Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Jane Allen #2, Jane Allen, Right Guard

This year, Jane Allen is glad to be returning to Wellington College and Madison Hall. However, some spiteful person (I wonder who?) has written ahead to tell Mrs. Weatherbee that she won't be needing her room. By the time Jane arrives, it's been given to an unpleasant freshman, Elsie Noble, who is Marian's cousin. Jane and Mrs. Weatherbee sort it out, but Judy has by then christened Elsie, "the ignoble Noble." The ignoble Noble lives up to her name by circulating a petition among the freshmen to have them refuse Jane and her friends as escorts to the freshman dance. Luckily, the girls find four "poor" girls who are willing to have them. I'd describe them, but they're barely mentioned again, so why bother?

Basketball is even more of an afterthought in this book than the first one. Jane and Adrienne make the team handily, but Judy's place is taken by Marian, who has bribed two of the judges with limo rides and dinners at the Rutherford Inn. However, with Dorothy resigning as judge and the freshman team resigning their positions unless Dorothy's reinstated, Marian is soon forced to tender her own resignation. Jane plays Right Guard, which is supposed to also be a metaphor for her always being on the side of right. Gag.

To retaliate, Marian orchestrates this elaborate plot to implicate Judy as a kleptomaniac, with Norma and Jane covering for Judy. The basis for this is a conversation Marian overhears at the dance, involving Judy somehow taking another girl (who has since left to be married)'s white lace dress. I'd tell you more about it, only we're never really told, and it's quite confusing. In the end, Mrs. Weatherbee's eyes are opened to Marian's true nature, with the assistance of the formerly ignoble Noble, and Marian and Maizie are no longer welcome to return to Madison Hall the following year.

  • I was really intrigued by the character of Maizie Gilbert up until the end of this book. She's not motivated by petty emotions like Marian is, and she's not exactly a weak character who just follows Marian's wishes. Instead she's portrayed as almost a lazy sociopath?
  • "I don't pretend to understand myself," returned Maizie tranquilly. "It would be too much trouble to try. Besides, self-analysis might be fatal to my comfort. I might dig up a conscience, and that would be a bore. I'd rather take it easy and smile and be a villain still. Changes are so disagreeable. You'd find that out, if one came over me. You'd be minus a valuable ally." See? There's self-awareness there, but no real conscience.
  • Maizie has "unfathomable" black eyes.
  • "It strikes me," drawled Maizie, "that there's been altogether too much of this 'paying back' business. You'd best drop it, Marian. You're not a success in that line." Jane and her friends are too kind to have any truly entertaining criticisms of Marian. Maizie has no such qualms.
  • "She's a strange girl, Judy. There's a lot to her beneath that lazy, indifferent manner of hers."
  • Of course, in the end, Maizie is converted to Jane Allen's goodness. I, for one, was disappointed.
  • The sophomore team has khaki uniforms, as a nod to patriotism. This is the only mention, however oblique of WWI in the series thus far.
  • The ebook is available here. Love the illustrations, even if one seems to be missing from this copy. They're by R. Emmett Owen. I haven't seen the first title's illustrations, but they're by Roy L. Williams

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Jane Allen #1, Jane Allen of the Sub-Team

The Jane Allen College Series is, not surprisingly, about Jane Allen's life at Wellington College.

Jane Allen of the Sub-Team introduces Jane, who is 16 at this point, her father, Henry, who is a wealthy (natch) Montana rancher, and her spinster Aunt Mary, who has moved in with them after the death of Jane's mother ("Dearest," aka Dorothy) when Jane was 12. Is there any greater predictor of mortality than being the parent of a series heroine? Apparently it was Jane's mother's dying wish that she be educated at Wellington Seminary, which is now Wellington College. Jane is a spoiled tomboy who HATES the idea of going east to school. HATES.

