Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Sweet Dreams #59 Please Say Yes and #60 Summer Breezes

Sweet Dreams #59 Please Say Yes, Alice Owen Crawford, 1984

Marley couldn't be happier when shy, handsome Jeff finally asks her out.  But disaster strikes when the Riverport High basketball team is left a large sum of money.  The boys' team insists the money was meant for them alone; the girls' team thinks that it should be shared.

The school is split right down the middle—boys on one side, girls on the other.  To force the issue, the girls declare a "romantic freeze."  No dates, no kissing, no hand-holding until the boys give in.

Marley's new romance seems doomed, unless the two opposing camps can reach a compromise—and soon!

The behavior of the boys on the boys' basketball team is truly horrible.  They make awful comments directed at the girls.

I have mentioned before that I like the teen romance books the best when the girl faces a struggle that is more than just wanting a boyfriend.  Both books reviewed in this post are of that type.

This is a very good book.

Sweet Dreams #60 Summer Breezes, Susan Blake, 1984

For Megan Woods, summer and sailboats are one and the same.  There's nothing like the thrill of racing alongside her boyfriend, Jeff, captain of the yacht club sailing team.  Unless it's the satisfaction she gets from teaching the Tadpoles, a group of younger kids, how to handle a boat.

When Megan is asked to be the Tadpoles' full-time coach for the summer, she's thrilled but torn by indecision.  If she takes the job, she'll have to give up racing with the team.  But will giving up the team mean giving up Jeff as well?

Megan is truly torn between two boys, and her dilemma comes across as genuine.  There's no stupidity here.  It's quite apparent that Megan is being manipulated by one boy, but she doesn't fall for it too long, so she doesn't come across as stupid.  This is important to me.

This book is well written, compelling, and excellent.

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

The Enduring Legacy of Nancy Drew—90 Years of Sleuthing

The first three Nancy Drew books, The Secret of the Old ClockThe Hidden Staircase, and The Bungalow Mystery, were published on April 28, 1930, which was 90 years ago today.  The plot outlines for the first three books were written by Edward Stratemeyer, and the three books were ghostwritten by Mildred A. Wirt under the pseudonym of Carolyn Keene, which was the author name chosen by the Stratemeyer Syndicate for the series.

First printing book and jacket, 1930A-1 in Farah's Guide, from April 28, 1930 (from my collection)

Prior to the Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys series, most Stratemeyer series books centered around a group of boys and girls who would participate in activities such as camping, fishing, sailing, and traveling the country in their automobiles.  The young people would almost always have a chaperone, who was an older adult such as a favorite teacher or a relative.  The books contained exciting events interspersed with ordinary activities and lots of joking around by the young people.

First printing book and jacket, 1930A-1 in Farah's Guide, from April 28, 1930 (from my collection)

The Stratemeyer Syndicate was hugely successful, and it was the dominating force in series books both before and after the release of the Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys series.  The Hardy Boys series was first published in 1927, and it had the basic formula of the earlier Stratemeyer books, but with a new twist:  the Hardy Boys solved mysteries, often for their father, a famous detective.

First printing book and jacket, 1930A-1 in Farah's Guide, from April 28, 1930 (from my collection)

The Nancy Drew series also focused on solving mysteries but with a big difference:  Nancy Drew often worked alone, especially during the first few books.  Nancy Drew had a level of autonomy that was unmatched in other series books.  Even the Hardy Boys had to answer to their Aunt Gertrude.  Nancy Drew answered to nobody.

Early 1930s advertising card (image from old eBay auction)  

Nancy's father, Carson Drew, worried about her, but he never prevented Nancy from doing whatever she wanted to do.  In volume 5, Nancy's best friends, quarreling cousins Bess and George, began to join Nancy in her adventures, yet Nancy was still in total control.

Advertising card from the middle 1960s (from my collection)

Nancy seemed to be a kind of superwoman who bounced back instantly from all injuries.  It is little wonder that Nancy Drew's success surpassed all of Edward Stratemeyer's previous creations.  Unfortunately, Edward Stratemeyer did not live to see the tremendous success that Nancy Drew became; he passed away on May 10, 1930, less than two weeks after Nancy Drew was first published.

