Tuesday, September 28, 2010

That Archer Girl (1959)

Anne Emery, il. Charles Geer (cover)
1959, The Westminster Press

Anne Archer was a Girl Who Had Everything.

A slim blonde from the oldest family in town, Anne Archer is a senior at the exclusive Auburn Academy, a private day school in a wealthy Chicago suburb. The holiday season, and the approaching end of her high school career, plus the spectacular debut her mother's planning for the spring, are making Anne restless.

...the debut always brought with it the gnawing question of what she would do afterward.

Part of her solution to the anxious boredom is to crash the local public high school's dance with another girl's boyfriend. Her problems seem to recede when she falls hard for Ron, and he for her. But she's aware that he's fallen in love with only one side of her, and she's even slightly conscious that if he sees who she can be, it would be a disaster.

Anne has a reputation, and not just as the local golden girl. Although her family connections and personal looks ensure a certain level of acceptability, she also has an unsavory history of going too far with too many boys. Anne dismisses the latter; that's who she was last year. This year - and the New Year - will be different. But when her best friend, brainy Christie, finds a male soulmate, it drives Anne over the edge. Despite her love for Ron, Anne's driven to make brainy, distant Kent respond to her. To be rebuffed torments her, and as Kent retreats further from her advances, she becomes frantic to gain his interest.

Anne's nastiness is made clear early:

"I hate people that make me feel sorry for them," Anne said. "It makes me kick them around. They ought to know better."

There are hints of why Anne's so cold and controlling - childhood cruelty at school, her parents' distance - but while they're offered as a way to understand her, she's never excused by either the author or the other characters. Anne herself takes pains to conceal any weakness, attacking it in others and impatient with criticism.

On the other hand, Ron's a little overly obsessed with Anne as his personal property. Her behavior is wrong, but his anger at her flirting seem a little creepy coming from an unmarried high school boy regarding his girlfriend.

Image Cascade

Other Books by Author

Dinny Gordon Series:

Dinny Gordon, Freshman
Dinny Gordon, Sophomore
Dinny Gordon, Junior
Dinny Gordon, Senior

Senior Year
Going Steady
Sorority Girl
High Note Low Note
Campus Melody

County Fair
Hickory Hill

Sweet Sixteen
First Love True Love
First Orchid for Pat
First Love Farewell
The Popular Crowd
The Losing Game

Scarlet Royal
Vagabond Summer
That Archer Girl
Married on Wednesday
A Dream to Touch
Bright Horizons
Mountain Laurel
Jennie Lee, Patriot

American Friend: Herbert Hoover
Mystery of the Opal Ring
Danger in a Smiling Mask
Carey's Fortune
The Sky Is Falling
Free Not to Love

A Spy in Old Philadelphia
A Spy in Old Detroit
A Spy in Old New Orleans
A Spy in Old West Point

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Beth Hilton: Model (1961)

Lee Wyndham
1961, Julian Messner

"Honestly, Beth, the way you stumble along, I expect you to fall over the flowers in the rug!" Mother said after an exasperating half-hour of walking and pivoting instruction in the living room.

New Jersey girl Beth is 17 when the painful comparisons to her cousin Lissa, a model since childhood, and an unfortunate experience in a school fashion show prompt her to enroll in charm school. Initially, all she wants is to learn some grace and poise, but a chance meeting with an arrogant young photographer spurs her to a long-derided ambition - modeling. She scrapes her way into the Queen's Agency and, upon graduation from high school, enters the world of modeling in New York City.

During the fifty-three minutes she had spent before Alex Turner's camera, she had eaten a bite out of seventeen generously spread peanut-butter sandwiches - and after the first nine or ten, it wasn't easy to "glow" over The Product.

Meanwhile, jaded child model Lissa is growing dissatisfied with her own lot, yearning toward Hollywood and jealous of her heretofore meek cousin's new confidence and ambition. Matters come to a head during an ice storm on a mountain, surprisingly enough. Matters between Beth and the treacherous photographer Amos resolve somewhat earlier; it will be no surprise that the two have chemistry.

Wyndham's books are always clear and well-written, and make the most of the careers highlighted. With such a glamorous career, though, she seems to have been overly cautious. There are nice bits about the realities of modeling, but not as much atmosphere as you might hope. There is one very funny scene when Beth, at a shoot to model a wedding gown, finds herself locked out of the church as a sympathetic crowd gathers around her, thinking she's been jilted.

Clothing porn, of course:

Her number was a swash-buckled black broadtail, supple as finest fabric and cut like a smart cloth coat, with a large notched collar and a saucy black beret to top it off.

