25 October 2006

Babies and Bathwater

While surfing around for Christmas books, I came upon this website for librarians about culling out older holiday books. I found it rather sad, because I love old books.

Certainly I understand where the school may be coming from. As much as I like reading these old books, there are times when the blatant racism makes me pause. I remember how it bothered me to read old books where the villians were evil Italian organ grinders (like in The Five Little Peppers and How They Grew) or "dirty, smelly" Italians were featured; it was a big jolt to think that everyone didn't like my ethnic group. And I wince when I read the old series books with "typical Negro dialect" and lazy, shiftless "darkies" (like "Eradicate" in the Tom Swift books) and the "greasers" typically portrayed in books set out West. It baffles me after reading books, especially those for children, that used strong vocabularies, daring settings, and sturdy characters suddenly descending into portrayals of stereotypical ethnic and racial characters, how intelligent people could have ever believed these things.

But there they are. It's, for better or worse, what we were, what children had ingrained into them at a young age and then passed on to their children. Thankfully no one except some equally baffling extremists who rail on about "racial purity" believes that rot any longer.

Must the ideas in the books be tossed out, too? Perhaps, as long as they are in good shape, might the books be put into a special section for historical purposes, to be read by older people who understand "this is how it was" and discard the hurtful chaff for a portrait of the times? One of the collecting shows on the Treasure HD channel featured a young African-American man who collects cookie jars, statues, tools, etc. featuring blackface characters, mammys, Pullman porters, etc. He says they make him sad to know that people believed in the stereotypes portrayed by these sculptures, but that it happened and that thankfully we were past producing such things, that they were now tools in which to show people that times have changed for the better. Cannot the old books do the same?

10 October 2006

The Last Volume

There was no way I could miss knowing about St. Nicholas magazine, given that I had read so many old children's books, especially those from the last century. Its name tended to be sprinkled here and there in various texts and biographies. Therefore when I found a nearly pristine May 1917 issue in a local bookstore many years back, I had to grab it, if nothing else just because the issue was published three months after my mother's birth. It was interesting to see what type of stories the children liked in those faraway days of World War I and suffragettes, and the advertisements for the latest things and also for private schools and camps, not to mention the news of the day in "The Watch Tower" column.

Later I found Henry Steele Commanger's St. Nicholas Anthology (mixed up with the Christmas books, of course; even the booksellers never seemed to "get" that this was not a Christmas magazine despite the title) and reveled in the old stories.

But it's when I found an 1888-1889 bound volume in Boston's Brattle Bookstore that my mania really began. After reading the volume I wanted more of the series.

Thanks to e-Bay and bookfinder.com (sadly, I never found another affordable volume in a bookstore), I started to collect the bound volumes one by one, most of them at very reasonable prices. I paid my limit (under $30) for one volume that was hard to find, one of the two volumes that featured color Arthur Rackham prints to fairy tales. It horrified me that people were buying these volumes just for the artwork—in fact, the one I paid the limit for actually had the Rackham illos torn out, but since I wasn't buying them for the color plates I didn't really care—and bidders were cheerfully advised by several sellers that you could "cut out the artwork and toss the rest of the volume away"!

One thing I discovered about halfway through collecting, by dint of purchasing a single 1935 issue, was that I actually did not want to collect the entire series. Somewhere in the very early 1930s, St. Nicholas' publisher fell victim to the Depression and sold the magazine to another company. The stories, as I discovered, although still more adult in tone than things marketed to children now, suffered such a decrease in quality that it was depressing. The illustrations were equally simplistic and the magazine was even advertising things like girls' fashions from expensive stores like Bonwit Teller as part of the content of the magazine. So I decided that I would stop with early 1930 and be done with it although I was probably safe ordering the remainder of the year (I think the sale was in 1931).