Nancy Drew Girl Detective poster from 2005 (from my collection)

It is a continuing testimony to Edward Stratemeyer's legacy that Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys have never been out of print since creation and are still published to the present day.

2010 promotional folder (from my collection)

Monday, April 27, 2020

The Library Edition That Wasn't

In early April, I saw an eBay listing for an unusual Hardy Boys book that appeared to be a library binding.

I probably spent five to 10 minutes staring at the images in the listing, trying to figure out exactly what I was seeing.  The cover has The Secret of the Caves, but the inside is What Happened at Midnight.  That can happen quite easily with library editions, since they have been rebound.

I was quite stymied by the bizarre appearance of this book.  The binding itself is odd for a library binding.  Library bindings have a certain texture that this book does not have.  The Gretta endpapers image on the cover is also strange.  I kept looking at each of the seller's photos of the outside of the book.  I considered whether someone could have traced the endpapers somehow onto the outside of the book.  I decided the quality was too good for that.

Really, I just didn't want to purchase someone's art project.  I decided that this had to be an unusual library binding and made the purchase.  I was intensely curious to see this book in person.

I received the book and was further mystified upon examining it.  I own well over one thousand library binding books.  I know them well, and this book does not fit.

1.  Library bindings typically do not exactly reproduce the original design of anything from the original book.  Usually, the illustrations on library bindings have been redrawn.  This book exactly reproduces the Gretta endpapers on the cover.  (Note:  Publisher-issued library bindings do exactly reproduce the cover art of the regular editions.  The Gretta endpapers are not cover art.  Besides, if this were a publisher-issued library binding, we already would have seen multiple examples.)

2.  The orange Gretta endpapers are fully present in the front and back of the book, both the pastedowns and the free endpapers in both places.  The pastedowns are never present in library rebound books, because those are destroyed when the text block is removed from the original binding.  The free endpapers are sometimes present, but never the full set.  (Note:  Publisher-issued library bindings do sometimes have the full set, but the set is always placed inside after blank pages that are in the usual endpapers position.)

The book also appears to be in its original binding, as completely bizarre as that sounds.

I had to conclude that this could not be a library edition.  I first thought that someone in a bindery had fun creating an interesting book.  I gradually realized that the book's qualities were too oddly similar to various characteristics of actual Grosset and Dunlap books for it to be just that.

By the way, some collectors with bookbinding skill have created books to complete sets in various formats.  An example would be to take the inside of an original text Nancy Drew #1 and place it inside the binding of the picture cover for Nancy Drew #1.  I couldn't rule out something like that having happened with this book.  I am not sure how I feel about that sort of thing.  It seems like cheating, and I don't know if I would want a book that someone created on purpose.  On the other hand, if an example were to drop into my hands, I'd probably enjoy the novelty.

The plan all along was to post about the book on Facebook, but I didn't want to express what I was beginning to think.  While I am quite knowledgeable about the Hardy Boys series, I have nowhere near the depth of knowledge that I do with Nancy Drew.  I do not know everything about the Hardy Boys series.  I did not think that a book like this was known to exist, but I could not be certain.  I wanted to see how the Hardy Boys collectors reacted before venturing any kind of opinion.

I posted photos of the book, mentioned its characteristics, and gave no indication about what I thought.  Here are the rest of the photos that I put up on Facebook.

Collectors who responded to my post quickly made some interesting observations.

1.  Tony Carpentieri pointed out that the Gretta endpapers image on the cover of this book shows more of the edges than what can be found on the Gretta endpapers.  Just think about the significance of that statement.  The cover of this book shows more of the Gretta endpapers than the actual Gretta endpapers do.  The only explanation is that the design on the cover of this book must have come from the equipment that printed the Gretta endpapers. 

2.  Frank Krieger looked up the post-text ad information and determined that the inside of this book matches the 1932D-5 printing of What Happened at Midnight.  At that moment, I realized that the binding of this book is identical in texture and color to the Nancy Drew books of 1930 to 1932.  Absolutely identical.

