Sunday, July 15, 2018

The Boarded-Up House and The Sapphire Signet by Augusta Seaman

In The Boarded-Up House, Joyce and Cynthia are neighbors, separated only by an old boarded-up house.  The girls frequently play on the property.  When a neighbor's cat gets inside the basement, the girls follow it and explore the house.  They keep their exploration a secret and try to piece together the story of who the former occupants were and why they left.

The girls discover that the dining room table is set with dishes, and the chairs are awry.  A dinner party must have broken up abruptly, and the girls find partially packed trunks in an upstairs room.  Joyce and Cynthia speculate about what might have happened, and finally, they come up with an idea of how they might find out.

This book was published in 1915 and is set in 1905.

The story is quite simple but plausible and interesting to read.

In The Sapphire Signet, twins Bess and Jess have a sister, Margaret, who is stuck at home in her invalid chair due to a bad back.  Bess and Jess bring home a new girl from school, Corinne, who quickly becomes friends with Margaret.

Corinne loves antiques, so the twins take her up to the attic, where she discovers a journal hidden under the false bottom of a trunk.  The journal is written in code.  Margaret suggests that the girls form a secret society that is dedicated to uncovering the mystery.  Corinne cracks the code, and the girls spend hours deciphering the meaning of the journal.  After some research, the girls follow clues found in their own neighborhood as they search for the sapphire signet.

This book is fascinating because it seems impossible that the girls could track down the sapphire signet or the Bermuda family to which it belonged.  They only have the diary, which was found in two parts in different locations.  The original house no longer exists.  Nobody knows what happened to the girl.  I read quickly, wondering how this would all get pieced together.

The backstory has to do with the plot to kill George Washington.  So this story is kind of historical fiction.  I enjoyed this book.

Wide Variety of Series Books Listed on Etsy

I broke up more of my bulk lots on eBay and moved the books to individual listings on Etsy.  The price per book ends up a little higher, but the buyer is not forced to purchase all of the books. 

Jennifer's Series Books on Etsy

I have some May Hollis Barton books listed.  When I purchased my books a year ago, few good copies were available.  I had to purchase some books in really rough shape.  Since then, several collectors have let go of their sets, so I have been able to get better books.  Some of the books I purchased last year are now on Etsy.  The books are rough, but they are the copies I read, so I can confirm their readability.  The May Hollis Barton books are quite good and will appeal to readers who enjoy the Blythe Girls series.

I broke up my bulk lot of Hardy Boys Digest books in hardcover library bindings and now have the books listed on Etsy.  This is a great chance to acquire some of the books in hardcover bindings.  They are not easy to find.

I am allowed only 20 categories in my Etsy shop, so I have to combine some books together into more general categories.  Be sure to check the Old Boys' Series, Old Children's Series, and Old Girls' Series categories to see those books.

In addition to what I have already mentioned, I have listed vintage Scholastic editions, Tom Swift, Jr., Carolyn Wells, Lone Ranger, Hunniwell Boys, Golden Boys, Ranger Boys, and Capwell Wyckoff.

On Etsy, I have an active promotion effective during July 2018 for free shipping on orders of $35 or more. 

I also have books listed on eBay.

Jennifer's Series Books on eBay

Friday, July 13, 2018

Introduction to Augusta Huiell Seaman

Most of us have probably seen the Scholastic Book Club editions of books by Augusta Huiell Seaman, including The Mystery of the Old Violin and The Riddle of the Lonely House.  I never gave them much thought, since I am not very interested in Scholastic editions.  In the last five years, several series book enthusiasts have mentioned the books of Augusta Huiell Seaman.  The books have been universally praised.

Many of Augusta Huiell Seaman's books do not look like the typical series book, so I ignored the praise at first.  By outward appearance, many of the books look like the average old fiction book written for adults.  By 2016, after reading more commentary, I realized that I should look into Augusta Seaman's books, but I still wasn't that motivated.

In June 2017, I finally read The Riddle of the Lonely House, which is one of the Scholastic reprints.  I enjoyed it and decided to begin purchasing Seaman's books.  I kept quiet about my plan, since I did not want anybody else to get started at the same time.

