Information and Facts about ...
Series, Series Characters
|Bobbsey Twins||Carter Girls||Cherry Ames||Ethel Morton||Grace Harlowe||Judy Bolton|
|Judy Jordan||Kay Tracey||Marjorie Dean||Melody Lane||Molly Brown||Nancy Brandon|
|Nancy Drew||Nurse Series||Page Twins||Peggy Lane||Pollyanna||Sue Barton|
The Carter Girls, by Nell Speed (Emma Speed Sampson) is a 4-book series published by Hurst & Co. from 1917 to 1924, reprinted by A. L. Burt. The feminist themes of the stories are fascinating, woven around the the girls' (Douglas, Helen, Nan, and Lucy) struggle to support themselves and the family after their father has a nervous collapse. In this, they have an ongoing battle with their mother, a lady with a decidedly unfeminist point of view. Commenting on Douglas' acceptance at Bryn Mawr, Mrs. Carter says, "... I'm glad to say she has given up all idea of that foolishness. I am very anxious for her to make her debut." Douglas, of course, has 'given up that foolishness' only because of the family's financial constraints.
Jeffrey Tucker, (who pays a visit to the Carters with his daughters, The Tucker Twins in book #2) describes Mrs. Carter as "silly ... although charming and even lovable." The tone expressed is decidedly pro-feminist throughout, while understanding the difficulties faced by women (especially Southern women) raised to regard frailty as an asset. [Modern psychologists could have a real field day with Mrs. Tucker's binge shopping, as she refuses to face the extinction of her way of life.] In the last two volumes of the series, published in 1921 and 1924, the author also examines feelings about the war, with Douglas finally changing her pro-war stance to quite the opposite.
The first four titles are college romances, set in Wellington College near New York City. With the fifth title, and the change in authorship, the stories move right down south to Kentucky, although Molly and her friends visit France and Great Britain in #s 6 and 7. Similarities to the Carter and Tucker series include a "May-December" romance, this one between Molly and Professor Edwin Green, who is 29; emphasis on women's rights, and (for a southern writer especially) a certain lack of racial stereotyping.
Despite the fact that the servants' words are written in dialect, they are much more real than contemporary presentations in the Nancy Drew or Bobbsey Twins series, for example. It is difficult for a reader of today to read: "The old woman, [Aunt Mary] having been a most energetic and tireless person in her day, could not understand that the whole world of darkeys could not be as she had been." However, Aunt Mary is a real person; she is fully drawn and full of warmth and humor. In her depiction of people of color, Speed Sampson is a step ahead of any other series writer. It's interesting to compare her writing with that of Annie Fellows Johnston, who penned The Little Colonel series. Of course, Johnston even has her Little Colonel speaking in southern dialect -- despite the fact that she was raised by a Yankee mother in New York!
Characters from this series appear in Speed's other two series, and Zebedee (Page Allison's 'December' beau from the Tucker Twins) shows up in the final Molly Brown title, "College Friends."
Other nurse series of interest:
Kathy Martin, by Josephine James is really worth checking out. The 13 titles in this series were published from 1959 to 1965 and have a more modern feel to them. Interesting locales in all the books, especially the last 2 'Peace Corps' titles.
Nurses Three is probably the most realistic of all the nurse series. Written by Jean Kirby, each of the seven books in the series features one of the three Scott sisters, Penny, Kelly and Tracy Scott.
Margaret Sutton, the author of the Judy Bolton series, also wrote a nurse series, although it only featured two books. Ms. Sutton stated in an interview that Grosset & Dunlap originally commissioned the books, but were unhappy with her heroine Gail Gardner, because she wasn't enough like Little, Brown's Sue Barton. So the two books were published by Dodd, Mead instead!
Sue Barton was a realistic nurse series for its time. The seven books were written from 1936 to 1952 by Helen Dore Boylston, and published by Little, Brown & Co. Scholastic did paperback reprints. The books went through lots of reprints, but still are fairly hard to come by. They are much in demand by collectors of nurse stories, and it might be because they were well written. Here, in the opening paragraph of book two of the series, "Senior Nurse," Boylston evokes a mood I can almost taste:
Sue has the usual accoutrement of friends and foes, and there is a romantic interest -- a doctor. Sue gets engaged in #2 and finally marries Dr. Bill Barry in #5. Like Judy Bolton, her life situation changes in more ways than geographically. In the 7th and final installment in the series, Sue returns to work to support her family while her husband recuperates from pneumonia in a sanitorium.
