Tracing the gateway drugs to my reading addiction, I give a nod to classic series chapter books written for young readers. I’m going to mention three series that I devoured. Two of them were mysteries (it’s a wonder I didn’t end up writing cozies). The third was a sports series.
The Hardy Boys Mysteries were created by Edward Stratemeyer in 1926. The book that captured me was the first in the series (The Tower Treasure). The fact that the climax occurred in a railroad yard (another obsession of mine) didn’t hurt. The series is interesting because the books, originally written by ghostwriters, were rewritten (dumbed down) for the modern reader in the late fifties in order to compete with television. The language was simplified and some of the richer descriptions were truncated or cut. I believe I read the edited versions.
The Happy Hollisters was a series about a family of amateur sleuths. The series was written by Andrew Svenson under the pen name Jerry West. I think I was eight or nine when I started reading the books, and the ten-year-old girl in the story, Pamela, was my first literary crush. I often wondered if there was a real girl behind the fiction, and in researching this blog, I discovered that Pamela was based on Svenson’s daughter Laura.
Bronc Burnett stories involved a New Mexico teen with a rocket arm, pitching for his high school team. The team enters a tourney sponsored by the American Legion. Each book covered a different level of the tourney, culminating in a national championship. Subsequent books covered exhibition series against the Mexican champions, Canadian champions…
Each story had a moral—my introduction to a story’s theme. Twenty-eight tales were authored by Wilfred McCormick. I generally stuck to the baseball stories, though the football stories were good, too.
I don’t suppose these stories would matter to the modern reader. I grew up in a gee-whiz world, where families that solved crimes together stayed together, and the guy that won the game in the ninth inning was the one with moral courage. No matter. I cherish the books, and a representative of each series sits on my keeper shelf in a place of honor.
What books captured you when you were young?
My father is a voracious reader, and so, I was too. Topics I read were all over the map, but what really triggered me into being a full-time reader was Edger Rice Burroughs’ John Carter of Mars series. I think I was 19 before I read general fiction and non-fiction for pleasure. haha