Chapter Summaries 4 (pp. 141-172)
Raychel Trevino ~ LSSL 5393 ~ Dr. Lesesne
Love 'em & Hate 'em
The Original Fancy Nancy
As much as critics wanted to convince readers that serials were not literary works of fiction, but superficial formulaic trash, the fans kept asking for more. Nancy Drew is a perfect example of a series that was not only popular but has longevity. It emerged during the Great Depression and is still in print today. Not only was the book a great escape during the bleak days of the Depression Era, Nancy herself was an example of a life lived free of female stereotypes and poverty.
Today Nancy's independent spirit is something unrealistic in the real world, so what's the attraction? Critics claim that she's just a commercialized product - and they mean that in the most negative sense of the word. However, a product is what her creator meant her to become, so the Stratemeyer Syndicate could only take the critics opinion as a compliment.
Clash of the Titles
In the early 20th Century when serial novels were selling like hotcakes, critics that up that point had been talking trash about these books decided to take a different approach. It was a case of catching more flies with honey. Instead of focusing on the negative of the serials, they decided to focus on the positive of quality selections being published at the same time. Publisher Weekly's editor began Book Week, an annual event that focused on better reading choices for children. Children's book rooms in public libraries were being established, and the first John Newberry Award was awarded. The adult public was beginning to understand that there was a difference between quick-write books and "literature." Apparently, no one bothered telling the kids. During an extensive survey conducted in 1926 that included 36 thousand children from 34 cities a whopping 98% had a favorite book written by a single author: Edward Stratemeyer.
Taking the Good with the Bad
Reference: The Big Six Review Journals In Children's Literature
Be Your Own Best Critic
In today's world, there are plenty of places to go when trying to find quality children's books and book reviews. That wasn't the case in the early and even mid 20th Century. Children's book reviews were left up to a handful of highly qualified ladies, but it's important to mention that they were not always right - which is the case with most imperfect humans.
Today we have a lot more resources available to us when we are looking for book reviews, but the same truths that the ALA study in 1926 discovered are still true today: kids like what they like. Also, we have to rely on our gut instinct to decide whether a book is "good" or not. Just because they lack a gold foil seal on them doesn't mean they aren't going to please the young masses.