But not as much as you'd expect. There is a sense of serious purpose about the career of modeling; history is given, techniques discussed, and it's made clear that Beth's half-hearted jump into the field has to become something more if she hopes to be a success.

Beth was impressed. John Robert Powers had founded the very first model agency. She had read about him and his famous "long-stemmed American Beauties" - Powers Girls who went on from modeling to earn fame and fortune in other fields as well: as actresses, motion-picture stars, fashion directors, designers, stylists, fashion-show producers.

At the end of the book is a short piece titled "If You Want To Be A Model." In italics is the advice "Don't let anyone "sell" you on the idea of doing anything which you suspect is not right or proper."

Other Editions
1964 Tempo paperback

Author Bio
Jane Andrews Lee Hyndman aka Lee Wyndham was born in Russia in 1912. She came to the U.S. in 1923, and married in 1933. She worked in book publishing as an editor, for the Philadelphia Inquirer in the 1950s, and was a lecturer and columnist through the 1960s. This book draws on her own modeling experience. As a teacher at an NYU writing class, she taugh a young Judy Blume.


Young Adult Fiction
Candy Stripers, New York, Messner, 1958
Lady Architect, New York, Messner, 1957
Buttons and Beaux, with Louise Gallagher, New York, Dodd, Mead, 1953
Golden Slippers, Vera Bock, illustrator, New York, Longmans, Green, 1953
Dance to My Measure, New York, Messner, 1958
Slipper Under Glass, Vera Bock, illustrator, New York, Longmans, Green, 1952
Camel Bird Ranch, Bob Riger, illustrator, New York, Dodd, Mead, 1955

Children's Fiction
A Dance for Susie, Jane Miller, illustrator, New York, Dodd, Mead, 1953
On Your Toes, Susie!
Susie and the Ballet Family, Jane Miller, illustrator, New York, Dodd, Mead, 1955
Susie at Dance Camp
Family at Seven Chimney House
Sizzling Pan Ranch, Robert D. Logan, illustrator New York, T.Y., Crowell, 1951

First Book of Opera
Writing for Children and Teen-agers, New York, Writer's Digest, 1968
Florence Nightengale
Holidays In Scandinavia
Ballet For You
Thanksgiving, Hazel Hoecker, illustrator, New York, Garrard, 1963

Fairy Tales
The Mermaid and the Three Magic Rings
Russian Tales of Fabulous Beasts and marvels, retold by Lee Wyndham
Tales of Ancient Araby, New York, Watts, 1960
Tales from the Arabian Nights, Robert J. Lee, il, Racine, Whitman Publishing Co., 1965
Chinese Mother Goose Rhymes
The winter child; an old Russian folktale retold by Lee Wyndham

Monday, July 19, 2010

Ever After (1948)

Ever After
Phyllis Whitney, il. Elinor Darby (cover)
1948, Houghton Mifflin Company

The blue eyes that took in everything and gave out nothing examined Marel critically, coveted her hat and came wearily to rest when they reached her portfolio.
"Oh," she said. "One of those. Just out of art school, I suppose?"

Margaret Elizabeth "Marel" Pope comes to New York City from Chicago determined to make her way as an illstrator of children's books. When her initial interview at Embree Studios ends in the gentle observation that her drawings lack life, Marel goes off freshly determined to improve her work and win a place there. She luckily has a wealthy aunt, Peggy, whose fame as a hatmaker has resulted in a penthouse apartment she's opened to her struggling niece.

Marel won't stay long with Peggy. She quickly befriends a young writer, Chris Mallory, and they fall in love. But with postwar housing at a premium, the young couple can only find a tiny studio, which blows the problems of their early months of marriage all out of proportion. Does Marel believe that a woman can't have a career and a husband, as so many of her friends claim?

Whitney had a talent for summing people up. Marel's cynical coworker Gail:
...a tall, rather brassy-looking girl came to the door of the waiting room. No hair could ever have grown that color, but it was beautiful, sleekly combed and certainly eye-taking. She'd have been quite pretty except for the hard lines about her mouth and the suspicious way her blue eyes regarded the world.

