Despite its long run (1948-86), the Trixie Belden series never came under the long shadow of the Stratemeyer Syndicate. The Syndicate was the force behind everything from the Hardy Boys to Tom Swift to the Darewell Chums and the Motor Girls, and it seemed that during the golden age of series books for children (roughly the first two-thirds of the 20th century) if a novel was worth publishing it was the work of the Syndicate's small army of collaborative pseudonymous writers.
Nancy Drew was one of the all-time most popular Stratemeyer productions. The books featured a beautiful young girl with fabulously wealthy parents who traveled the world using her incisive intellect and social skills to solve mysteries. For Nancy, nothing ever went wrong because she never went wrong. It was fantasy tripe of the shallowest kind for the American Everygirl, and the exact opposite of the Trixie Belden books, whose chief protagonist was so refreshingly normal and regular.
Trixie isn't all that attractive, her parents are well-off but by no means wealthy, and her relations with her three brothers are strained in exactly the same way the relationships of all siblings are strained, even in the healthiest of families. It's true that they lead a fairly bucolic existence on a farm in upstate New York, but this was par for the course in all literature for adolescents written before 1970. Girls could see themselves in Trixie much more easily than Nancy (for the most part), and the series achieved immense success.
The first six books were written by Julie Campbell Tatham; the remaining 33 by various authors. The elements that made Trixie so attractive to readers were retained throughout, however, including the general wholesomeness of the stories. In the tradition of books from the period, natural explanations were found for everything, and they were seldom too awful or dark. While this might not present a very accurate view of the world, it does make good escapist fantasy, which is exactly why a series like Trixie Belden still enjoys a wide readership.
Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he is a husband and father, teaches adult Sunday school in his Presbyterian congregation, and likes weird stuff. He might be a mythical creature, but he's definitely not a centaur. Read more of his reviews here.
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