This series is highly recommended by The Book Sleuth.
Ethel Morton is not one heroine, but two. The Ethels are look-alike cousins, one with blue eyes and one with brown. The series is also interesting because it's full of do-it-yourself tips on all sorts of interesting subjects. In Ethel Morton at Rose House, for instance, the girls engage in carpentery, and their projects illustrate the book. All six titles in the series were copyrighted in 1915, and were originally published by New York Book Co, with a glossy frontispiece and internals. They were reprinted by Donohue, and then by World.
In the first title, Ethel Morton at Chautauqua, the reader can find instruction in swimming and stenciling! Other titles include: ... and the Christmas Ship, ... Holidays, ... at Rose House, ...Enterprise, and ...at Sweet Briar Lodge.
(My thanks to Laura, for bringing the intricacies of the Grace Harlowe books to my attention!)
While not as prolific as her husband, who reputedly could turn out a book in a week, Lilian was a solid contributer to those thousand or so titles. Under her own name, Lilian Garis wrote: Barbara Hale, Cleo Kimball, Connie Loring, Girl Scouts, Gloria Doane, Joan Marsh, Judy Jordan, Melody Lane, Motor Girls, Nancy Brandon, Sally Graves, Ted Layton, and titles in the Whitman 2300 Series. She wrote for other many other series using one of the many Stratemeyer Syndicate pen names, including several Bobbsey Twins titles. Roger contrasts his mother's writing style to that of his father as "... more precise. She labored longer over sentences, over turns in the story, over climaxes."
Mrs. Garis was the first woman reporter in New Jersey, and wrote for the Newark News from 1895 to 1900 and was active in local and national affairs, as well as keeping house and raising her two children. Son Roger writes, "[S]he was a remarkably active woman. ... She was the originator of the movement to establish playgrounds for children in Newark. ... began a campaign to have stools or chairs put behind the counters of every store in Newark, so that the girl clerks could rest between waiting on customers."
"All around our house we had signs -- VOTES FOR WOMEN! Mother hung one sign from our front porch railing. During the night my father took it down. The next morning it was up again. The next night it was down. And the next morning it was up -- and this time it stayed up.
"One round for Mother."
The Judy Jordan series, originally published by Grosset & Dunlap, and reprinted by Whitman in hard cover with dust jacket, is interesting in that it had a "phantom" third title, never published: "Judy Jordan's Mystery." The 2 titles in this series, both published in 1931, are: Judy Jordan, and Judy Jordan's Discovery. Judy is 17, lives in Pennsylvania, and travels to New York in Book 1 to become a reporter.
In the Nancy Brandon series there are only 2 titles, again published by G&D and reprinted by Whitman. The G&D versions come with glossy frontis and internals, but the Whitmans lack both. The titles are: Nancy Brandon and Nancy Brandon's Mystery. In the first title, Nancy runs a small shop for her mother; in book 2, she vacations in New Hampshire.
Who is Melody Lane? Not a person, but a street, where the Duncan family live during the depression. Carol Duncan is the oldest daughter in the family, and is the focal character of most of the nine books, although my favorite, #8 The Secret of the Kashmir Shawl, features her younger sister, Cecy. The stories are an interesting mixture of depression-era family life and quirky, fantastic mysteries. These involve a haunted organ, a strange Egyptian shawl, weird moans threatening a young woman's inheritance. Eccentric characters abound. However, through it all is the thread of the Duncan family's struggle to survive their dire financial straights. The girls work at a variety of jobs, and everyone pulls their weight to keep the family together.
Ms. Garis' writing style can be delightfully confusing, as she's fond of long, involved sentences; like this one, from Kashmir Shawl: "A lovely long ride in a car which Peter drove that afternoon, dispelled much of the gloom that had surrounded Aunt Bessie's attempt to make somethings clear to Cecy, while hiding the real story of her queer mixup with Malika and her confederates." Here's another, from #1 The Ghost of Melody Lane, "Neither Aunt Mary nor Carol could forget this, as again a beautiful woman, Mrs. Becket, not young but middle aged, not a bride but a widow, was lying in a room, fortunately not dead, but suffering from some sinister influence that had cast its spell over Oak Lodge."