Here is a list of Augusta Seaman's mystery books for girls.

The Boarded-Up House, 1915*
The Sapphire Signet, 1916*
The Girl Next Door, 1917*
Three Sides of Paradise Green, 1918*
The Slipper Point Mystery, 1919*
The Crimson Patch, 1920*
The Dragon's Secret, 1921*
The Mystery at Number Six, 1922*
Tranquility House, 1923
Sally Simms Adventures It, 1924
The Edge of Raven Pool, 1924
Bluebonnet Bend, 1924
The Secret of Tate's Beach, 1926
The Adventure of the Seven Keyholes, 1926
The Shadow on the Dial, 1927
The Disappearance of Anne Shaw, 1928
A Book of Mysteries: Three Baffling Tales, 1929
The Charlemonte Crest: A Mystery of Modern Haiti, 1930
The Brass Keys of Kenwick, 1931
The House in Hidden Lane: Two Mysteries for Younger Girls, 1931
The Stars of Sabra, 1932
The Mystery of the Empty Room, 1933
Bitsy Finds the Clue: A Mystery of Williamsburg, Old and New, 1934
The Riddle at Live Oaks, 1934
The Figurehead of the 'Folly', 1935
The Strange Pettingill Puzzle: Two Mysteries for Boys and Girls, 1936
Voice in the Dark, 1937*
The Pine Barrens Mystery, 1937
The Vanderlyn Silhouette, 1938*
The Mystery at Linden Hall, 1939*
The Curious Affair at Heron Shoals, 1940*
The Missing Half, 1941*
The Case of the Calico Crab, 1942
The Mystery of the Folding Key, 1943*
The Half-Penny Adventure, 1945
The Mystery of the Other House, 1947
The Vanishing Octant Mystery, 1949

*These books, and possibly others, are in the public domain.  Many of them can be found online in free digital downloads.  Some of them are not on Project Gutenberg but can be found elsewhere.

Unfortunately, most of Augusta Seaman's books are extremely scarce and difficult to find.  Most books are expensive.  I started purchasing the more common books of the ones that are not in the public domain.  I held off on the books in the public domain, simply because most of those books are available for free online.  I also held off on the more scarce and expensive titles.

I read The Disappearance of Anne Shaw and The Charlemonte Crest: A Mystery of Modern Haiti, which were the first two books I purchased.  I enjoyed them as well.  Around the same time, I found Christine M. Volk's articles about Augusta Seaman.  These articles contain a wealth of information and are well worth reading.

Nancy Drew for Smart Kids: Mysteries by Augusta Huiell Seaman
Creating an Augusta Huiell Seaman Collection
Augusta Huiell Seaman Checklist

The articles took away my final reservations.  I decided to go for it, purchasing all books that I could find, whether in the public domain or not.  This endeavor required much careful searching, a good bit of luck, and a lot of money.  The scarcity of these books cannot be overstated.

Most amazing is that some of these books read just like the early Nancy Drew books, yet many were published in the 15 years before Nancy Drew debuted.  Think about what that means.  The typical girls' book of the 1910s only has the slightest hint of mystery, with the books detailing average life.  The publication of the first Nancy Drew book in 1930 is considered the beginning of the juvenile girls' mystery book genre.  However, girls' books had already been gradually changing towards mysteries during the previous two decades, and Augusta Huiell Seaman led the way.

In Augusta Seaman's books, teenage girls find hidden compartments in trunks, discover secret passageways, explore abandoned houses, find and decipher cryptograms, outsmart spies, find lost inheritances, and do everything that Nancy Drew would later do.

Augusta Seaman's books usually involve a mystery from the past that needs to be solved.  Sometimes the mystery is completely fictional, while other times the mystery is based on actual historical figures.  I typically did not enjoy the books that use historical figures quite as much, since I prefer for my fiction to be completely fictional.