The romance is quite nice, and Chris is a model young husband, willingly sharing the chores in a very modern way. Everything, in fact, is very 21st century until Marel realizes, as have so many heroines in so many romances, that their problems are all her fault.
About the author
Phyllis Ayame Whitney worked in libraries and bookstores in Chicago before marrying George A. Garner in 1925. They had a daughter, Georgia, in 1934. She worked for the Chicago Sun and the Philadelphia Inquirer during the 1940s. Her first book, A Place For Ann, was published in 1941. In 1950 she re-married; according to her NYT obituary, she divorced Garner in 1945 partly because he was not supportive of her writing. Two of her mysteries for children won the Edgar Allen Poe Award, and she was awarded the Grand Master Award from the Mystery Writers of America in 1988.
Books for teens
Nobody Likes Trina (friendship)
The Fire And The Gold (early San Francisco)
A Long Time Coming (migrant workers)
Step To The Music (Civil War)
Linda's Homecoming
Willow Hill (race)
A Place For Ann

Creole Holiday (acting)
The Highest Dream (working at the UN)
Love Me, Love Me Not
The Silver Inkwell (writer)
A Window For Julie (window dresser)
A Star For Ginny (illustrator)


Other editions

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Stand Fast And Reply (1943)

Lavinia R. Davis,
1943, The Junior Literary Guild and Doubleday, Doran and Company

The summer visiting Aunt Helen up at Rye had been a flop. Aunt Helen hadn't known any of the younger crowd, and though Bitsy had tried to make friends she had stayed an outsider. She had comforted herself with the thought that at Sea Cliff she was one of the gang, but now, after two days, she wasn't at all sure. Bitsy felt cold and apprehensive as it occured to her that maybe she was the one who had changed. She had been something of a leader in the old rough-and-tumble, kid days, but maybe from now on she would always be on the outside.

When 17-year old Elizabeth "Bitsy" Close overhears the smoothest, most desirable boys in their upscale shore resort dismiss her as a kid, she's horrified at the idea that she might be socially doomed when she returns to her private Manhattan school in the fall. She's actually relieved when her parents break the news that a) bad investments have drained their finances and b) this, plus her father's orders overseas, means that her, her mother and her little brother Stanton will not return to their New York City apartment, but go live with relatives on a farm in Ohio. It may be strange and remote, but at least she won't endure the snubs and humiliation of being a social failure.

After a series of inevitable misunderstanding and awkward moments as the New York girl raised among catty socialites mingles with plain-spoken and taciturn farmers, Bitsy proves herself a hard worker. And her novelty makes her an instant hit at her new school. In short, the move does work out nicely for her social status. In the contrary way of things, however, that means less than it did in New York. With chores and farm work to do, the students scatter each afternoon, and Bitsy's no exception. Her closest friend is her cousin Tim, whose dedication to farming is in contrast to his older brother's; Bruce dreams of machinery and longs to be an airman, a desire inflamed by the nearby air base. Tim's a pure farmer; impressed by Bitsy's city style, he's more impressed by her willingness to help out on the farm.

"Wait until you meet my cousin Bitsy," he said proudly. "She's some looker and she works like a man."

Then her old life rears its head in the form of Byrd Gaylord (and here I pause in appreciation of such a name), the smoothest and most desirable of those older boys who'd dismissed her months earlier as a kid. Now, though, Byrd is in the Air Force and, lonely for his old world, latches onto her as a familiar face. Flattered and newly confident by her success in Ohio, Bitsy returns his interest. But is Byrd really what she wants from life?

A well-written story with an engaging heroine and atmospheric surroundings. Bitsy's a tad too adaptable; she tends to quickly grasp what she's doing wrong and correct it without trouble, and her social success is a bit overdone, if satisfying. Unusual book, in that she doesn't struggle much with the typical teen stuff, but cuts to the chase with the big issues - who to marry, what life to live, the survival of the farm, etc. Maybe because this is a war book, Bitsy's focused much more on adult issues than on teen ones.

A few things rankle or stand out. Bruce's casual dismissal of the Polish immigrant farm hand Steve as a dumb Pole, and the confusion whether he's mildly retarded or just a foreigner with limited English and emotional problems from WWI. The creepy trick Steve plays with a dead dog. The use of the word 'terrific' as a synonym for 'terrible.' The cool evaluation of a neighbor boy upon meeting Bitsy for the first time, as he sums her up as a nice piece. Tim's bluntness, which is meant to be natural but which seems to afflict him mostly around Bitsy; he's plenty smooth and courteous around a major from the nearby air base, for example. And finally, one character uses the phrase 'squaw winter,' apparently a regional term for the first freeze of winter, and which I've never heard before; Indian summer, yes, squaw winter, no.
About the author
(1901-1961) Lavinia Riker Davis also wrote as "Wendell Farmer."
Other books

Young Adult
Come Be My Love
Hearts In Trim
A Sea Between

Buttonwood Island
Plow Penny Mystery
Pony Jungle
Hobby Horse Hill
Melody, Mutton Bone and Sam
Sandy's Spurs
Janey's Fortune
The Secret of Donkey Island
Donkey Detective
We All Go Away
Americans Every One
Adventures In Steel (NF)
Island City: Adventures in old New York
It Happened On A Holiday (SS)
Round Robin
Spniney and Spike and the B-29