Eventually, except for five single issues and one six month volume (May through October of 1928), I had collected all the volumes I wanted. And what a reading feast, from children dressed in "roundabouts" and "trowsers" (yes, that's how it was spelled in 1873 and that big rock was spelled "bowlder") riding horse cars and carriages—of much interest are accounts of the western movement by people who were actually along the trail, like "The Boy Emigrants," a tale of hardship and travel that bely the scrubbed Ingalls on the television series—and reading of the latest experiments with electricity, all the way through to boys in caps and sneakers and girls in Mary Janes and party dresses traveling in automobiles and reading about the latest exploits of aviators. From the bucolic owners of Tinkham's tide mill to the independent "careless Kincaid" girls, from quaint natural histories through instructions for putting together your own radio. Rose Campbell, Cedric Errol, Sara Crewe, Fisher's Elizabeth Ann/Betsy, Jack Hazard, and Queen Ixix of Ix, not to mention Barbour's Tom, Dick and Harriet and other sports figures and Seaman's clever heroines all drew their first breaths in those pages. Stories, poems, puzzles, travelogues, history, humor, biography...the best reading feast ever.

It was actually Rosemary and Delight Kincaid who finally brought me that final 1928 volume a couple of weeks ago, when I realized that I wouldn't be able to finish reading "Those Careless Kincaids" if I didn't purchase it. Luckily a volume turned up on e-Bay just after I read the penultimate installment in the previous bound volume and I was able to snag it.

And I don't even like Rosemary and Delight all that much...but I do love St. Nicholas.

Try a little bit: you may, too!

A Tribute to St. Nicholas Magazine

(By the way, I was quite "chuffed" to notice that someone had used that web page as a source for a research paper on the magazine!)

03 August 2006

Voices from the Past

Here's a great site about series books (mostly for girls, but there are a couple of boys' series, too), which includes photos of the books, plot synopses, etc. I'd give my eyeteeth to read some of these!

Series Books for Girls

One of the more interesting pages is about the Whitman Authorized Series which featured actresses like Jane Withers, Dorothy Lamour, Betty Grable, etc. in mysteries.

30 May 2006

I Want My "Fix" Back

Granted, I still have many books in waiting, but I'm beginning to get worried about Blackmask.com. (For those who don't know, Blackmask.com's webmaster is being sued by Conde Nast. He has been publishing pulp novels that he said were in public domain on the site, but it turns out Conde Nast owns the rights to a bunch of them, especially Street and Smith's most famous creation, the Shadow. I don't have the whole story, just what I read on various Usenet groups, but apparently he was told to take them down and refused, so now the whole site's down.) Combined with the disappearance of Mary's series book site, this is pretty disappointing.

It's a pity because I am enjoying those wonderful old Stratemeyer Syndicate and other series novels for kids. Not only are they a wonderful window on the mores of kids as they were (and probably a lot of what adults wanted them to be!), but they're now unintentionally funny. How can you not laugh at boys calling each other "old bean" or spouting funny epithets like "great horny toads!" in place of profanity? Right now I am concurrently reading H. Irving Hancock's saga of Dick Prescott (and Greg Holmes) at West Point and Dave Darrin (and Dan Dalzell) at Annapolis (the other members of the "Dick & Co. sextette" as they are referred to in the ubiquitous summation, formerly "the High School Boys," Tom Reade and Harry Hazelton, are off being civil engineers all over the US).

Having made it through plebe year with Dick, Greg, Dave, and Dan, I have to admit the stories haven't changed much: each pits the boys against some physical and often moral challenge, and there's always some idiot classmate with a chip on his shoulder against Our Heroes who keeps trying to get them expelled/in trouble. Over at West Point, after two years of ragging on Prescott and Holmes, fellow Gridley High School classmate Bert Dodge finally was exposed and sent packing. I'm sure some fellow Dodge-supporter is primed to take his place. In Dave Darrin's Second Year at Annapolis; or Two Midshipmen As Naval Academy Youngsters, classmate Pennington is aiming his big guns at Dave for getting him in trouble, although Dave actually saved him from getting booted from the Naval Academy by covering up the fact that Pennington stupidly smoked opium as a toothache remedy. The ethnic stereotypes are, as always, mildly distasteful—the whole opening opium den scene with its "velly evil" Chinese proprietor was pretty bad—but I find it interesting reading about the behind-the-scenes life of Army and Navy cadets: the system of hazing that is forbidden, but still exists; the grind of studies, "Flirtation Walk" along the Hudson and battleship cruises with the "middies."