Since the books tend to be expensive, I suggest sampling some of the books that are available online to see if they are appealing.  I recommend The Girl Next Door as a good one to try.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Ranger Boys #3 Border Smugglers, #4, Timber Thieves, and #5 Their Reward

In The Ranger Boys #3, The Ranger Boys and the Border Smugglers, Garry, Dick, and Phil are sent to the town of Hobart on the Canadian border to work undercover in search of smugglers.  The boys soon learn that their nemesis, Jean LeBlanc, is working with the smugglers, so the boys have a dangerous task ahead of them.

In this book, La Belle teaches readers how to make a lean-to and how to make stew.  La Belle also includes a complete biscuit recipe!

I enjoyed the inclusion of Ruth in the story, who is a strong female who likes adventure.

This is a very good to excellent story.

In the Ranger Boys #4, The Ranger Boys Outwit the Timber Thieves, Mr. Boone is having trouble with his timber business.  Equipment keeps breaking, and work is moving much slower than it should.  Garry, Dick, and Phil are sent to the lumber camp to try to figure out who is working against Mr. Boone.

I really like the setting of this story where the mystery and action occurs in and around a lumber camp.  I always enjoy books the most when the characters have adventures in a localized setting.

This is an excellent book.

In the Ranger Boys #5, The Ranger Boys and Their Reward, the boys return to Hobart to investigate who keeps stealing checks out of the mail.  Meanwhile, Ruth and her father receive threatening messages, and the boys soon realize that both cases are connected.  Before the case is solved, the boys will have one last showdown against their arch enemy, Jean LeBlanc.

On page 63, a man insults the boys by calling them a "parcel o' dime novel reading boys."

I enjoyed the inclusion of Ruth in a couple of the books in the series.  Unfortunately, the author makes a sexist statement on page 176.  "Ruth let him free her, and then stood erect for a moment, and being only a girl, dropped over in a dead faint."  Ugh.

This book ties up a few loose ends from the beginning of the first story.  One of those loose ends was something mentioned at the very start of the first book that I had forgotten and didn't think about as I read through the series.

This is an excellent story.

The entire Ranger Boys series is set in the state of Maine.  The boys are in Maine for the entire duration of the series except for when they briefly cross the border into Canada.

This is an excellent series, and I greatly enjoyed reading the books.

Monday, July 9, 2018

Books Listed on Etsy and eBay Observations

Jennifer's Series Books on Etsy

Jennifer's Series Books on eBay

My enthusiasm for Etsy is increasing.  I have risked listing some scarce books and books that have not typically been known to do well on Etsy.  Enough have sold that I feel comfortable further increasing the number of listings that I have on Etsy.  I now have more listings on Etsy than on eBay.

I do believe that something is wrong on eBay.  I feel like my eBay listings are mostly stagnant.  I continue to lower the prices of bulk lots, and it's like they are invisible.  I have ended two more bulk lots and moved many of those books to Etsy.  When I do this, the price per book goes up, but buyers are able to purchase the books individually at what is still a reasonable price.

I have written recently of some irritating eBay changes.  Another one is how eBay has changed the manner in which feedback is left.  The new process takes more time than the old process.  I have to submit every feedback individually and wait for it to save instead of filling out all of them before submitting.  Even worse, on the new page the transactions are listed in a somewhat random order.  I prefer for my transactions to be listed chronologically instead of randomly.  Exactly who has eBay set loose in programming and design?

Since the eBay interface has become significantly harder to use in the last few months, I suspect that eBay has also tampered with Best Match search and has probably made items harder to find.  This does not affect me as a buyer since I always change the sort to newest first or ending first.  However, buyers who are not aware of eBay's many problems are likely missing out on great purchases.  This is why I believe my eBay sales have plummeted.

My sales on Etsy have been higher in the last two weeks than my eBay sales.  I have a promotion for free shipping on Etsy orders of $35 or more.  I am getting some good results from that promotion.  It's also helping tremendously that I have increased my Etsy listings and have listed many harder to find books on Etsy.  I will continue to do so.  I expect to list additional books on Etsy in the next few days.

One drawback on Etsy is that I am allowed only 20 categories in my shop.  Since this is too limiting, I am having to place some books in general categories.  I have created three categories for general children's, girls', and boys' books.  Make sure you check those categories since I cannot give an individual category to every series.