Roger and the Fox
Danny's Luck
The Wild Birthday Cake
Summer Is Fun

Evidence Unseen
Threat Of Dragons
Barren Heritage

Short Stories (children)
"Champion Fire ’n Feather" in the anthology Great Stories About Dogs

Jane Cowl dahlias


Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Frances By Starlight (1958)

Frances By Starlight
Winifred E. Wise, il. Evelyn Copelman (cover)
1958, Macrae Smith Company

Spring was late this year, but Franny Cochrane was early. Burrowing in the back of her big closet, she felt frustrated. All the clothes she didn't want came out of nowhere to fall down on her head; they were all the tiresome winter dresses and tops and skirts that she had been wearing for a thousand days and years and months - or so it seemed. But somewhere amidst the ghostly clatter of empty hangers there ought to be a dress of daffodil-yellow cotton that seemed to her to be the essence of spring! She finally found it - but laid away in a box and sadly in need of pressing.

18-year-old fashion design student Frances Cochrane is discontented. Boyfriend Hank treats her more like a pal than a special, fragile flower, her two brothers aggravate her, and she's thoroughly conquered her Chicago environs. Now she dreams of getting out of the Midwest for the summer. The chance arrives with her wealthy aunt Fran, who readily agrees to take the teen back to her California home for a whirl of social activity. But Fran has her eye on a different goal - Hollywood, and a chance to use her design training in the costume world. She soon discovers the barriers between her and that dream. Brooding wannabe actor Michael Ybarra gives her an inside track to a job as a messenger girl on the studio lot of Triumph Productions. And eventually Frances gets - and with Mike's help, takes - her chance.

"What's wrong with being a butcher?" Franny asked with asperity.
"Everything - if your ancestors were Spanish landlords like mine happen to have been."

Along the way, she's fallen in love with Mike. The class-conscious, sulky, handsome young actor is forever on the make, a quality that puzzles Frances, who balks at the amount of lying and toadying he does to further his career prospects. Frankly, it's never really explained why she's in love, except that she's temporarily in a land where lemons grow on trees and working in a place where you see movie stars, and she's slightly addled by it all. And then, as another wannabe-Mike-girlfriend describes him:

"There's something about him. Makes you think that if he had just the right girl, he'd be different. If he'd only let you be the girl, you know."

That's a highly dangerous quality in a boy.

A generally fun, well-written book, with a gratifying emphasis on the girl's ambition over romance, and her rueful realization that great ambitions come with a social price.

* The stars Frances spots are Danny Kaye, Mel Ferrer and Jeanne Crain
*When Mike picks her up for a day at the beach, she innocently asks why he's lashed a toboggan to the roof of his car - it's a surfboard.
* the bit about horse operas, and the studio lots filled with NYC streets

About the Author
Winifred Esther Wise was born in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, and worked as a reporter, a writer on Comptom's Encylopedia and as an ad exec at Marshall Field & Company. She married Stuart Palmer (1905-1968), a writer of mysteries who did the Miss Hildegarde Withers series. They lived on a ranch in the San Fernando Valley, and had three children. In the Wisconsin Academy Review excerpts from her unpublished autobiography, Wise writes of her experiences in WWII Chicago and living in a remote house on the dunes in Indiana with her first daughter, Jennifer.

Wisconsin Academy Review article - The Life and Times of Winifred E. Wise (I)
Wisconsin Academy Review article - The Life and Times of Winifred E. Wise (II)
Wisconsin Academy Review article - The Life and Times of Winifred E. Wise (III)
Wikipedia on Compton's Encyclopedia

Books -fiction
Frances A La Mode
Frances By Starlight
"Minnow" Vail
Tammy: Adventure in Squaw Valley
The Wishing Year

Books - nonfiction
Thomas Alva Edison: The Youth and His Times
Young Edison
Jane Addams of Hull-House
Swift Walker: A True Story of the American Fur Trade
Thomas Alva Edison. (Real People series)
Rebel in Petticoats. The Life of Elizabeth Cody Stanton
Harriet Beecher Stowe: Woman With a Cause
Fanny Kemble: Actress, Author, Abolitionist
Fray Junipero Serra and the California Conquest
Benjamin Franklin

The Revolt of the Darumas

Not sure
Away With the Circus
Lincoln's Secret Weapon
Chipula: A Saga of Old Hungary. Privately printed for Theresa Renner, 1969.
Forget-Me-Nots and Pigweed: The Life and Times of Winifred F. Wise. Unpublished, 1993.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Stephanie Lane: Editorial Secretary (1967)


Betty E. Haughey, il. Ray Abel (cover)
1967, Julian Messner

Stephanie took a Fifth Avenue bus for the fifteen blocks to the apartment, feeling very much a part bustling, home-bound New Yorkers. It was a good feeling.

