Archive for March, 2007

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Tracy Park, 4/11

March 31, 2007

links to parts one, two, three.

So now Jerry has been living with Harold and Mrs. Crawford for two years. They’re poor, but they’re happy, and with Frank’s three dollars a week, they manage okay and Mrs. Crawford doesn’t have to work so much anymore, which is good because she’s getting old and her rheumatism is pretty bad. Harold is twelve and Jerry is six, and they adore each other. Jerry is a beautiful little girl, and Harold and the other twelve year old boys in the neighborhood want to kiss her all the time. She lets Harold and Dick St. Claire kiss her, but she avoids Tom Tracy and Billy Peterkin.
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Tracy Park, 3/11

March 30, 2007

Links to parts one and two.

There’s an abandoned cottage on the grounds of Tracy Park. It’s called the Tramp House because tramps often sleep there, and when Arthur Tracy came home, Frank suggested they have it torn down. But Arthur is kind, and when he hears that tramps sleep there, he doesn’t try to get rid of them. Instead, he puts in a new door and windows so that the tramps will be more comfortable. Isn’t that cool?

The morning after the storm, Mrs. Crawford’s rheumatism is pretty bad, so she sends Harold for the doctor. On the way, he stops to take a look at the Tramp House, having seen a light there the night before. Inside, on the table that’s the only piece of furniture there, is the dead body of a woman. Read the rest of this entry ?

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Tracy Park, 2/11

March 30, 2007

Link to part one.

So, it’s 7:30, and the Peterkins are the first to show up because they’re uncultured and don’t understand the concept of being fashionably late. Harold does his job, which is to stand at the top of the stairs and say “ladies this way, and gentlemen that way,” but, again, the Peterkins are uncultured and don’t understand, and so Mrs. Peterkin goes the wrong way and Harold has to go take her wraps out of the mens’ dressing-room and put them in the women’s, leading to an accusation of theft later on. Harold is suspected of stealing diamonds three separate times during this book, which is kind of excessive, I think.

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Tracy Park, 1/11

March 30, 2007

Tracy Park, by Mary Jane Holmes, is perhaps my favorite of the books I’ve discovered online. I’m not really sure why that is, because I can’t really think of anything that makes it special, but I’m ridiculously fond of it and I’ve read it quite a few times now.

Frank and Arthur Tracy are brothers. They’re not well off, but they have a wealthy uncle, after whom Arthur is named. Frank marries a young woman named Dolly, and they’re quite poor, but they love each other and they’re pretty happy. Then the uncle dies and leaves all his money to Arthur. Frank and Dolly aren’t too happy about this, but Arthur buys a grocery store for them to run, and they’re better off than they were before. Meanwhile, Arthur moves to Tracy Park, the deceased uncle’s home, and sets himself up as a model gentleman. And he’s naturally aristocratic and generous and stuff, so everyone likes him. He spends most of his time with his best friend, Harold Hastings, and they live at the Park House with the housekeeper, Mrs. Crawford, and her daughter Amy.
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Class of ’29

March 27, 2007

Class of ’29, by Orrie Lashin and Milo Hastings, is the most depressing play I’ve ever read. Not that I’ve read a huge number of depressing plays, but I think it’s fair to say that this one is pretty miserable. It certainly ends miserably, with even the one funny character sharing in the general bad luck.
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Left End Edwards

March 27, 2007

Since I was pretty pleased with The New Boy at Hilltop, I decided to read another Ralph Henry Barbour, Left End Edwards. Now, either Barbour is better at short stories than novels, “Barbour” is a pseudonym for multiple people, some of whom could write better than others, or this book has no excuse for being stupid. I did try to figure out whether Barbour was a pseudonym — I got suspicious when the advertisements at the end of the book were all for Stratemeyer series — and I couldn’t find anything specific, but on the whole I think it wasn’t. Some of the other titles credited to Barbour seem to be romances, which makes it look like he was one guy with a couple of niches. There were certainly Stratemeyer pseudonyms that were credited with multiple series, but they tend to be in the same vein — Laura Lee Hope with “The Bobbsey Twins” and “Bunny Brown and His Sister Sue”, or Alice Emerson with “Ruth Fielding” and “Betty Gordon” — and they were all children’s books.

