Thursday, April 16, 2015

Cherry Ames Student Nurse and Senior Nurse

Cherry Ames is another series that I have ignored for many years.  The books have never appealed to me, because I have not the slightest interest in nursing.  Furthermore, I have had an aversion to the idea of reading books set in the hospital setting.  After a second failed attempt in reading Biff Brewster, I decided to read the Cherry Ames series.

In Cherry Ames #1, Cherry Ames, Student Nurse, Cherry begins her probationary year of nursing school.  Cherry makes a few mistakes along the way and worries that she won't measure up.  She becomes good friends with several other nursing students.  Soon, Cherry becomes aware of a secret patient and is faced with a dilemma when the patient faces an emergency.

I noticed how Wells uses ethnicity to point out the differences between people.  On pages 60 and 61, "Cherry looked down into the contrasting faces:  a plump Jewish grandmother, an Italian woman with a smile like a sunburst, a tiny little Irish girl not much older than herself, a Slavic woman who spoke no English.  What an assorted lot they were!"

On page 132, Cherry thinks of how two nurses are friends.  She thinks about how they are very different on the surface including of different nationalities but that they have similar personalities.  There again, Wells uses ethnicity to point out differences.

A hot water boiler explodes in a young boy's face, and he is badly burned.  On page 137, Cherry assures him that he "won't look a bit different."  The child needed to be reassured, but I didn't like Cherry assuring him that he wouldn't look different at all.  That bothered me.  

These books have lots of sentimentality in them.  Cherry feels homesick.  She worries about the future.  She worries about her patients.  I especially notice it because I have been reading boys' series books, which don't have the excessive amount of reflection in them.  I find the sentimentality to be excessive even for girls' books, and it is too much for me.  I skimmed some of it.

In Cherry Ames #2, Cherry Ames, Senior Nurse, 20-year-old Cherry Ames begins her senior year of nursing school.  Her first assignment gets off to a shaky start when the maid smuggles a rabbit into the children's ward, and Cherry plays along with the prank.  Later, Lex, a young doctor, pursues Cherry relentlessly, even to the point of becoming Dr. Joe's assistant.

On page 12, Cherry tells a girl, " 'I'll try to have your mother come, Mary Ruth, but I can't promise.' She knew she had to be scrupulously honest with children, to keep their trust."  Oh, really?  When I read this sentence, I thought of the burned boy and how Cherry promised him that he would look the same.

Just after Cherry's thinks about how she has to be honest with children, Cherry tells the girl that a teddy bear spoke to her that morning, wanting a playmate.  The girl tells Cherry that she knows that the teddy bear can't talk.  Ugh.  Cherry says that she needs to be honest, and then she tells an obvious fib in the next breath. 

I do not like Lex.  He reminds me of a stalker who would end up becoming an abusive spouse.  He is obsessed with Cherry and has abusive tendencies.  Helen Wells says it herself.  On page 144, Wells uses the word "violent" to describe Lex's reaction to a few questions. 

It's quite difficult to believe how quickly Cherry wins over Mildred after not getting along with her for months.

I enjoyed both books, although as expected, most of the details regarding nursing were of very little interest to me.  As I already mentioned, the sentimental details were not of great interest.  I also feel no connection to Midge and Dr. Fortune, so I find them uninteresting.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Troy Nesbit Sand Dune Pony, Payrock Canyon, and Indian Mummy

In Sand Dune Pony, Pete spends the summer at Uncle Lem and Aunt Clara's ranch in southern Colorado.  Uncle Lem is short on horses, so Pete has no horse to ride until one gets broken.  When old Hatsy comes along with his wagon, Pete jumps at the chance to spend the summer camping.  Hatsy promises Pete that they will find a pony for him.

On page 86, Hatsy explains how a horse can be used for tracking.  Hatsy and Pete are tracking a man who doesn't know the territory and would surely choose the easiest path.  Hatsy lets his horse choose the path, which ends up being the same path the man took.  

Pete goes skiing on sand dunes.  I had never thought about skiing on sand dunes, so I found this part interesting.

Readers who love horses will love this book.  I found much of it interesting, although the detailed content began to wear on me during the second part of the story.

This book is very good.