I have recently listed some books by Capwell Wyckoff and L. P. Wyman.  I have also listed many Hardy Boys picture covers and Hardy Boys Digest library editions.

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Ranger Boys #1 Rescue and #2 Find the Hermit

The Ranger Boys series was written by Claude A. La Belle and was published by A. L. Burt.

1.  The Ranger Boys to the Rescue, 1922
2.  The Ranger Boys Find the Hermit, 1922
3.  The Ranger Boys and the Border Smugglers, 1922
4.  The Ranger Boys Outwit the Timber Thieves, 1922
5.  The Ranger Boys and Their Reward, 1922

These books are scarce but not anywhere near as scarce as the Bailey Twins series.  These books were printed years before the Bailey Twins books, so these books went through more printings.

In the Ranger Boys #1, The Ranger Boys to the Rescue, Garry Boone and Dick Wallace plan to attend a military academy in the fall.  Their friend, Phil Durant, cannot afford military school, so the chums will be separated.  In the meantime, Mr. Boone hires the three boys as rangers to watch over his vast property in the woods of Maine.  The boys' job is to watch for wildfires, but they soon have to watch for Jean LeBlanc, who is a criminal.

This book sets the stage for the rest of the series.  It is a good to very good book, but the rest of the set is even better.

In the Ranger Boys #2, The Ranger Boys Find the Hermit, Garry, Dick, and Phil must again watch for Jean LeBlanc, who has escaped from jail and now seeks revenge against the boys.  The boys also look for their hermit friend who continues to leave them cryptic notes.

Over the years, people who have disapproved of series books have always stated that series books are not worth reading and have little of substance in them.  Those people never read any of the Ranger Boys books.  La Belle made these books educational and in a way that is very interesting.  In this book, La Belle teaches readers how to build a log cabin, how to make a fireplace out of a barrel, and how to climb a tree with the use of a wire loop.

This is a very good book.

Friday, July 6, 2018

Declining Interest in Nancy Drew and Collector Negativity

Our series book collecting hobby is in a decline, and unfortunately, Nancy Drew is leading the way.  Within five to 10 years, the hobby will be in deep decline unless a rejuvenation of interest occurs.

Significant drop in traffic to Nancy Drew website page

I am more aware of the decline than others because I sell series books.  Series books have become harder and harder to sell.  In my current inventory, the only series that are not hard to sell are Nancy Drew, the Hardy Boys, the Dana Girls, the Three Investigators, and possibly Trixie Belden.  Of those five series, the Three Investigators series is the only one where values have held fairly steady.  The other four have decreased in value and continue to decrease.  Almost all series outside of these five have decreased sharply in value, and some series are now impossible to sell.

The popularity of the major series is what guides people into collecting the minor series.  The reason that minor series no longer sell is because fewer people are collecting the major series.  I did not realize how interest in Nancy Drew has declined until I viewed the website traffic.  Since interest in Nancy Drew has decreased, interest in all other series will also decrease.

This concerns and saddens me.  We need something to revitalize interest in series books, something that will bring new collectors into our hobby.  We need something like... a movie.

And amazingly, unbelievably, a Nancy Drew movie is currently being filmed.

The movie came out of nowhere.  When I first heard about it, I didn't give it much thought because most projects don't come to fruition.  Then confirmation came that the movie was in production and being filmed.  Say what?!  So you would think that fans would be thrilled, right?  After all, this is what we need.  

But no, fans are criticizing the movie based solely on the actress' physical traits and manner of dress.  This bothers me.  We have what we need in the works, because a new Nancy Drew movie will advertise our hobby for us.  However, fans do not appreciate what the movie will do for Nancy Drew.  Instead, they complain that this Nancy Drew is not their Nancy Drew, but nobody has read the script!  For all we know, this might end up being an accurate portrayal of Nancy Drew with an excellent story.