I’m quite willing to accept the excuse that he was better with short stories, but the fact remains that this book requires an excuse. See, there’s this idiot named Steve — a fifteen year old boy who’s supposed to be pretty good at football. And there’s his best friend, an idiot named Tom who’s only supposed to be okay at football but who does have an incredibly small amount of common sense, which is more than I can say for Steve.
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The New Boy at Hilltop

March 25, 2007

After all those Ruth Fielding books, I was kind of sick of girls, so I set out to find a fun boys’ book. I ended up reading The New Boy at Hilltop, and Other Stories, by Ralph Henry Barbour, except that I didn’t notice the subtitle at first, so I was kind of surprised when I got to what I thought was the second chapter and Kenneth Garwood wasn’t one of the characters. But it really is a boys’ book, so I’m not that disappointed.

Kenneth is the hero of the first story. He arrives at Hilltop, his new school, after Christmas, and is told by the principal that he’ll be rooming with Joseph Brewster, a model student. Ken is sure he’ll dislike Joe, and Joe is kind of upset when he gets back to school and finds that he has a roommate now. So of course they immediately get into a fight, and after that they’re friends.

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Ruth Fielding in the Great Northwest

March 25, 2007

So. Ruth Fielding in the Great Northwest. This one was below average, but I think al the later ones in the series probably are. There’s also a distinct flavor of racism about the main story, which involves Ruth making a movie star out of an American Indian princess. The girl’s name is Wonota, and although everyone likes her and she’s beautiful and smart, there was an unspoken “even though she’s an Indian” at the end of almost every sentence describing her.

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Ruth Fielding at the War Front

March 24, 2007

Ruth Fielding at the War Front is a nice little piece of propaganda. Stratemeyer’s perfect American boys and girls all had to do their duty by their country when the U.S. entered WWI, of course, so in this book, Ruth is working for the Red Cross, Tom is a lieutenant in the army, and Helen is doing something or other in Paris. I would probably know what, specifically, if I’d read Ruth Fielding in the Red Cross, the book before this one. Anyway, Helen is out of the picture for most of this one.

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Ruth Fielding in Moving Pictures

March 23, 2007

While I’ve enjoyed the Ruth Fielding books I’ve been reading, I haven’t been hugely enthusiastic about them. That changes with Ruth Fielding in Moving Pictures. This is my favorite book in the series. I think it’s the one in which Ruth’s potential starts to be realized, and also, it’s a lot of fun.

This is the story of Ruth’s last year at her boarding school, Brierwood Hall, and Ruth and her friends are convincingly nostalgic and sad to leave. Also, they’re not guaranteed diplomas unless they get very good grades, so they all work hard. It’s a more realistic portrayal of school life than you see in most of these series.

But the really special thing about this book is that it’s all about the moving pictures of the title. One day soon before school starts, Ruth and the Cameron twins come across a film crew as they’re out berry-picking. A pretty young actress is posing on a tree branch overhanging a river. The director keeps telling her she doesn’t look scared enough, and finally she’s like, “You know, that’s really funny, because I am scared.” And then she falls into the river. Read the rest of this entry ?

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Ruth Fielding on Cliff Island

March 23, 2007

So, it looks like I’m going to keep working my way through the Ruth Fielding books at Project Gutenberg. Ruth Fielding on Cliff Island takes place a year after Ruth Fielding at Snow Camp. Ruth and her friends — more of them this time — spend Christmas vacation on Cliff Island, which has recently been purchased by Ruth’s friend Belle Tingley’s father. Coincidentally, Ruth is acquainted with a boy named Jerry Sheming, who was run off the island by real estate agent Rufus Blent after Jerry’s uncle, Pete Wilton, was committed to an insane asylum. Yeah, it’s a bit complicated. Pete always said he owned the island, but the deeds were in his treasure box, which was buried by a landslide.