Recent college grad and small-town Pennsylvania girl Stephanie Lane is happy to have achieved her short-term goal of moving to New York City and getting her foot in the door at a magazine. True, she's sharing a tiny place with a friend and the job is secretarial rather than editorial, and at a trade magazine (Elementary, a magazine for teachers) rather than a glossy, but it's a real success for a girl who knows nobody. She quickly learns that her job is going to be complicated by office politics. The magazine's editor, Elizabeth Rafferty, was recently hired over the head of associate editor Ann Michaels, and everyone is split between loyalties to either Miss Rafferty or Ann. Stephanie, forced to take sides, is drawn to Rafferty as Ann's cohorts make her uneasy.

Outside work, Stephanie begins dating native New Yorker David Powers. Her social life initially provides the fun side of reading old books. The fashions and the places seen through the prism of 43 years can be mind-bogglingly alien:
Later that afternoon, Jennie appeared beside Stephanie's desk, a pert red velvet pillbox perched atop her blonde curls.

or mind-bogglingly familiar:
Down below the parapet on which she was standing stretched the Wollman Memorial Skating Rink in Central Park, crowded with laughing, sweatered skaters. Beyond the rink she could see the tall hotels and apartment buildings of Central Park West bordering the park.

The plot moves along briskly and, right on cue, troubles pile up. Miss Rafferty goes away on business and the office relaxes so much that they're in danger of missing a deadline. A mysterious sharp decline in ad sales matches the mysterious sharp increase at their competitor, hinting at a sabateour at Elementary. Her father has a heart attack. Sweet and attractive David becomes a jerk.

Now for the darker side of old books. David, a seemingly perfect guy, produces a massive hatred of working women from out of nowhere, along with a 'quit or I walk' marriage proposal that Stephanie, stunned, turns down. Her sleepwalking misery over David's defection helps distract her from her career troubles until it's almost too late. 

The characters are well drawn and convincing, there is a nice amount of description and atmosphere, along with the career work and romance, and it's nicely resolved. And the situation with Stephanie's family alone is commendable, neatly switching the traditional situation around in what may be a little convenient but is a very nice trick to free our heroine from a very old girltrap.

So many career romances involve nursing or teaching or other careers I'm unfamiliar with, so it's nice to see something I know and fun to see how much publishing has - and hasn't - changed. Trade magazines, the frustrated longing to be working on glossies, cramming ads in at the last minute because of heedless salesmen, offices where men are the minority - all the same. A paper office, typewriters and foundry proofs (ie, final proofs made from set type) - gone. Extinct. Vanished. It's astonishing how completely technology goes away. Jennie's little red pillbox could always return as a zany retro look, but foundry production is never coming back.

I was an English major, got a foot in the door via an internship which is basically an updated version of an editorial secretary, and worked in trade publications (ie, not the prestigious ones). And this exchange still rings true:
"Why didn't I major in journalism or something else instead of English? It's totally useless unless you want to teach. And I don't."

Stephanie's wail of dismay echoes down the years. Her roommate's advice bears repeating, sometimes as a mantra;
"No, it's not useless," Joann had said. "There are dozens of fields here connected with literature: publishing, both books and magazines, bookstores and libraries."
Wollman Memorial Skating Rink (now has an unfortunate name on it)

Other books
William Penn: American Pioneer
About the author
Betty Elen Haughey was from Pittsburgh. The only information I could find was that on the back of this book. Online, all I found was the Penn book and a research paper. She attended the University of Pittsburgh, graduated with a degree in fiction writing, worked in Pittsburgh and then moved to New York, where she followed a career path similar to Stephanie's. She returned to Pittsburgh eventually and worked for a research organization. Her final comments on the back cover flap was that she hoped to write more books for young people. It seems that she did not, and considering the generally high quality of this one, that seems a shame.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Too Bad About The Haines Girl (1967)

Too Bad About The Haines Girl
Zoa Sherburne, il. Cynthia Basil (cover)
1967, William Morrow and Company

It was like walking in the shadows, Melinda thought, like moving through a nightmare that went on and on. No matter how bright the day, how gay the companions, the cloud was there, a chill thing ready to fall about her shoulders like a clammy coat, silencing her unthinking laughter and dimming her easy smile.