3.  James Keeline mentioned that Kingsport Press, the bindery that bound the books for Grosset and Dunlap, had classes on topics like bookbinding.  He hypothesized that this book might have been the product of such a class.  James looked up the original owner, Carl Downa, whose name is inside the book.  James found that a Carl Houston Downa lived in Kingsport, Tennessee.

4.  I looked up my seller's location, which is Bristol, Tennessee.  Bristol is approximately 20 miles from Kingsport.

Taken together, this information provides strong circumstantial evidence that this book came from Kingsport Press and could have been a product of a class offered at Kingsport Press.  Carl Downa may very well have been the person who fabricated the book.

Therefore, I am confident that this book came from Kingsport Press.  The book has the blue Nancy Drew binding.  It has the orange Gretta endpapers.  It is the original binding.  The Gretta endpapers were printed on the cover.

Remember how I didn't want to end up with someone's art project?  Apparently that is exactly what happened.  However, I am quite pleased with this particular art project.  It is rather special.  I also wonder if any other odd books like this one from Kingsport Press exist somewhere out there.

Saturday, April 25, 2020

Sweet Dreams #57 On Her Own and #58 Rhythm of Love

Sweet Dreams #57 On Her Own, Suzanne Rand, 1984

Most of the kids in the Roughing It program seem to have a lot more experience and confidence than Katie Carlisle.  She wonders if she'll be able to keep up as they learn survival skills for three weeks in the Adirondack wilderness.  But Lisa, who becomes Katie's instant best friend, is more than willing to lend a helping hand whenever Katie hits a snag.

Then Jake Summers begins to take an interest in Katie, and Lisa's attitude quickly changes.  It's obvious that she and Jake had something going in the past and that Lisa is still in love with him.

Katie is crazy about Jake, but she doesn't want to hurt Lisa.  Still, there's something about Lisa's confession of her romance with Jake that doesn't quite ring true.

I enjoyed the beginning of the book well enough, since I like the setting.  However, I skimmed parts of the book due to lack of interest.  I did find the ending to be interesting.  Lisa is a needy, unusual girl.

Sweet Dreams #58 Rhythm of Love, Stephanie Foster, 1984

When Scott tells Darcy he doesn't need her as keyboard player anymore, Darcy can't believe it.  The band is the most important thing in her life—next to Scott.  Now she'll never get to be his girlfriend.

Or will she?  What if Darcy starts her own band?  Scott will have to notice her.  As fast as she can, Darcy sets up auditions and forms her very own group.  But Scott's not the only one who notices her.  Carl, her new group's drummer, does, too.  And Carl is the one who's there to help her when Scott tries to keep Darcy's band from becoming as popular as his own.

This is the type of teen romance plot that I do not like.  A girl trying to win a boy's love by doing something to impress him is doomed to fail.  That's just a given.  Scott is a jerk, so of course he isn't going to suddenly respect Darcy.

That said, I decided to give the book a chance.  I skipped over most of the first few chapters, and then started reading the book because it seemed to be written quite well.

Darcy is being manipulated by Scott, but she kind of knows it, so she's not an idiot like the girls usually are in this type of story.

I ended up enjoying the story of Darcy getting her band together and trying to make it work.  This is a pretty good book overall.

Thursday, April 23, 2020

The Nancy Drew Canister Puzzle

The Nancy Drew canister puzzle is an unbelievably scarce item that is scarce enough to be called rare, which is a word I typically do not use ever.  It has not been up for sale in around 15 to 20 years, to anyone's knowledge.

The canister puzzle is so scarce that I listed it in my post, Ten Rarest Nancy Drew Books and Collectibles.

Sometime in the 2000s, an eBay seller listed a Nancy Drew canister puzzle along with a Hardy Boys canister puzzle together in the same listing.  As I recall, the listing had a Buy It Now of $25.  Naturally, the first person who saw the listing purchased it.  The listing was discussed in the Nancy Drew Sleuths Yahoo! group, and everyone agreed that the seller made a huge mistake in placing the Buy It Now on the listing.  It was great, however, for the person who saw the listing first.

