Wednesday, February 5, 2014

A Heart For Business (1958)

A Heart for Business
Adele De Leeuw
1958, The Macmillan Company

She sighed. He had always ordered her around, and for the most part she hadn't minded. But Greg's opinion of her capabilities didn't jibe with her own. That was because he had known her too long, she thought. Just the way he had read down that list of questions... well, it was true she couldn't operate power tools or keep books or do art work.  But that didn't mean she couldn't do anything.

Mary-Ellen Lathrop has a boy next door with a long memory for every single time she failed to show any hard economic sense.  Greg, pleasant but unrelenting, thinks she's being ridiculous to sign up for Junior Achievement, the high school program that guides students through the rigors of setting up and running a small business.

"Get wise to yourself.  You've got lots of things but a head for business - no."

Greg, frankly, is a dick.  Although he has a point.  Despite her genuine desire to show her talent for business, Mary-Ellen (known as Mel) has a tendency to look more at the promised social benefits of the enterprise.  Such as the girl/boy ratio.  Mel befriends the group's Mr. Darcy, a brooding and cynical anti-capitalist and music-loving pianist named Alex Gunther.

Alex seemed disinclined to go on. He stood, aloof and composed, while the silence built up. Mel noticed for the first time that his plaid jacket was worn thin at the elbows, and his trousers had the shine of much wear.

She's besotted, even more so when she discovers his only reason for joining J.A. is to find out how the capitalist machine works from inside.  Son of a skilled machinist who'd been crippled on the job, Alex lived through his family losing everything when his father's employer refused to pay the benefits they owed him.  Now he's uncontrollably bitter, lashing out even at the pretty girl who invites him to use her family's piano (because of course they have one, just as her parents of course love classical music):

He said, in a hard voice, "People like you - " he flung his long arm around the room, encompassing the deep chairs, the lamps, the Oriental rug, the silk draperies, the pictures - "what do you know about people like us? Or care? You're the kind who own the factories that do us out of our rights."

So Mel has an uphill battle with that one.  Meanwhile, her dependable if slightly abusive Greg is being reeled in by a predatory newcomer.  Diane, a redhead with a dramatic streak of her own, hits the J.A. group hard, and Greg forgets Mel exists.

The romances weren't particularly interesting, and the Junior Achivement aspect was dull (see below for why this may be my own little issue) but there is a Mr. Darcy, and he is furious at Big Business, so that's nice. Mel's dad may possibly help him see that all owners aren't bad guys, and he may completely come around and probably ends up being a manager somewhere, but we had a moment, Alex.

Full disclosure: at one point as a child, I did Junior Achievement.  Where Mel's was run by 2 adults, local businessmen, mine was run by 2 nitwit college kids and correspondingly poorly executed.

Acorn Books, 1963

Junior Achivement

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Trish (1951)

Margaret Maze Craig,
1951, Thomas Y. Crowell

“I wonder,” Pat said suddenly, and the tone of her voice was an odd combination of resentment and wistfulness, “how it would feel to be Connie Hyde.”

High school seniors Patricia Ingram and her best friend Mary Jo Tucker are not popular.  They’re not unpopular – Pat has a lovelorn male neighbor she doesn’t want, and neither girl is an outcast - but they want more.  At least, Pat does.  She’s spent her high school career existing on the fringe of the effortless cool clique run by sleek, poised girls like the famous Connie, and she wants that world.  Mary Jo, slightly wiser, suggests there might be aspects to that world Pat hasn’t considered, but Pat has a big reason to ignore this advice – she’s in love with a boy from that group.

Dick Keating – tall, rugged senior. Stubby, biscuit-brown hair and short, thick eyelashes of the same incredible color. Hazel eyes. Lips a trifle full perhaps, but lips that turned up engagingly at the corners when he smiled.  Very white teeth, just a little crooked.  A casual way of wearing clothes, an easy nonchalance of manner.  Dick Keating – the central figure in all her daydreams, and Connie Hyde’s exclusive property!

