Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Mystery in Old Quebec and Ghost Rock Mystery by Mary C. Jane

Mary C. Jane wrote a number of children's books from 1955 through 1970.  While some of Jane's books are common, others are difficult to find.  Wildside Press has begun reprinting Mary C. Jane's books, but not all books are available.  The books tend to run around 120 pages.  All stories involve at least two children solving a mystery together.

Mystery in Old Quebec, 1955
The Ghost Rock Mystery, 1956
Mystery at Pemaquid Point, 957
Mystery at Shadow Pond, 1958
Mystery on Echo Ridge, 1959
Mystery Back of the Mountain, 1960
Mystery at Dead End Farm, 1961
Mystery Behind Dark Windows, 1962
Mystery by Moonlight, 1963
Mystery in Longfellow Square, 1964
Indian Island Mystery, 1965
The Dark Tower Mystery, 1966
Mystery on Nine-Mile Marsh, 1967
Mystery of the Red Carnations, 1968
Mystery in Hidden Hollow, 1970

In Mystery in Old Quebec, Kerry, Mark, and their father spend their vacation in Quebec. The family stays in an old boarding house. During the first night, Kerry hears someone crying in the room next door.  Meanwhile, Kerry's jacket disappears and reappears the next day.  Kerry discovers a paper in one of the pockets.  The paper has a series of drawings that tell a story.  Kerry and Mark figure out that a boy is being held captive in the house and follow a series of clues in order to help him.

The story starts out quickly and has no boring expository information.  I like it when a book is interesting from the very first page.

This is an excellent, fast-paced book.

In The Ghost Rock Mystery, Janice and Tommy visit Aunt Annabelle's guest house in Maine.  The guest house is in a deserted location.  The children become fearful when they learn about a ghost story involving the house.

When a man stays at the guest house, the children discover him sneaking around upstairs in the middle of the night.  Even stranger, the children hear hoofbeats coming from a rock in the middle of an empty field. What can it all mean?

This is a very good book.

In Mystery at Pemaquid Point, Elisabeth's father has taken a job remodeling the Sea Winds Hotel at Pemaquid Point, Maine. Elisabeth is very lonely, and the only child who lives nearby is Henry Freeman.  Henry is from a very poor family, and many people think that Henry and his brothers are thieves.

Elisabeth has the chance to become acquainted with Henry, and she feels confident that Henry and his brothers are innocent.  Unfortunately, additional thefts occur, keeping the Freemans under suspicion.  Elisabeth helps Henry find the real culprit.

This is also a very good book.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Sallie's Test of Skill and Charlotte Cross and Aunt Deb

In Sallie's Test of Skill, Sallie, Frederica, and their friends are at summer camp.  One girl, Peg, goes out of her way to be mean and nasty to everyone else.  A new girl named Laura joins the camp, and a boy who Peg likes immediately becomes interested in Laura.  Peg plays lots of nasty tricks on Laura.  Meanwhile, a mysterious wealthy lady, Mrs. Grimshaw, lives in a home near the lake.  Mrs. Grimshaw is reclusive, but she seems drawn to Laura.

This book is lacking.  The title refers to a boat race, but I never cared about that.  It also is unclear who the main character of the story is.  It seems that the entire group is of equal importance, but that makes the story less compelling.  Laura should have been the main character, but we get very little of her viewpoint.  Laura was the only character that I really liked, but I didn't get enough of her.

This book is just okay.

In Charlotte Cross and Aunt Deb, Charlotte is invited to go on a trip to Italy with Aunt Deb to look for the family treasure.  Soon after Charlotte's arrival at Aunt Deb's home, Aunt Deb is knocked unconscious when her head hits an attic rafter.  Aunt Deb wakes up paranoid, convinced that everyone knows about the treasure and is trying to take it away from them.  During the trip, Aunt Deb behaves outrageously and rudely, embarrassing Charlotte greatly.

Charlotte meets a nice young man during the trip, but Aunt Deb orders her to stay away from him, since she is certain that the man is after the treasure.  Charlotte feels like her life has been taken over by her aunt, and she wishes she could just leave and go home.

The beginning of the book is quite boring. The book opens with Charlotte and her roommate, and their entire conversation is uninteresting and pointless.