Collectors got riled up over Sophia Lillis' publicity photo, which appears in the news releases about the movie.  Her hair isn't blonde, and her hair is short.  First off, the photo is the actress herself, so fans criticize the actress for how she looks in real life.  That has nothing to do with the movie and is also a bit rude.  It has been confirmed that Nancy Drew's hair will be short in the movie, but even so, we should not judge an entire movie that we have not yet seen on such a superficial feature.

A photo was seen of Nancy Drew skateboarding in the movie.  This was also declared inappropriate by fans.  I'm not sure how it would be wrong for a movie set in the present day to depict Nancy Drew on a skateboard.  Nancy Drew has been pictured in similar activities on the covers of some books, like The Door-to-Door Deception, which was way back in 1997.

The movie is based on The Hidden Staircase, which is one of the excellent early Nancy Drew books.  Sophia Lillis is sixteen, the exact age that Nancy was in 1930 in that same book.  This is a win right here and much better than the bizarre idea that CBS had for a Nancy Drew television series.  In that series, Nancy would have been in her thirties and struggling because Bess was either murdered or committed suicide.

Nancy Drew must have only the following traits.
  • She must be young.
  • She must be strong and determined.
  • She must be interested in solving mysteries.
  • She must be good at solving mysteries.
Nothing else matters.  I did not like the idea of the CBS series because Nancy was not going to be young.  That was the deal-breaker for me.  I don't want an older Nancy Drew who has problems.  So long as Nancy is young, strong, and good at solving mysteries, I'll take her.  I do not care what race she or her friends are, what color her hair is, how she dresses, or what kind of activities she enjoys.

In one of the threads where the movie was being criticized, a couple of us began defending it.  I wrote the following statement.
No matter how Nancy is portrayed, she won't match anyone's mental picture of her.  This is because we are Nancy when we read the books.  A movie cannot do that.  The Nancy Drew games do, which is why they have been so successful.

I see this production as positive.  It will get Nancy Drew's name out in front of people again. It will keep Nancy Drew from being forgotten for just a little longer.  Nancy Drew is in danger of being forgotten, in case you haven't realized that.  In order for Nancy Drew to remain viable, the franchise needs publicity.  This movie will do just that.  We might even get some cool collectibles.  Wouldn't that be grand?

Let's not pick this apart.  We haven't seen it yet!  This movie will remind people of how much they loved Nancy Drew as a child.  People will join this group.  We will make new friends!  This is going to be good.  I'm kind of excited.
I noted that of the 13 people who reacted positively to my comment, none of them were the complainers.  It disappoints me that many Nancy Drew fans would rather have nothing than have a project that will breathe new life into the franchise.

Of course, the problem is that fans want a movie set in 1930 where Nancy Drew looks exactly like Russell Tandy's cover art and acts exactly like the Nancy Drew written by Mildred Wirt Benson.  Anything other than that is never going to be good enough.  The problem is that a modern movie will be aimed at current children and teenagers, since the movie studios will not make enough money on a movie aimed at older Nancy Drew collectors.

Here is a statement I wrote on another thread that was full of negativity about the movie.
Nancy Drew has always been a contemporary series, and for that reason, any movie will be contemporary.  It is only the collectors, like us, who don't see Nancy Drew as contemporary.  Today's girls, even if reading the Grosset and Dunlap books, probably picture Nancy as modern.  Even when I read books from 100 years ago, I don't picture the characters in the way the author intended.  My mental picture has modern characteristics, because that's my point of reference.
That comment was ignored.

Let's fast-forward to next year and consider what will happen after the movie is released.  The Nancy Drew fans will be busy in the Facebook groups complaining endlessly about how horrible everything about the movie is.  Meanwhile, some (hopefully many!) young people will love the movie and will decide to join the Nancy Drew Book Fans group on Facebook.  What will they think when they join the group and read endless negative comments about the movie?  I wouldn't be surprised if they leave the group.

We could be driving away future Nancy Drew collectors with the negativity, and we desperately need young people to join the hobby.

