May 1st is a day where kids race around placing colorful may baskets on neighbors’ doorsteps running away hysterically hoping not to get caught. May 1st also happens to be the birthday of Nancy Drew, who turns 85 this year. Yes, I know she’s a fictional character, but somebody had to give the teenage “titian-haired sleuth” a birth date, right? It’s called character development, people!
I have a special place in my heart for Nancy Drew mysteries. Back in the groovy seventies I spent one day every week going to the Chariton Public Library with my mom and twin sister. It was a beautiful old library, the kind where you only whispered. If not, you earned a very stern look from the librarian – one eyebrow perched up high towards the hairline and the other pushed down so as to make a very squinty eye (think angry Clint Eastwood). It was effective, but my mother escorting us out of the library with no books was even more effective. Oh the humanity!
During our library visits my mother would linger in the romance and mystery sections while my sister and I browsed rows of books in the junior fiction area to carefully make our literary selections for the week.
After reading my first Nancy Drew mystery, I was hooked. I set a goal to read every Nancy Drew book in that library. Every week I looked forward to following each mystery’s twisty plot. I read along, trying to figure out clues even before Nancy did, guessing who did what, and who was not to be trusted. I also kept reading to see if Nancy was ever going to kiss her “pal” Ned Nickerson. I don’t think she ever did. I blame Ned.
Apart from that, delving into a Nancy Drew mystery took me to another exciting world of teenage sleuthery and I loved every minute of it. Reading so many books also took my simple vocabulary to new impressive heights, or so I thought. While reading “The Swami’s Ring” I read the words a “blush of crimson” and I stopped.
“What the heck does crimson mean?” I thought.
I looked it up and soon after I tried using the word “crimson” in conversation but received bewildered and annoyed looks from my friends. After that I stopped trying to impress anybody with my Nancy Drew inspired vocabulary. It just wasn’t playground-friendly, I guess.
“I scraped my knee and it’s bleeding crimson!” Moving on…
Some of my favorite Nancy Drew mysteries were “The Mystery of the Glowing Eye“, “The Crooked Banister” (loved that hot pink psychedelic cover art), “The Hidden Staircase”, and “The Secret in the Old Attic.” Just recently we’ve finished weeding our junior fiction section here at BCL and we’ve replaced and added several Nancy Drew books. The Hardy Boys are probably a little jealous – but they don’t get checked out much. Sorry guys…
I couldn’t resist putting together a little Nancy Drew display here at BCL to celebrate her birthday and give some attention to a series of books that not only inspired my imagination but gave my vocabulary an obstreperous quality. I’m blushing a shade of crimson right now just thinking about it…