The story gets slightly better when Charlotte arrives at Aunt Deb's house, but the story does not become truly interesting until the two depart on the trip to Italy.  Once the trip begins, the book is excellent.

The story is wrapped up too easily, as I expected.  Aunt Deb goes crazy when she gets hit on the head shortly after the book begins.  I was not surprised that Aunt Deb gets hit on the head again near the end, and of course this cures her.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Diana Winthrop #5 Legacy of Lucian Van Zandt and #6 Threat of the Pirate Ship

In Diana Winthrop #5, The Legacy of Lucian Van Zandt, Megan has a splendid idea for Founder's Day at Van Zandt High School.  She wants Diana to research Lucian Van Zandt and the mystery of his heirs, then Leslie will write a play based on Lucian's life.

Diana and Leslie demur at first, but then they get into the spirit of the project.  Both girls will receive credit in their English course for their efforts. Meanwhile, protesters appear in front of the school.  Word has gotten out that the school might be sold, and the residents who live in the buildings owned by the school will lose their rent-controlled apartments.  The principal and the board of trustees have received threats.  Something sinister is afoot, and Diana's research becomes the key to solving the mystery.

On page 36, Diana snaps pictures of a live television broadcast to get pictures of the protesters.  It's amazing that Diana has time to get her camera passed to her and somehow manages to shoot the pictures before the story is over.

Nothing is mentioned about a VCR, which would have made the situation easier on Diana, because she could have snapped pictures later of the recording.  This is in 1984, and my family already had a VCR.  Perhaps they weren't yet common, but the Winthrop family is extremely wealthy.  They would have had a VCR, even if many people did not yet have them.

This is an excellent book and is my favorite title in the series.

In Diana Winthrop #6, The Threat of the Pirate Ship, Gran Culhaine is in Tampa, Florida, and has broken her leg.  Gran sends an urgent message to Diana, requesting her presence in Florida.  When Diana arrives, Gran can hardly speak, but she manages to convey that Diana must take possession of her belongings and inspect them. Gran also tells Diana that the accident occurred during the night at CHS, the company for which Gran is on the board of directors.  Even more important, somebody pushed Gran, causing the accident.  Diana also learns from others that someone is threatening the Gasparilla Day events. Diana shrewdly concludes that the threats and Gran's accident are connected.

This book has a few too many characters, but I was mostly able to keep them straight. Fortunately, they were not introduced all at once, which helped.

This is a very good book.

Overall the Diana Winthrop series is a very strong mystery series.  The plots are fairly complex, so the stories are for older children or young adults.  These books are more sophisticated than the average series book aimed at children.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Girl in the Top Flat and Search for Peggy Ann

In The Girl in the Top Flat, Allie's father is an artist.  Allie and Mr. Dunham rely on the sale of his paintings to make ends meet, but the paintings are not selling.  The Dunhams would have enough money if Mr. Dunham had not made an unwise investment in a shady oil company.  Mr. Dunham has an old friend in Boston who might help him get into magazines, so he and Allie get themselves settled in Boston.

Mr. Dunham still isn't making any money, so Allie takes a position working for a magazine. Allie's prospects look good until the assistant editor, Mr. Ronaldson, asks Allie on a date. Allie does not like him and declines. Ronaldson continues his advances, finally threatening Allie with losing her job if she doesn't change her mind.

This story is quite compelling, especially with Allie facing harassment at her workplace.  This is an excellent story.

In The Search for Peggy Ann, Jean goes to the store while the river rises, and when she returns, her grandmother's cottage is flooding! Jean's younger sister, Peggy Ann, has disappeared, and Granny refuses to leave the cottage.  Jean goes to look for Peggy Ann but cannot find her.  Jean gets caught in the flood and is rescued later.  When Jean returns home, she learns that Granny drowned, and Peggy Ann is still missing.  Jean begins a search for Peggy Ann that will ultimately last for six years.

Jean is just 10 years old at the beginning of the story, and she is depicted as very young and naive.  I did not enjoy the first few chapters very much because of how young Jean is.  As time begins to pass, Jean gradually matures, and I began to enjoy the book greatly.