Jane has never had girl friends her own age and can't see the point of courting them. She's rude and stand-offish, with a terrible temper. I enjoy having an imperfect heroine, but Jane at this stage is pretty much unbearable. Of course, with the encouragement of her roommate Judy Stearns and other friends, she eventually becomes more pleasant and makes friends. For a series whose gimmick is basketball, it's not introduced at all until the sixteenth chapter and isn't really a focus of the plot, which suits me just fine. Anyway, with some strategic injuries, illnesses, and resignations, Jane eventually makes the main team and leads them to victory over the sophomores.
  • "Once she was imprisoned in that hateful seminary she would die. Her father and Aunt Mary would be sorry. She pictured herself slowly dying of grief and homesick longing. Some day, soon after they sent her away, a telegram would come to El Capitan. Her father would open it and read, 'Come at once. Your daughter died last night.' Then, when it was too late, they'd understand. Jane wept afresh in sheer sorrow for her untimely end." I wish the whole book were as funny as this passage implies.
  • Jane has a portrait of "Dearest," to whom she talks. Dearest is her inspiration to do good.
  • Jane reads a book series, Beatrice Horton's _____ Year at Exley (First through Fourth years), on her way east. For the record, it doesn't really exist, but I'm entertained by the whole meta aspect.
  • She meets the series enemy, Marian Seaton on the train east. Her main flunky is Maizie Gilbert, and while she has others, they eventually defect. Seriously, over the course of the series, Jane inspires more conversions than a messianic figure.
  • She lives at Madison Hall, under the auspices of Mrs. Weatherbee. Mrs. Weatherbee messes up the room assignment, and she and Jane haven't resolved their differences by the end of this book.
  • Friends and character traits: Judy (bizarrely absent-minded), Dorothy Martin (benevolent/saintly upperclassmen), Adrienne Dupree (elfin daughter of French dancer), and Norma Bennet (poor girl working her way through Wellington waiting tables at Madison Hall).
  • In old books like this, girls have "crushes" on each other, not on boys. They also invite each other to dances. I know Clair Blank hadn't been to college when she wrote the Beverly Gray books, but I wonder who had the boys at dances bit correct.
  • They have a Morris chair in their room.
  • The Rutherford Inn is their off-campus gathering place.
  • Jane is tall, with auburn hair, grey eyes, and a size 5A foot. This is my own coloring, which I've always thought was relatively uncommon, but which fits at least one character in about every series.
  • The series does have some fashion descriptions, but I'm not a huge fan of 1910s style, honestly.

How to Choose, or the Jane Allen College Series

How I choose a series to collect and read:

1. Jennifer's website has made eBay, ABE, and Amazon a lot of money off of me. That, and a post on her blog influenced a lot of my early purchases. Considering how much harder/more expensive a series can get when she first adds one (see Barbara Ann), I suspect I'm not alone.

2. I'll go down this list, looking for books with copyrights in the 1920s and 30s, particularly those published by Grosset and Dunlap, Cupples and Leon, or A.L. Burt.

3. Once I find an author I love, I'll seek out her other books. See: Adventure Girls, all my Pemberton Ginther titles, Mildred Wirt's many series.

4. I'll sometimes preview a series I'm not sure about on Project Gutenberg or Google Books. See: Polly Brewster.

5. Browse eBay under Books->Antiquarian and Collectible->Children's Books->Series Books. Or if I buy a book from a seller, and they have an unfamiliar title, too, I may add it to my order.

6. Ads for other series in a series that I already have probably won't make me purchase on their own but may make me investigate futher.

The Jane Allen College Series falls under many of these categories. I originally came across it on the Girls Series Books 1840-1991  site but had reservations. While published by Cupples and Leon, I didn't know the author, the timeframe was slightly early (1917-1922), and the theme seemed to be sports. I also incorrectly assumed it was a high school series, which I can take or leave.

Then I randomly purchased a copy of Patsy Carroll under Southern Skies from Jennifer (#5, pt 2). On the back was an ad for what I now learned was the Jane Allen College Series. Automatically, I was more interested--I love college girl books. Googling found Mary Crosson's page on the series, complete with excerpt, and several ebooks. So I spent my day off work reading the entire series. I'll give you my thoughts in a separate post.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Thirteenth Spoon-Macrae Edition

The Thirteenth Spoon is one of my absolute favorites, so I was pretty stoked to get a copy of the Macrae edition. While I quite like the cover art, I prefer the Cupples version. I will give the Macrae the edge on the spine art. The flap blurbs are identical. The price is listed as $1.75, which is astronomical for a girls series book of the time. I've never seen one listed for more than $0.95. The book is a nice quality, but this would have been the Depression (c. 1930).

As you can see, the boards are identical, save for color--Macrae is orange; Cupples is red. I never realized on the Cupples boards that the sword-like thing is really supposed to be a spoon. Apostle spoons, for the record, actually exist and really are rare/valuable. Kinda want one to display on bookshelf, not gonna lie. Hello, eBay.

And there's the disappointment: no frontispiece. No internal illustrations. I don't know if it was never printed with illustrations, or if I just got a copy that wasn't. This, as stated, is my favorite, and has some really incredible fashion descriptions. Seriously bummed.

