Saturday, January 24, 2015

Hold Fast The Dream (1955)

Hold Fast The Dream
Elizabeth Low,
Harcourt, Brace, 1955

It was noontime in Paris. The medley of sound from bell-tower and boulevard fell faintly on Blithe Moreland's ears, but her hands did not stop work. She continued to press little pellets of clay onto the yard-high figure of a striding man on the stand before her, entirely absorbed in the construction of the human shoulder.

Blithe Moreland is in Paris for the summer, working in the highly sought-after sculpting class of Monsieur Pierre, hoping to impress the master and convince her family back home that art, not college, is her future.  A weekend trip to Salzburg derails her plans, introduces her to the kind Lang family and gives her the artistic inspiration she's been seeking.

Quiet fell upon the crowd and, at the flourish of a trumpet, the famous Lippizan horses with their handsome riders filed through the gate in a slow line, eight white horses stepping proudly in unison like lovely, perfect creatures from another world. This was the world-famous Spanische Reitschule of Vienna, the Spanish Riding School; Blithe had often heard of it.

Moving to Salzburg to study the horses, Blithe is crushed to discover they've now gone on tour. She contents herself studying other horses, throwing herself into sketching and investigating the anatomy of the horse in preparation for someday creating a sculpture.

Apart from Blithe's artistic ambitions, two sub-plots involve a romance (of course) and the slow-developing relationship between the young American and the Austrians she comes to know.   It's a relationship marked by humiliating mistakes and mutual confusion, but with goodwill on both sides.

Both the romance and the international harmony plots take a back seat to Blithe as an artist, a choice that pleases me. The slow pace of her progress is also likeable, and the resolution is believable.  My only real quibble is with the "where'd that come from?" nature of the romance - it pops up at the end of the book as an accomplished feature of her life, but until about 5 pages before, she wasn't even aware she liked the guy.

Kirkus review 
(atypically inaccurate)

Saturday, January 17, 2015

First Love (1963) short stories

First Love
Gay Head, editor; John Fernie, il (cover)
1963, Scholastic Magazines, Inc.

14 warm and glowing stories selected by Gay Head.

Stardust by Virginia Laughlin (originally Boys Don’t Understand)
16-year-old Wendy Warren dreams about the older brother of the boy next door.  23-year-old Brian complimented her and she fell head over heels, much to the annoyance of his younger brother Tod.

A Girl Called Charlie by William Kehoe
Quiet, thoughtful Charlotte Hollister finds a meeting of the minds with Ridge Evans when he protests the “going steady” fad in their high school.

 Blue Valentine by Mary Gibbons (orig in Woman's Day, Feb. 1954, shown to left)
16-year-old Angelo Colucci, oldest and only son in a family of girls, chooses what he thinks is the ultimate feminine gift for his adored girlfriend, Ethel-Irene Simons, daughter of a local professor.  His instincts are perfect – except he doesn’t realize how her parents will react.

The Walnut Trees by Virginia Akin (originally in Woman's Day Magazine)
Jenny Lee’s crush on a handsome teacher is resolved in an unexpectedly gracious way when his engagement is announced.

Once Upon A Pullman by Florence Jane Soman
He raised on eyebrow. “Just fasten your seat belt and let me take care of the landing.”
19-year-old William Fowler tries to impress a girl he meets on a train by cribbing from a novel about a smooth seducer.

Epicac by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. (originally in Collier's)
A machine helps a man woo his coworker, and falls in love with her itself.

Sixteen by Maureen Daly
The narrator tells of a night out of time, when she goes ice skating and meets a boy and waits for him to call and realizes he never will. A strange, dreamy story.

Eighteen by Charlie Brodie
The boy from Daly’s Sixteen tells his side of the skating night.

Prelude by Lucille Vaughan Payne (originally in Seventeen)
Nancy is popular, pretty and comfortably middle-class; her only “quirk” is an unusual affinity for classical music. Stephen in invisible, awkward and poor, but he also loves music and plays the piano.  They fall in love, but Nancy has to decide if she can accept the change their dating will bring to her life of popularity.

Tomboy by Gertrude Schweitzer
Frances is uninterested in the social/romantic life at school, and resists growing up.  Forced to attend a 16th birthday party for a cousin, she quickly plans with old friend Skeeter to slip out. To catch frogs in a nearby marsh. Then she meets a college boy…

Bittersweet by Arlene Hale (originally title "First Love")
Leslie and Claude were high school sweethearts. Then he went to college, and suddenly, stopped writing. When he comes home for winter break, they’re forced to confront the truth.

Who is Sylvia? By Laura Nelson Baker (originally in Seventeen, September 1959 issue, shown left)
Adam falls in love with quirky, aloof Sylvia, who recently moved to town and lives with her grandparents. When parental decisions suddenly end their relationship, Adam faces the ephemeral nature of love.
Theme Song by Dave Grubb
Edith, a dreamy girl working in her father’s small restaurant, finds romance in the love life of a young man, a soldier posted at the local base, who comes in and talks about the girl he left behind.

Tough Guy by Peter Brackett
Surly, angry Byron is always ready to fight but secretly is in love with Nina and even writes a poem about her. The verse falls into the wrong hands, and destroys his bad boy rep.  But it also gets Nina’s attention.

The authors
Several of the authors were difficult to find online. This has to be one of the most unlikely places to encounter Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.  His short, EPICAC, was first published in 1950, in Collier's Weekly, and the central figure (a computer) was based on the real-life ENIAC.

Gay Head
Hi There, High School! (1960)
Etiquette For Young Moderns (1954)
Dear Gay Head (1962)
Boy Dates Girl (1961)
Party Perfect (1963)

Florence Jane Soman
Love Is A Lonely Thing (1953)
A Break In The Weather (1959)
Picture Of Success (1966)

Maureen Daly
Seventeenth Summer (1942)
Sixteen and Other Stories (1961)
Acts of Love 
First A Dream

Arlene Hale
a prolific writer of nurse romances. 

Laura Nelson Baker
Somebody, Somewhere
The Special Year



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.