The books have only one format, turquoise blue cloth with a very deco black picture design on the cover. The burnt orange Pelagie Doane end papers (see above) are also deco inspired. However, there are two sets of dust jackets for the series. The first is by Pelagie Doane and the second by Ruth King. (Pelagie Doane is best known for her artwork for the early Judy Boltons, while examples of Ruth King's work can be seen in the Anne Fenton and Girl Scouts series.)
Under her own name were: The Brownie Scouts and the Dan Carter Cub Scout series, the Girl Scout Series, Penny Parker, Ruth Darrow, 7 Mildred A. Wirt Mysteries, and 4 Trailer Stories for Girls. Using Frank Bell, she wrote the 2 Flash Evans Books; Joan Clark wrote Connie Carl at Rainbow Ranch and the 4 Penny Nichols Mysteries; Julia K. Duncan - the 2 Doris Force Mysteries; Frances K. Judd for the Kay Tracy series; of course, Carolyn Keene was used for the Nancys and Danas. Don Palmer - used for the Boy Scout Explorers; Helen Thorndyke, another Stratemeyer pseud. used for the Honey Bunch Books, of which Wirt wrote 5 titles; Dorothy West - the Dot And Dash series; Ann Wirt wrote the 3 Madge Sterling books.
When Ms. Wirt wrote about aviatrix Ruth Darrow in 1930 and 31, she didn't have to do extensive research. An accomplished pilot, she'd made nine solo trips to Central America, where she studied Pre-Columbian archaeology.
Madge Sterling is one of her lesser-known series, only 3 titles, published by Goldsmith in 1932, and written under the pseudonym 'Ann Wirt.' The reason for the pen name? Well, these stories were considerably shorter than most, and 'Mildred' was too long to fit on the spines of the books! Interestingly, it was in 1932 that Harriet and Edna Stratemeyer, feeling the pinch of the Great Depression, reduced their ghost-writers' commission from $125 to $75 per book. So Walter Karig penned Nancy #s 8, 9, and 10, and 'Ann' created Madge Sterling for Goldsmith.
The Penny Parker series has 17 titles, and was written from 1939 to 1947. These were all published by Cupples and Leon. Penny bears some resemblance to Nancy Drew: she's blonde and blue-eyed and has a lot of spunk. She lives in Riverview with her widowed father (a newspaper editor) and housekeeper Mrs. Weems. Unlike the Nancy Drew series, only the first four books were ever updated and reprinted, in the 1950's -- (these later, wrap-dj editions are collectible, but the art work on the dj's and the line drawn illustrations inside the books are really, really bad) -- so most of the series is only available as originally written, and is quite quaint, featuring World War II plots and references galore.
While Leslie McFarlane wrote the first four books in the Dana Girl Series, Mildred Wirt penned #s 5 through 16. She also wrote #s 3 to 14 in the Kay Tracey Series under the Stratemeyer Syndicate pseudonym Frances K. Judd (does anyone know who wrote the first three?) In The Girls' Series Companion, published by the Society of Phantom Friends, the editor notes that "[t]he series seems to be a hybrid of the Nancy Drew and Dana Girls series, but falls short of both. Kay Tracey books are a bit like comic books; lurid, but too cartoonish to be frightening." True, but they are lots of fun; we enjoy them for that very reason!
There are 18 titles in the Kay Tracey Series, originally published by Cupples & Leon in yellow hard-cover with dj and glossy frontis. Aside from the different Cupples reprints, in 1952 fifteen of the titles were reprinted in by Books, Inc. at which time they were re-numbered. Secret of the Red Scarf, (#1 in the Cupples series, #15 in the Books, Inc. list) was so extensively re-written that The Girls' Series Companion believes "it should be considered a separate book." Books, Inc. issued the titles in hard-back w/dj, hard-back PC, and also in digest size paperback editions. Next, Lamplight reissued 6 of the titles, in pc hard-back, at which time they were re-numbered again.
Got all that? Well, they weren't done yet. In the '60's, Berkeley Medallion reissued "at least eight titles" (G.S.C.) in mass-market pb editions, and, yes, renumbered the books again. Apparently, by this time it was an unwritten (or perhaps written!) rule that whenever a Kay Tracey book was reprinted, the numbering had to be changed; Bantam got into the act with digest-sized paperbacks, and re-numbered the books yet again, as well as renaming a few characters. (Good-bye Ethel and Wilma -- hello Chris and Wendy.)
