Secret of the eternal Nancy

Nancy Drew, who started sleuthing in 1930, is still searching for clues in the 21st century. The Christian Science Monitor reports:

This month, Simon & Schuster is giving the classic series a makeover. The titian-haired sleuth is now a strawberry blonde and she volunteers at an animal shelter. She’s traded in her blue Mustang convertible for a hybrid car. She’s Internet savvy and carries a cell-phone. The new books are now narrated in first person.

Maybe Bess and George will get married. Probably not. Nancy is still dating Ned Nickerson, perennial student at Emerson College.

But what’s with this blue Mustang? Nancy drove a shiny red roadster when I was in elementary school. And then she traded it in for a new blue coupe, a gift from her father, the eminent lawyer, Carson Drew.

The Nancy Drew Starter Set includes Secret of Red Gate Farm, Secret of Shadow Ranch, Mystery at Lilac Inn, Bungalow Mystery, Hidden Staircase, Secret of the Old Clock.

About Joanne


  1. In the Clue of the Twisted Candles, she doesn’t date Ned Nickerson. He is her escort when she needs to attend dinner at the old mansion so she can snoop around and figure out who’s been stealing things.

    I’m not sure when Ned transitioned from being an escort to a date.

    Ned plays three varsity sports and I believe in lettered in all of them. Baseball, football and basketball.

    Ned is one of the reasons I don’t mediate. I clear my mind through meditation, and then he appears.

  2. My third grader is addicted to Nancy (and the Hardy Boys). Thank heavens for interlibrary loan! I’ve noticed she gravitates to the older editions. From scanning a few of the books, my impression is that the older books are written to a higher standard.

  3. Any thoughts on what age group the Nancy Drew books, older editions, are appropriate for? I have a 7 year old who will soon be turning 8.
    Thanks in advance.

  4. Nancy avoided being officially entangled with ol’ Ned in the editions I read – good policy. First person? Ick. I really don’t want to know Nancy in that way. Does this makeover have anything to do with the ND franchise old guard dying off?

  5. Ross, 7 is about the right age. In the third grade I was hooked on reading for life thanks to Nancy Drew #11, the Clue in the Broken Locket.

    –On another note, I believe there were originally 2 versions of the orginal series of Nancy Drew books. In the first version (published in the 30’s) she was strawberry blonde, and she drove a maroon roadster, in the second (I think printed in the 50s) she was titian haired and drove a blue mustang.

    (I’m a different JC than the lowercase one above me)

  6. Hm. My son has just started reading The Hardy Boys (is on book 2 now).
    Never did read them myself.

  7. Where is Nancy Drew living now? In the neighborhood in Gary Indiana where she originated (my wife’s grandmother had property a block from Nancy’s high school) most crimes now have simple motives like needing money for crack or “he done messed with my woman”.

  8. I could never get through an entire Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew book. The Alfred Hitchcock and the Three Investigators series were more my style. They seemed to have a little more meat to them.

  9. Bill Leonard says:

    Nancy Drew? The Hardy Boys? No, thank you. And I don’t buy the line that the earlier (published in the 1930s) volumes were written to any “higher standard”; the Hardy Boys sure as hell weren’t.

    I never cared much for the Hardy Boys when I was a kid. When I began reading to my own sons, and encouraging them to read (we’re talking age 6-7-8 here), I tried a Hardy Boys. It was wretched. The author (not necessarily the guy whose name appeared on the cover, I understand) spent an inordinate amount of time referring to and encouraging the reader to buy other books in the series, when he wasn’t dealing with rather nasty stereotypes: the silly and supercilious old aunt, the goofy Chinese houseboy’s mangling of the English language, and so forth. The kids weren’t interested, and by chapter three the Hardy Boys were jettisoned, never to appear in the house again.

    And, when I was a kid, by the time I was old enough for the Hardy Boys and the rest, I was already gobbling up every juvenile biography I could find about Davey Crockett, Daniel Boone, George Washington, G.W. Carver, Thomas Jefferson, Wild Bill Hickock, Buffalo Bill, Robert E. Lee, U.S. Grant and others, along with Tom Sawyer and a fairly difficult Adventures of Robin Hood (both of the latter at age 8). By the time I was 10 or so, I had discovered Jack London’s Alaska stories and Sherlock Holmes, along with Heinlein, Bradbury, the Rafael Sabbatini historical potboilers, and others — including, of course, the great old pre-Comics Code EC comics. And compared with all those, the Hardy Boys were just a little too tame and dreary.

