Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Grace Harlowe's Senior Year at High School

I enjoyed Grace Harlowe's Senior Year at High School more than I did the first three books. It had more interesting events than the previous volumes.

Soon into the story, the girls chance to meet Mabel Allison's mother and return Mabel to her. It's funny how lost parents are always found in a chance meeting in the same location where the lost child is. I am usually able to suspend disbelief in these cases, but I had trouble enjoying this particular reunion. I mean, really.

In fact, it makes me think of the blurb that appears in the back of the Altemus books. Keep in mind that Grace Harlowe was published by Altemus. The blurb reads, in part:
Really good and new stories for boys and girls are not plentiful. Many stories, too, are so highly improbable as to bring a grin of derision to the young reader's face before he has gone too far.
Sorry, Altemus, your books do that, too.

Eleanor Savell continues to be extremely hateful in this book, although she does get reformed towards the end. I would prefer it if the mean girls would get expelled and banished to a faraway place. That would be more fun. Something like that happened to a mean girl in Lavell's Girl Scouts series. I like it when the mean girls get punished.

Meanwhile, Marian Barber becomes very friendly with a 29-year-old man named Henry Hammond. He influences her to dress up in expensive gowns with low necklines. She shuns her friends, and they can do nothing to help her. It turns out that Hammond is a thief and uses Marian to get money.

The relationship is very scandalous to me, since I see it from a modern point of view. Nowadays, I think the 29-year-old man would be getting a lot more than money from Marian, if you know what I mean. I also think that even in real life 100 years ago that the man would be getting more than just money.

Marian Barber is not to be confused with Miriam Nesbit, who was Grace's rival in the first and second books. At first I thought that Miriam was the one who was interested in the older man, then I realized that I was misreading the name yet again. This has been a problem for me since the first book. The author had no business making two important characters have extremely similar names.

I also noticed a bunch of dropped quotation marks in this book. Altemus got sloppy with this book, kind of like what Burt did with Harriet Pyne Grove's books. The saving grace is that the writing is good, unlike with Grove's books.

Grace is still close to perfect in this book, but I was happy when she and Eleanor break into an abandoned house in order to retrieve stolen property. There may be hope for Grace. Way to go!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Grace Harlowe's Junior Year at High School

In Grace Harlowe's Junior Year at High School, Grace befriends a sophomore girl, who was the winner of the previous year's freshman prize for highest exam scores. The girl is Mabel Allison, and Grace learns that the girl is an orphan who lives with the mean, miserly Miss Brant. Miss Brant took Mabel home from the orphan asylum two years ago and plans to remove Mabel from school when she turns 16 so that she can work at the silk mill. Grace is horrified, especially after she learns that Miss Brant beats Mabel. Grace vows to do something to help Mabel.

A new girl at school, Eleanor Savell, is strong-willed, and at first takes a liking to Grace and her friends. Later, she labels Grace and her friends "goody-goodies" and begins to cause trouble for everyone. Grace is indignant when Eleanor calls her a goody-goody, but really, she is.

Grace is placed on such a pedestal among her schoolmates that, at times, it is a bit hard to take. I am reminded of how Trixie Belden fans feel about Nancy Drew. They dislike Nancy Drew because she is too perfect. Obviously, they have never read Grace Harlowe. Nancy Drew is far less perfect than Grace Harlowe and her friends.

On pages 123 and 124, Grace and Anne are concerned because Eleanor and her friends are giving the junior class a bad reputation among the teachers. Anne comments to Grace that Eleanor is "helping to destroy that spirit of earnestness that you have tried so hard to cultivate."

Grace replies in part, "The juniors will get the reputation among the teachers this year that the junior class had last, and it seems such a pity. I overheard Miss Chester tell Miss Kane the other day that her junior classes were the most trying of the day, because she had to work harder to maintain discipline than to teach her subject."

Nora then retorts, "That's a nice reputation to carry around, isn't it?" She then continues, "But all we can do is to try harder than ever to make things go smoothly."

