Review by Choice Review
In 1975, on the rebound from writing a dissertation on Vladimir Nabokov, Bobbie Ann Mason wrote The Girl Sleuth, in which she provided a feminist discussion of the literary girl sleuth who has fascinated generations of readers. At least a half dozen other books followed Mason's pioneering study (e.g., Nancy Drew and Company, ed. by Sherrie Inness, CH, Dec'97, 35-1995), and an entire academic conference was devoted to Nancy Drew in 1993. Rehak (a poet and freelance critic) focuses on Mildred Augustine and Harriet Stratemeyer, the creators of the Nancy Drew character. Augustine wrote many of the books, following a formula provided by the Stratemeyer Syndicate, a book packager that offered this and other juvenile series. Stratemeyer, as head of the syndicate after the death of her father, guarded Nancy Drew jealously and sometimes conflicted with Augustine. Based on thorough archival research, Rehak's book is fascinating and readable. Particularly valuable are the historical and literary contexts the author builds for each decade of the 20th century; this material serves as background for the story of the two authors, for the issues facing women at that time, and for attitudes toward children's literature. ^BSumming Up: Highly recommended. Lower-division undergraduates through faculty. E. R. Baer Gustavus Adolphus College
Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review
The intrepid Nancy Drew has given girls a sense of their own power since she was born, Athena-like, from the mind of Edward Stratemeyer in 1929 and raised after his death in 1930 by his daughter Harriet Stratemeyer Adams and Mildred Wirt Benson, a journalist who was the first to write the novels under the pen name Carolyn Keene. Poet and critic Rehak invigorates all the players in the Drew story, and it's truly fun to see behind the scenes of the girl sleuth's creation, her transformation as different writers took on the series, and the publishing phenomenon-the highly productive Stratemeyer Syndicate machine-that made her possible. Rehak's most ambitious choice is to reflect on how Nancy Drew mirrors girls' lives and the ups and downs of the women's movement. This approach is compelling, but not particularly well executed. Rehak's breathless prose doesn't do justice to the complexity of the large social trends she describes, and tangents into Feminism 101 derail the story that really works-the life of a publishing juggernaut. All the same, Stratemeyer himself would undoubtedly say that the story is worth telling. Drew fans are likely to agree. 8 pages of b&w photos not seen by PW. Agent, the Wylie Agency. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by Kirkus Book Review
The true story behind the creation of the resilient fictional girl detective. Even though the Nancy Drew mysteries subsist, according to poet and critic Reha, on "formulaic dialogue, totally implausible escapes and absurd plot twists," readers admire and identify with the character of Nancy herself: "her bravery, her style, her generosity, and her relentless desire to succeed." The author embarks on her own bit of energetic sleuthing into the life of children's book mogul Edward Stratemeyer, the man behind the Nancy Drew, Rover Boys and Bobbsey Twins books. In 1905, he formed the lucrative Stratemeyer Syndicate, which essentially outlined new series and handed them out to ghostwriters so that "no one would ever be the wiser about who was actually doing the writing." The character of Nancy Drew grew out of Stratemeyer's success with earlier titles featuring gutsy, brainy, proto-modern heroines Dorothy Dale and Ruth Fielding, as well as the mystery-solving Hardy Boys. Stratemeyer farmed out the new mystery series for girls to eager Iowa journalist Mildred Wirt, who had fashioned the Ruth Fielding titles, and plucky Miss Nancy Drew made her debut on April 28, 1930, "dressed to the nines in smart tweed suits, cloche hats, and fancy dresses." Wirt seems to have endowed the early Nancy Drew with her own indomitable spunkiness, while the series' later ghostwriter, Stratemeyer's Wellesley-educated daughter Harriet, instead emphasized Nancy's pedigree and correct bearing. (Sidekicks Bess and George were the brainchildren of Stratemeyer's intrepid and loyal secretary, Harriet Otis Smith.) The series was an instant bestseller for Grosset & Dunlap at 50 cents per copy, and Wirt would end up writing a dozen of the titles. In an unfortunate but perhaps inevitable denouement, she eventually had to battle in court for proper recognition from Harriet Stratemeyer, who took over the syndicate after her father's death. A breezy social history. (8-page black-and-white photo insert, not shown) Copyright ©Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
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