Monday, June 23, 2008

More on the Barbara Ann Series

I finished reading the second Barbara Ann book yesterday (Frank, you are right about this series being a hidden gem!). I thoroughly enjoyed the second book, The Mystery at Mountain View. In The Mystery at Mountain View, the inn appears to be haunted because the villains are trying to get the owner to sell at a cheap price. Each time I read a series book with a theme like this, I think of how that type of scheme would backfire nowadays. If someone made an inn appear to be haunted, the media would descend upon it and give us live reports, and all of the thrill-seekers would decide to stay there in hopes of seeing a ghost. I would think that it would help business, rather than hurt it!

Barbara Ann is a plucky young lady, and she is quite daring in her methods of uncovering the villains' schemes. In The Mystery at Mountain View, Barbara Ann and her boyfriend, Bob, get into quite a dangerous situation after they are captured by the villains. I am not going to provide any specific description as I don't want to spoil it for anybody, but their situation is about as bad as any that Beverly and her friends face in the Beverly Gray series. I don't see situations quite like the one in this book very often in the different juvenile series.

Along the same lines, when Barbara Ann and Bob are first confronted by the villains, Barbara Ann worries about what will happen to them on pages 215 and 216:
There was dead silence for a moment. In that moment Barbara Ann had a vivid picture of Bob and herself lying on the floor of the deserted cabin, a bullet wound through each of their hearts.
This is a bit graphic for a series book, don't you think? I felt like I was in a murder mystery there for a moment.

Something I have noticed about the four books is that the text is much larger in the first two books, so those two stories are shorter than the last two books. I don't know what to make of that.

The series is just four volumes long with one volume published each year from 1939 through 1942. Even though I have only read two of the four books, I can tell that the series is very good. I'm sure it didn't sell very well since the books are not very easy to find, and it was published for such a short duration. I feel like this series is good enough that it could have lasted longer. I suspect that this series died with all of the others that Grosset and Dunlap discontinued due to poor sales and paper rationing during World War II.

The illustration of Barbara Ann on the dust jacket of The Mystery at Mountain View reminded me of other cover art, and it took me a few minutes to figure out what. She reminds me of Judy Bolton on some of the dust jackets from the 1950s, like The Clue in the Ruined Castle, among others.

I have begun to read the third Barbara Ann book, Mystery across the Border. In this book, Barbara Ann and her family travel by car down to Mexico. I love books that have car trips down into Mexico, so I already know that I will love this book. Barbara Ann has recently learned how to drive, and she drives during part of the trip. What is unusual is that Barbara Ann is not depicted as an expert driver like Nancy Drew. She ends up in an accident on the first day that she drives due to dodging a calf that was standing in the middle of the road. It is refreshing to have a series book heroine who can drive but is not an expert at it.

1 comment:

Series Books said...

Hello Jennifer,
I'm glad you've enjoyed the Barbara Ann series. It certainly was a pleasant surprise for me when I read it several years ago. I do remember recommending it to you quite a while ago, but I'm not sure how long ago that was 2006, 2007, 2008 ??

Isn't it fun to discover a new series that immediately captures our interest? One thing that I find appealing about series books -- even though I've often heard the word "formulaic" tossed around -- is that, when beginning a new series you have the enjoyment of being introduced to a new cast of characters, a new setting, even a new "villain" or "bully". But, rather than just lasting for one book (as a stand-alone mystery or adventure tale), we can go back to the bookshelf, grab another one and sit back and enjoy a totally new adventure -- with the same characters (well, at least the "heroes" or protagonists).

Having large collections (as we both do), I find it particularly enjoyable to go searching the shelves and pull out something fresh and new. It's almost as if I'm creating my own little adventure inside an adventure by searching out the next series to captivate my attention and stimulate my interest. I guess some would call that having a vicarious experience (in a sense).

To me, it is particularly appealing when I find a short, obscure series that no one has mentioned. It is as if I have made my own little discovery. This is even more satisfying when it turns out to be a really good series with an interesting mystery and/or appealing characters.

I'm glad you've enjoyed it as much as I have. Here's to more fun and adventure in your future !!