Are these girls for real? I will admit that I never, ever did anything wrong in school. I was in some classes that had lots of misbehaving students, but I certainly didn't worry about what the teachers thought of the class as a whole. If I wasn't one of the people misbehaving, then why would I worry about what the teachers thought of the others? Please!

While I do enjoy reading stories about people who do the right thing and want what is best for others, Grace and her friends can be a bit much at times. Even though the moralizing made me want to roll my eyes at times, I enjoyed this story.

The Grace Harlowe books hearken back to a previous time which is extremely different from our world today and is even quite different from the setting of the series books of the 1930s. The stories are engaging but very old-fashioned. The illustrations make the girls look like grown women who are very prim and proper. It is astonishing to see the girls playing basketball in dresses, but that is how life was 100 years ago.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Nancy Drew's Inner Circle Book Club

For the most part, I am not very interested in collecting old magazine advertisements for the Nancy Drew series. The advertisements tend to be plain black and white and fairly generic. I did recently make an exception.

I chanced to notice an advertisement for "Nancy Drew's Inner Circle for Girls" and the "Hardy Boys Inner Circle for Boys" book clubs in an eBay listing. It was a Buy It Now, and I liked what I saw, so I immediately purchased it.

The advertisement has staple holes in the center, so it must have been removed from a magazine, as is almost always the case with these old inserts. The seller wrote "August 1963" on the cardboard backing used for the ad, so I assume that the ad was removed from a magazine that was published in August of 1963. As always, click on the images to view larger versions.

I think it is a very attractive advertisement due to the use of the cover images in blue that mimic the blue multi endpapers. The spine symbols used also look nice.

The book club is for the Nancy Drew picture cover editions that have no number on the spine and have a blank back cover. #1-32 were issued in this book club.

The advertisement gives us some important information about the book club. The book club was called the "Nancy Drew Inner Circle for Girls." The book club offered four introductory volumes: #7 The Clue in the Diary, #8 Nancy's Mysterious Letter, #18 The Mystery at the Moss-Covered Mansion, and #21 The Secret in the Old Attic. Additionally, each member had to commit to purchasing two additional books each month for four months before canceling the membership. This means that each person had to purchase a total of twelve books.

David Farah has speculated that the volumes were issued in four groups: #1-8, #9-16, #17-24, and #25-32. He drew this conclusion because the earlier volumes appear to be less scarce than the later volumes.

This advertisement indicates that the first four volumes issued were #7, 8, 18, and 21, which means that those four volumes should be the most abundant, in addition to whichever eight additional titles were required to be purchased by members. It would be nice to know which eight were next. It is possible that after the introductory volumes that the books were sent in order, which would account for the earlier volumes seeming to be less scarce than the later ones.

I decided to check eBay listings to see if I could draw any conclusions. I have listed the volume number followed by the number of listings of the book club edition picture cover that I found currently listed. The numbers are interesting, although flawed, because some books might sell more readily than others.

#1 - 2 
#2 - 6 
#3 - 5 
#4 - 3 
#5 - 1 
#6 - 3 
#7 - 7 
#8 - 8 
#9 - 3 
#10 - none 
#11 - 3 
#12 - 3 
#13 - 2 
#14 - 1 
#15 - 3 
#16 - 1 
#17 - 1 
#18 - 3 
#19 - 3 
#20 - 2 
#21 - 2 
#22 - 1 
#23 - 1 
#24 and up - none 

 #7 and #8, which are two of the four introductory volumes, are definitely the most abundant. #2 and #3 are next, followed by #4, 6, 9, 11, 12, 15, 18, and 19. I notice that a few early volumes such as #5 plus some of the later ones like #10, 14, 16, 17, 22, and 23 seem to be equally scarce. It does not look like #1-8 are equally scarce, followed by #9-16 and #17-24, as indicated by Farah. The scarcity of #25-32 matches Farah's observations. It sounds like the early volumes were some of the ones mailed out first, but not all of them and that the later books were definitely mailed out last.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Grace Harlowe's Sophomore Year at High School

In Grace Harlowe's Sophomore Year at High School, the plot centers around the basketball rivalry between the sophomore and junior classes. Junior Julia Crosby is captain of the junior team, and Julia leads her class in some dirty tricks against the sophomores. Meanwhile, sophomore Miriam Nesbit is bitter that Grace is captain of the sophomore team and seems to be aligned with Julia against the other sophomores.