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The Mysterious Shin Shira

March 22, 2007

The Mysterious Shin Shira, by G.E. Farrow, is a book of children’s stories about a guy who is occasionally forced to disappear and reappear elsewhere. It’s narrated by an writer of children’s books, apparently the author himself — some children in one of the stories credit him with having written a book of Farrow’s that’s mentioned on the title page.

When Shin Shira first meets the narrator and finds that he’s a writer, he asks, “What line? You don’t look very clever,” to which the narrator responds, “I only write books for children…and one doesn’t have to be very clever to do that.” I’m still not sure what to think about that, although I suppose the stories do seem as if they’ve been written by someone who thinks you don’t have to be clever to write children’s stories. Not that it’s bad, exactly. It’s just that most of its charm is unintentional. It’s as if the author doesn’t really know what makes fairy tales enjoyable, but stumbles on it by accident. There are children’s books where adults don’t really understand the magical things that are going on and it’s on purpose, but this isn’t one of those.

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Ruth Fielding at Snow Camp + a question

March 22, 2007

Ruth Fielding at Snow Camp is more the sort of Ruth Fielding book I’m used to — lots of little adventures and one mystery that is a kind of background subplot. Ruth, Tom and Helen Cameron, and six of their friends spend a vacation at a big log cabin in upstate New York. The setting provides the adventures: a panther, a snowstorm, etc., and the mystery involves a local boy going by the name of someone who was recently murdered.

The scenes in which the kids are supposed to be having fun are the weakest part of the book. They don’t enjoy themselves as convincingly as the characters in a book by, say, Percy Keese Fitzhugh or Carolyn Wells. Also, one of the “funny” incidents parallels a scene in Louisa May Alcott’s An Old Fashioned Girl a little bit too closely. But then, Ruth herself is a lot like Polly Milton, and that’s one of the things that raises this series above a lot of the others. Ruth actually has a personality — she’s gentle and inclined to worry, but also patient and determined. This gives her a great advantage over, say, the Rover boys, who can each be described in a word(Dick: smart, Sam: amiable, Tom: sociopath).
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Ruth Fielding of the Red Mill

March 21, 2007

After my two recent disappointments with Romance Island and The Second Honeymoon, I decided to read a Stratemeyer Syndicate book next. There’s hardly anyone more reliable than Stratemeyer; by the time you’ve read a few of his productions you know exactly what to expect from the rest, and that’s not always such a bad thing.

So. Ruth Fielding of the Red Mill, by Alice Emerson AKA various employees of Edward Stratemeyer under a collective assumed name. I’d never read this one before, although I’ve read a bunch of the ones where she’s older. It’s the first in the series, so we learn how the orphaned Ruth comes to the Red Mill to live with her uncle, Jabez Potter. He’s the surly miser type, and I like him because when he softens toward Ruth at the end of the book, he doesn’t get any less surly or miserly — I don’t care much whether characters are good or bad. I just like them to maintain some kind of integrity.

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The Second Honeymoon

March 21, 2007

The Second Honeymoon, by Ruby Mildred Ayres, is another disappointing one. I mean, I like a story-extending romantic misunderstanding as much as the next person, but there’s got to be something else going on, too. And then, one misunderstanding can only take you so far unless you dither a lot. I frown upon dithering in fiction. Ayres does not. I read this after seeing an ad for it in the back of Little Old New York. I guess I’m going to be putting the other authors I found there on hold for a bit.

Jimmy Challoner is engaged to an actress named Cynthia Farrow. He passionately adores her. Unfortunately, he’s not all that well off — he’s dependent on his older brother, The Great Horatio. The Great Horatio is not a magician, but an invalid who mostly lives abroad and gives Jimmy a quarterly allowance. Several characters in this book comment on the fact that Jimmy could always, you know, go out and get a job, but since that’s dropped without really being resolved, we’re forced to assume that love is more important that paid employment. I mean, I get that love is more important than paid employment in novels like this, but you can’t just assume that it is; you have to make a case for it.

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