In The Jinx of Payrock Canyon, Jay Himrod spends the summer helping his friend, Doc Martin, with his father's cattle.  The boys feel like Payrock Canyon has a jinx on it because of all of the strange events that have occurred.  Beavers have changed their color from black to brown.  The sheep are dying from a disease.  Mr. Martin's cattle are stampeding.  The boys observe a man carrying a box around the countryside.  The boys wonder if the mysterious man is responsible for some of the strange events.

There is too much randomness in this book.  This book began to tire me towards the end, and I became impatient for the book to be over.  The book is good but not as good as Sand Dune Pony.

In The Indian Mummy Mystery, Joe, Denny, and their new friend, Huff, want to locate an old mummy that Joe's grandfather found decades earlier.  The mummy was stolen by outlaws, and the boys believe that the mummy might be located in the ruins of a nearby ghost town.

Denny has an old Confederate half-dollar from 1861.  On page 33, the boys are told that the half-dollar is worthless.  I wasn't fooled for a second.  Common sense told me how rare a Confederate half-dollar would have been even in the 1950s.  Besides, too many series books proclaim that a certain object is worthless when in fact it is valuable.

This book has a number of exciting events.  Joe crawls around by himself in an Indian dwelling on the side of a cliff.  The boys get trapped in a cave during the night, and their search for treasure is fun.   

I like this book the best of the three I have read so far.  It is excellent.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Keeping Your Collection from Getting Out of Hand

A recent article titled "What personal collectors can learn from museums" gives advice to private collectors.  I read the article and realized that I apply most all of the practices to the way I collect books.  Let's look at some of the article's points.

"Have you thought about exactly what kind of thing you’re collecting?.....You may start out with a wide scope and decide to narrow it over time."

I have gradually expanded what I collect over the years, but I have always kept it within certain constraints.  Nancy Drew is the only series for which I have aggressively pursued most all formats and variations, but even with Nancy Drew, I have placed constraints on what I purchase.  I love international editions, but I only purchase them when I like the appearance of the cover.  If I don't like the style of some international sets, I don't purchase them.

I have sold some international editions because they were too large and didn't fit well on the shelf.  I recall a large Swedish Nancy Drew picture cover book that I once had.  I didn't like how it stood a couple of inches taller than the other books, so I sold it.  That might sound strange, but it fits perfectly with the idea of me not keeping books that I don't like as much.  I don't have enough room to purchase or keep books for the sake of having them.

I don't have a set of Nancy Drew flashlight editions.  I once did, but I sold them when I gradually increased my sets of library editions and other variants.  I decided that the books I was buying were more important.  I sold my Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys Super Mysteries, Nancy Drew On Campus, and Nancy Drew Notebooks at around the same time.  I didn't care about them, and I needed the space.

"What are your priorities for adding to your collection? Do you have some holes in your collection that you want to fill? What’s your budget?"

My focus is on what I am currently interested in reading.  I decided in recent months to read the Troy Nesbit, Brains Benton, and Power Boys series.  As a result of that desire, I purchased books in those series.

Early in my collecting, I had to do without many books since I didn't have the funds to purchase everything.  Since I have most books that I want, I am able to afford what I wish to purchase.
"When do items get removed from your collection?.....And if the scope of your collection has changed over the years, you may find items that no longer seem to fit."

I partially addressed this in my first response, but here are a few more points.  I also sell books that I did not particularly enjoy reading or did not enjoy enough to keep.  It's not enough for the book to have a nice dust jacket with lovely vintage art.  I have to have enjoyed reading the book enough to want to keep it.

I have sold some collectible items because I decided that I no longer care.  For instance, I tend not to keep autographed items, since autographs don't mean much to me.

"Museums only display part of their collection at any time, rotating the items on display....Just as a museum would, you will want to consider whether items in your collection need to be kept at any specific range of temperatures and humidity.....You’ll also want to think about how to keep fragile items from being broken when on display and when being stored."

For me, the biggest consideration is my cats.  I have had a few books damaged by cats over the years.  They sometimes knock down books on lower shelves.  One time a cat threw up on a softcover Boxcar Children book that fortunately was nothing special.  That book had to be thrown away since the result was quite gross.  Another time a cat made a long deep scratch in the spine of a book.  Therefore, I keep my most valuable books up high and away from the cats.