Presumably everyone makes it through unscathed because Dave Darrin goes off to Vera Cruz in one book and then is mentioned as serving on a destroyer escort (along with Dan) when Dick Prescott goes off to fight the Boches in World War I. But getting there has been fun...

10 May 2006

Callahans Revisited

Warning, spoilers ahoy!

This one, Keeping Cool, is a little more like it.

When we left our story, I was utterly disgusted after the second book in the series, Home Sweet Home wandered into girly-girly territory with a plot that could have been solved had Neeve (the outgoing, wildly creative one of the four cousins) simply talked to her "supergranny," Gee; quarrels over painting the girls' room, which eventually turns out a typical pink; and a haggle over, of all things, a makeup bag. ::snore:: This was a complete turnaround from the opening Callahan Cousins book, Summer Begins, in which the four 12-year old Callahan girl cousins—Neeve, Hilary (the athletic one), Phoebe (the bookworm), and Kate (the quiet, craft-oriented one) come to stay with Gee in her big house on Gull Island, learn to sail, and compete in a contest once practiced by their fathers and the children of a neighboring (and slightly snobby) family, the Bickets. Sloan Bicket, who is their age, becomes the girls' bete noire.

The third book is about Kate. Although Phoebe is the bookworm, she's also coolly blonde, a little patronizing, and dresses like a hippie. Of the four girls, Kate is the one I feel the most kinship to. She likes crafts and knitting, is afraid to talk to strangers and when she does often stammers (unless she shares a common interest with the person and then she is chatty and curious), carries things with her to feel secure, fusses over her cousins, cries easily, and keeps a to-do list. In this story, Kate gets tired of being teased about the things she does and is determined to change her image so she will be "cool." Of course she's only twelve and ends up going overboard on many things, annoying the other three several times, and, of course, in the end discovers that while there are some things she could improve in herself (eating better, not being afraid of strangers), she is at her best when she is herself. [Insert violin music here.]

In the course of the story, the girls also collect donations for a fundraiser at the Island's clinic and get into a rivalry with Sloan Bicket about who will collect the most donations. During Kate's self-improvement craze, she manages to get close to Sloan and discovers that like most snobs, Sloan is actually deeply insecure and also wishes her mother, a doctor at the very clinic they're seeking donations for, would pay more attention to her. She is also jealous of the Callahan girls' closeness to each other and actually is rather lonely. Yet Kate discovers that Mrs. Bicket is not the dragon she seems to be from Sloan's comments, but a very personable woman who takes her job very seriously.

Kate's eventual revelation works without being too sappy.

As always, my reservations on these books are the same ongoing complaints: Gee seems perfect (everyone loves her, she has a gorgeous house, she has the world's best housekeeper and cook, her generosity is never-ending). The girls aren't wastrels, but they want for nothing. They all wear designer clothing. The town is idyllic, a picture-perfect resort with everything freshly painted and wonderfully scented (even low tide doesn't smell bad on Gull Island). As much as I dislike "problem" books for children that contain nothing but endless despair, the Callahans' world is almost too much in the opposite direction. It's like living in a candy-perfect world and occasionally the sugar just gets to be a bit much.

The final book comes out in October, and is about Phoebe, the only one left. The girls are apparently staying overnight in a nearby whaling museum, which may prove interesting. Maybe the realities of whaling can add a little grit to the fairy tale.

