31 December 2010

Books Finished Since December 1


No, plenty, but they've all been reviewed in Holiday Harbour under the "Christmas Book Review" banner.

I did finish one book, however, which was not Christmas-themed:

book icon  The Camp Fire Girls' Larks and Pranks, Hildegard G. Frey
I discovered e-books back in the day of my PDA, reading in Microsoft Lit format and getting the books from BlackMask.com, now Munseys.com. This site contains books that are in the public domain, including those wonderful kids' series books originally published by Saalfield, Altemus, and other extinct publishers. These are even older than Nancy Drew vintage; some, like the Rover Boys, go back to the 19th century.

This particular series was written between 1914 and 1920 and centers on a group of Camp Fire girls and their "Guardian." Today Camp Fire is for both sexes; I don't think they even wear the cute little uniforms and beanies the Camp Fire Girls wore in the 1960s. Frey's prose is livelier than many of the didactic series of those day, and all her girls are memorable: Migwan (Elsie Gardiner) the writer of the group, Sahwah (Sarah Brewster) the champion swimmmer and prankster, Hinpoha (Dorothy Bradford) the plump redhead, and more. Incidentally, these are not what you think of as "girls": the youngest of them is fifteen, and by the end of the ten-book series even college-age Migwan, Hinpoha, and Sahwah still go to camp. Parents in those days hoped their daughters would remain innocent until they were ready to be married and go out in the world.

So although in this volume, about midway through the series, the girls make the acquaintance of a group of boys who call themselves "The Sandwich Club," there is no snogging, clandestine meetings, and raging hormones: we know the Captain (real name Cicero St. John) likes Hinpoha, but it's all very innocent. This is a pivotal book in the series as we meet at least one character who will figure in the rest of the series, Katherine Adams, a tall, awkward young woman of careless dress and Southern origins but friendly and talented, who is visiting the Girls' home town in order to attend high school. We are also introduced to the Sandwich Club; Veronica Lehar, an Austrian girl who has lost her family in the Great War and who is snobbish to the girls until she finds out what good friends they are; and also to a trick donkey the kids name Sandhelo ("Sandwich" and "Wohelo," the countersign of the Camp Fire Girls—WOrk, HEalth, LOve—melded together).

As always in these old books, subtle racism and ethnicism raise their heads. In this outing the girls try to help the poor folks in an area of town known for its Polish and Slavic citizens, but are thwarted in their efforts to help by the "superstitious" townsfolk. The young folk in these novels are so nice it's hard to see them today marred by this silly bigotry. Otherwise it's a fun narrative of how kids used to make their own fun rather than depending on electronic toys.

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