From the first paragraph of the book, Melinda Haines knows she is pregnant. She's known for a while. She's denied it to herself, she's begged God to change it, and now she's numbly accepting it's true. She's 17, a senior in high school, and she's going to have a baby in a little under six months. Now she has to tell Jeff, her boyfriend and unofficial fiance. They love each other and they had already planned to get married eventually, but he had been determined to finish school and support his widowed mother and little brother first. She's torn between anger at him, anger at the situation and anger at herself. She can't find the words to tell him at first, then snaps at him when he tries to take her hand and draw her along to their next class.

"Don't yank at me, Jeff. You know I hate it."

He stared at her. "Sometimes," he said deliberately, "sometimes I have the feeling you hate me."

She bit her lip childishly, but there was nothing childish about the look in her eyes. "Sometimes," she said, "I wish I did."

A classmate, the knowing Polly Wyman, spots Melinda's dilemma with that unerring instinct of the born predator, and tells her of a woman who performs abortions for $200. Melinda is sickened - but inspired. Her worst nightmare could end, if she had this abortion. No one would know about the pregnancy, there would be no rumors, no gossip. And it's the hideously predictable gossip that Melinda most fears. The way her life, her and Jeff's romance and their unlucky, impulsive act and its consequences, will become public fodder, will be the latest thing everyone in her and her family's 'nice' circles will chew on with the solemn, sad glee of the righteous. Melinda hates that above all else, and the idea of escaping it, of keeping her privacy and her status, is unbearably tempting.

Melinda grapples with a variety of temptations. The abortion is only one route that occurs to her as she struggles, mostly alone, with her situation. Gazing into the darkness of the alley behind her home, she dreams of disappearing. To walk out and hitch a ride and never be seen again. She finds her mother's sleeping pills in the medicine cabinet and considers how easy an overdose would be. Jeff, faced with driving her to the woman who will perform abortions, suggest eloping.

There are anachronisms, of course, largely involving the social setup of the school (I find the idea of public high schools having school songs just hysterical) and that roundabout way older teen books had about discussing sex.

At first necking in a parked car was just exciting. It was the excitement of finding out about yourself... the wonder of discovering what you could feel for another person, a very special person. You thought you were the only ones in the entire world who felt like this, and it got harder and harder to pull away...

But there's a great deal right with the book. Sherburne does spot-on character descriptions, like this one for Polly:

She gave the impression, after a while, that she could tell any story,even Little Women, and have it come out sounding a little smutty.

And she has a knack for moving the plot along. That the plots are somewhat relentlessly relevant, a sort of precursor to the television episodes of ABC's Afterschool Specials, is part of the charm.

Most importantly, Melinda is very real. She is perhaps given too much to represent - as in most 'relevant' problem novels, the hero/heroine has to field all possible ideas and feelings - but ultimately her emotions feel true and her reactions seem unforced. When she finally, exhaustedly, turns to her parents after a grimly ironic celebration, you get the impression of a teenager who's grown up very, very fast and would now like to sleep. The tone of the book, which has been fevered and tightly-wound high drama, slows and becomes quietly, painfully realistic.

Some have dismissed Too Bad About The Haines Girl as a fantasy, what with the boy being faithful and willing to marry his pregnant girlfriend. I don't disagree that the boy as white knight is awfully convenient, but on the other hand, this plot choice made it possible to remain centered on Melinda. She's barely aware of him or his emotions or choices; she's distantly glad he's sticking by her, but in the final analysis, what's happening to her is happening to her. And the book remains faithful to that, instead of wandering off to investigate Jeff's feelings and problems. And that's kind of amazing, because even today books about girls and women have a tendency to wander off in the direction of the nearest male character to explain his problems and world view. Books that live for their female protagonist are few and far between.

A note on the abortion issue
The book was published in 1967, six years before the Supreme Court of the United States legalized abortion in the January 22, 1973 ruling on Roe v. Wade. The depiction of abortion -

The [educational] film had been sickening. It showed a girl being rushed to the hospital after an abortion, and the doctors trying and trying to save her. She had died anyway. Maybe she'd wanted to die; maybe she felt it was better than being arrested and having all that horrible disgrace and publicity. There were other girls in the film who didn't die, girls who would never be able to have children, girls who were ill - not just physically ill, but mentally ill.

- is understandable in that it's of the 'back alley' abortions done while the procedure was illegal. But it's clear that the author and her characters would not approve of an abortion done safely and legally; an abortion is presented as an evil temptation.

Other books
Almost April
Ballerina On Skates
Evening Star
Girl In The Mirror
The High White Wall
Princess In Denim
River At Her Feet
Stranger In The House
The Girl Who Knew Tomorrow
Why Have The Birds Stopped Singing?

About the Author
Sherburne turned from short stories to young adult novels in the 1950s, as periodicals publishing shorts declined. Her books usually feature a teenage girl facing a social problem, and the word 'relevant' springs irresistibly to mind. One book, 1963's Stranger In The House, was made into a CBS telefilm called Memories Never Die in 1992.