The story reads like a saga with much happening to Jean.  This is an excellent story.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Diana Winthrop #3 Dog-Lover's Legacy and #4 Beacon Hill

In Diana Winthrop #3, The Case of the Dog-Lover's Legacy, Diana spots a dog swimming in the river.  She jumps in and rescues it.  Diana and the animal shelter try to locate the owner with no luck.  One week later, Diana adopts the dog and gives it to her cousin Jacintha, as it becomes apparent that the dog, now named Duchess, adores Jacintha and has obviously been trained as a guide dog.

The adoption of Duchess creates quite a stir with prowlers showing up near the Winthrop home at all hours of the day.  Soon, Diana learns that Duchess is the key to an inheritance and that the relatives will do anything to assure that they receive the fortune.

In this book we meet Diana's best friends, Megan and Leslie.  Also, Diana is now a senior in high school.

On page 25 Diana thinks it is odd that "a dog should suddenly just—show up in the East River, apparently with no one knowing whose he is or how he got there."  I guess Diana isn't aware of how many people, sadly, abandon their animals for no reason other than that they are tired of them.  Why would it be odd for a dog to show up in a river with no one eager to claim him?  Of course in this particular situation, the dog's appearance in the river is the key to a strange mystery.

This is an excellent book, one of the two best books in the series.

In Diana Winthrop #4, The Secrets on Beacon Hill, Diana is spending the Christmas holidays with her Grandmother Winthrop.  The festivities begin with a birthday party for Diana's cousin Amanda.  As Amanda is presented with a valuable strand of pearls, the lights go out and Amanda claims that somebody pulled at the strand, which breaks with the pearls rolling across the floor.  The pearls are retrieved and taken to the jeweler, who informs Grandmother Winthrop that the pearls are fake. Somehow the real pearls were switched with the fake ones, and Diana must find the culprit.

This book opens with way too many characters at the beginning.  It is necessary, to an extent, to have a large number of characters due to the nature of the story.  The characters are introduced too fast, and as I read the book, I kept having to flip back to remember who was who.  This reduced my enjoyment of the story.

This is an excellent story which could have been outstanding if I could have kept the characters straight.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Girls of Lighthouse Island and Kate Martin's Problem

In The Girls of Lighthouse Island,  Tess and Carol plan to stay on Lighthouse Island in a boarding house.  Their plans are threatened when they arrive to find the house closed. Too late, they learn that the owner had to go into the city to nurse her sick sister.  Fortunately, Tess and Carol meet Mary, a very poor girl who lives with her crippled sister, Alice.  The girls strike an agreement for Tess and Carol to pay for their board during their stay on the island.

Mary and Alice are in danger of losing their land.  Mean Ira Champour constantly threatens them, determined to get their property.  The girls learn that Ira mistreats his ward, Nora.  Tess and Carol decide to do everything they can to help Mary, Alice, and Nora.

Tess and Carol live in Bayport, the hometown of the Hardy Boys, and Lighthouse Island is a nearby island.  Of course the Hardy Boys are never mentioned, but I kept imagining them nearby solving a mystery while these girls have their adventure.

This is an excellent book.

In Kate Martin's Problem, Kate's parents are killed in an automobile accident.  Kate lives with her neighbors for a time, but finally, Kate is invited to live with her Uncle Jasper and Aunt Agnes.  Kate's aunt and uncle are very wealthy, but Kate is bitterly unhappy with them.  Uncle Jasper is mean and controlling. Finally, Kate cannot stand it any longer, so she strikes out on her own, looking for work.

On page 94, Kate sees that a woman is reading a book called The Haunted Book Room.  Sounds interesting!

This is also an excellent book.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Diana Winthrop #1 Singing Strings and #2 Old Fort

The Diana Winthrop series consists of six books written under the pseudonym of Kate Chambers.

1.  The Secret of the Singing Strings, 1983
2.  Danger in the Old Fort, 1983
3.  The Case of the Dog-Lover's Legacy, 1983
4.  The Secrets on Beacon Hill, 1984
5.  The Legacy of Lucian Van Zandt, 1984
6.  The Threat of the Pirate Ship, 1984

Diana and her father, Diana's blind cousin Jacintha, and Diana's maternal grandmother, Gran Culhaine, live on different levels of Gran Culhaine's house in New York City.

