Friday, February 23, 2007

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

Since I was on a mystery/Nancy Drew/Hardy Boys kick from my last book club meeting, I thought I'd read Girl Sleuth: Nancy Drew and the Women who created her, a non-fiction book that's been on my to-read list since it came out last year.

I liked this book, it was very interesting. It tells the story of the Stratemeyer Syndicate and how it started such classic children's book series as the Bobsey Twins, the Hardy Boys, and Nancy Drew. Specifically the book tells the story of Harriet Statemeyer Adams, a housewife who became the CEO of the Syndicate in the 1930's after her father's death, and also Mildred Wirt Benson, the original ghost writer for the Nancy Drew series. Both women were extradinary women for their times and I had fun reading about them.

It was also interesting that there is or ever has been a Carolyn Keene. Harriet, her sister, and her father came up with the names for the Nancy Drew novels and also the outlines for the storys. Mildred then wrote in the story. Without both parts, you wouldn't have the Nancy Drew that we know today.

Also of interest was that in the 1950's and 1960's, the early Nancy Drew stories were edited and changed. They made them more PC by taking out racial slurs, and also more up to date by taking out antiquated expressions. It would be okay if they stopped there, but they also shortened the novels considerably - and in some cases, totally rewrote them. So the Nancy Drew stories that I read are not the same as what Grandma Arlt read! I'm really interested in reading both versions. You can buy the old versions online, but sadly my library system doesn't have them:-(

I've always wondered why they still sell the old Nancy Drew's as hardbacks. It turns out that in 1980, Harriet broke off from her old publisher, Grossap and Dunlap, and moved over to Simon and Schuster for a bigger pay check. I guess Grossap had not changed the rates maybe ever for the Nancy Drew books through the passage of time and popularity. There was a giant court battle and Grossap won the right to sell the old titles only in hard back forever while all new titles would be at Simon and Schuster. So that's why they are still hardback in our paperback world!

I enjoyed the book, except for a lag in the first quarter where the author was setting up the history of women's rights and society in general before the introduction of Nancy. I could see what she was getting at, but I really just wanted to read about Nancy!

It's a good book for anyone who ever loved Nancy Drew as a child.

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