The Seattle Times obituary on October 10, 1995
de Grummond Collection
National Abortion Federation - the history of abortion in the U.S.
A shot of the book's cover at Fantastic Fiction

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Now For Nola (1970)

Now For Nola

Lee Priestley, il. Catherine H. Scholz (cover)

1970, Julian Mesner

Nola sighed. "Why won't you believe I can stay in love?"

"Because you're such a kid. You've still got peanut butter and jelly on your face. How do you know you're ready to be a wife?"

19-year-old Nola Foret has spent her post-high school months exasperating her airline executive father by taking up and abandoning a series of interests including her latest passion, drama school. When Pa puts his foot down, Nola is startled but agrees to begin working at the air freight office at his airport. Which is where she meets Tom Cartwright.

He was tall and tanned and too thin. Sun-streaked hair, brown eyes flecked with green, a strong chin and an amused mouth... His uniform and his captain's bars looked shiny new, but he had a jaunty assurance that matched his winged insignia.

Tom's 25, a career soldier with an engineering degree who's working on helicopter modifications for the Vietnam war zone he's recently left. He comes from a line of career servicemen, a fact that Nola doesn't initially consider. It's love at first sight for both of them, but Tom's more cautious, realizing his young girlfriend doesn't realize exactly what she'd be getting into as a military wife. Or, considering her track record as a flibbertygibbit, as a wife, period. As her father throws at her, early on,

"I've lost track of how often you've lauched out on a great wave of enthusiasm and then paddled back to shore when the going got tough."

But Nola charges ahead. She persuades Tom to agree to marriage now rather than later, and joins him on the ragged little airbase of Bitter Lake. Now, with Tom busy and her wealthy family far away, Nola discovers how much she'll need to change if she's to make this new life a success. First order of the day - quit annoying the Colonel's wife.

Fran sighed. "I keep forgetting this is your first post. Listen, honey. When the Colonel's Lady says, "Hop!" all the officer's wives make like frogs."

Nola's struggles to fit in, to find a meaning and a purpose and settle to a task for more than 12 seconds, make a satisfying read. The crossover aspects between the classic old-school romances and the Vietnam era makes it an interesting one. Conversations refer more explicitly to sex - one serviceman's wife says, with practical frankness, "We don't do such a good business in hatching stuff since The Pill. That playpen came in last month and it's still here." Nola deliberately attempts to make the military chaplain at the R&R base in Honolulu think she's pregnant, to get his support in her surprise arrival to marry Tom. And there are other examples of a widening world. Nola's nearest neighbor on the base is a black girl, Fran, who quickly tells her a lot of facts of military wife life. Nola's father the executive believes all girls need to be able to support themselves, just in case.

But at the core, it's still an old-style plot with pre-Vietnam values. Early on, Nola dismisses a previous boyfriend, who went into grad school to avoid the draft:

"Then it occured to him he might get drafted out of that real fine job, and bang! he's against the war... I don't think I'd like getting shot at any more than he does, but it seems to me he's playing both ends against the middle...if you're going to take all the goodies the system provides - an education, a good job, all that - shouldn't you be willing to do your share to keep the system going?"

Other Books

Young Adult

Tour To Romance (1978)

Believe In Spring (1964)

Because Of Rainbows

The Sound of Always


Mee-Yow (1968)

Rocket Mouse (1966)

A Teacher For Tibby (1960)

The Two Too Twins (1966)

Two Stories About Kate and Kitty

Short Stories

She wrote many short stories for publications such as Thrilling Ranch Stories, Texas Rangers, and Giant Western. A list is available at The Fiction Mags Index here


Journeys Of Faith (bio)

Billy the Kid: The Good Side of a Bad Man

Within Sound of the Bugle

About the Author


Raised in Kansas, Priestley went to New Mexico in 1947 with husband Orville to run the Las Cruces Sun-News. They owned the newspaper until 1970.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Blueberry Summer (1956)

Blueberry Summer
Elisabeth Ogilvie
1956, Whittlesey House
(edition shown: Tab Books, Scholastic)

She was seeing herself, or rather a version of herself that no one had ever seen, wearing the charcoal Bermuda shorts and the pink Italian-style shirt; the short yellow shorts and the strapless sun bra; the white-satin swimming suit against which her tan would have a warm rich glow.

16-year-old Cassandra Phillips, sitting on her bed in her parents' Maine farmhouse and dreaming over a catalog of new clothes, has no way of knowing her promised summer working as a waitress on Makinic is dissolving. Her glamorous older sister has broken a leg, triggering a chain of events that traps Cass at home to milk the cow, oversee the blueberry fields and wrangle her rambunctious 8-year-old brother Peter.