25 April 2006

24 April 2006

Classics Continued

I have finished Volumes 1 and 2, Fairy Tales and Fables, and Folk Tales and Stories of Wonder. The familiar old fairy tales (well, most were familiar anyway) were easy reading, but I discovered small details in the tales that I'd forgotten over the years (there's a lot more to the Three Little Pigs, for instance, than shows up in the tales abbreviated for small children or in the Disney cartoon version). The second volume was more difficult to slog through—it includes Charles Dickens' "The Magic Fishbone," which is pretty dull (the king's interminable whining is annoying as well) and so many versions of the younger son or the dullard son who goes off to make his fortune and wins the the princess that they blur together. It did have the long versions of Aladdin and Ali Baba; those who have only seen the Disney version of Aladdin would probably be perturbed by the original. Aladdin is thoroughly unlikeable; he doesn't do a lick of work in the entire story and still gets rewarded for his "cleverness." Cleverness my foot; the genie does all the dirty work. The volume also includes some Asian folk tales that I had not heard before, including a magical one about a starved artist's dogsbody who longs to paint and receives instructions from a master's painting.

I have now started the third volume, with the familiar Greek and Roman myths: Phaeton, Prometheus, etc. I haven't read these since late elementary school/junior high and am interested in how the stories were adapted for the Collier printing.

18 April 2006

Classics Revisited

Wow! I received my Junior Classics set yesterday—five days from purchase to shipment arrival! I hadn't bought anything on eBay since fall of 2004, partially because of Mom being sick and all the other things that happened in 2005, and partially because, on my penultimate purchase of 2004, I never received my merchandise and the seller never responded to my e-mails. (After I posted feedback stating this, at least four other people contacted me saying this same seller had never sent their merchandise either and had not responded to their e-mails. I discovered just this morning that the seller actually left me a negative feedback, saying I was a "pain in the ass" for inquiring about my order!) Anyway, it had put me off ordering from eBay for a while.

The books are not mint, but in excellent shape. When I used to go upstairs at Linda's house and sneak a look at the copies her brother had (I still think of these volumes as "Armand's books" <g>), I mostly concentrated on Volume 9, "The Animal Book," but am planning to read them all, even the Greek and Roman myths, which I consider rather boring, and have started from the beginning with the fairy and folk tales. I'm discovering stories I recall reading so long ago, not just the standards like "Cinderella" and "Puss in Boots," but the entire story of "The Three Little Pigs," "The Goose Girl," etc. (I need to let James read "The Bremen Town Musicians" so he'll know what the statue of the animals at Lenox Mall is all about.)

Refreshingly, none of these books are in BIG PRINT or contain paragraphs interrupted with BIG COLORED WORDS in simplified vocabulary (dialect from other countries is even used); even the youngest child is considered to have some intelligence (and a friendly person to read it to them if necessary).

I did page through all of them, including "The Animal Book" and discovered that it contains John Muir's "Stickeen," which I originally read in an elementary school reader, and Eric Knight's original short story of "Lassie Come-Home," which contains several differences from the book, including Joe being named after his father and Priscilla being named Philippa and being older in the story (she can drive a car). Lassie's travels actually take up only two or three pages in the short story; it is mostly about the people around her and how they react to her faithfulness rather than actually about Lassie.

It is interesting to realize that much of what we think of as "children's stories" were not originally written just for children. Rather today their subject matter pegs them as "children's stories." "Lassie Come-Home" was not written for children and did not appear originally in a children's magazine, but rather in The Saturday Evening Post. "My Friend Flicka" is another—it was originally published in Story magazine, not a children's publication. People who see the novel version of Flicka as a sweet story about a boy and his horse have never read the book: Rob and Nell's marriage is chronicled in an adult manner, and topics of adult responsibility, the harsh reality of Western range life, and keeping body and soul together financially are all explored...not your usual topics for children. Years ago, Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm, Black Beauty, Beautiful Joe, The Call of the Wild, White Fang, and others were all written as adult books.

13 April 2006

Got A Set!

Won a set of Collier's Junior Classics on eBay last night. Supposedly mint, from 1956. Too cool.

03 April 2006

Speaking of Series Books...

...here's a new fan-written Dana Girls mystery, "The Clue in the Rainbow." It's okay; the "Ice Castle" story is head and shoulders superior.

