Secret? What secret?

The Secret of the Old Clock, by Carolyn Keene (1959 edition)

I was not a Nancy Drew reader when I was a kid. I ate up American Girl books, tore threw Baby Sitter’s Club, and dabbled in the Boxcar Children, but for some reason, Nancy Drew never came up. I’m not entirely sure why, considering my mom had some of her old ones in the basement, and mysteries were just about my favorite thing. It just never happened.

And, boy, am I glad I didn’t waste my time.

Next week in Children’s Lit is Series Week, and Nancy Drew, being one of the most extensive series in children’s literature history, is naturally on the list. So I read it. And I was kind of excited to finally crack into this one. What kind of children’s librarian would I be if I hadn’t read Nancy Drew?

I can honestly say I don’t believe I will ever recommend the Nancy Drew series to one of my students. Let me tell you all the things wrong with it:

1. The mystery is boring. The whole concept is that she’s trying to find a will of a man who was basically a stranger to her in order to help out some other strangers. Finding a will is boring enough for children (who generally don’t care about wills), but the mystery part of it? ANSWERED IN THE TITLE. THE WILL IS IN THE OLD CLOCK. MYSTERY SOLVED.

2. None of the character development feels true. Throughout this book, Nancy meets all kinds of new people. And these people proceed to tell her their entire life stories, including all the embarrassments, complications, and rough patches, within the first thirty minutes of meeting Nancy. Yeah, right.

3. Nancy never makes a mistake. She’s super polite, she says all the right things, she knows just how to react in every situation, she tells the truth, and she always helps someone in need. Ugh.

4. The dialogue is stifling. “Do come to see us again,” Grace called. “Yes, please do,” Allison added. Nancy promised she would. “As soon as I have some news,” she said. Borrrr-ing.

5. The newer edition is even more dumbed down than the first edition. The original edition of the book published in 1930 had African American characters, more climactic scenes (even a gunshot!), and imperfection (alcohol!). All that was wiped in the 1953 edition. Oooh, how I hate censorship.

There’re more terrible things, but I hate to waste more time talking about it. I’m really not clear why this is in the top 100 most sold children’s books in history. Why do people like this? There are PLENTY of interesting, mysterious, convincing, entertaining, and wonderful children’s books out there to recommend to kids. This doesn’t have to be one of them.

Get ready…. One BLACKHOLE.


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