Below is a screen cap from the above linked post.  I am pretty certain that the photo came from the listing for the two canister puzzles.

A Nancy Drew canister puzzle coming up for sale is pretty much unheard of and a rather exciting experience.  As I already mentioned, I do not believe one has sold since the one eBay listing of many years ago.  That is... until this month in which two canister puzzles have sold on eBay.

The first one was listed for auction on April 5 and closed on April 12.  Click on the image to see a larger version.

I saw the listing right after it was listed, and I intended to bid.  I did enter an aggressive bid, a good bit higher than the final closing bid, into eSnipe which was set to be placed at the very end of the auction.  For reasons that I cannot effectively articulate, I changed my mind and canceled the eSnipe bid seven minutes before the end of the auction.

I just decided that I didn't really need it that much, but I can't really explain why.  I was baffled, however, when the listing closed at $693.00.  I personally thought that it would close at above $1,000 due to how very few people have ever seen one.  Most major Nancy Drew collectors do not own this canister puzzle.  So I'm not sure what happened.  Perhaps I just think the canister puzzle is worth more than others do.

I didn't regret canceling my bid, although I felt like I probably shouldn't have canceled it.  I was happy for the winner of the auction.

So four days went by, and then another canister puzzle was listed on eBay.

I also saw this listing right after it was listed.  (The eBay feed is a beautiful thing.  I keep telling people to use it.  Hopefully, some of you do.)  The listing had a Buy It Now.  It was like a tasty snack placed right in front of me.  Oh, dear.

I was so tempted.  I looked at the pictures.  I decided to look at the one that had sold four days before.  I noticed that the first puzzle is white around the title while the second listing is yellow around the title.  I looked at the image from the old listing of years ago, and it is yellow.  This intrigued me.  The puzzle with white does not appear to be faded, since I would expect that the rest of the puzzle would show evidence of fading.  Just knowing that two variants appear to exist piqued my interest that much more.  You know where this is going, right?

Of course I bought it!

The price is more than I would have liked to have paid.  After all, I did back out on my bid for the first listing.  I'm okay with the purchase because I see this as being paid for by my stimulus payment of $1,200.  And I still have a little to spare.  It's all good.

This story has a good ending.  I must reassure you of that because of what comes next.

I opened my mailbox today to see the envelope with the canister puzzle in it.

I will tell you exactly what I thought when I saw the envelope.  What kind of a freaking idiot mails a $900 item in a bubble-lined envelope?  That doesn't sound nice, but it is what I thought.  This defies logic.  The seller has received positive feedback praising him for his packaging.  I am baffled.

I am the person who quarantines my packages for a few days.  No quarantine for this one!  I only delayed long enough to snap the above photos, then I cut the envelope open.  Fortunately, the puzzle is fine.  I snapped additional photos, seen below.  I did have to wash my hands several times during the process, because I am extremely careful with anything new that comes into the house due to the pandemic.

At least the canister did not get damaged.  I just noticed while finishing this post that the delivery confirmation requires a signature.  This package was left in my mailbox, and I didn't have to sign for it.  I checked the tracking, and it still says "out for delivery."  So the carrier didn't scan the tracking at all.  Now do you understand why I refuse to sell books online right now, why I refuse to use carrier pickup since I am not willing to walk into the post office?  I don't trust my mail carrier due to his many mistakes.

The canister is pretty small.  I expected it to be a little bigger.  I am not disappointed at all; I just didn't know the size.  The canister measures 5 1/2 inches tall by 4 inches in diameter.  It's a cute little canister.

It turned out that I did myself a favor in canceling my bid for the first puzzle auction.  By not bidding on that auction, I caused the auction to close lower than it would have, possibly by hundreds of dollars.  If I had bid higher on that auction, the seller of the second puzzle probably would have priced his puzzle higher.  Therefore, both puzzles would have cost more in the end.  Either way, I probably paid less, whether I would have won the first auction or not.

My final cost for the canister puzzle was $927.30.  I have to pay a hefty 9.1% local sales tax on my purchases.