A chance meeting draws Dick’s attention to the slightly innocent Pat, and the novelty of a girl who isn’t smooth and jaded keeps his interest.  Astonished, Pat is thrilled to begin dating him.  From the start, though, she’s never sure where she stands with Dick, or how he’s going to fall between his interest in her unsophisticated charms and the allure of the familiar Connie.  Later, she begins to see that his interest in her has awakened something else in him, a possibility that he might not just love her but that he might be able to change into the person she thought he was – a boy with values like her own, rather than a boy from a social group that to Pat seems racy and vulgar. 

And then the book whips around, introduces a college boy with a bad reputation who falls instantly in love with Pat and destroys her relationship with Dick by creating (unwittingly) a situation where it seems they’ve had sex.

The last quarter of the book is jarring, and while the resolution between Pat and her flawed prince was believable, the way the book arrives at that resolution is baffling.  Introducing a major character that late, making their relationship that powerful, and writing out Pat’s friends so quickly were all odd choices. Otherwise, a nicely written teen romance.

About the Author
Margaret Maze Craig (1911-1964)
Craig was born and lived in Pennsylvania.  She was married and had 2 children, and worked as a home economics teacher. 

The dedication reads "For my mother, La Belle Sutton Maze."

Other Books by Author
Julie (1952)
Marsha (1955)
Three Who Met (1958)
Now That I'm Sixteen (1959)
It Could Happen To Anyone (1961)

Other Editions

Monday, October 7, 2013

Still More Of The Best Stories For Girls (1972)

Still More Of The Best Stories For Girls (aka Like It Is)
Ed. N. Gretchen Greiner, il. Jim Conahan; il. Tom Nachreiner (cover)
1972, Golden Press

A fairly low-quality anthology of stories which are clearly intended to be very relevant. 

Good-Bye, Miss Kitty by Jane L. Sears
High-school freshman Karen sets out to rehome her beloved cat when her parents’ impending divorce means moving to an apartment that doesn’t allow pets.  By far the best-written and most poignant of the stories in this anthology, this one still has the same odd, unreal quality of most of the others.

Dog-Sitter by Carl Henry Rathjen
Tena nervously faces down her first pet-sitting appointment as she chews on the bitter argument she’d had with her boyfriend’s father about girls applying to vet school.  The outdated – and somewhat dangerous – advice on dog handling is almost enough to distract from the typical denouement in which the heroine realizes – surprise! – that her crisis is all in her own silly little head.

Fly Free by Carol S. Adler
Clare has retreated into herself after an accident amputated two fingers.  Sent on an extended visit to a friend’s family, she’s drawn into the tense dynamic between the engineer father and his level-headed son who has no aptitude for math.  Well-written and involving.

A Person, After All by Constance Kwolek
Anne reads the obituary of a dull, frumpy teacher , and realizes that the woman’s  life contained parallels to her own.

Two Nice Girls by Frances Gray Patton
Two college girls, one black and one white, have a self-consciously self-congratulatory friendship until one gossipy chat exposes more of each’s background than she’d have liked.

They Don't Make Glass Slippers Anymore by Lael J. Littke
A teenager uses her little brother to get the attention of a handsome boy at the local amusement park.

The Year of the Baby by Carol Madden Adorjan
Only child Lorna is furious and unsettled when her parents announce that her mother is pregnant.

The Summer of Charlie Crip by Suzanne Roberts
Six months after her brother’s death in Vietnam, Karry is listlessly hanging around at the family’s summer cottage.  A rescued baby bird and a cautious new boy bring her back to life.

Debbies Faces Herself by Pauline Smith

 No Boy.  I'm A Girl! by M.J. Amft


N. Gretchen Greiner
A Batch Of The Best (1979)
My Little Book of Cats

Jane L. Sears (1929-2012)
Wrote nurse romances; her mother Ruth McCarthy Sears wrote gothic romances.  

Carl Henry Rathjen (1909-1984)
A prolific writer who contributed to the Trixie Belden series but concentrated on science fiction.

Carol S. Adler (1932-)
Better known as C.S. Adler.  Has written many children's books.

Constance Kwolek (1933-2009)
Published one novel, Loner, and wrote articles and short stories.

Frances Gray Patton (1906-2000)
A short story writer best known for her novel Good Morning, Miss Dove.

Lael J. Littke
Author of over 40 books, including many young adult novels and books aimed at the Mormon market.
Carol Madden Adorjan
A teacher who wrote several books.
Suzanne Roberts
Difficult to determine

Pauline Smith

M.J. Amft
A short story writer.