Shortly into the story, Grace gives Anne Pierson a list of the sophomore team's secret basketball signals so that she can learn them and follow along better during practice. Anne loses the signals and worries about what has happened to them.

During the first game against the juniors, the sophomores are defeated because the junior team knows their signals. Egged on by Miriam, the sophomores blame Anne, believing she has turned traitor to the sophomore class. Soon, Grace loses the respect of the other girls, aside of her four close friends, due to her support of Anne. Grace is heartbroken that the other girls no longer like her, all because she stands behind Anne.

Anyone who has ever read a series book with this type of plot already knows that the conflict gets successfully worked out with Grace regaining the respect of the other girls. Not only that, but both Julia Crosby and Miriam Nesbit get reformed in this book.

I found Julia's reformation to be convincing, but I thought that Miriam's reformation was a bit forced and too fast. We are told that Miriam has been out of sorts for a time before she is reformed, but during this time Miriam still seems very hateful and mean. The conversion just seemed a bit too fast. Did anyone else get that impression?

On page 178, the girls play several old-fashioned schoolyard games. The games are called "puss in the corner," "pom-pom-pull-away," and "prisoner's goal." I had never heard any of these names before, so I looked them up online.

"Puss in the corner" involves four players taking up positions in a square area with an extra player in the middle. The players attempt to exchange positions, and whoever does not gain a corner becomes the new Puss. This sounds a lot like "musical chairs."

"Pom-pom-pull-away" is similar to "tag." The players line up on one side of the field with the tagger in the middle. The players attempt to run past the tagger without getting tagged. Any player who gets tagged must join the tagger in the middle of the field.

"Prisoner's goal" was hard to find in a search. It seems to be more commonly called "prisoner's base." According to one site, this game has two opposing teams attempt to take players from the other team prisoner and hold them in an enclosed area. I found another description of the game that makes it sound identical to "pom-pom-pull-away," so I don't know for certain exactly what the game is.

I found this second Grace Harlowe book to be just as enjoyable as the first one.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Grace Harlowe's Plebe Year at High School

The first book in the Grace Harlowe High School Girls Series is Grace Harlowe's Plebe Year at High School. This book was published in 1910 by Altemus and was written by Josephine Chase under the pseudonym Jessie Graham Flower, A.M. The book was published 100 years ago, which is made obvious from the rather dated illustrations which show the girls in very old-fashioned attire.

Grace Harlowe is 16 years old and is described as having wavy, chesnut hair. Grace's best friends are Nora O'Malley and Jessica Bright. Miriam Nesbitt is Grace's rival, who causes Grace and her friends endless trouble. All schoolgirl stories must have a jealous rival who wreaks havoc on everyone.

Anne Pierson is the new girl, who is from a very poor family. As the story begins, Miriam Nesbit speaks cruelly about Anne in Anne's presence. Grace decides to bring Anne into her circle of friends, so Grace, Nora, and Jessica befriend Anne.

All four girls become very friendly with old Mrs. Gray, who is the freshman sponsor. Mrs. Gray offers a prize each year to the freshman girl with the highest examination scores. The prize is $25 for the highest scores, and $100 if the girl makes a perfect score on every exam. No one has ever made a perfect score on all exams. Knowing what we know about series books, we can conclude that somebody will make a perfect score this year.

The young people generally expect Miriam Nesbit to claim the prize, but Anne hopes that she might be victorious. Anne badly needs the money and spends all of her time studying.

