Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Bobbsey Twins of Lakeport (Bobbsey Twins #1)

Bobbsey Twins of Lakeport (Bobbsey Twins #1)
Laura Lee Hope
Grosset & Dunlap, 1961

Genre: Realistic, Mystery, “Tot” Series


Mrs. Bobbsey comes home and tells the twins that she has a mystery for them to solve. An old lady at the nursing home she visits, Mrs. Marden, has lost some valuable souvenirs. They're supposedly gifts from the royal family when her husband was an ambassador. These include a cameo and some coins. She used to live in the old haunted house and Mrs. Bobbsey offered up the services of the twins to try to search for her items before the house gets torn down to make way for a new gym for the school. Mr. Tetlow (who is still the principal of the school that appeared in the originals) gives the twins an extra key he has to the house (it is now school property) because he knows that they are “responsible children” (p. 20) and allows them to go investigate and see what they can find.

On their first trip through the house they don't find much. While waiting for the girls after school the next day, Bert starts a game of baseball with the other boys. Danny, the bully, throws the baseball really fast at him and breaks the school window. Danny runs away and no one wants to tell the principal who broke the window. Nan is surprised that Danny didn't try to put the blame on her brother. They both go to the haunted house and do more investigating. Burt examines the hearth and takes a knife from his pocket to help pry away some of the tiles when he hears Nan scream. She has discovered a trap door and swears someone went in it. Unfortunately they can't figure out how to open the door.

The school is getting a new cement driveway and Flossie, leaving the school building late, actually falls right into the cement and gets stuck. Flossie’s shoes are done for so Mrs. Bobbsey takes Freddie and Flossie shopping. Freddie is more excited at the prospect of getting to ride the escalator (which was the elevator in the 1904 version). At the mall Flossie gets distracted by huge window of dolls while Freddie looks at a display of airplane toys. Mrs. Bobbsey tells the twins to look around the floor until she gets back. With Flossie distracted by the dolls, Freddie makes his way back to the escalator. Eventually he can't find his way back and he gets trapped in a room and falls asleep. Meanwhile the older twins and their friends are investigating the house but all they have found so far is an old trunk full of dresses. As they are leaving the attic, Nan pitches headfirst into the floor and lays still.

The bottom step is missing and that is what caused Nan’s fall. She's just knocked out. When they see Danny close to the house they accuse him of removing the stair but he denies it to the boys get into a fight. As the principal comes out to break up the fight they all see a man's figure run across the backyard and disappear.

No one can find Freddie. Meanwhile he wakes up and knows that everyone will be worried. He finds a cat and then is rescued by the security guard. He names the cat Snoop. The next day the twins make homemade kites and go to Roscoe’s field to fly them. Snoop gets stuck on one and flies into the air. Turns out Danny actually tied the cat on. He falls off on top of a barn and is rescued by Bert.

Bert and Freddie head back to the haunted house. When they approach the house they hear someone yelling at them to stay away. They decide to sneak away and then quietly come back to see if anyone leaves the house. When they do they witness a man leave. Having no idea how the man entered or exited the house, they call their principal. They try to examine the trap door in the kitchen. The principle is able to pry it open and they go down a flight of stairs to a cellar. Unfortunately it doesn't appear as if the doors were used anytime soon. Bert is convinced by Freddie to go camping so he invites Charlie along. Later that night, Freddie is woken up by the sound of someone breaking something on the ground. Turns out it is a raccoon. Soon after, a big wind attacks the tent and it begins to pour down rain. The boys begin walking home and luckily Sam finds them. On the way home, Charlie thinks he sees a light inside the Marden house. They call the police to investigate and all they find are muddy footprints.

Snoop is missing. The twins decide to put an ad in the paper for their lost cat. They wonder if Snoop could have gone to the house so they go to investigate. Freddie and Flossie swear they hear a cat but they can't find one. Turns out, it is just Danny making noise. Nan finds a school flyer in the kitchen with a floor plan of the house on it. Bert and Nan are called to Tetlow’s office. What they find there is a “roughly dressed” man with Officer Murphy. He has caught the prowler. Turns out is Jack Ringley, the former janitor, who stole supplies and was fired. He overheard the story about the missing items and decided to try to look for them. He got in and out of the house because he had a duplicate key.