I also never store any of my books in the attic, in the garage, or in an outbuilding.  The temperature and humidity are too variable in those locations.

"Would you ever consider loaning out items in your collection?"  

Absolutely not.  I also would never accept a loan from another collector.  I wouldn't feel comfortable having someone else's book in my possession, and I wouldn't be comfortable loaning a book to someone else.

"If you have a large collection, not all on display, having an inventory will help you remember what’s being kept where."

I had a written inventory that I kept up quite well until around 2001, then I went to sticky notes placed inside the books.  That meant that I didn't have a good record.  I took care of that last summer when I put all of my books on LibraryThing.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Roger Baxter #3 The Riddle of the Hidden Pesos

In Roger Baxter #3, The Riddle of the Hidden Pesos, Roger, Bill, and Slim drive into Mexico for a vacation.  Soon after they enter Mexico, the boys discover packages containing counterfeit pesos hidden in the seat cushions of the car.  Unwittingly, Slim and the boys just smuggled counterfeit money into Mexico.  They find themselves in a difficult position, as they learn that one or more parties are tracking their movements.  Slim and the boys attempt to evade the men who are following them as they race towards Mexico City. 

The plot of this book is rather similar to the Ken Holt book, The Mystery of the Green Flame.  The book also reminds me a little bit of another Ken Holt book set in Mexico, The Mystery of the Plumed Serpent.

Bill's experience with hot Mexican food is like Sandy's.  He impulsively eats hot Mexican food and then promptly regrets it.

On page 65, Bill throws a wrapper out of the window of the car.  I hate it when series books have the characters litter.  That's not cool.

This book is very exciting from start to finish.  I greatly enjoyed it.

I ended up liking all three Roger Baxter books better than most all of the Ken Holt books.  That might sound surprising, but consider that to me, Ken Holt is an average series.  My reaction was lukewarm to the first half of the series, so I like most series books more than those.  While I ended up greatly liking the books in the second half of the series, the books were not outstanding in my opinion.  They are to Ken Holt fans, but not to me.

I think I like these books better because the boys are a little younger, and the books don't come across as adult mysteries.  The Ken Holt books are similar to adult mysteries, and that makes a difference.

Stranger at the Inlet is an excellent book.  The Secret of Baldhead Mountain and The Riddle of the Hidden Pesos are outstanding.

The Roger Baxter series is tough to complete.  If you want to build a set of the books, make sure you check everywhere on the internet.  Check Amazon's main site and Amazon's UK site.  Check Alibris and AbeBooks.  Check Bonanza, Etsy, and Google's shopping search.  Also check eBay, but keep in mind that reading copies of obscure books are often easier to find on sites other than eBay, since fewer people check those sites.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

The Whitman Books Are Worth a Second Look

Many juvenile series collectors are not interested in books published by the Western Publishing Company.  Western's books were primarily issued under the Whitman and Golden Press imprints.  Collectors focus more on books published by Grosset and Dunlap, Cupples and Leon, and other publishers.

Aside from the Trixie Belden series, I typically have always ignored Whitman books and have had very little interest in collecting them.  I have always thought that the books look neat with pretty covers, but for some reason, I have had little interest in purchasing them.

My aversion originally came from the knowledge that the Whitman books were published by the same company that published the Little Golden Books.  The Little Golden Books are for very young children, so I grouped all Whitman books in with them.  Furthermore, the Whitman books for older children and young adults tend to have cover art with characters that look rather young.

The content of the Whitman books does seem to be aimed at slightly younger children than the series by Grosset and Dunlap.  The young people in the Whitman books often still have both parents who put firm constraints on their children.  The protagonists can only sleuth when they can temporarily escape from those constraints.  In contrast, the protagonists in the Grosset and Dunlap books tend to have only one parent or parents that let them do whatever they want.

The often poor condition of the Whitman books has added to my aversion.

The books have not aged well.  They were published with pulp paper that has now deeply yellowed or turned brown.  The cello books from the 1950s almost always have cello that has peeled off or is damaged.  The hardcover books from the 1970s were made with such poor materials that they were already falling apart by the early 1990s.  It's very hard to find nice copies of Whitman books.