Sadly, No Mystery at All

I've always been an American history junkie, as well as collecting children's books, especially those I read in my childhood. When the Pleasant Company started publishing their American Girls books, I was frankly in "hog heaven" (except for the price—talk about overpriced books!—and then Sam's Club started stocking the collections, which removed the fiscal obstacle). The original stories were about Felicity, a colonial girl; Kirsten, an immigrant pioneer girl; Samantha, a wealthy Victorian girl; and Molly, a girl growing up during World War II. Naturally my first purchase would be Molly's stories, since my parents were teenagers and then adults during the Depression and World War II and I felt close to their history.

Gradually, and through a buyout of Pleasant Company by Mattel, the series grew to include Kaya, a pre-Revolutionary War Nez Perce girl; Josefina, an early 19th-century New Mexican girl; Addy, a girl who escaped slavery near the end of the Civil War; and Kit, a girl growing up during the Depression. Accompanying the books were dolls and accessories for each girl and then other special volumes (short story books, cookbooks, "how to draw" books, etc., the finest of these being the volumes "Welcome to _________'s World," which used photographs and drawings of the time to illustrate the era of each girl in the series—just the sort of thing I doted on).

The best development to emerge from the American Girls franchise, however, was a stand-alone series of books called the "History Mysteries." These did not involve the series characters and moved in a random manner from a mystery taking place in one era of American history to another. One book might take place in War of 1812 Louisiana, while another would involve a mystery while collecting scrap metal in World War II. The "mystery girls" weren't cookie-cutter versions of any of the series book leads and some of the various mysteries involved history eras not much talked about today, such as the participants of the Alaskan gold rush, the world of the War of 1812, the fascinating lives of the lighthouse keeper's children, and even the plight of the Loyalists during the American Revolution. One of the "History Mysteries," The Night Flyers, about homing pigeons and World War I, won a Juvenile Edgar Award (mystery writer's trophy) and another was nominated.

But since girls and mysteries have gone together since the days of August Huiell Seaman and the Stratmeyer Syndicate books, including the immortal Nancy Drew, the Mattel folks have recently released a new line of mysteries starring the American Girls series book protagonists themselves. The books are fairly interesting in working the mystery format into the series milieu (some of the series stories already having involved minor mysteries), but sadly it seems to have spelled the end of the "History Mystery" stand-alone stories (not one has been released since volume 22, which was at least two years ago). It means the mystery stories are now stuck completely in the era of the series stories and we won't see any other eras represented—so many stories and periods were still waiting to be told: how about a mystery set during the cattle drive days? during the Spanish-American war? in a CCC camp? in a post-war (WWII) housing shortage area? in Florida during its "wild west" pioneer days? at a Northwest logging camp? an early California fruit farm or at one of the Spanish missions or during the "Okies" flight west during the Dust Bowl? or a Northwest Native American mystery (or perhaps a Pilgrim era version)? or one set in the early New England textile mills? Hundreds of wonderful ideas here yet to go!

Maybe Mattel is just taking a breather...but I fear it's the last gasp instead. Apparently, like the television networks, they would rather rake in the bucks while sticking to a formula than continue to branch out into other interesting directions to challenge the minds of their readers. And that, especially for history and mystery lovers of all ages, is a great shame.

28 March 2006

"Why Do You Want a Book? You Already Have One..."

... and other Bookworm Droppings.

Absurd remarks made by patrons of used bookstores. Very funny (including the typos).

03 March 2006

Tom, Dick and...Sam?

Here are some of the e-books I've whiled my way through during spare moments:

The Rover Boys at School

You've probably heard joking references to the Rover Boys all your life—but do you know who they actually were? Penned by "Arthur Whitfield," they were actually the very first series book creation of Edward Stratemeyer, whose syndicate series books for children and young adults later included The Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, the Dana Girls, and a whole stable of others. The Rover Boys are the sons of a famous archaeologist who is lost as the series opens, and the boys drive their uncle so wild they are sent to a military boarding school, very fashionable in that day, and to which they are wild to go. Dick is the levelheaded oldest, Tom is the prank-playing middle boy, and Sam is the youngest. Today they sound ridiculously old-fashioned—in several instances the boys even call someone "old top" and use British expressions—and Tom's pranks would probably get him sent to a psychiatrist, and of course ethnic humor and racial stereotypes abound. Still they are an amusing curiosity.