But why was it mailed in an envelope?

Edited to add:  The seller finally listed his Hardy Boys canister puzzle today with a Buy It Now of $149.95.  It has sold.  The seller had offered it to me, but I declined since I am not interested in Hardy Boys collectibles.  The canister is red instead of blue like the one from the old auction.  It's interesting that there are two versions of each of the Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys canisters.

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

New Experiences During the Pandemic

It's interesting how many new experiences I have had since March 13.  March 13 was the last day of school before spring break, and it turned out to be the last day of school for the academic year.  The last day I went into a store to shop for groceries was March 22.  The last day I went into any store was March 25, when I quickly ducked into Westlake Ace Hardware to get vegetable seeds.

I am the type of person who resists change, and I tend not to try new experiences unless I am forced.  Due to school closure plus my own excessive paranoia, I have used a number of apps and services which I previously would have never tried.

I have used these apps or services for the first time since March 13.


I cannot go into my local grocery store due to my self-imposed lockdown.  I signed up for Shipt, which is $8 per month.  I discovered quickly how hard it is to get a time reserved, since many other people are also using Shipt as well.  I found that I needed to get an order ready to go even when times were not available.  Once a time became available, I could grab the time and complete checkout.

Walmart Grocery Pickup

The two nearest Walmart supercenters are a little different with respect to time availability.

One store only goes 48 hours in advance with available times, which means that usually no times are available.  However, the next available day opens up at midnight.  When I want to get groceries from that store, I prepare the order in advance and then complete checkout just after midnight. 

The other supercenter is a far busier store, reputedly the busiest one in the Oklahoma City metropolitan area.  That store has times set up for up to 96 hours in advance, so I can usually grab a time for around three days away when I wish to use that store.


We have done faculty meetings via Zoom.

Google Voice

I use the Google Voice app to communicate with parents without sharing my cell number.  Google Voice assigns me a local phone number, which is what the recipient sees.  All calls and text messages go to the app.

iHeart Radio

Since I am not driving, I am using iHeart on my phone to listen to the radio when I feel inclined to do so.


Since I live in Oklahoma, I cannot get away from the talk about Joe Exotic. So of course I had to get Netflix so that I could watch Tiger King.  I have known about Joe for years, but he's even more screwed up than I realized.  Yikes.


I have some thoughts.

1.  The political division in the United States is now so extreme that even a crisis cannot unite us.  That's quite sad.

2.  Life isn't fair.  During the initial stage of this experience, I felt a little bitter about having to stay home.  I quickly realized how fortunate I am.  I can stay home.  I am getting paid, and I don't have to work.  What isn't fair is that many people must work and put them themselves at risk.  It's also not fair that people have lost their jobs and are having trouble with unemployment claims.  Oklahoma's unemployment website is unbelievably screwed up with many people not getting through.

The following article gives perspective on how much harder this experience is for people in other parts of the world.

'I am so afraid': India's poor face world's largest lockdown

The article has been on my mind since I read it last week.

3.  I very much miss my hectic, stressful spring schedule.  I'd rather have that than be dealing with this.

4.  We all take so much for granted in our normal lives.

5.  I never had any concept of what actually living through a pandemic would be like.  I wish I was still ignorant like I was at the very beginning of the year.

6.  I am enjoying not selling books online.  It's been about a month since I last took a package to the post office.  This is the longest stretch between online sales for me since around 1998.  That's a long time.

I do want to sell books again, but I enjoy not having to mess with difficult buyers or packing books.  It's a nice break.

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

American Adventure #3 The Hills of Home by Margaret Trent Chapters 11-16

The American Adventure Series
#3 The Hills of Home
by Margaret Trent
Published by A. L. Burt

This text is in the public domain.

In order to read the book, use a web-based browser on a desktop computer, laptop, or tablet.  Click or tap on the first image.  You will see an enlarged version of it as well as a sliding picture bar down at the bottom of the screen.  You can use the picture bar to move from image to image.

Go here for Chapters 1-5.
Go here for Chapters 6-10.

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16