2018 A to Z: K… All About Nancy Drew
In 2016 I learned of the first annual April A to Z… it immediately intrigued me and I began racking my brain for a theme. After much reading, and thinking… I finally came up with the theme of Southern Foods and Memories… it said to write what you know! When April of 2017 rolled around, I decided to share Conversations with Mama to the world… the best of my on-going blog post that has generated from nightly talks to my mother. It’s now 2018 and as Nancy Drew has been on my mind… since I began re-building my collection back… well, I hope you will join me in celebrating All about Nancy Drew during the April A to Z Blog Hop!
K… is for Carolyn Keene, Kidnappings, and Knitting
All Nancy Drew books are still penned under the pseudonym “Carolyn Keene“… they were the ghostwriters, the hired writers whose work was published under the pseudonym name of Carolyn Keene… who technically doesn’t exist! Carolyn Keene and Nancy Drew were both born through the brilliant mind of Edward Stratemeyer.
As a young girl, I never knew the name of Carolyn Keene to be only a pseudonym… an alias used to cover the varying writers who were “Carolyn Keene” for so many young girls through the years… including me! I may have realized later that Carolyn Keene was only a fictitious name… an alias to cover the actual writer… but even today, they still go hand in hand!
Most readers today look to the first ghostwriter, Mildred W. Benson… who breathed life into Nancy, using outlines written by Edward Stratemeyer… even though it was Mildred who formed the first early character of Nancy, it was actually Harriet S. Adams who had the final say on every Nancy Drew manuscript and kept Nancy alive through the years. Mildred wrote Nancy as a strong girl, a girl who could take care of herself, having a spunky attitude, with no sense of danger…. never giving a thought about putting herself in the line of fire… for the most part. Nancy always came out without a scratch, but not to say she never ended up without a few bumps and bruises.
Besides writing Nancy Drew Mystery Stories, Carolyn Keene also penned The Dana Girls, another book series which was quite popular and also published by the Stratemeyer Syndicate. In The Dana Girls, the heroines, Jean and Louise Dana, were teenage sisters and amateur detectives who solved mysteries while living at boarding school. I have yet to read one of these mysteries, but they do sound interesting… I’ll definitely be on the lookout for a copy. As Nancy was written as going to school, this might have been a great idea for the Nancy stories… then after leaving school, she could have advanced to continue solving more adult mysteries. For another girl book series to go against Nancy Drew, was bold… and had to be taken in another direction. The Dana Girls solved their mysteries while living at boarding school; the opposite of how Nancy solved her mysteries. In as much as the Dana Girl series only lasted ten years before being shelved… it seemed those type of mysteries weren’t as interesting as Nancy… who traipsed around the country roads in her blue roadster.
Did it help Nancy Drew to be advertised on the back cover of The Dana Girls! So many similarities… most likely it being the same publishers and artists which drew the Nancy Drew covers.
Photo from blog site of Jennifer White
The Dana Girls Mystery Stories debuted in 1934 and ran through 1944, but they never gained the popularity as Nancy Drew; also published by Grosset and Dunlap. I guess after the first thirteen volumes, they decided to concentrate only on Nancy Drew and not continue the competition between the two… even though their dust jackets were just as stylish as Nancy’s! Did that cause heartbreak to many girls around the country… and cause them to cross over and read Nancy Drew?
Keep a close eye on your Nancy Drew books, for after The Dana Girls were terminated… they often used leftover Dana Girl endpapers. That was a time in the world when nothing was wasted, we had been at war, which had resulted in a paper shortage. The bookbinders decided to use up old stock, figuring who would notice! They probably were right… but the future collectors noticed… and now it’s created another book search for, and a want! At this writing, I have not found one, but I’ll be checking out all the endpapers… even if I have the book in my collection! If you have one you’d like to part with… just let me know, and I’ll be happy to take it off your hands!
The Dana Girls reappeared in 1949!
And just when Carolyn Keene didn’t have enough to do… she was soon penning once again on the front of The Dana Girls when they were re-introduced in 1949! Maybe young girls penned letters to the Syndicate begging and pleading for their favorite Dana Girls to come back… who knows why? They first brought back the original 13 volumes, complete with dust jackets and then later in 1952, Carolyn Keene continued with new titles… up to volume 30… but sadly it once again went out of print… for the final time.
Behind the name of Carolyn Keene on the Dana Girls was Leslie McFarlane, who also wrote many of the early Hardy Boy series; he only authored the first four volumes as he disliked writing under a female pseudonym. Mildred W. Benson continued the writings with volumes 5 – 12, skipping 13, then continuing with 14 – 16. She also was never happy in writing the Dana Girls, as she felt such a strong connection to her writing of Nancy Drew. Harriet S. Adams continued the remaining volumes and it’s said that it was she who actually created the series… creating the original outlines.
