I am excited to share this walk down memory lane that I took thanks to the new Children’s Classics Mystery Challenge that will be going on for the first half of this year at 5 Minutes for Books. I randomly chose a Trixie Belden title off my shelf for this first challenge; I read many of the Trixie Belden titles as a teen, so I figured I was acquainted enough with the cast of characters to simply slip back into their world in upstate New York, and I was right. Although twenty years or so have elapsed since I last cracked open one of these books, I picked right up as if I just left off yesterday.
The Mystery Off Glen Road is number five in the series, so it was apparently written by a real author, Julie Campbell, instead of the pseudonymous Kathryn Kenney, who was actually a team of writers from Western Publishing. (All this according to the Trixie Belden Homepage.) It would be interesting to read some of the later books to see if there are any differences in the writing style, etc. I can’t imagine that the writing could be any less sophisticated, but I don’t know.
As I mentioned in my introductory Children’s Classics Mystery Challenge post, although I read Nancy Drew, I always liked Trixie better. This referesher course in all things Bob Whites has confirmed that sentiment–Trixie is a rough-and-tumble tomboy, but everyone loves her for it–even Jim Frayne, whom I realize now (‘though I can’t really remember thinking it way back then) that Trixie has a crush on. I think the feelings are mutual, actually. Isn’t it funny that I never really picked up on that as a teen? I was naive.
I think the funniest thing for me has been the dated words and expressions that the characters use. “Gleeps!” is one of Trixie’s favorite exclamations. I couldn’t help but think of Scooby-Doo each time I read one of these vintage slang terms–I could hear Velma or Daphne saying them in my head. A large part of the plot of this particular mystery hinges on Brian Belden’s plan to buy an old jalopy for $50 from the owner of the general store. Does anyone seriously refer to an old car as a jalopy any more? The word is used so often in the story that I began to wish I were being paid $1 for each time I read it.
The other thing I found amusing (and annoying) is the mode of exposition. Carrie discusses this same issue in her Nancy Drew 1930 vs. Nancy Drew 1959 post, so it was obviously the style of such formula fiction. Here’s a quick example of what I mean from The Mystery Off Glen Road. Trixie reminds Honey that she and her brother Mart are “practically twins,” to which Honey replies, “That I do know. In fact, you are twins for one whole month of the year, because your birthdays are exactly eleven months apart.” Would two best friends actually ever have that conversation? I think not. It’s obvious to me that the author include that little exchange beause she knew she had readers “listening in” on the conversation.
Still, with all its shortcomings, I enjoyed the book. I probably won’t revisit them again any time soon, but I like having the copies I have for posterity and for old time’s sake. My copies actually belonged to my older cousin, and I enjoy seeing that fifty year old cousin’s signature on the flyleaves of these old hardbacks. (Mine look nothing like the one pictured above, by the way.)
If you’re a fan, be sure to visit the Trixie Belden Homepage. It contains all kinds of interesting facts and neat trivia! Check out 5 Minutes for Books for more Children’s Classics Mystery Challenge posts, too.