All in all, this makes Kay a very intersting, if confusing, series to collect!
In 1940, under the pen name 'Frank Bell,' Ms. Wirt wrote the two-volume Flash Evans series for boys, published by Cupples & Leon, about a young news photographer. Written in the late 30's and early 40's, also for Cupples, and under her own name, were several titles in the Mystery Stories for Girls Series.
Ms. Wirt wrote 3 Girl Scout stories, in the 50's: At Penguin Pass, At Singing Sands, and At Mystery Mansion. These were published by Cupples & Leon, and illustrated by Marguerite Geyer (who also illustrated the 6 Dan Carter Cub Scout and Brownie Scout titles).
"This series is based on the premise that a girl from Rockport, Wisconsin -- having no previous acting experience -- can come to New York and become a stage and screen actress in a short period of time. Initiallly, Peggy gets some unbelievably lucky breaks that will irritate anyone who has struggled and starved to become an actor."
True. The strength of the series is in the various authors' theatrical knowledge, and in the interesting locales Peggy visits during her career. It's really more of a romance than a mystery series; Peggy acquires boyfriends like some of us acquire books, and rarely hangs on to them as long (except for Randy, her Ned Nickerson clone). However, the cover art is very interesting -- very 60's -- a rather sophisticated change from the usual G&D offerings, even those from that same period. I confess, I collected the series for the pictures.
The books were originally published by L.C. Page in pink hard-cover with dj; reprinted by Grosset & Dunlap in hardback w/dj; Harrap issued more reprints, also in hardback w/dj. There are several paperback reprints available from various publishers.
There were several Pollyanna Dolls made: by Madame Alexander, Wendy Lawton (in porcelain), Robin Woods (vinyl), Julie Good-Krueger, and Uneeda. There were also Parker Brothers parcheesi games marketed under the names "Pollyanna: The Glad Game" and "Pollyanna: The Great Home Game." At least three different boxes were made for these games.
Titles in the Series, with their authors:
For a plethora of twins, one must go no further than The Bobbsey Twins, with two sets in one family. Laura Lee Hope was a Stratemeyer Syndicate pseudonym; among the writers who contributed to the series was the prolific Howard Garis and his wife, Lilian Garis. These books can be found easily, in a variety of formats, as it is the longest-running of all the children's series. For some interesting Bobbsey information, check out Weinstein's Bobbsey Twins Page.
Also credited to Laura Lee Hope (at least some were penned by Howard Garis), the Six Little Bunkers Series features a set of twins, Violet and Laddie, who are the middle children in the Bunker family. Walter S. Rogers did the illustrations for this Grosset & Dunlap series, and they are lovely, with the frontis originally produced in color. I only knew of 12 titles in this series, until Jenny Burnside kindly furnished the titles of the last two (Thanks, Jenny!):
Six Little Bunkers at...
In A House Party with the T.T., we find 'Lady John,' on p.123, a "crazy old man [with] a voice as soft and feminine as one could hear in the whole south. ... It seems that the old man had lost his reason many years before and was now obsessed with the desire to be considered a woman." His fashion statements might have made this book quite a classic for cross-dressers of the period!
The narrator of the series isn't one of the twins, (Caroline and Virginia Tucker) but their dear friend, Page Allison. There is a really grand romance, and several references to characters in other series by the author.
The Tucker Twins and Page Allison pay a visit to the Weekend Camp of The Carter Girls, [see listing for C.G. series]. This is quite interesting, as Page, of course, doesn't narrate, and we get a "third-person" view of her. Zebedee, the Twin's father and Page's beau, visits with Molly Brown [see listing for M.B. series] in book 8 of that series, "Molly Brown's College Friends."
Barse & Hopkins originally published the series, in hard cover editions with the twins embossed on the front, glossy frontis and line-drawn internals. It was reprinted by Grosset & Dunlap in similar format. Thelma Gooch is the illustrator for Books 1 - 6, and I find these particularly attractive.
Other series by Dorothy Whitehill: Joyce Payton ("Joy and Pam", 6 titles) and Polly Pendleton (13 titles).
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