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Girl Sleuth

by Melanie Rehak

Publishers Weekly The intrepid Nancy Drew has given girls a sense of their own power since she was born, Athena-like, from the mind of Edward Stratemeyer in 1929 and raised after his death in 1930 by his daughter Harriet Stratemeyer Adams and Mildred Wirt Benson, a journalist who was the first to write the novels under the pen name Carolyn Keene. Poet and critic Rehak invigorates all the players in the Drew story, and it's truly fun to see behind the scenes of the girl sleuth's creation, her transformation as different writers took on the series, and the publishing phenomenon-the highly productive Stratemeyer Syndicate machine-that made her possible. Rehak's most ambitious choice is to reflect on how Nancy Drew mirrors girls' lives and the ups and downs of the women's movement. This approach is compelling, but not particularly well executed. Rehak's breathless prose doesn't do justice to the complexity of the large social trends she describes, and tangents into Feminism 101 derail the story that really works-the life of a publishing juggernaut. All the same, Stratemeyer himself would undoubtedly say that the story is worth telling. Drew fans are likely to agree. 8 pages of b&w photos not seen by PW. Agent, the Wylie Agency. (Sept.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

Copyright Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Choice In 1975, on the rebound from writing a dissertation on Vladimir Nabokov, Bobbie Ann Mason wrote The Girl Sleuth, in which she provided a feminist discussion of the literary girl sleuth who has fascinated generations of readers. At least a half dozen other books followed Mason's pioneering study (e.g., Nancy Drew and Company, ed. by Sherrie Inness, CH, Dec'97, 35-1995), and an entire academic conference was devoted to Nancy Drew in 1993. Rehak (a poet and freelance critic) focuses on Mildred Augustine and Harriet Stratemeyer, the creators of the Nancy Drew character. Augustine wrote many of the books, following a formula provided by the Stratemeyer Syndicate, a book packager that offered this and other juvenile series. Stratemeyer, as head of the syndicate after the death of her father, guarded Nancy Drew jealously and sometimes conflicted with Augustine. Based on thorough archival research, Rehak's book is fascinating and readable. Particularly valuable are the historical and literary contexts the author builds for each decade of the 20th century; this material serves as background for the story of the two authors, for the issues facing women at that time, and for attitudes toward children's literature. ^BSumming Up: Highly recommended. Lower-division undergraduates through faculty. E. R. Baer Gustavus Adolphus College

Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.

Book list For 75 years, reading Nancy Drew mysteries has been a literary rite of passage for millions of young girls. In this lively offering, poet and critic Rehak tells the tale of the creative trio behind the celebrated pseudonym Carolyn Keene. Children's book mogul Edward Stratemeyer powered the extraordinarily successful Stratemeyer Syndicate (the character of Nancy Drew, the copper-haired teen sleuth who tackled cases with passion and panache, was but one of his creations, which included the Bobbsey Twins and the Hardy Boys). His daughter, Harriet Stratemeyer Adams, was the well-to-do mother of two who took over the business upon his death. ?And enterprising Iowa journalist Mildred Wirt Benson, the original voice of Nancy Drew, devoted decades of her life to ghostwriting titles for the series. Both Harriet and Mildred were talented, driven women who challenged the domestic labels affixed to them. Even at the age of 93, Mildred was described as having "a tangle of white curls and the dismissive air of Robert DeNiro." Packed with revealing anecdotes, Rehak's meticulously researched account of the publishing phenomenon that survived the Depression and WWII (and was even feted by feminists in the 1960s) will delight fans of the beloved gumshoe whose gumption guaranteed that every reprobate got his due. Read this alongside Greenwald's The Secret of the Hardy Boys 0 (2004), about another Stratemeyer ghostwriter, Leslie McFarlane, the voice of the first 16 Hardy Boys novels. --Allison Block Copyright 2005 Booklist

From Booklist, Copyright American Library Association. Used with permission.

Library Journal The story behind everyone's favorite girl sleuth. Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

Copyright Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

School Library Journal Adult/High School-As much a social history of the times as a book about the popular series, this is a fun title that will appeal to older teens who remember the series fondly. In 1930, she arrived in her shiny blue roadster and she has remained a part of the children's book scene ever since. While Nancy may have been the brainchild of Edward Stratemeyer, creator of the successful Stratemeyer Syndicate, it was the devotion of Harriet, his daughter, and syndicate writer Mildred Wirt Benson who brought her to life. The series succeeded beyond anyone's wildest dreams but things were not always peaceful in River Heights. Rehak does a good job of explaining the intricacies of the Stratemeyer Syndicate and the sometimes-rocky relationship between these two strong women, each of whom felt a sense of ownership of the girl detective. Those who followed the many adventures of Nancy Drew and her friends will be fascinated with the behind-the-scene stories of just who Carolyn Keene really was.-Peggy Bercher, Fairfax County Public Library, VA Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

Copyright Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.