Other collectors have mentioned being turned off by the Whitman books when they were children.  All of the Whitman hardcover books were already out of print by the time I was old enough to read, so I don't know how I would have reacted.  My only childhood exposure to the Whitman books was when I checked out the thin hardcover Trixie Belden books from my elementary school library during the 1983-1984 school year.  My elementary school had the complete set of #1-16, and I believe I read all of them that year during 6th grade.  I loved them so much.

So naturally, when I started collecting in 1991, I sought out the Trixie Belden Whitman books as well as the Nancy Drew books.  I did pick up a number of other Whitman books at garage sales during the early 1990s, but I later got rid of them.  I just wasn't interested in any Whitman books outside of Trixie Belden, even though I always thought that the covers were attractive.

In the last year, I have started reading books that I previously ignored.  I never wanted to read either the Three Investigators or Rick Brant series, but I found nearly complete sets of both and tried them out to make certain that I didn't like them.  I was surprised to discover that both series are very much to my liking.  I'm so glad that I gave both of them a chance.

This left me with the nagging feeling that I could be ignoring other wonderful series because of the publisher, such as Whitman, or because of other preconceived ideas.  I have been gathering books in the last year to try just to make certain that I'm not missing out on some wonderful books.  In some cases, I was correct that certain books were not to my liking, while in other cases I found wonderful stories.

For Whitman, I have so far tried Brains Benton, Troy Nesbit, and the Power Boys, with mixed results.  I greatly enjoyed all of the Brains Benton books and the Troy Nesbit books.  The Power Boys are not as good, but they are entertaining mainly because there is so much wrong with them.

I tried some miscellaneous books from other publishers.  I tried two books by John Bellairs, since series book collectors frequently remark about how much they enjoy Bellairs.  I didn't like them that much, so I won't be reading any additional books by Bellairs.

I tried one book by Catherine Woolley, since several collectors love Woolley.  I didn't finish it.  The book reads like the average book I read as a child that is now of no interest to me.

While the Ken Holt series is just an average series to me, I decided to track down and find the Roger Baxter books, which were written by the Ken Holt authors.  I ended up liking Roger Baxter much more than I did the Ken Holt books.

As I find other kinds of books, I will also try some of them.  I don't want to make the mistake of ignoring books that could become favorites.  In particular, I will make sure that I try a few more Whitman books.  I once read a Ginny Gordon book and didn't particularly like it.  I will have to try again sometime soon, just in case my opinion has shifted.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Roger Baxter #2 The Secret of Baldhead Mountain

In The Secret of Baldhead Mountain, Roger and Bill travel to Colorado to join their father as he works on a tunnel-building job.  Some residents of a nearby town are against the present location of the proposed highway tunnel.  When Roger learns that a landslide just occurred at the tunnel's entrance, he becomes convinced that someone is sabotaging the tunnel.

Bill is skeptical of Roger's theory about the sabotage, which is so much like when Sandy questions Ken's theories in the Ken Holt series.

Near the beginning of this book, we learn that the boys helped with the smuggling case last summer.  This means that around one year has passed between the two books.

When I read the Ken Holt books, I noticed that everyone drinks coffee, including Ken and Sandy.  In these books, I notice that all of the men smoke.  Naturally, Roger and Bill don't smoke, but give them a few years, and they, too, will smoke like all of the men.

In Chapter 7, Roger and Bill's new friend, Diego, tells them about how some people in Colorado don't seem to like Diego because he is Mexican.  Roger thinks that Diego's belief is nonsense until he remembers how he at first didn't like a boy at school who friends said didn't belong and wasn't worthy of them.  Roger "had unthinkingly accepted the verdict of a group of older boys who called Mike a 'Hunky' and dismissed him immediately as unworthy of their gang.  People don't like foreigners.  Sure it was crazy.  But he knew it was true, sometimes."

I had never heard the term "Hunky," although I realized it had to be an ethnic or racial slur.  I looked it up and learned that it is a derogatory word for immigrants of Slovakian descent.  I then made the connection between "Hungarian" and "Hunky."  Now I understand.  I learn so much from reading books.

