Thursday, July 28, 2011

Judy Bolton vs. Nancy Drew

Most folks I talk to about juvenile series have heard of Nancy Drew, the spunky girl detective who travels the world solving mysteries with George and Bess. I've only read the classic stories, but I enjoyed those.

Fewer people have heard of Judy Bolton, also a classic girl detective, but I enjoyed her adventures more. Nancy Drew has been called the perennial teenager, but Judy Bolton grows older in each story. Judy even marries an FBI agent.

The Judy Bolton series ran for thirty-eight titles, during much the same time frame as the original Nancy Drew series. Unlike the Nancy Drew stories, however, one author, Margaret Sutton, wrote the Judy Bolton adventures under her own name. The series might have continued past thirty-eight, but the publishers killed it because Sutton wanted Judy to have a baby. The publishers thought it would make Judy seem too old.

Few classic juvenile detective series had the main character grow up, and I don't know of a longer running one than Judy Bolton. I doubt there was a better.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Harry Potter

When I first became acquainted with the Harry Potter stories (via the movies, not the books), I was struck by the resemblance to some of my favorite classic series. Not the Lord of the Rings, Narnia, or George MacDonald, but rather the many college series from the early twentieth century.

Those followed a young man or woman through college, and sometimes saw them past it. While the stories weren't about magic, they had eccentric professors, sports rivalries, good friendships, and in some cases, exploits against criminal elements.

For example, the Betty Wales series (written by Edith K. Dunton as Margaret Warde, published between 1904 and 1917), contained the following titles:

Betty Wales, Freshman
Betty Wales, Sophomore
Betty Wales, Junior
Betty Wales, Senior
Betty Wales, B. A.
Betty Wales & Co.
Betty Wales on the Campus
Betty Wales Decides

The books relate each year of Betty Wales' terms at college, and then for a time follow her adventures beyond college. There's no arch villain to be defeated, but the stories are still fun.

Underneath the wizarding world, the Harry Potter stories thus seem a direct descendant of the classic juvenile college series. The framework is there; J. K. Rowling just added her own magic.