Sunday, September 17, 2006

Well, I Was Thrilled At Least

Once upon a time, there weren't a whole lot of children's books. In those days, many of the books that were written for youthful minds were about intrepid youngsters who had adventures. Tom Swift had scientific adventures. The Hardy Boys had mysterious adventures. Billy and Blaze had horsie adventures.

And then there was Cherry Ames and Trixie Belden and The Bobbsey Twins and many other characters whose novels didn't stand the test of time.

Thread-bare books were handed down from one generation to the next. Kids used their allowance to buy new ninety-nine cent copies at Grant's. Those books had hard pastel covers with drawings of girls wearing 1930's era clothing.

Then the kid readers grew up and went to college and started sneering at their old loves and referring to a favorite character as "Nancy Drew, Defective." And then they had kids of their own and wanted them to read new and better children's literature and...

Okay, that last paragraph was a little too autobiographical.

What I'm leading up to is that yesterday I finished reading The Clue of the Linoleum Lederhosen by M.T. Anderson, the second in his Thrilling Tales series. It's a very clever parody of many of those beloved old children's series. At the same time, the solution to the mystery set up in the book is really good. I never saw it coming, anyway.

It took me a while to warm to the first book in the Thrilling Tales series, Whales on Stilts. But with Ledherhosen, Anderson had me from '"Great Scott!" cried Jasper Dash, Boy Technonaut. "Your mother just lost her hand in the rotating band saw!"'

In spite of all the jokes and satire and talk of one character drowning in his own snot in Lederhosen, the reader is left with the feeling that Anderson once read and loved the old books he's making fun of. That back in the day he got them and remembers.

Or maybe I'm just reading way too much into this thing because I started to cry when Eddie Wax was reunited with... Well, read the book. And be sure to notice that wonderfully Zenny paragraph toward the end about longing.

I still have one reservation about this series: Anderson likes to have what seems to be an omniscient narrator start speaking in the first person to the reader. I hate it when that happens. It destroys my illusion that I'm there, solving the crime with Nancy, George, and Bess...

Oops. Little time distortion there.


Nancy said...

Trixie Belden hasn't stood the test of time??? How sad. She has for me. And she just started showing up in new editions in the last couple years, which I found completely thrilling.

Oooh, I love that you mention Grants. I used to do my Christmas shopping at Grants in Springfield, MA when I was quite young. My dad would help me buy my mother some slippers and then take me to Bucky Bradfords for a grilled cheese and root beer. But Grants was gone even before I started reading Trixie Belden.

Gail Gauthier said...

I was worried about the phrasing of that sentence. I meant that the three characters mentioned at the beginning of the sentence were known but that there were others who hadn't stood the test of time.

Nancy said...