In light of how important the upcoming Nancy Drew movie is to Nancy Drew's continuing longevity, I hope that collectors will consider making fewer negative comments about the project in the Facebook groups.  Certainly, many collectors will not be interested in the movie or will not like it, which is fine.  However, consider softening some of those comments, or perhaps not make the complaints in the groups.  A person's own Facebook profile page is the perfect place to air complaints about a project.

Members of Facebook groups exhibit crowd behavior.  When one member makes a strong statement, especially a strong negative statement, other members immediately agree with the statement and take it even further.  The negativity then builds, becoming worse and worse.  I fear that this will happen when the movie is released next summer, and the result will be disastrous.  We will cause the movie not to bring in the new fans that are sorely needed in our hobby.

We have exactly what we need in the works to keep our hobby going just a little longer.  Nancy Drew is contemporary, and that will never change.  The year is 2018, and Nancy Drew is 16 years old.  She's hip and modern, and she's not going to be driving an old roadster.

When young people watch Nancy Drew in theaters, they'll think about how much they enjoyed reading the books when they were young.  Some of them will start collecting the books.  Those books might be the modern softcover books or might be the Grosset and Dunlap editions.  Regardless, we will make new friends, so long as we don't let negativity take control.  Let's not blow this great opportunity.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Bailey Twins #3 Summer Camp, #4 Philippines, and #5 Secret Code

In the Bailey Twins #3, The Bailey Twins at Summer Camp, the Farnham Hall cadets attend summer camp on an island in the middle of a lake.  The Bailey Twins pull a man out of quicksand, and he gives them a password, "Potomac."  The boys are never to help anyone unless given the password.  Later, the boys learn about a group of men who are hiding out nearby.  Seeley and his cronies continue to cause trouble for the Baileys, and when the boys learn more about the plot of the men hiding nearby, Seeley thwarts their plans.

I skimmed the swimming competition since I never find lengthy descriptions of sporting events to be interesting.

Page 50 has an appalling scene where Ted greets an Indian with "How?" and the Indian replies, "Ugh."  The two continue to speak to each other in guttural tones as Ted takes the Indian to Captain Brooks' tent.  The author redeems himself later when the Indian comes out of the tent and states, "Ah, Captain, indubitably these young gentlemen have assiduously perused numerous paperbound volumes purporting to describe Indian life and customs in the old wild and woolly west.  Their greeting was quite in the best tradition of Young Bill, the Terror of the Western Plains."

Ouch.  During the rest of the book, the Indian continues to greet Ted with "Ugh" in order to make fun of him.  Ted is said to be embarrassed each time this happens, so Ted ends up getting what he deserves.

This is a very good book.

In the Bailey Twins #4, The Bailey Twins in the Philippines, Fred's uncle in Manila has passed away.  Fred needs a guardian, so Mr. Bailey and the lawyer agree to share the duty.  The Bailey family travels to Manila with Fred.  Tom Fernald joins the Baileys during their trip.  Fernald plans to dive for a ship that was wrecked in the Philippines.

The Bailey Twins made an enemy of Ah Quon during their adventure at summer camp, and Ah Quon follows them to the Philippines.  The boys must use all of their wits to avoid being captured by Ah Quon.

This book is very interesting at first, but gradually the travelogue aspect takes over too much of the story.  By two-thirds of the way through the book, I felt that the book consisted almost entirely of explanation and information.  I felt the story had slowed almost to a stop, and I was quite bored.  I skimmed and skipped over the last one-third of the story.

In the Bailey Twins #5, The Bailey Twins and the Secret Code, the Bailey Twins prepare to sail home from the Philippines.  They plan to tour Japan, but they soon find trouble.

This book starts out okay, then I encountered a lengthy legend.  I was already bored from the slow pace of the previous volume, so I had little patience.  This book contains a very detailed description of shooting the rapids in a canoe and a detailed explanation of jiu jitsu in addition to detailed explanations of other topics.  I ended up skimming or skipping over a large portion of the story.

This is a good book for people who love travelogues and lengthy explanations, but it did not do much for me.

The first three books in the Bailey Twins series are quite good and stand up well against most other series books.  I do not care for the last two books in the set, although some series book enthusiasts might find the travelogues to be quite interesting.