The Secret of the Old Clue

One of the most Frequently Asked Questions I get is “What do YOU like to curl up with on a rainy afternoon?” My response is generally, “I thought we were here to talk about books.”

Be that as it might, I was certainly drawn into mysteries very early. Someday I may sit down and chart exactly what the influence on my life has been of Raymond Chandler and Agatha Christie, Sherlock Holmes and Judge Dee, Dilys Winn and Will Cuppy. But that takes up a lot of space, so I’ll save it for my autobiography (along with that business about curling up on rainy afternoons.)

Mysteries are often a big part of a kid’s early fiction experience, be it in the form of Nancy Drew on the page or Scooby-Doo on the screen. It’s reassuring, when you start to realize how big and bizarre the world around you can be, to read about someone who makes sense of everything and fixes what has gone wrong. And it’s nice, too, to have that be someone you can depend on, someone who is going to make sense of the world in book after book after book after book.

The Children’s section at the Book Fair can be counted on for series heroes, whether you seek the Honey Bunch books (for those readers not up to the pulse-pounding excitements of the Bobbsey Twins) or something as bloodthirsty as the Twilight tales. I, personally, was enthralled by the adventures of Pete, Pam, Ricky, Holly, and Sue: the Happy Hollisters. I yearned for the calm maturity of a twelve year-old as Pete and Pam coped not only with younger siblings but also thieves and spies. (Still waiting for that.) But if your tastes ran more to the Hardy Boys or the Secret Seven, we can generally supply you. Encyclopedia Brown, Judy Bolton, the Dana Girls…the list goes on.

For a long time, it has been proper to dismiss these books for the very things which made them popular, as it says here in Wikipedia, “formulaic plot, continuing characters, and positive conclusions”. Adults quickly grow out of such clichés: that’s why they watch CSI instead.  Keep in mind that if it weren’t for the likes of the Boxcar Children and Trixie Belden, there might not be people lining up to read about V.I.Warshawski, or Stephanie Plum, or Alex Cross, or the Book Fair Blog.

(Okay, so maybe people aren’t lining up to read about the Book Fair Blog. I put it down to the shortage of Happy Hollisters books for today’s youth. Maybe if Pam had been a werecheetah….)

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