Wednesday, August 5, 2015
Mill Creek Irregulars #1 Moon Tenders and #2 Special Detectives
August Derleth frequently mentions the titles of books, and he mentions Tom Swift on page 17.
This book doesn't have a mystery, aside from the idea of searching for a treasure. However, the treasure hunt does not go as the reader might expect. In the typical series book, the boys would go after the treasure, find it, and return triumphant. That's not what happens.
I appreciate that Derleth does not throw names at us constantly. Characters are introduced gradually, and the story is kept simple and easy to follow. The descriptions of the setting, including sounds and smells, is outstanding. The humor is fabulous. The plot moves slowly, but the writing is so good that the reader is engaged. The reader is able to experience what the boys do exactly as they experience it. The book is meant to be read slowly and savored.
This book is unusual in that the adults recruit the boys to do detective work for them. Normally in series books, the children investigate without the knowledge of the adults. In this book, the adults insist that the boys get involved, not that Steve minds at all. Sim, of course, is reluctant.
On page 11, Fred tells the boys how country life is different from town life. "You town boys think you have to go to a movie every other night, or watch a parade, or go in and out of the stores." He tells them that they should spend time learning about the country. I found this perspective interesting, because the town in which Steve and Sim live is quite small. In the 2010 census, the two towns that were used as the basis for Sac Prairie in these books had a combined population of 7,444. That's small, and the population would have been smaller in 1922. But still, boys who live in a small town do have a different lifestyle and more to do than boys who live on a farm in the country.
The mystery is, in my opinion, quite lame in this book, but the book does show a gradual development from the adventure story of the first book towards what the series will become, which is a mystery series.
As I read this book, I tried to figure out how to describe what these books are like so that others will have an idea. I already mentioned how rich the descriptions are, which is what makes these books so charming. I first thought of the early Trixie Belden books, because they take place close to Trixie's home. These books are of the same type with adventures close to Steve's home.
I also thought of Charles Dickens because of how Derleth describes his characters. I was delighted later, as I was reading the fifth book, The Tent Show Summer, when on page 62, a character is described as "hard to believe in. I mean, he looked like some kind of character that had stepped out of a book by, say, Dickens or somebody like that." Perfect! Even Derleth knew that he had created characters similar to Dickensian characters.
This book is very similar in quality to the first book. I enjoyed it just slightly less, but it is still a very good book.