But being home all summer has advantages. A handsome older boy, Adam, arrives, and then a lazy artist who promises to fulfill Cass's dreams of a romance. There are problems too - the shiftless but friendly Blackwell clan become suspects in a string of lobster-trap robberies and a deer-jacking, and tourists wander into the blueberry fields.

Overall, an interesting and well-written book with an appealing heroine. Her silliness about her artist neighbor is painful but realistic, and her love-hate relationship with her little brother rings true. Even the slightly too-good-to-be-true love interest is realistic and likable.

Other books (for teens)

The Fabulous Year
Whistle for a Wind
How Wide the Heart
The Young Islanders
Becky's Islands
Turn Around Twice
Ceiling of Amber
Masquerade at Sea House
The Pigeon Pair
Come Aboard and Bring Your Dory!
Beautiful Girl
Too Young To Know
My Summer Love

About the author

A prolific writer, she was the author of over forty books, many set on the coast of Maine.

Obituary in the Boston Globe
Obituary in the New York Times

Saturday, January 30, 2010

The Popular Crowd (1961)

Anne Emery
1961, The Westminster Press

It's sophmore year and Sue Morgan has one goal: become one of the popular crowd at her high school. A successful summer away has given her confidence, and the local stature of her older brother Gary, a football star at college, has given her a start. She nabs her school's football star, Pete Carroll, and every popular door opens from there. And so what if she no longer has time for old friends or studying? Being popular takes work, and so does keeping Pete happy. Over a long school year, Sue discovers just how much work it takes to stay in the popular crowd.

Pete finds it inconvenient to go steady with Sue when he'd like to date everything that shows interest, and leverages that into constant demands for more necking and more sexual activity.

In his enthusiasm he kissed her long and passionately, prepared to go on from where she had stopped him before. It was a constant battle, Sue thought irritably, pushing him off and finally hitting him hard enough to make him listen.

She quickly becomes sick of fending him off, though the author makes it clear she does enjoy some of the sex play.

Sue felt the excitement building up. Even without liking him too much, she could be easily aroused, and she half dreaded, half anticipated the approaching love-making.

Sadly timeless is Sue's weary, cold-blooded realization halfway through the year that she can live with that, with sexual activity she doesn't enjoy much with a boy she doesn't love. Her unease at his ethical shallowness goes much deeper. His personality can be summed up by his comment:

Say, I like your brother, Sue. He's a real contact.

Pete is an operator. It's interesting that in a book written in what is now considered a sexually repressive time, Emery gives his calculating opportunism as much moral weight as his pressuring Sue for sex.

Sue's siblings are her greatest asset; older brother Gary's popularity is her key into the crowd, while her more thoughtful brother Sandy gives her a different perspective on popularity and Pete, and her little sister Marilyn's progress into the same crowd gives Sue a vague sense of not wanting her baby sister in the same things she's gotten into. Her parents are hopeless; a cipher dad and a mother who accepts everyone at face value.

Sue's progress from adoring the football hero to coldly assessing her complete lack of affection for him - and her dying interest in any boy - is chilling.

Author Bio
Anne Eleanor McGuigan was the eldest of five children with a father who was a professor. She graduated from Northwestern University in 1928, spent a year traveling with her family, and then began teaching. She married John Emery in 1933, and had five children. The Illinois town of Evanston appears to be the model for Sherwood; she lived in Evanston most of her life.

Other Books (with my previous reviews linked)

The Burnabys
Senior Year - about Sally
Going Steady - about Sally
High Note, Low Note
Campus Melody
Sorority Girl

Dinny Gordon Series:
Dinny Gordon, Freshman
Dinny Gordon, Sophomore
Dinny Gordon, Junior
Dinny Gordon, Senior

Jane Ellison 4-H
County Fair
Hickory Hill
Sweet Sixteen

Pat Marlowe
First Love True Love
First Orchid for Pat
First Love Farewell

Sue Morgan
The Popular Crowd
The Losing Game

Other Books
Scarlet Royal
Vagabond Summer
That Archer Girl
Married on Wednesday
A Dream to Touch
Bright Horizons
Mountain Laurel
Jennie Lee, Patriot
American Friend: Herbert Hoover
Mystery of the Opal Ring
Danger in a Smiling Mask
Carey's Fortune
The Sky Is Falling
Free Not to Love

Spy books
A Spy in Old Philadelphia
A Spy in Old Detroit
A Spy in Old New Orleans
A Spy in Old West Point

Image Cascade - the Sue Morgan books