What do you think might be the best book title ever?

November 26, 2007

I’m pretty sure I’ve never come across one better than Shirley Temple and the Screaming Specter.

In the 1940s, the Whitman Publishing Company of Racine, Wisconsin, put out a number of these “Authorized Editions” — purely fictional mysteries and adventures of real life stars or popular characters (one of the books advertised in the back of the Shirley Temple one is called Little Orphan Annie and the Gila Monster Gang). They continued putting out these sorts of books into the sixties — I bought my dad an Annette Funicello one once, but somehow it’s ended up on my shelves — but in the forties they had real stars, like Ginger Rogers, Judy Garland, and Dorothy Lamour. Some of them featured the stars as themselves, but in a bunch of them, they’re, like, alternate universe versions of themselves: the have the same names and appearances, but entirely different lives. In Shirley Temple and the Screaming Specter (by Kathryn Heisenfelt), Shirley is herself and people keep recognizing her, but in Annette: The Desert Inn Mystery, which was written y the same author, Annette Funicello is an ordinary girl who has been raised in California by her strict grandparents.

I’m only halfway through Shirley Temple and the Screaming Specter, but it’s lots of fun. Shirley is staying at a mostly deserted resort with some family friends, where she hears that a lot of strange things have been happening ever since some people blew up a rock under which a witch was supposed to have been buried. Shirley doesn’t believe in witches, but she knows something is up, because people keep dying. At the point where I left of, she’s just found a small girl in, like, a pile of garbage or something.

I’m figuring that the guy who told Shirley about the screaming specter must be the villain, because he’s an artist and the one piece of his that Shirley has seen is an ugly portrait of a beautiful woman. It would be cool if he wasn’t, though, because he’s one of the most interesting characters I’ve ever come across in a book of this kind.

Shirley Temple and the Screaming Specter

The Desert Inn Mystery


  1. Oooooo! I wanted to be Annette Funicello when I was little and lived for the old old reruns of the Mickey Mouse Club when I was younger. I need! a Funicello mystery.

  2. Disney actually republished the Annette mysteries as a boxed set a few years ago, so they should be pretty easy to find.

    By my last count, I have more than 40 Annette Funicello songs in my iTunes. I get made fun of a lot for that.

  3. Whitman Publishing of RAcine, Wisconsin published one of my favorite books of all time, the simply-named 365 Bedtime Stories, better known (if you’re searching for it on eBay) as “What a Jolly Street.” It has a story for each day of the year, involving the families, children, and pets who live on What-a-Jolly Street. I read it as a kid, and read it as part of the bedtime ritual for each of my kids.

    This doesn’t answer your question, I know, but I had to comment anyway.

  4. Whitman publishing is looked down on by a lot of people, I think, but they published some of the strangest and most interesting children’s books I’ve ever seen.

  5. I know I had that Annette book as a kid–does the plot have something to do with pigeon’s blood rubies?

    • I don’t remember any rubies, but there are a few other books in the series. Maybe it was one of those?

      • Oops–Come to think of it, the rubies were in the other Annette book I had, Annette & The Mystery of Moonstone Bay. I think my mom picked both up at the same garage sale and I sped through them one after the other, so they run together in my head.

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