The four girls become friends with Miriam's brother, David Nesbit, and two other boys, Reddy Brooks and Hippy Wingate. The seven young people are invited to spend a week at Mrs. Gray's home during the holidays, where they meet Tom Gray, Mrs. Gray's great-nephew.

The story follows the plot of the typical school story with the usual melodrama involving mean girls and a very mean teacher. Even though I have read many series books that follow this theme, I never tire of this type of story so long as it is written well. This is a very enjoyable book which is never boring at any point during the story.

Monday, November 8, 2010

The Grace Harlowe Series

The Grace Harlowe series was originally published by Altemus and later was reprinted by Donahue and Saalfield. The Grace Harlowe series consists of four different sets of books which were written by two authors.

The High School Girls Series and the College Girls Series were written by Josephine Chase. The Grace Harlowe Overseas Series and the Grace Harlowe Overland Riders Series were written by Frank Gee (Glines) Patchin according to a post by James Keeline. Both authors wrote the books under the pseudonym Jessie Graham Flower, A. M.

The High School Girls Series

1. Grace Harlowe's Plebe Year at High School, 1910
2. Grace Harlowe's Sophomore Year at High School, 1911
3. Grace Harlowe's Junior Year at High School, 1911
4. Grace Harlowe's Senior Year at High School, 1911

The College Girls Series

1. Grace Harlowe's First Year at Overton College, 1914
2. Grace Harlowe's Second Year at Overton College, 1914
3. Grace Harlowe's Third Year at Overton College, 1914
4. Grace Harlowe's Fourth Year at Overton College, 1914
5. Grace Harlowe's Return to Overton Campus, 1915
6. Grace Harlowe's Problem, 1916
7. Grace Harlowe's Golden Summer, 1917

Grace Harlowe Overseas Series

1. Grace Harlowe Overseas, 1920
2. Grace Harlowe with the Red Cross in France, 1920
3. Grace Harlowe with the Marines at Chateau Thierry, 1920
4. Grace Harlowe with the U.S. Troops in the Argonne, 1920
5. Grace Harlowe with the Yankee Shock Boys at St. Quentin, 1920
6. Grace Harlowe with the American Army on the Rhine, 1920

Grace Harlowe Overland Riders Series

1. Grace Harlowe's Overland Riders on the Old Apache Trail, 1921
2. Grace Harlowe's Overland Riders on the Great American Desert, 1921
3. Grace Harlowe's Overland Riders Among the Kentucky Mountaineers, 1921
4. Grace Harlowe's Overland Riders in the Great North Woods, 1921
5. Grace Harlowe's Overland Riders in the High Sierras, 1923
6. Grace Harlowe's Overland Riders in the Yellowstone National Park, 1923
7. Grace Harlowe's Overland Riders in the Black Hills, 1923
8. Grace Harlowe's Overland Riders at Circle O Ranch, 1923
9. Grace Harlowe's Overland Riders Among the Border Guerillas, 1924
10. Grace Harlowe's Overland Riders On the Lost River Trail, 1924

I set myself the goal of acquiring all of the books in the original Altemus editions with the earliest style dust jackets. The Altemus editions have a later style of dust jacket that I dislike, so I wanted the earlier style. I also wished to avoid the Saalfield editions at all cost since the paper is of poor quality.

This is a very difficult series to acquire in the original Altemus editions with dust jackets. The Altemus editions are even a bit hard to find without the dust jackets. I am just three books short of having all of the books in all four sets. My books are all Altemus editions, and only four of them are lacking the dust jackets.

I am close enough to having all of the books that I have decided to read the books. I am likely going to have to settle for Saalfield editions of the books I lack in order to be able to read the entire set in sequence.

I have read many good comments about Josephine Chase over the years, so I know the first two sets of books will be good. I have read some not-so-good comments about the final two sets, which were written by Frank Gee Patchin. All I can say is that Patchin's writing had better be higher quality than Harriet Pyne Grove's writing, or I am going to be scarred for life.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Helping Out a Seller

Some people feel that it is their duty to tell every seller of a first printing copy of Nancy Drew #1 The Secret of the Old Clock that the book is valued at $1,000—regardless of the condition of the book up for sale. I have never understood this practice and feel that it sets the seller up for bitter disappointment.