In Diana Winthrop #1, The Secret of the Singing Strings, Diana receives an urgent call from her cousin, Jacintha.  Jacintha works at the Mannerheim Museum of Music.  The museum has just received a miniature violin made by Stradivarius.  Jacintha's call is about the violin, but she gives no details.  Diana agrees to meet Jacintha immediately.  The meeting never occurs, because Jacintha is hospitalized, nearly killed by a hit-and-run driver.

Diana later deduces that Jacintha had the violin with her, and that it has been stolen!  Jacintha is the prime suspect, but the museum curator refuses to tell the police.  Diana is certain that someone connected with the museum is responsible for the theft.

This is an excellent story.

In Diana Winthrop #2, Danger in the Old Fort, Diana's father is working on location in San Juan, Puerto Rico, on a miniseries.  The production is being sabotaged, and Mr. Winthrop requests that Diana and her friend, Brad Ferriers, take jobs in the production so that they can work undercover. The accidents continue to occur, and Diana quickly realizes that her life may be in danger.

I really enjoyed the early part of the book, but I became partially bored as I continued to read the story.  I have developed a strong aversion to "sabotage on a movie set" plots due to some very bad titles in the Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys series.  I can no longer enjoy "sabotage on a movie set" books.

Admittedly, this book is above average for this kind of plot, but it still has a few too many characters.  I kept confusing two couples, a brother and sister and a boyfriend and girlfriend.  Removing one of those couples would have made the book more enjoyable.

This book introduces Lydian Sinclair, an investigative reporter who helps Diana on some of her future cases.  By the end of the final book, it is apparent that Lydian is a love interest for Diana's father.

While I greatly enjoyed some parts of the book, I consider it just good overall.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Nancy Drew Collecting, Buying, and Selling Information

In the Facebook series book groups, quite a few members have mentioned their confusion while trying to collect vintage Nancy Drew books.  Others tell them to purchase Farah's Guide to the Nancy Drew series.  While Farah's Guide is a great resource, the best approach for beginning collectors is to utilize websites that have been created by Nancy Drew collectors.  An incredible amount of information is readily available online.  Later, Farah's Guide can be still purchased if one decides to be obsessive about collecting Nancy Drew.

Years ago, I created a website upon which I spent hundreds of hours designing pages to help those who do not own Farah's Guide and are confused about collecting.  Below you will find direct links to the most pertinent pages on the site.  Each page was designed to put the information all in front of you at the same time so that you could easily absorb it.  I am a high school teacher, and I used the same approach I use in the classroom when creating these pages.  Information needs to be easy to find and understand.

Nancy Drew Formats - This page shows you what all Nancy Drew books published by Grosset and Dunlap look like from 1930 to the present.  You can take any Nancy Drew book and quickly glance down through the page to get a good idea of how old the book is.  The outside of the book, the interior lists if present, and the endpapers will reveal the age of the book.  You can identify nearly all Nancy Drew books to within just a few years of the exact age by using this method, even when the dust jacket is not present.

Nancy Drew Original and Revised Text Books - This page explains how you can often quickly determine whether a Nancy Drew book contains the original or revised text from just the outside appearance of the book.  That knowledge makes searching online for original text books much easier, since you do not have to click on every single listing to make that determination.

Nancy Drew Values and Collecting Tips - Some of the information on this page is outdated since it was written in 2008.  However, much information is still quite useful and may help collectors who are just getting started.

Nancy Drew Picture Cover Editions - This page is one of my very favorite creations, and I fear that most people are unaware of its usefulness.  At first glance, the page appears to be a cover art gallery of Nancy Drew #1-56 in the picture cover editions. However, it is much more.  The page identifies whether every cover art contains the original text or the revised text.  That information is stated under each photo.  Most cover art variants contain only the original text or only the revised text.  By knowing which ones contain which version, you can quickly scroll online listings and know the text contained within each book without having to click on the listing or ask a seller a question.

I also have a blog, and you are reading a post in that blog right now.  I have a series of posts called "Buyer Confusion on Nancy Drew" in which I mention common buyer questions about Nancy Drew listings.  The following links will take you to pages containing those posts.