Miss Elliot's Girls

Cross Louisa May Alcott (children learning to be more patient and kind) with a naturalist story and a bit of humane teaching alá Black Beauty and Beautiful Joe and you have this curious story about a "lame young woman" who teaches the children in her care (mostly girls in a sewing circle, but also two boys) about the joys of insect life and being kind to animals. Pretty dull but a good example of a 19th century instructive tale.

The High School Boys' Canoe Club

H. Irving Hancock's sextet of clean-living American boys (their later adventures chatted about here) purchase a damaged "war canoe" from a show, have it repaired, and then participate in boat races at a nearby lake. Since it would be totally boring if they did nothing but, a vindictive bully from school keeps trying to sabotage their summer. Today the boys' parents would have the bully jailed or sent for counseling; back then the boys just solved their own problems until the bully's father figures out what his kid's been up to and ships him home in disgrace.

The Puritan Twins

I've read negative reviews of this Lucy Fitch Perkins "Twin book" and I must agree with them; pretty dull. The story is mostly about the male half of the twin contingent, Daniel, who gets to do all the interesting stuff, while his sister Nancy has to stay behind and be ladylike, or is always being berated for daydreaming and thinking for herself. So realistic of Puritan attitudes to women that it's boring.

The Motor Boys on the Pacific

Another in one of those series stories in which the boys are lucky enough to have some wonderful machine for themselves. In this case, the boys' wonderful speedboat is actually wrecked before the story even opens and several dull opening chapters are reserved for the filing of the insurance claim on it. Then the boys visit California and (how coincidental!) a boy leaving lets them use his big powerful motorboat for the summer! The rest of the story involves looking for a ship full of valuables. The lead characters are so forgettable that...darn...I've forgotten them.


Nine-year-old Keineth lives a sheltered life on New York's Washington Square with her widower Dad and a Belgian nursemaid. But as World War I encroaches on the United States, "Tante" returns to Belgium to help her people and Dad, who's a diplomat, sends Keineth to live with friends while he goes to Europe to help make peace. Shy Keineth blossoms under the friendship of the family's children and learns many things before her Dad is safely returned. That's it. Think Understood Betsy with a parent and you have the story, if not the enthralling text.

The Boy Inventors' Radio Telephone

Some of the series' books involved ordinary kids; then there were the pseudo-science fictiony Tom Swiftian series that involved fantastic inventions and the boys who worked with them. In this case, one of the boys has a famous inventor dad who comes up with things like a fabulous electric car that goes miles without a charge, a fabulous airship which his sons and his friends get to travel on, and his newest invention, a radio telephone (which is more like a cell phone many years before its invention). Naturally the boys run afoul of bad guys. Despite the cool inventions, yet another set of youngsters so forgettable that I don't even remember their names.

Penrod and Sam

Booth Tarkington's sequel to Penrod is slightly less funny, but still amusing. Way back then the hi-jinks of Penrod and his buddy Sam were just taken as boys' pranks; they'd probably be arrested now.

The Secret of the Tower

A mystery by Anthony Hope that does not involve Ruritanian swordplay, involving a house with a mysterious tower room and the death of an old man. Main item of interest here, in this early 20th century novel, is that one of the protagonists is a woman doctor who neither faints, simpers, or acts like a fragile flower of Edwardian womanhood.

The Red House Mystery

The visit of a wealthy man's Australian brother provides the beginning of the mystery, which deepens after the wealthy man is murdered. Who did it? How did the murderer escape without being seen? Our sleuth is one Antony Gillingham, a friend of one of the people staying at the home of the murdered man, an amateur who slowly discovers all the clues. Most notable thing about this story: it was written by A.A. Milne of Winnie-the-Pooh fame.