The demolition of the house is scheduled for the afternoon so everyone in town gathers around to watch. A ball destroys the roof right when Nan screams to stop. Nan says that she hears a cat crying. The kitchen fireplace has been destroyed and Snoop jumps out like he was never missing at all. The wall was fake. Behind it are a bunch of stairs that lead to the roof. Nan climbs the stairs and discovers a small box. Inside it are the cameo and the coins that had been missing. They go to tell Mrs. Marden that they found her treasure and, seeing Snoop, she asks, “My cat?” They tell her what happened and she remembers the stairway. Snoop, who at the time was called Midnight, used to be her cat and he liked to sleep in the stairway.

Back at school the principal calls in assembly and mentions the heroic efforts of the Bobbsey Twins. Because of their efforts Mrs. Marden agreed to sell the treasures and donate the money to help the building of the new gymnasium.

Thoughts and Nuggets of Wisdom for Research

This is the revised edition of the original series. What most people would first notice is the fact that, because the revision appears after the 1950s, the book is no longer a series of vignette stories about the twins but it automatically sets the stage for the twins to solve a mystery. Since the publication of Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys, mysteries took off in the series book format. Many characters who never solved mysteries before suddenly took up the art of detecting. Even The Boxcar Children, a totally non-Syndicate title that first appeared in the 1940s telling the story of an orphaned family, suddenly turned to mystery solving. Many readers of the Bobbsey Twins actually grew up reading these versions and not the originals. As like most revisions, the Bobbsey Twins books got shorter (18 chapters instead of 22) and this series, maybe since it was aimed at younger readers, included more illustrations.

The first big change is that the Bobbseys got older! Freddie and Flossie are now six and not four while Bert and Nan are now twelve and not eight.

Since it is a revision, one would hope most of the major racial and gender stereotypes have been removed from the book. Let’s take a look at some interesting gems in this volume.

Early on Mrs. Bobbsey is described as looking young and pretty standing beside her tall, athletic husband. Mr. Bobbsey is not referred to Richard anymore but the more common nickname of Dick. This being a revision that was wrote in the 1950s their house is pretty typical of the white middle class: “the spacious yard which surrounded their rambling white house on a quiet street in Lakeport” (p. 2). This book features some line illustrations throughout. The illustration on page 44 shows the children at the school and features girls with shoulder length hair that flies up at the corners and they are all wearing dresses with full skirts. The boys are all in pants and sweaters. The most gendered thing is that the school is trying to raise money for funds for a new gymnasium and the boys go off playing baseball while the poor girls are regulated to holding a cookie sale.

In regards to racism, Dinah Johnson is now called “the jolly looking colored woman who helped Mrs. Bobbsey with the housework.” Sam, her husband, drives a truck and works at Mr. Bobbsey’s lumberyard. They now live in apartments on the third floor of the house and are “very popular with the family” (p. 4). Her speech patterns are not as horribly stereotyped anymore.

The thing that really got me with this revision (like the jump rope can kill you story in the original) is the fact that the mystery revolves around a house ready for demolition that has been falling apart for years and Mrs. Bobbsey easily offers up her children to help search for the missing heirlooms before the house is knocked down. She lets her six and twelve year old children go off by themselves to a derelict house! It is only exacerbated by the fact that Mr. Tetlow, the principal, readily gives the twins his extra key to the house because he knows that they are responsible children and won’t do anything bad. Let’s completely overlook the fact that you’re letting them go into what is literally an abandoned house where they could get injured and die!

1 comment:

  1. Cool review! I am not as much a fan of the old series as i am of the new one from the 80s. In fact, i started a blog reviewing the New Bobbsey Twins series. If that interests you, it is here: http://newbobbseytwinsbookreview.blogspot.com/ (I'm not trying to "spam" you-i just thought you might like that kind of thing)

    I did use to own some of the pre WW1 books-in a way, i wish they kept the original stories as well as the revisions. (I am African-American, but i still would like to have available relics of the past too, not just a changed version)