Buyer Confusion on Nancy Drew #1-2
Buyer Confusion on Nancy Drew #3-22
Buyer Confusion on Nancy Drew #23-40

The posts are listed in reverse order on the resulting pages from the above links, which is just how blogs are always displayed.  Scroll to the bottom of each page to read the posts in order from bottom to top.  These posts contain actual photos from online listings and show how you can determine age and value often by simply viewing the photos in the listings.

This blog also contains reviews of all Nancy Drew books from #1-175 plus reviews of many other vintage series books.  Scroll down the screen while viewing the right sidebar to see tags that will link to all of those posts.

In case you are not aware, my name is Jennifer White.  All of the above links are my sites.  Another Nancy Drew collector, Jennifer Fisher, is quite often confused with me. We each have Nancy Drew sites, but we are two completely different people.  

Jennifer Fisher also has a wealth of information available about Nancy Drew on her site.

Nancy Drew Sleuth - This link goes to the main page of Jennifer Fisher's Nancy Drew site.

Nancy Drew Formats - This link goes to Jennifer Fisher's formats page.

Another frequent question that comes up on Facebook is how to find old Nancy Drew books.  Some collectors seem to be reluctant to purchase from sites such as eBay. Instead, they would rather purchase from local bookstores or from other collectors.

We do have two series book selling groups on Facebook.  Most of the members of these groups are people who have collections of vintage series books such as Nancy Drew.  If you want to purchase directly from other collectors, joining these groups is an excellent idea.

Sleuthing for Vintage Children's Series Books 
Series Book Swap & Sell

I find that the main people who have joined the above groups are the advanced collectors.  I offered some inexpensive original text picture cover editions in the first group linked above, and no one was interested.  Yet, in that same time period, members of a Nancy Drew group were commenting about their troubles with finding the original text books.  Why not join the selling groups so that you have access to those books when offered by members?

Hazel Hood's Strange Discovery and Two Girls and a Mystery

In Hazel Hood's Strange Discovery, the Hood family has fallen on desperate times since Hazel's father died.  Hazel's father was killed in an accident at the mill company, and the family should have received compensation. The Hoods never received any money, and Mrs. Hood no longer gets orders to make dresses.  All the women now go to the new dress shop in town.  Hazel must try to find work.

This is a pretty good book.

In Two Girls and a Mystery, Barbara lives with her grandparents.  She overhears a conversation where they discuss money. Barbara is shocked to learn that the family may have to give up its home.

Unexpectedly, Barbara receives a letter from a lawyer.  She has inherited a house and $500.  The will has a codicil which mentions a hidden treasure in the house.  Barbara's heart leaps, and she hopes fervently that she can find the treasure and that the treasure will be worth enough to provide for her grandparents.

Barbara has several friends, Gerry, Gordon, and Charlie.  Gordon and Charlie have a reckless automobile race at the beginning of the story.  The scene is atypical of what one expects in the Barton Books for Girls.  It's more like a scene out of a boys' book.  I was bored.

Barbara and her friends go to stay at the house that Barbara has inherited.  I found the friends distracting and annoying.  They served no purpose.  The story would have been better if Barbara had gone alone or perhaps had gone only with Gerry.

This is my least favorite book in the set.  I did overall enjoy the story, but it is lacking as compared to the rest of the books in the set.  It could have been written much better.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Connie Carl at Rainbow Ranch

Connie Carl at Rainbow Ranch was written by Mildred Wirt Benson under the pseudonym of Joan Clark.

In Connie Carl at Rainbow Ranch, Connie has recently graduated from an Eastern finishing school.  She returns to Rainbow Ranch to make her home.  When Connie arrives, she finds that the ranch has changed.  The foreman, Forest Blakeman, is surly and secretive.  Connie learns that her money is gone and that the ranch must be sold.  Connie is determined to find a way to save the ranch, but Blakeman thwarts her at every turn.

Connie wins $750 in a rodeo.  She is warned to put the money in the bank before she returns home. Connie refuses, planning to take it home with her.  Predictably, Connie is robbed and has no idea who took the money.  I hate this kind of stupidity.  All Connie had to do was get the money in the bank.  Ugh!

This book is a bit simplistic.  The descriptions are sparse, and the text is not detailed.  I would have liked for the book to have been fleshed out more.  That said, the book is still an enjoyable book by Mildred Wirt Benson.