Friday, April 30, 2010

Friday Flashback: My Gal Nancy

Happy Birthday Nancy Drew! The first Nancy Drew book was publish April 28, 1930. Do you think her creators would be stunned to know that for generations of girls, Nancy has been an idol? That her stories have been translated into an estimated 25 languages?

I read many series when I was a kid, but the one I remember most vividly is Nancy Drew.

My godparents bought me a set of the first 5 or 6 books and it was all over. I was hooked. I had to have been 9 or 10, but I still remember where I was when I read them. I even remember being at school reading one of the books during reading time and being upset that it was over and time for math because Nancy was about to solve the mystery!

As a kid growing up in the South, I thought that skiing was the ski jump. Clearly I thought the world was a Nancy Drew novel. Sadly, I found this was not the case and I don't have a blue roadster, nor do I have a father footing the bill on all my adventures. (He's pretty awesome at helping with house projects though.)

I've collected many old Nancy Drew books. Several of them are the first versions written in the 30s and 40s. They were revised in 1959 to be more PC. (The old ones use some very dated language, especially when talking about race.) Some of the stories are the same with minor revisions of language. Some are completely different stories. (Weird.) I've mainly found these old copies online. I look around at used bookstores, but there's not a big selection and they are usually priced much higher than the ones online.

In addition to the books in the series, I've also read several books about the series, including The Mysterious Case of Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys by Carole Kismaric and Marvin Heiferman and Girl Sleuth: Nancy Drew and the Women Who Created Her by Melanie Rehak. The history behind Nancy is quite complex. Carolyn Keene, of course, is a pen name and the original series had two main writers that were Carolyn. She was created by the same people that introduced the Bobbsey Twins and the Hardy Boys. With the '59 rewrites, critics think that Nancy lost a bit of her spunk. I still think Nancy is awesome: brave, independent, and smart. I'm not the only one that thinks so either!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The Maisie Dobbs Series

Goodreads has drawings for advanced readers copies of books. I won The Mapping of Love and Death in March. It's the 7th and latest in the Maisie Dobbs series by Jacqueline Winspear. I love this series so getting a free copy of the most recent book was great and saved me the money of buying it!

If you are on goodreads and didn't know about the giveaways, definitely check them out. They are under the explore tab. If you aren't on goodreads, why not?!

The Maisie Dobbs series is set in post WWI England. They need to be read in order, so if you haven't started the series, pick up Maisie Dobbs first. Birds of a Feather is second, followed by Pardonable Lies, Messenger of Truth, An Incomplete Revenge, and Among the Mad in that order. One of the things that originally attracted me to the series was the cool covers. They are so retro-y beautiful.

I loved this latest episode in the series. It and the first book are probably my favorites in the series. The books are set in the late 20s and early 30s. It has always seemed surprising to me how much the Great War lingers in the characters' lives even 10-15 years after it ended. It will be really interesting to see how the coming WWII plays a role. There are already brief mentions of events and people you as the reader, looking back in time, know are important.

I highly recommend this series if you enjoy historical fiction. The period detail is fabulous, from the shell shock the veterans face as well as the real-life people like Oswald (Tom) Mosley who pop up in the stories. Winspear also does a good job touching on socio-economic and gender issues of the day. The mysteries are entertaining, but it's really the historical fiction aspect that makes it one of my favorite series. These books make me feel smarter for having read them.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Pink Think

I love non-fiction and sociology related books, so it's no surprise I enjoyed this one. It's a study in gender roles, particularly the 1950's-70's. As a 29 year old, I have never felt that being a female has in any way limited me. I've never believed my sole or main duty in life was to get married and have babies. However, in reading this book I realize how close we are in history to that type of attitude.

Lynn Peril's book focuses on advice books, games, pop culture, and advertising from the time period to show how women were viewed. And it is depressing. Both men and women were treated as if they had no brain. A woman's job was seemingly to trick a man in to marrying her and then popping out a passel of babies. And men? Their feelings could be hurt by their wives' dishpan hands.

Some of the interesting tidbits: In 1959, 47% of brides were under the age of 19. (!!!!) (Today the US average is 25 for females, 27 for males.) But in case you did get a college education, it wouldn't go to waste as "housewives were occasionally called on to give book reviews to the PTA." And remember ladies, it wasn't enough to be pretty and smart. You must be dainty too.