A cranky boy review of this book (with original cover) and Greiner’s followup A Batch Of The Best.

This seems to have been one of a series of young adult anthologies.  The others were: 
The Best Stories For Girls
More Of The Best Stories For Girls
A Batch Of The Best

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

The Skating Rink (1969)

The Skating Rink
Mildred Lee, il. Ilse Koehn (cover)
1969, The Seabury Press

One thing stood out, raw and bitter, in his mind: he was his father’s son and doomed to failure, no matter what he undertook.

Tuck Faraday, 15, is a poor country kid in rural southern Georgia.  Alienated by a stammer that’s evoked constant ridicule from family and classmates since he was little, he’s ready to quit school the moment he turns 16.  Then he meets Pete Degley.

“Degley’s the name,” he said.  “Pete Degley.”  His handshake made Tuck feel older than his fifteen years and he liked the feeling.  Pete Degley told Tuck he was going to put a roller-skating rink here beside the highway, confiding in him so naturally that it wasn’t till afterwards, when he thought the whole thing over, that Tuck saw anything unusual about it.

The rink is going up close to Tuck’s bedraggled house, where his bitter father Myron is struggling to keep a chicken farm going and his exhausted stepmother, Ida, labors every winter over a foully smelly and recalcitrant oil stove.  Tuck, staring at this despairing failure every day, is drawn to Pete’s optimism and the sense that his dream, his skating rink, could actually succeed.

Pete has reasons of his own for talking to Tuck.  His young wife, Lily, is a wonderful skater and Pete, with a bum knee and a couple decades on him, wants a young male skater to pair her with, as an exhibition to draw crowds and to give skating lessons.  So he trains the two in secret.

Curiously, as Tuck gains skill and confidence, he also gains insight.  He finds compassion for his teasing little sister Karen, loutish brothers Clete and Tom, and even his parents. 

About the Author
Mildred Lee Scudder was born a Baptist minister’s daughter in Alabama and spent her childhood travelling around the rural south, a region that appears in most of her books.  She worked as a librarian at the University of Alabama, and married James Scudder in 1947.   It also appears that she had married Edward Schimpff in 1929, and had 2 children. 

Other Books
The Invisible Sun (1946)
The Rock and The Willow (1963)
Honor Sands (1966)
Fog (1972)
Sycamore Year (1974)
The People Therein (1980)
The Bride Of the Lamb

UA list of Alabama authors

Other Editions:

Interesting, the metamorphasis from the first edition to the paperbacks.  Tuck seems to go from being a kid to being a big teen to being John Travolta.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Surfboard Summer (1965)

 Surfboard Summer
Jean L. Sears
1965, Western Publishing Company
edition shown: 1969 Golden Press, A Golden Griffon Romance, il. Luciana Roselli

Suddenly Cindy's throat thickened, for in Mr. Marshall's eyes she caught the same flash of pity she had seen so often in Diane's.  They knew what was wron.  They understood her dread of going home to face her parents - and to look at that empty chair.

It's been five months since 16-year-old Cindy's older brother died in a car crash, and her mother is just going through the motions.  Struggling with her own grief and trying to take care of her mother, Cindy has been looking forward to their annual summer at her grandmother's San Francisco home and is devastated when it's cancelled.  Lonely now that her best friend has gone away for the summer, she wanders down to the beach of her California town and discovers surfing.  And the local surf god, Bix, who swoops in to rescue her when - well, when he nearly runs her over.  She doesn't mind, considering their ah, romantic ride back to the beach.

Crouching low while balancing with his feet tensed on the board's slippery surface, he did an about-face.  Cindy took a deep breath, then hooked her legs around his muscular waist.  A minute later, he lifted her knees up so that she was astride his broad shoulders.

Bix is a poster boy for the California coast -

His blond hair gleamed in the sun, and there were little white squint lines around the tanned skin on his temples, as if he had looked at a lot of oceans and smiled at a lot of pretty girls.

- and Cindy makes an impression by snapping a photo of him that gets picked up by a local newspaper, boosting his already high image and ego.  Then she learns to surf well and, with her fearlessness, wins him completely.  Or as completely as you can win over a guy like Bix.