While both Macrae editions that I have are extremely nice quality, this one has distinctly rough edges to the pages. They're extremely thick and white, just cut oddly. (Yes, my camera's focus is rather on the fritz when zoomed). Final note: this title is HIGHLY recommended. See my original review here.

Monday, December 20, 2010

The Jade Necklace-Macrae Edition

Pemberton Ginther's titles for the Cupples and Leon Mystery Stories for Girls were originally published by Macrae Smith Company. It's not too difficult or expensive to find these editions with bare boards, but in dust jacket, they're extremely scarce. When I first started looking a couple of years ago, there were none to be found. The only two copies that I've found since then, I've immediately purchased. This one was $15, and my copy of The Thirteenth Spoon was $30. I'm still on the lookout for The Secret Stair, but I have no expectation of finding it soon (and it's also my least favorite of the three titles).

I had initially wondered whether or not the cover art and frontispieces were different at all. Luckily the seller with The Thirteenth Spoon had both Macrae and Cupples editions and was able to confirm before I ordered that they were not the same. While I don't know that I LOVE either cover, I do prefer the Macrae edition. The cover is stylized and Deco, but the art on the spine has a distinct Arts and Crafts flair. I'm uncertain of the artist of either. And yes, the Macrae one is covered in scribbles, courtesy of Mary McPhee.

I was even more pleased to discover that there are different frontispieces, with Pem herself as illustrator. In this case, while I like both, I prefer Pem's. If you look closely, you can see the monkey perched on the back of the chair to the right. As you can see here, the Macrae editions have extremely nice, thick, good quality paper, although they're slightly smaller than the Cupples editions. The end papers are plain.

If I was pleased to have a different frontpieces, I was thrilled to find three internal illustrations, which the Cupples editions lack completely. As a note, the name that almost rivals Clytemnestra in the book is the "preposterous" Amanda.

I remembered that in the Cupples edition, Roslyn's name is misspelled Roselyn on the front dj flap. Apparently this is a carry over from the Macrae edition, because the same mistake is made.

This is a great book. If you'd like to read my original review, it's here.

Unexpected Christmas Surprises

I love getting little unintended extras in book orders, like gorgeous bookplates, and vintage ephemera as book marks. One of my favorite examples is a Depression era flour sack being used as a replacement jacket for a Polly Brewster title (which is of course MIA right now). I have a new twist on the theme, though.

Goldsmith had a line of career girl type books in the 30s. The Janet Hardy books are probably some of the better know examples, but this particular title is Helen in the Editor's Chair. I normally can't stand Goldsmith editions due to the terrible paper, but I got this in a lot and thought I would at least read it. My middle name (shared with my grandmother) is Helen, and I love books with newsroom settings. I took off the dust jacket to put it in the protector and immediately smiled.
At first I just saw the tape substitute at the top--I think it might be reused packaging? But what are those little things down at the bottom?

1935 Christmas stamps!

I looked them up, and while they're not particularly valuable, they do however have a pretty interesting history. They're not really stamps--they're actually American Lung Association Christmas Seals (, and these specifically benefit tuberculosis victims/sanitoriums. New ones are still sold today, and I think that next year I'll buy some to put on my Christmas cards. The website has a place where you can submit stories/photos, and I added mine. Crazy to think of a little unwitting advertisement hidden away for 75 years.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Betsy Hale

I could make excuses and promises related to the extended absence, but why not just jump back in?

One of the series that I set about acquiring when I discovered Pemberton Ginther is Betsy Hale. There's not a lot of information about the series out there, so much of this is my own speculation. It seems to have been released in three volumes in 1923 as a breeder set of sorts by John C. Winston and Co., who also published her more popular Miss Pat series.

While the books are somewhat scarce in dust jacket (it took me about a year and a half to get all three), there's little demand. I believe I paid less than $5 for the first title (Betsy Hale), $7.50 for the second (Betsy Hale Tries), and $8.00 for the third (Betsy Hale Succeeds). For me, it was hardest to find the last title, but right now it's the only one to be found on eBay. One book is dated 1924 and another 1928, which indicates they might have been in print for at least a few years. However, the dust jackets are all identical except for the titles, with the exact same ads and lists on each one, so maybe there was one printing which took awhile to sell?

The books have green and gold boards, and the dust jacket art is the same for all three volumes. I'm uncertain as to who did the dust jacket artwork, but Pem herself did the frontispiece and three internal illustrations for each book. The paper quality is quite good, and the stories range from 254-269 pages each. I will note that the frontispiece for my copy of Betsy Hale seems to be incorrect--it's one of the internal illustrations for Betsy Hale Succeeds.

