As a young girl, my favorite girl sleuth was Nancy Drew. I loved “matching wits” with Nancy in the original Nancy Drew series. Warm summer days, sitting outside on our deck with my trusty Nancy Drew novels couldn’t get any better. Even though much of what she did was unrealistic (solving crimes in her heels and dress, being only 18 years old and going all over creation–what freedom). I loved it specifically because of that unreal aspect. I believe much of the fiction that we like is because we enter into an imaginary world where almost anything is possible. I enjoyed trying to reinact her adventures, either alone or with my two cousins. Looking myself like Nancy, a strawberry blonde with blue eyes , it was easy becoming her character hot on the trail of some suspicious character. Recently, I came across a book here at OWL called Girl Sleuth: Nancy Drew and the Women Who Created Her, and I began to explore the creation of the most famous girl detective and some of the larger ideas behind her. I found some intriguing details:
First off, something I didn’t know until recently was that Carolyn Keene was only a pseudonym for many women writers who wrote the Nancy Drew stories. Imagine that–Carolyn Keene, author of my beloved Nancy Drew books never truly existed! Instead, Edward Stratemeyer,founder of Stratemeyer Syndicate book packaging firm, is credited with her actual creation in 1930 ( the stories were launched on April 28, 1930) Mildred Wirt Benson was one of the first “ghostwriters” for the original series, and she wrote the first volumes in the collection. Stratemeyer and his daughters, Harriet Adams and Edna Stratemeyer Squir, were largely responsible for creating the outlines for the stories and editing them.
Since there were many writers for the stories, some might notice a change in the Nancy of the 1930’s-1940’s as opposed to later books published in the 50’s and 60’s. A fabulous book called The Mysterious Case of Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys, by Carole Kismaric and Marvin Heiferman, writes that Mildred Wirt Benson wanted to create a character that could “both ring true and fulfill girls dreams of independence, so she gave Nancy the qualities that Wirt heself felt she lacked-good looks and a lot of dates and enough freedom to get around without getting the wrong kind of reputation” (24).Some say her character became more proper and sweet. Mildred Wirt Benson had originally created a Nancy that was bold and daring, but when Harriet Adams took over editing she told Benson to “create a less abrasive and more caring type of character.”
What is most interesting about the stories and Nancy’s changing character is that they reveal the times in which they were written: they are a reflection of what was going on in American culture. As popular culture changed, seemingly, Nancy Drew did too. She kept up with the times, even her clothes and hair-do were stylish and appropriate. If you take a look at all the illustrations and especially the changing book covers, this is particularly noticeable. Whereas a cover produced in the 1940’s would have Nancy in a calf-length dress with heels and bob haircut, the ones re-published in the 60’s and 70’s often had Nancy wearing bell-bottoms.
There have been new editions to the original Nancy Drew collection through the years, including the more recent Nancy Drew graphic novels Clue Crew, and a new movie, however I remain a hard-core fan of the one and only original.
Needless to say, there is an intriguing history behind one of the most famous girl sleuths in children literature…I’ve only scratched the surface here in this blog. Here are some cool Nancy Drew items that we have at OWL:
Original Nancy Drew Mystery Stories: It doesn’t get much better than these in my opinion. I still like to re-visit the stories now and then. Not only do I get something different out of them as an older reader, but its fun to bring back those memories they created for me so long ago. (J KEE series)
Girl Sleuth: Nancy Drew and the Women Who Created Her by Melanie Rehak. A fascinating book about the creaters and writers of Nancy, as well as some other fun historical tidbits (813.52 REH).
Nancy Drew & Hardy Boys Mysteries DVD– Okay, so I must admit I’m a huge fan of this 1970’s TV series with an all-star cast of Pamela Sue Martin, Parker Stevenson and Sean Cassidy. Back when I was a little patron of the Library, I came across these gems while browsing the VHS section. Much to my delight and amazement I found my favorite girl detective on video. I watched all of the Series 1, repeated times, and when they finally came out on DVD years later I bought them. I now have both Volumes 1 and 2 in my private collection. To me, Pamela Sue Martin and Jean Rasey (who acts as Nancy’s friend George) truly make Nancy come alive. The mysteries are fun to watch, and of course at times overly dramatic which makes them almost comical. I love to pop one in and curl up on the couch as I enter the detective world (J DVD NAN/ J DVD HAR).
Original Nancy Drew Movie Mystery Collection– Staring Bonita Granville these classic black and white movies are the original. I own this set as well and its fun to compare Nancy’s look and behavior in these films as opposed to the Nancy Drew/Hardy Boys from the 70’s. OWL has a “Nancy Drew: Reporter” in our Mystery Classics series. (DVD Mys/Sus).
Nancy Drew Cookbook-Get out those cooking utensils and make some yummy food, like: Tapping Heels Griddle Cakes, 99 Steps French Toast, and Blackwood Hall Muffins (in case you didn’t notice the name of the foods have titles from the original series 🙂 (J 641.5 KEE).
Mysterious Case of Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys– This is the book I refered to before. Full of the history of the stories, the characters and also includes original illustrations from the books and other little tidbits from the time period. Exciting for any Nancy or Hardy Boys fans and those who want to delve deeper into their creation and world. (This one you can get through Bibliomation request)
Sarai is the Publicity Coordinator/Library Assistant and is thinking that this is good, mystery-like weather, to pull out those Nancy Drew/Hardy Boys DVD’s.