I seem to recall that a 1930A-1 Old Clock without a jacket sold in the summer of 2008 for around $1,000, but that was to the woman who was spending around $30,000 per month on series books that summer. She worked for a bank and had stolen $300,000 from her bank's vault. She later went to federal prison. That sale does not count because that buyer tended to pay around 10 times the actual value of books during that buying frenzy. People bid against her just to drive the prices up, and I know of at least one instance in which a seller shilled an auction in order to make her pay an extreme amount.

Every other time that I have seen the 1930A-1 bare Old Clock book up for sale, it has sold for anywhere from $5 to $500. I do know of one that sold for around $5 in an eBay auction that ran for seven days. Most examples sell for $50 to $250. The book is not worth anywhere near $1,000, regardless of what Farah's Guide states.

Nancy Drew The Secret of the Old Clock

This auction was for a 1930A-1 Old Clock book, and the above was the title of the listing.

As usual, someone helpfully told the seller, "This is a 1st edition valued at $1,000 in good cond. Thought you'd like to know! Good Luck!" Did that really help? The auction closed at $94.66. If I had been the seller, I would have been disappointed after being told of the supposed $1,000 value.

Even if an excellent condition example were worth $1,000, this book does not look to be in very good shape. Why tell the seller that it is worth $1,000?

I have a feeling I'm going to regret this, but...

It would be more helpful to inform the seller of the mistakes that have been made which will cause most people not to notice the listing. The seller could have been informed that stating that the book is the 1930A-1 printing in the title of the auction would draw more attention to it. If that suggestion had been made in this particular instance, the seller might have gotten around $200 to $250 for the book, which would have been much better than $94.66.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Penny Allen and the Mystery of the Hidden Treasure

Penny Allen and the Mystery of the Hidden Treasure is the second and final Penny Allen book. It was written by Jean McKetchnie and published in 1950. The first Penny Allen book tells the story of the Allen family and is a greatly condensed version of volumes 2 and 3 from the Adventurous Allens series by Harriet Pyne Grove. This second Penny Allen book tells the story of the fifth and final Adventurous Allens book, The Adventurous Allens' Treasure Hunt.

It is just as well that McKetchnie ignored The Adventurous Allens Marooned when she created these two Penny Allen books. The Adventurous Allens Marooned is a horribly boring book. Unfortunately, The Adventurous Allens' Treasure Hunt is even more awful.

While many details are the same and many quotes are intact, McKetchnie completely rewrote much of the text. Around two-thirds of the first Penny Allen book contains text written by Grove. Probably only around one-third of the text of the second Penny Allen book is text written by Grove. McKetchnie added many new details to the plot which make it interesting.

The Allens receive multiple warning messages telling them to leave the property immediately. False clues are planted around the property by the villains in hopes of distracting the Allens into digging fruitlessly for treasure so that the villains have time to make off with the real treasure. None of this is in Grove's book.

I was happy to see that the Allens had far fewer named guests. The Adventurous Allens' Treasure Hunt tossed names at the reader constantly, and I was never able to keep up with any of them. This book just has a few guests who are mentioned by name and an unknown number of other guests who are referred to only as "the guests." This made the Penny Allen book much less confusing and easier to read.

If I had not already been tortured by reading five books by Harriet Pyne Grove, I might have greatly enjoyed this book. Since I was still traumatized by my previous experience, I did not enjoy it as much as I could have. I do feel that the two Penny Allen books are worth reading and are pretty good books. In fact, the Penny Allen books are a great way to experience the better parts of the Adventurous Allens series without acquiring temporary dementia. Just make sure you avoid Harriet Pyne Grove.

I think I have now thoroughly killed any chance I had of selling the two Adventurous Allens books that are in my Bonanza booth. Darn.