Don’t despair if The Dana Girls were your Keene favorites… they still can be found hiding on bookshelves in antique stores and maybe even in your mother or grandmother’s attic… so go give a look!
I love the art covers on the Dana Girls and will probably buy any I find… as they so resemble the Nancy Drew covers! In searching out the artists… for the most part the few paintings found (NYPL) were unsigned. (James D. Keeline found #22 and #23 in the archives at the New York Public Library) Maybe the artists who painted the covers were treated as ghost painters… like ghostwriters?
Just like Nancy Drew, you can’t keep a girl detective down… and Carolyn Keene was busy once again in 1972 when the series was re-issued and a few volumes were even revised, but sadly the third and now the final time of reprints ended in 1979… never to return again.
The Mystery of the Fire Dragon: Chi Che, the granddaughter of the elderly Chinese author, Mr. Soong, and neighbor of Nancy’s Aunt Eloise, was kidnapped. Nancy goes to Hong Kong and joins Ned there in the search, but it was Nancy who first needed rescuing. As they board a plane while following Chi Che, Nancy is quickly kidnapped and locked on the plane. Being our “Nancy”, and always prepared… Nancy takes out her always carried tube of red lipstick… needed to signal “help” from the plane window! Can you write SOS backward!
The Hidden Staircase: Nancy’s father, Carson Drew, is kidnapped by Nathan Gombet, but naturally, Nancy comes to his rescue after she finds the tunnel connecting the Twin Elms Mansion to the other house.
The Password to Larkspur Lane: While rescuing Mrs. Eldridge, Nancy is kidnapped and thrown down a cistern (a tank for storing water) located near the pigeon coops. It wasn’t too smart of the nurse who threw her down there… as she also threw the broken ladder pieces on top of Nancy; those ladder pieces turned out to be very useful!
The Whispering Statue: Nancy, Bess, and George were all involved in this kidnapping. The girls were taken at the airport and drove to an abandoned house in the country. As the car slowed down, Nancy signaled to the girls to jump out of the car. They ran like rabbits in all directions to confuse the kidnappers, then circled back to the car, where the dumb crooks had left the keys; they jumped in and drove off in the kidnapper’s station wagon. I thought this scene hilarious as I pictured them in my head running helter-skelter… like rabbits!
The Mystery of the Glowing Eye: Nancy Drew eagerly agrees to help her lawyer father, as always… to solve the mystery of the glowing eye, but her close friend Ned Nickerson gets in the way and he is kidnapped.
The Ringmasters Secret: Nancy joins the Sims Circus in search of a missing horse charm. She was given a horse charm bracelet by Aunt Eloise and told the story of how one charm came to be missing… which Aunt Eloise relayed to Nancy. (Big mistake!) Nancy soon traveled to England in search of the missing charm, along with George and Bess, where George was kidnapped… Nancy left aboard a speeding freight train… and somehow ending up in the lion cage… you know you want to read this now!
The Clue of the Tapping Heels: Nancy taps out an SOS when kidnapped and left in the stateroom bound up, but those heels were free! (Never leave Nancy’s heels on when you kidnap her… remember she knows how to tap!)
The Sky Phantom: As Ned and Nancy ventured inside the cave with their flashlights, they heard a moan! They called out, but before hearing an answer, they both were grabbed from behind and flashlights knocked from their hands. Before they even could think, sacks were thrown quickly over their bodies and they were inside the bag… both thinking out loud “will there be enough oxygen“… their only thoughts were… they’d surely suffocate!
Being a knitter, when I read that Nancy had brought her knitting along on the trip to Shadow Ranch in The Secret of Shadow Ranch (No. 5 – RT), I was like… now that’s my girl! Nancy was knitting a sweater for Dad’s birthday gift while waiting to go to the ranch, but when she left her knitting bag on the floor, next to a stranger… it soon disappeared! It was quickly located, and after Nancy checked her bag… nothing was taken, but what were they looking for in Nancy knitting bag? Is that where we are supposed to keep our valuables? I know I’d be beside myself if I lost my knitting bag… besides losing my knitting project, I always carry different knitting tools and I’d be quite upset to lose them.
I’ll never forget the time I thought “all” my knitting needles were lost… somewhere in the house. I looked high and low for over a year and constantly asked hubby about that bag! Finally, one day when he was on the back porch cleaning, he came in with a basket and asked me if the bag inside was mine… low and behold, there they were… my knitting needles! I told him all along, that I just knew he had misplaced my knitting needles and he had constantly said he didn’t lose my needles… well who put that basket out on the back porch? It wasn’t me!
In No. 24 (RT), The Clue in the Old Album, Nancy examined a tiny basket held by an old lady doll… and guess what was inside that basket? A tiny set of knitting needles holding a half-completed miniature sock… as a sock knitter, boy that was a tiny-tiny sock! And somehow, Nancy even helped her friend Rose get a job at the knitting shop.
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