scary. I think I was about ten years old at the time.
But I did read it–and subsequently devoured every book in the series I could find. If you like, I can take you back to my hometown library and show you the exact shelf where the Nancys were housed.
The last Nancy that I read in the series was The Mystery at the Ski Jump.
By that time, I had moved through the middle phase of what I call the “woven blue hardbacks”, and the new books were published with a yellow spine and the photo was right on the hardback cover.
The endpapers in some editions were using a blue background full of various episodes in Nancy’s illustrious career. (We can talk about the various editions and endpapers another time.)
I bought the Ski Jump with my own money—scarce in those days–and I think I realized it was about the last one I would read, for I was growing up.
That edition was the new one—but it was still published by Grosset & Dunlap—-how solid that name sounded! And, of course, still written by Carolyn Keene.
I was surprised to learn later that Carolyn Keene had also written another girl’s series book—-The Dana Girls. “By the Light of the Study Lamp” was the first in that series. Doesn’t that sound lovely? The sisters attended a boarding school–a situation that I couldn’t even fathom–and solved mysteries. But more about the Dana Girls at another time.
Wasn’t Carolyn Keene wonderful? Imagine writing all those books!
Nancy Drew, and Carolyn Keene. They were an inspiration to me: Nancy, for being a brave girl, independent it seemed, self-reliant, solving mysteries, living the life most young girls could only dream about, and Carolyn Keene, a successful writer.
Growing up, I felt a kinship with Nancy. My mother was a widow raising three children, and I was the youngest and on my own a lot. I was fatherless, Nancy was motherless. I was allowed to roam pretty freely, with my best friend, all over our little town. We imagined mysteries and explored old deserted buildings . . . So I thought I was like Nancy, too.
I don’t think I was unique in that feeling. When I ask friends their thoughts about Nancy Drew, the same feelings come forth. One woman told me that she and her childhood friend had a secret code term “SLC!”, that meant “Suspicious Looking Character” when they spotted a stranger–no doubt with beady eyes or a lurking position.
Nancy Drew still lives. New titles continue to be published, and old ones updated.
Yes, the old editions have some issues with political correctness. But those editions seem, to me, to be the authentic Nancys. Today’s stories just can’t compare. We’ll talk again about Nancy– Please leave a comment with some thoughts of your own about her.