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Nancy Drew Turns 80

April 28, 2010

The first Nancy Drew novel, The Secret of the Old Clock was published 80 years ago in 1930 and naturally Penguin have released a special anniversary edition. The series was one of the earliest successful detective series written specifically for children and is also one of the most famous. Written by a series of ghostwriters under the author name of Carolyn Keene, the Nancy Drew books were produced by the Stratemeyer Syndicate, which was also responsible for the Hardy Boys and the Bobbsey Twins. The history of detective fiction written specifically for children is a curious one in that it did not really emerge as a viable force in publishing until well into the twentieth century. Nancy Drew is an important part of that history; as a product of the brilliant marketing mind of Edward Stratemeyer it could hardly fail. The Star makes the case for the influence of the girl detective:

“One of the raps against Nancy was she was a privileged, upper-class white girl who was perfect,” Rehak says. “But children are willing to look beyond that if they like the character.”

All three women who have served on the Supreme Court—Sandra Day O’Connor, 80, raised on an Arizona ranch; Ruth Bader Ginsburg, 77, who is Jewish, and Sonia Sotomayor, 55, a Puerto Rican, both from New York—cite Nancy Drew as an early influence. [More]

More on Nancy Drew is here and here. My own take on children’s detective fiction is available on my personal blog.

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