This book helped me understand where my grandmother is coming from sometimes. I've always realized she's from a different world, but all the examples in the book really showed what it meant to be a young housewife in the 40s and 50s. The choices for women then seemed so limited. Interestingly, about 20% of married couples today do not have kids (by choice or infertility). This number is double what it was just 20 years ago. Clearly, when given the choice, women are making different decisions.

Anyhow, this was a really interesting, yet horrifying read. I can't understand how women were treated as such simpletons and how they were allowed such little independence. Yikes.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Flashback Friday: The Westing Game

My friend Jacki, the blogger over at Lovely Little Shelf, has a weekly post named Friday Flashback about books she loved as a kid or teenager.

Not surprisingly, I read a lot as a kid.

Since this is my first Friday Flashback, I figured I'd start with my all-time favorite kid's book: The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin. It won the Newbery Award in 1979.

I first read this book in elementary school for a book report. It's a mystery about a millionaire's death. His would-be heirs are trying to solve the puzzle of Samuel Westing's passing so they can receive their inheritance. I loved the mystery and I adore Turtle, one of main characters.

I've reread it several times in the past twenty (yikes!) years. I still love it just as much. I've reread some of the books from my childhood and been disappointed. This one has held up well as I've aged and in the thirty years since it was published.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Library Book Sale

My favorite volunteer activity is the library book sale. I have been working it for several years. We have our main sale in November with an Earth Day sale in April.

One of the reasons I like volunteering at the sale is that I can spend hours looking at the books and people don't think I'm crazy.

I also love helping people find books they are looking for (since the sale is such a treasure hunt) and suggesting new books to people. It's so interesting to see what books people pick up.

The one downside: I end up bringing lots of books home to add to my huge to be read pile. New books are usually a good thing, but I own more than 375 books I haven't read yet and I'm running out of room. Tonight, though, I did pretty good and only added a few to my TBR list.

Tonight's haul, all for $26.75:

For my friend Jessica and her classroom library-

Burned (Ellen Hopkins)
Election (Tom Perrotta)
Fever 1793 (Laurie Halse Anderson)
Flush (Carl Hiaasen)
Near Death in the Mountains (Cecil Kuhne)
The Perfect Storm (Sebastian Junger)
Black Hawk Down (Mark Bowden)
The Last River (Todd Balf)
How I Became Stupid (Martin Page)
The Monkey Wrench Gang (Edward Abbey)

Children's Books (no kids and no plans for them anytime soon, but I love kids' books)-

The Pushcart War (Jean Merrill)
Ramona and Beezus
Ramona and her Mother
Ramona the Brave (Beverly Cleary)
Olivia and the Missing Toy (Ian Falconer)
3 Magic School Bus books
Nappy Hair (Carolivia Herron)
Hitty: Her First Hundred Years (Rachel Field, beautiful illustrations)
Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day (Judith Viorst)
The True Story of Smokey the Bear (Jane Werner Watson)
A Lion Named Shirley Williamson (Bernard Waber)
Is Your Mama a Llama? (Deborah Guarino)
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (copyright '58, printed in '74, it's very retro cool)

Adult Books for me-

God is Not Great (Christopher Hitchins)
The Island of Lost Maps (Miles Harvey)
Falling Off the Map (Pico Iyer)

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Lauren Myracle and Book Banning

Last night, I heard Lauren Myracle, a tween/YA author speak. She recently topped the American Library Association's list of Most Frequently Challenged Books in 2009. With my love of books and interest in free speech issues (my day job is teaching poli sci), it was fascinating.

She has a series of books (ttyl, ttfn, and l8r,g8r) that are written all in IM/text format as well as several books that touch on GLBT issues. It was hilarious to hear the 60+ year old dean of the college's arts and sciences to introduce her and hearing his text talk. You might imagine why her books have been challenged, but really, they're not that different from other young adult books I've read.

Her latest book Luv Ya Bunches is about four 5th graders. One of the girls has two moms. Scholastic has book fairs in school, perhaps you remember or have kids that have them. Scholastic said they'd include this book in the nationwide fairs if she would change the two moms thing. She said no. I really admire this. She stuck to her guns at the cost of a huge market for her book.

The event was really cool. As you might imagine, not many authors come to Wyoming on their book tours. It made me think about the books I read as a kid. I read Gone with the Wind in 5th grade. I'm glad my parents weren't writing authors to tell them they were Satan and let me read what I wanted. One of the things that that Myracle said that I really agreed with is that books are a safe place to learn about things. And, as a tween/teen there was a heck of a lot to learn about, especially those things you are too embarrassed to ask about.