The Power of Nancy Drew
When publishing a book nowadays, it's not enough to simply write it. You must 'support' it and one way of doing so is by writing related articles that, hopefully, will be picked up and published by others. Recently, I had the privilege of posting the following article on the influential website, Women Writers, Women's Books. I know that some of you who are on my Facebook have seen it, but for those of you who haven't, I'm publishing it today, along with a few added photos. Enjoy!
Literature adds to reality; it does not simply describe it. It enriches the necessary competencies that daily life requires and provides; and in this respect, it irrigates the deserts that our lives have already become.
—C. S. Lewis
Growing up in Sherwood Park, a sleepy enclave in Yonkers where nothing exciting ever happened, I was captivated by the adventures of Nancy Drew. Captivated, too, by the number of orphans I found walking the pages of the Drews.
In The Secret of the Old Clock, for instance, when Nancy rescues a child who has fallen into a river, I discovered that the child was being raised by two elderly aunts. Doesn’t she have a mother? This was electrifying. I read on to learn that Nancy’s own mother had died, that she was being raised by her father and Hannah Gruen, their housekeeper. A few chapters later, Nancy met Grace and Allison Cooper, two sisters who were running a small farm by themselves, as both of their parents had died.
This was a revelation, a real eye-opener. Until that moment, all the children I knew had mothers. I thought I was the only one without a mother. Although my mother had died, no one had told me. I thought of her as ‘missing.’ Lost somewhere in the Bronx.
My first day in kindergarten, an aunt had taken me to school. There were forms to fill out and, at one point, the teacher suggested I ‘let go of mommy’s hand’ and go play with the girls over in the dolls’ corner.
Mommy’s hand? I didn’t know what to say, what to do. If the teacher found out that this was my aunt and not my mother, would she let me stay? I was terrified. My head felt as if I was swimming underwater. To steady myself, I held onto the edge of the wooden desk, and with cheeks burning, I studied my shoes.
If I was a child with lots of unanswered questions, Nancy was a young girl with all the answers. There was nothing she couldn’t do or didn’t understand. She was as independent, intelligent, and adventurous, as she was kind and caring. Her good deeds and adventures engaged the mind and opened the heart. I wanted to be as brave as she was, wanted to solve mysteries and help others recover their missing wills and prized possessions. Most of all I wanted to live in River Heights and have a father like Carson Drew who sat and talked to his daughter about the cases she was working on and offered her advice. None of that happened at my house.
Nancy made all things seem possible. To paraphrase C. S. Lewis, she irrigated the desert of my mind. With Nancy, I could go anywhere in the world in a few hours.
Years later, I would enjoy a private practice as a reading teacher—administering psycho-educational tests and remediating the impediments to reading. My students, 90 percent of them young boys, were not grieving the loss of loved ones, but they were stunned and stymied that, unlike classmates, they were not reading on grade level. The class dummy.
Sadly, Nancy Drew was not a good fit for this group. But there were the Boxcar Children and the Hardy Boys. Initially, as we worked to break the phonics code, the children would dictate stories I’d turn into ‘books.’ Books they would illustrate and proudly read aloud. In a sense, they became authors before they became readers. And in time, there were books in rhyme from Dr. Seuss, and books that stretched the imagination from Roald Dahl, all of which became for them a source of wonder.
As were the children, themselves, as I watched them discover the joy of reading. Or, in the words of C.S. Lewis, as I watched them acquire one of the competencies that daily life requires.
Let me ask you: Were you a Nancy Drew Fan? If so, what did you like best about Nancy?
If you would like to see the original piece, as presented on Women Writers, Women's Books, click here.
This week a friend snapped this photo at the Manhasset Library showing Veronica's Grave displayed side-by-side with the No.1 selling book by Bill O"Reilly. If you should see the book in your bookstore or at the library, could you send a photo to Bonitababs@aol.com? I would love it! Merci beaucoup... Hope to see you next week.