  10. I loved Nancy Drew when I was in elementary school — and I also loved those juvenile biographies. I got five hand-me-down books from my cousin, including George
    Washington Carver, Buffalo Bill, William Henry Harrison (yes!) and Robert E. Lee: Boy of Old Virginia. They were always “boy” or “girl” of something. There are hundreds of these books out. I once counted that I had read about 125 of them. Henry Clay, Mill Boy of the Slashes. (And Boy Compromiser hadn’t been taken.)

    With any book, try one on your kid and see if he or she enjoys it. I think everyone should read a balanced diet of good and trashy books.

  11. Being a guy, I hate to admit this (well, not really) but I preferred Nancy Drew to the Hardy Boys when I was in elementary school and Jr. High.

    Of course, I encountered them after plowing through Lord of the Rings at age eight.

    Ah – every revamp of the classics fail. Anyone recall the “Case Files” series for the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew in the late 80s/early 90s. They tried to make them more “edgy” by including weapons and more international espionage and edgier themes centered around domestic violence and drug abuse. Those failed, as far as I could tell.

  12. Formula books (e.g., Babysitters Club, Capt. Underpants, Bobbsey Twins, the dull Hardy Boys, those biographies with the silhouette illustrations) involve kids vicariously with characters who become their friends. Most of us read for pleasure and many of us got hooked on reading because we discovered books like Nancy Drew Mysteries.

    I always remembered Nancy’s car as a “shiny new blue roadster.” When my daughter started reading ND in the 1980s, the same titles I read in the 50s had been “updated” and the car was just some sporty little thing.

    Nancy and crew were *really* modernized in the short series (about 20 volumes) of Nancy Drew on Campus. George lost her virginity camping with her boyfriend (not Burt, either). She, Bess and Nancy were not at Emerson College and when Ned came to visit Nancy on campus, he was unveiled as a real jerk. She dumps him in the second book or so. ND was still involved in mysteries but they were a poor second to campus social life.

    Bess and George are cousins. In many states they couldn’t get married. As law-abiding citizens, they would respect that, I’m sure.

    The fellow who set up Carolyn Keene, Laura Lee Hope and F.W. Dixon was a marketing genius. The Ray Kroc of publishing, perhaps. And probably the inspiration for V.C. Andrews, Lawrence Sanders, James Roosevelt and others who kept on writing after they were dead.

  13. The Nancy Drew books WERE better than the Hardy Boys. My mother had acquired during her childhood a large collection of series books as well as the biographies mentioned above (“Childhoods of Famous Americans”), so as a kid in the 70s I had the odd experience of being deeply immersed in children’s books from the 1940s and 1950s. Anybody else ever read Cherry Ames or Sue Barton (both nurses), or Judy Bolton? Judy’s boyfriend/husband was a “G-man”, which I finally figured out meant like the FBI. I also liked the Betsy-Tacy books.

  14. Laura (southernxyl) says:

    I read one Cherry Ames. And one Bobbsey Twins. One each was more than enough for me. I was more into Heinlein/Asimov/Bradbury, and Tolkien of course.

    My daughter really appreciated the Little House books. We enjoyed reading them to her, even after she could read on her own. Also the Beverly Cleary books about Henry and Beezus and Ramona – they have been mentioned on this site before.

    I couldn’t get into ND too much. Her lifestyle seemed too artificial to me. Maybe that’s funny, considering the fantasy and SF I read and enjoyed.

  15. on the other side of the American Childhood History, I remember plowing through them with relish, and then halting suddenly at age 10 with the conundrum: if anyone on my playground that day grew up to be famous, how would the dialog ever be captured as neatly as in books like those? Dropped the series, but kept the lesson to consider sources. (which may have payment in full for investing in the series )

  16. Justthisguy says:

    I think the very early N. D. novels had her not afraid to handle a pistol. The gun bigots fixed that later.

  17. Chi Che Soong says:

    Originals, with a sole copyright between 1930 and 1947 may include ethnic stereotypes, and levels of authority not given to today’s teens. In 1930, Nancy was 16 (already graduated) and drove a blue roadster (convertible). Later it was maroon, then green, and finally, post-war, a blue convertible. The originals are written at a higher level and are more complex, with sub-plots and development of detail. They are appropriate for a 10 year old who understands that other races are not necessarily villanous and have job opportunities equal to anyone else. The books reflected the common attitude of midwesterners (originally Nancy appears to have lived in Iowa) of the era they were published.

  18. Chi Che Soong says:

    Note: Nancy is blonde until 1959, when her hair becomes titian. She doesn’t drive a Mustang until the modern paperbacks of the late 80’s forward.