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Practically Paradise
Inside Practically Paradise

Giving ABDO fiction

I received a few fiction titles from ABDO  for consideration and am packing them in the box for River Valley to enjoy. These are appropriate for elementary ages and have reinforced library bindings to last longer than paperback versions. 

Pirate School series of 6 titles by Brian James  Attack on the High Seas: #3 ©2010 ISBN 978-1-59961-584-4 $15.95 64 pages Published by arrangement with Grosset & Dunlap / Penguin Young Readers.

On the pirate ship the Sea Rat, Pete and his friends live, go to pirate school and deal with the nasty first mate named Rotten Tooth  who seems to deliberately give them the hardest and most boring jobs. I’d hand this series to second and third graders. Attack on the High Seas! involves knot tying so pair this title with string books. 

Airy Fairy Magic Mix-Up! by Margaret Ryan. ©2010 ISBN 978-1-59961-500-4 $15.95 Intended to interest 2-4th graders with a 4th grade reading level. Produced by agreement with Barron’s and originally published in 2005. 75 pages

Airy Fairy irritated me. She was so good, patient, and understanding when Scary Fairy continually bullied her and deliberately sabotaged her good work – making her look like a clumsy useless fairly. I was irritated because I wanted someone to intervene sooner and right the wrongs. I decided I have a typical reaction for the culture I was raised. I wanted retribution, revenge, and immediate righting of wrongs. Girls will appreciate this title more than boys. I’m interested in whether anyone else is irritated when they see a character gently suffer through this. Second and third graders will read this. Girls will pick it up for the cover, too.

Nancy Drew and the Clue Crew #9 The Halloween Hoax. Carolyn Keene illustrated by Macky Pamintuan. ©2010 ISBN 978-1-59961-644-5 $16.95 Published by agreement with Aladdin Paperbacks, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division. This is a reinforced library bound edition. 88 pages

Nancy Drew as an eight year old beginning detective? I have to wonder why someone thought there was a need. I remember being 8 years old and happily reading my original Nancy Drew titles. Sure, she was older than I was but it gave me something to dream about – owning a roadster, going on adventures, traveling… Why couldn’t they develop a new heroine and her sidekicks for girls? Oh, well, I’m going to sit down and read this title and I’ll be right back with my notes. 

Okay, I’m back. If I were in 2nd grade, I’d be reading all of these Nancy Drew books because I voraciously read every series book I could. They are definitely written for a much younger audience and have been updated to be more politically correct. There are moments when I want to scream reading today’s "literature" – some parenting is portrayed as overly protective with 5 block rules but then there are moments where the adults are obviously clueless. Would I be fooled by my children to continue to take them to a tv studio and drop them off without knowing who they’d be with, what they’d be doing, and when they’d be finished?

For those of us who are purists, Nancy, George and Bess have similar characteristics. Nancy’s dad and Hannah remain true to their characters but with slightly improved parenting skills. Reading titles like this make me realize that nearly anyone can write to a formula. Will we have preschool Nancy in picturebook form next? I’m wondering if the intention of publishers is just to keep selling books forever with the characters from the original Nancy Drew. 

I continue to buy many variations of Nancy Drew and would put this in the very youngest collection for beginning readers but not in my middle school collection. 

Personally, my favorite Nancy Drew titles are those that are much longer than the yellow binding versions I read from my local library in the early 70s. I recall one was called The Sign of the Twisted Candles. The wikipedia article on this title shows the original 1933 version was changed as the 1968 version "changes character names, modernizes, condenses, and simplifies the vocabulary of the story." 

When I’m talking about being a Nancy Drew purist, I am referring to the original versions of the books #1-34. I read many of those in dingy, rebound versions as they were discarded from various libraries in the NW part of Iowa. While I kept a few, I wish I’d collected all of the originals. The history of Nancy Drew series makes for interesting reading, even on the wikipedia site. To this day adult women are happy to share their reading of the series when they were young. My BFF Shirley even dressed as Nancy Drew for her community library costume party this year. I wonder if today’s generation of Nancy Drew will engender such passion. 

Thanks for letting me go off on my tangent. While I appreciate that we provide younger, easier versions of fiction, I wish we were providing more difficult versions to stretch readers.