At the beginning of Betsy Hale, Betsy is an imaginative and earnest 13 year old girl who has just moved with her widowed mother to Wee Corners, a small cottage that they've inherited in rural New England. Her mother is an author, in the vein of Jess's mother in the Girls of Central High series. In other words, they have no money, and Betsy is often left to assume household duties, financial worries, and generally fend for herself. Her primary friends are Emma Clara, Selma, and Philip, who is groomed, in my opinion, to be the future love interest of the series. The central conflicts in the book center around Mrs. Hale regaining her health, publishing a novel, and becoming financially stable.

In Betsy Hale Tries, the plot is based around trying to raise funds to establish a hospital in their small community, a venture spearheaded by Betsy and Philip. Along the way, Betsy makes a friend of Miss Willie, an eccentric older woman, and the family acquires Lucy as cook/housekeeper. Lots of themes of post WWI patriotism in this book, and there's a side plot involving a traveling circus.

I have no idea why the third book is titled Betsy Hale Succeeds. The plans of the last book have already succeeded, and this book is about how Betsy and her mother take in an alleged war orphan from France, Aimee. Of course, Aimee's parents are both alive in the end, her mother somehow ending up in some nearby town (from France. Really.), while her father had amnesia and a couple of amputations (final tally: one hand and one leg). The series ends with no references to phantom titles or future plans.
  • I really didn't care for the character of Mrs. Hale. She's clueless about household chores and is one of those people in old stories that has to have complete rest and no worry or she'll have a breakdown. Wonder why the non-genteel poor never get those orders? Beyond that, she offers no emotional support to Betsy.
  • Her mother has gotten them involved with a League of Truth and Simplicity after Betsy's father's death. So Elizabeth is now Betsy and has to wear brown sack dresses. I may be misreading, but I also think that Mommy Clueless loses a lot of money to them.
  • Luckily, friends take pity on Betsy and gift her with a "lovely limp yellow frock" and a pink lawn dress.
  • I really love Philip's character. His father is really sick in the first book (he eventually dies), and Betsy finds him crying hidden in the woods. She doesn't reveal herself, just has more sympathy and respect.
  • Betsy can't get Philip to come visit another girl with her, because, "I don't play with girls." When she reminds him that they've gone off in the woods twice that week, he says, "You're different." Aw.
  • Betsy is almost 15 at the end of the series. I think I would have enjoyed a continuation of the series, with more grown up themes. The target audience is probably about 12 for the books that were written.

I have mixed feelings about this series as a whole. I think it's well-written for a pre-teen age group, and Betsy is a likeable heroine. She has negative emotions and needs help to pull off schemes. She's not perfect. That said, I think I'd prefer an older heroine, stronger plotlines, and snappier/funnier dialogue. I'm building collections of the Hilda and Miss Pat series, which I'm hoping will be more to my liking. I've also tracked down the Macrae editions of The 13th Spoon and The Jade Necklace to share with you.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

I'm Back!

Hey everyone (assuming anyone's still out there . . . ). I know I've had quite an extended absence. First off, back in September, I had a break-in and was without computer for quite some time. I finally got my check from my homeowner's insurance and replaced it, reading all the while. At this point it was coming up on Thanksgiving, so I figured I'd ride it out over the holidays, and start posting again in the new year.

Then, in a 3 hour period at the beginning of January, I (a.) exited my house at 6 PM, getting ready to head into work, to find a burst pipe, (b.) called my father, hoping for a quick water shut off tip, to make it through the night and found out that a family member had just died, and (c.) once I arrived at work, I was broken up with via, I kid you not, text message. Yes, I'm an adult. Yes, this apparently can still happen to you post-high school graduation. Who knew? Heck, Taylor Swift at least got a (28 second) phone call. This sort of thing did NOT happen to Nancy Drew.

In other words, my year thus far has been on the miserable side, and I'm just now emerging from that unfortunate, barely-functioning, subsisting on Motrin/Gatorade/late night calls to girlfriends stage. Reading about all these girls who have suitors thick on the ground that they don't even care about is only just now starting to sound appealing, so, with any luck, I'll have Polly's Southern Cruise up later today.

That said, if anyone has a series book recommendation featuring a heroine who's UNlucky in love, you know I'd be all over that. Not that I'm expecting a lot of those! Sorry to make you all listen to my petty problems, but I wanted you to know that you hadn't been abandoned for nothing or forgotten.
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