From page 78:
There was an awkwardness between them now, and in a way he wished that Diego hadn't spoken.  In another way he was glad he had.  Because if you didn't know about things like that, how could you do anything about them?
This type of passage is atypical of older series books.  I am impressed, but I am also struck by how little things have changed in the last 69 years.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book.  Roger and Bill do lots of sleuthing in interesting places, including an old ghost town and an old mine.  Part of the scene in the mine plays out very similar to a scene in the Ken Holt book, The Mystery of Gallows Cliff.

Monday, March 30, 2015

House with a Clock in Its Walls and Stranger in the Shadows

In The House with a Clock in Its Walls, Lewis Barnavelt has been recently orphaned.  He goes to live with his uncle, Jonathan Barnavelt.  Lewis soon learns that his uncle is a magician.  He also learns that the house has a magical clock hidden within one of the walls and that the clock poses a grave danger.

This is a very spooky book, and I believe it would have terrified me if I had read it when young. 

Sounds are very important in this book.  The ticking of the hidden clock is the most important, but I noticed how the author describes ordinary sounds.  A cushion makes a hissing noise when someone sits on it.  On page 1, we learn that Lewis wears corduroy trousers that "go whip-whip when you walk."  I wore corduroy pants for a time when I was a child, and I had forgotten about that sound.  I remember it well. 

On page 19, we learn that Lewis "loved to eat candy while he read, and lots of his favorite books at home had brown smudges on the corners of the page."  Oh, yes!  Some of my childhood books have food stains on the pages.

In The Figure in the Shadows, Lewis Barnavelt is being bullied at school.  The bullying has become intolerable.  Fortunately, he does have one friend, Rose Rita, but she is not able to protect him all the time.  Lewis discovers that an old coin is a valuable amulet, so he wears it around his neck.  The coin gives Lewis the strength to fight the bullies, but it also beckons a dark figure who follows Lewis around.  Lewis is terrified of what the stranger will do.

There are additional books about Lewis Barnavelt, but I do not have any of them.

I enjoyed these books but not enough to want to read them again.  I enjoyed them about the same as the average book I read as a child.  I'm thinking of the dozens of books that I read in childhood that I now can no longer remember and have no desire to collect or read again. 

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Roger Baxter #1 Stranger at the Inlet

The Roger Baxter series is the precursor to the Ken Holt series.  The books were written by Sam and Beryl Epstein, authors of the Ken Holt series.  Plot ideas and character attributes were later incorporated into the Ken Holt series.

The first book was written under the pseudonym Charles Strong, while the other two were written under the pseudonym Martin Colt.  The UK edition of the first book gives the author as Martin Colt.

1.  Stranger at the Inlet, 1946
2.  The Secret of Baldhead Mountain, 1946
3.  The Riddle of the Hidden Pesos, 1948

Roger and Bill Baxter are brothers.  Roger is 14, and Bill is 12.

In Stranger at the Inlet, Roger and Bill's summer plans are upended when their parents rent the family's cottage to a man named Slim Warner.  They had planned to spend time at the cottage, but Mr. Warner's presence changes their plans.  Roger becomes suspicious of Slim and decides he is up to something.  The boys are shocked when they learn that Slim is a government agent who is investigating a smuggling ring. Slims lets the boys help him on his case.

The way the boys are suspicious of Slim, learn the truth, and help him on his case is very much like how Ken and Sandy become acquainted with and work with Mort in The Mystery of the Green Flame.  The general setting of this book reminds me of The Clue of the Marked Claw.

Uncle Willie partially reminds me of Steven Granger.

During one part of the book, Bill has to stay behind while Roger gets to have an adventure.  Later, Roger volunteers to stay while Bill gets to have the adventure.  Even though Roger volunteered to stay, Slim asks him if he minds.
"Of course not."  He did, naturally.  But Bill hadn't complained when it was his turn, so he couldn't complain now.
I like these boys.

This book reminds me a lot of the earlier Ken Holt books, which are the ones that I had trouble enjoying.  I easily like this book more than those books.

The Stranger at the Inlet is quite engaging and flows quite well.  The boys sleuth around in dark and creepy places, and the atmosphere is quite tense.