Other plot points involve Heather, a rich girl whose bout of polio has left her with a crippled leg, and the tension between Bix's quintessentially middle-class surfing club and the beach bums.

Bix's usually affable face hardened before he answered.  "Beach bums!"  He shook his head disgustedly.  "They do anything for show, and they give the rest of us a bad name with their peroxided hair and wild parties."

Cindy's a likeable heroine, kind enough that her first instinct is to protect her heartbroken mother but sensible enough to rebel when her mother's initial foray out of grieving selfishness is to question her daughter's new hobby.  The California surfing scene feels like something out of the world of Gidget, and it's oddly impossible to imagine those nice, healthy, clean-cut early 1960's kids as surfers looking darkly at wild beach bums.  Didn't the beach bums win that war?

About the Author
Born in Kansas, Sears had a mother (Ruth McCarthy Sears) who wrote gothic mysteries and young adult romances.  Sears was a freelance writer who also wrote nurse romances and for Catholic publications.

Other Editions
The original book, which is so less attractive I've swapped it out for the paperback above:

Other books
Ski Resort Nurse
Television Nurse
Las Vegas Nurse


Vintage Nurse Romance Novels - blog with reviews of Sears's nurse novels

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Mystery Of The Long House
Lucile McDonald and Zola H. Ross
1956, Thomas Nelson & Sons
Edition shown: Pyramid Willow Books, 1964

Archaeology!  Barbara’s dark eyes clouded and she tossed her short brown curls crossly.  Of all the dull affairs!  Who cared about embalming life, either past or present.  She wanted to live it – now!

18-year-old Barbara Stratton is used to dealing with new environments; her father’s job in international banking has had the family moving around constantly all her life.  But her latest setting, an island off the coast of Washington State, is a disappointment.  She’d planned a summer of sailing parties, riding trips with the Tack Room Club and dances at the Boat Club.  Instead, she’s dispatched to a remote archaeology dig run by her new brother-in-law, Paul.  The soul of feminine arts, she bakes some brownies as a welcome treat and trips down to the site to introduce herself – and falls into a trench.  Most of the men forgive her quickly, but harried Paul and two of his students remain distant.  They have more pressing concerns than a bored teenager; their dig is of an Indian long house, and part of it appears to be on private land whose owner refuses to let them dig.  With only a partial dig possible, their funding is in jeopardy.  Barbara, meanwhile, is making friends with the locals and poking around in the mystery of the unfriendly neighbor, Mrs. Covey.

As the summer passes, Barbara finds herself becoming more interested in archaeology, and in one particular young archaeologist.  But she disagrees with the group’s aloofness from the locals.  When one man says, bitterly:

“None of these people understand.  They’re stupid and stubborn.”

Barbara counters with: 

…. “He doesn’t understand,” she said slowly.  “And none of you try to make him understand.  Maybe if you did, you’d have better luck.”

Somewhat unusually, the heroine spends much of her time alone.  The love interest angle isn’t developed until late, and Barbara basically rubs Paul the wrong way so that the rest of the team feels awkward befriending her.   Her loneliness and boredom keep her worrying away at the mystery, and finally give her the answer.

Slow, atmospheric and somehow boring.  I liked the other McDonald/Ross collaboration I’ve read, Winter’s Answer, which was similarly slow and atmospheric, but had a liveliness to it that this book lacks.

 Lucile Saunders McDonald (1898-1992)

Born in Oregon, Lucile Saunders became a journalist and worked at various newspapers in the Pacific Northwest.  She married Harold D. McDonald in 1922 and had two children.  She collaborated with Ross on several young adult novels in the 1950s and 1960s.

Zola H. Ross, aka Helen Girdey Ross
Associate Professor of Creative Writing at the University of Washington 1948-1955
Teacher in Kirkland, Washington.  Pseudonyms included Z.H. Ross, Helen Arre, and Bert Lle
Books by both
The Mystery Of Castesby Island
Stormy Year
Friday’s Child
Pigtail Pioneer
Wing Harbor
The Courting Of Ana Maria
Assignment In Ankara
Winter’s Answer
The Stolen Letters
The Sunken Forest
For Glory And The King