almost twins

Wednesday reading — new and vintage

Mostly binge rereading vintage children's fiction this week, but also some brand-new things!

Seriously, puzzling over the Trixie Belden books attributed to Kathryn Kenny as a kid was like preparation for the documentary hypothesis.

What I've been reading

I reread Five Children and It, The Phoenix and the Carpet and The Story of the Amulet, which I think hold up very well for their age. The last was always my favorite because it has time travel and ancient history and on reread I was particularly amused to note that it is dedicated to E. A. Wallis Budge, whom I always think of primarily as Emerson's arch-nemesis in the Amelia Peabody books.

I reread Trixie Belden and the Marshland Mystery, which definitely has the best material for my almost-twincest shipping. I mean, it ends with Trixie's birthday and "Best of all, the Bob-Whites were all there, and to make the day practically perfect, Mart pulled her curls and called her his 'twin' in front of everyone, because now for a whole month, they were both fourteen." Hair-pulling, yesssssss.

I reread Trixie Belden and the Mystery at Bob-White Cave, which is set in the part of Missouri that I don't live in. (Although the Bob-Whites do fly into the airport in Springfield, and I've visited friends there!) I remembered the ridiculous cave fish plot vividly but had somehow completely forgotten the other storyline, which is even more ridiculous. When you do a Google images search for that rare fish they find, which is something you couldn't do when I was a kid, a bunch of the results are actually Trixie Belden illustrations, which amuses me.

I reread Trixie Belden and the Mystery of the Emeralds, which I always really liked as a kid. It just feels very solidly constructed and enjoyable. Sadly, it was the last book that this particular ghostwriter contributed to the series.

I reread Trixie Belden and the Mystery on the Mississippi, which is partially set in even more parts of Missouri that I don't live in, although I did go to St. Louis once when I was a kid. There were no mysterious papers in the trashcan in my hotel room. It was disappointing. Dan is mysteriously able to travel in this book and Diana is equally mysteriously unavailable for same, which means there are twice as many male Bob-Whites in this book, but otherwise Dan doesn't really do anything distinctive that justifies including him.

I reread Trixie Belden and the Mystery on Cobbett's Island, which chronologically comes before the Mystery of the Emeralds, but I initially skipped over it because I didn't own a copy of it as a kid and had thus only read it once before. On reread, it is unsurprising that both of those books are tentatively credited to the same ghostwriter, because they have exacly the same plot: Trixie finds a letter that alludes to a hidden treasure. The Bob-Whites are stalled in beginning the treasure hunt, because the first clue is obscured by a private reference shared by the writer and the recipient. As they follow the trail, they are spied upon and attacked by a malevolent party who wants the treasure for themselves. In the end, they restore the treasure to the rightful owner, who just happened to need the money because of reasons.

Just because it's formulaic doesn't mean it can't be enjoyable, though, and this book also has a lot of fun sailing stuff and the most amazing and hilarious scene where Jim and Trixie dress up to infiltrate this divey restaurant. I definitely wish I actually had had this book when I was a Trixie Belden-reading kid. What is the deal with guys named Slim, though? The antagonist in Bob-White Cave was also named Slim, and that is only two books ago for them, but nobody mentions anything, like, hey, maybe guys named Slim are bad news.


I reread Trixie Belden and the Mystery of the Missing Heiress, which was last book in the series that I owned growing up and is thus my cutoff point for what I consider canonical. There was a five-year gap between Mystery on the Mississippi and this book, and then a slew of books were published in the late 70s and early 80s by a completely new set of ghostwriters. It is the first book in a long time that is set in Sleepyside and actually includes horses, which used to be a core part of the series. The use of Jim's evil stepfather as the villain is the ultimate blast from the past. Also Dan is in this book and actually manages to do distinctively Dan things in between being busy with his job. In Cobbett's Island the author had him applying for jobs at summer camps, having come to the understanding that his "job" was actually makework to keep him out of trouble, but it is back to an actual job that keeps him busy now.

I read The Crossover, the Newbery Award winner. It was a change of pace for me since I don't normally tend to gravitate towards novels a.) in verse or b.) about basketball. The poetry is fun, anyway, even if it isn't my first choice for storytelling (and also there is a lot of basketball).

I read H is for Hawk, which I absolutely adored. As a kid, Helen Macdonald hated T. H. White's The Goshawk, because she was a total hawk dork and she already knew that White was doin it rong. After her father died unexpectedly, though, she found herself drawn first to train her own goshawk as a way of working out her own issues (although she does a better job because she does know more about it) and then to revisit White and his book with a more sympathetic and scholarly approach, and it's all entwined and beautifully written.

I read A Wilder Rose because it looked interesting and then I felt obligated to finish it because I had downloaded it when I was experimenting with NetGalley, even though I found it disappointing and clunkily written.

I did discover that all of Oxford University Press's titles on NetGalley are available as "Read Now" (you don't have to impress them with your awesome reviewer cred to get approved) and they have a bunch of awesome things to choose from.

What I'm reading next

Well, to conclude my reread of Trixie Belden books that I consider canonical I really need to get ahold of a copy of Trixie Belden and the Mystery of the Blinking Eye, among other things.

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