01 March 2006

A Name from the Past

I remember reading selections from Mary Antin's The Promised Land in school, but had not thought about her in years. Antin was a Russian Jew whose father moved the family to Boston in the late 1800s. Land is an absorbing autobiography about being an immigrant to the United States.

Mass Moments has a little newsclip, Mass Moments: Crowd Gathers to Hear Writer Mary Antin, that you can listen to and also more information.

You can read Promised Land online here, or read it online or download it in various e-book formats at Blackmask.com.

10 January 2006

E-Books Redux

Ah, I've been absent here for a bit while I celebrated over in Holiday Harbour. Tend to read Christmas books over Christmas, but have been digging into the e-books lately.

Last read were two of Edith Van Dyne's "Aunt Jane's Nieces" books. In Aunt Jane's Nieces on Vacation, the girls and Uncle John spend their vacation in the quaint country town of Millville and start and run a newspaper. The colorful country characters from Aunt Jane's Nieces in Millville reappear while we also meet the mysterious "Thursday Smith," a clever but dissipated artist named Hetty Hewitt, and the usual (for the early 1900s) foreign rabble-rousing and drunken workmen, this time workers at a nearby mill. Aunt Jane's Nieces Abroad takes place chiefly in Italy, where Uncle John runs afoul of a family of brigands who kidnap rich Americans and then demand they purchase some "antique" in order to be freed. Additionally, Louise is pursued by young Count Ferranti, who has a mysterious pass. The Italians in the story are all pretty stereotypical, but are also presented as having an odd sense of honor, which I find amusing rather than offensive. Young Tato, especially, is full of surprises.

The Meadow-Brook Girls Under Canvas is the first in a series about a group of four teenage girls and their older chaperone, a teacher, who travel about having adventures. Miss Elting is their guiding force, and the girls are Jane McCarthy ("Crazy Jane," the one with the car, whose widowed father has allowed her to run wild), Harriet Burrell (the pretty, talented, intelligent one), Grace Thompson (the childish and rich one who, hilariously—well, according to the book she's hilarious, anyway—lisps), Hazel Holland (pretty much of a cipher) and Margery Brown (nicknamed "Buster" because she is fat). In the initial offering, the girls attend camp with the "Camp Girls" who more than vaguely sound like Campfire Girls and must cope with two unfriendly campers who take a dislike to them. Of the girls, Grace "Tommy" Thompson is the most odd; I'm with Mary Crosson's "Plain Jane" Series List, on which Mary comments "When the reader first meets this series, one burning question leaps to mind: what the heck is wrong with Grace 'Tommy' Thompson? She is short schoolbus material if I've ever seen it—she makes Bobby Belden or Betty from Roy's 'Girl Scouts' series look normal. At 14, she lisps, babbles, frequently needs to 'cuddle,' hallucinates pink elephants when she eats too late at night, wants to sleep in her tentmate's cot because she's 'thcaired of bearth,' etc." The lisping thing gets old really fast, but the girls can be vaguely interesting.

The Meadow Brook girls also go hiking, strike out on a houseboat, visit the White Mountains and the ocean, and play tennis.

Annie Fellows Johnston is most famous for her "Little Colonel" series of books, but she wrote other novels about friends of Lloyd Sherman, "the little Colonel" (if you've only seen the Shirley Temple movie, you don't know the entire story of Lloyd Sherman, who grows up, finds love, and gets married in a series of novels). The Gate of the Giant Scissors is one such book, about Joyce Ware, an American girl who has been sent to France with an aunt to continue her education. She is homesick for her active family and country home and befriends the little nephew of the owner of the estate on which "the gate of the giant scissors" opens; the little boy is perpetually abused and starved by the cruel caretaker of the estate. The "giant scissors" really existed. My favorite Annie Johnston is still Georgina of the Rainbows, but I haven't read that many of them yet.