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Girl Sleuth: Nancy Drew and the Women Who Created Her

3.75  ·  Rating details ·  2,615 ratings  ·  520 reviews
A plucky “titian-haired” sleuth solved her first mystery in 1930. Eighty million books later, Nancy Drew has survived the Depression, World War II, and the sixties (when she was taken up with a vengeance by women’s libbers) to enter the pantheon of American girlhood. As beloved by girls today as she was by their grandmothers, Nancy Drew has both inspired and reflected the ...more
Paperback, 314 pages
Published September 5th 2006 by Mariner Books (first published September 12th 2005)
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Rachel Elizabeth Nancy Drew's character was constantly in a state of modernization. Designed as free spirited, she took on positive attributes like athletic skills and…moreNancy Drew's character was constantly in a state of modernization. Designed as free spirited, she took on positive attributes like athletic skills and cleverness, which led her to take on a role as an independent woman.

Her first reveal to the public was in 1930, so I'm fairly certain that the feminism wasn't a clear goal for the ghost writers & company; but they did establish one of the few female characters unhindered by romance or existing to act as a damsel in distress. (less)

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Richard Derus
Sep 23, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
2019 UPDATE The long-awaited TV adaptation has tapped a newcomer to play Nancy Drew! Exciting news, since the CW is the logical home for a drama based on her career.

Rating: 4* of five

The Publisher Says: A plucky "titian-haired" sleuth solved her first mystery in 1930. Eighty million books later, Nancy Drew has survived the Depression, World War II, and the Sixties (when she was taken up with a vengeance by women's libbers) to enter the pantheon of American girlhood. As beloved by girls today as
Hannah Greendale
Jan 10, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: literary
Click here to watch a video featuring this book on my channel, From Beginning to Bookend.

Ok...first some Nancy Drew fan-girling....then my review of this book.

When I saw this book in my local library, I snapped it right up! Although Trixie Belden is my girl detective of choice ever since my teenage years in the 80's, I also enjoyed Nancy Drew. There's just something about a teenage girl sleuth that draws a young girl in to these books. Back in the day, I had the entire Trixie Belden series in paperback, and dutifully traveled to Waldenbooks in the city to pick up the last two books,
Jun 01, 2015 rated it liked it
I enjoyed this book about the real life creators of Nancy Drew. However, it was vague on one little detail that became extremely important to me as I read it. I ended up doing a bit of sleuthing, myself, and I am extremely amped by what I discovered.

Before getting into that, I will quickly summarize by saying that this is a book for Nancy Drew fans or, perhaps, for children's librarians or others who might be interested in the history of juvenile publishing. I found the book quite interesting, a
So aside from this gorgeous Scandinavian fairytale book I used to repeatedly check out from the library as a child*, the Nancy Drew books make up the entirety of my first real literary memories. When you have a bookworm for a child, know that that child will scour your entire house for any book it can find**, and will then proceed to read any and all books indiscriminately. This works out well for the child, generally, but you should know it's going to happen. That's how I found my mom's collect ...more
Jan 16, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2009
"Grab your magnifying glass, because this is a mystery story." That's the first sentence of the book, and it was all it took to convince me that this book was absolutely something I'd want to read. For the most part, the book didn't quite live up to this particular promise. It's not a mystery at all.

But it turned out to be something even better. Not just a history of the Nancy Drew stories and their place in our culture, but also the story of women in the twentieth century. Everything from the W
Nov 14, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Absolutely fascinating read! I know that many of us got started with Nancy Drew before moving over to Trixie Belden. This book gives the whole history behind Nancy, the Hardy Boys, the Bobbsey Twins, the Dana Girls and a whole host of other books many of us grew up with.
Believe it or not, Nancy Drew and the above all started out as 50¢ pulp books. The early books were churned out as quickly as possible so that the author could earn $100-125 per book. (The author had to sign away their rights by
Elizabeth A.G.
Feb 08, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a nostalgic read for me because I had read a number of Nancy Drew books as a young girl (as well as some Hardy Boy books). This is an interesting book about the Stratemeyer family and the Stratemeyer Syndicate responsible for writing and for the ghost writing of these children's books. The author, Melanie Rehak, gave the background history of the creation of this girl sleuth and how the Stratemeyer Syndicate, established by Edward Stratemeyer, was continued by his daughters, Harriet Str ...more
Robin Tobin (On the back porch reading)
Wow I never knew!
Sarah Hunter
Jan 17, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: american-studies
Somewhere in this book- I can't find the exact quote now- Rehnak notes that many of the adults in the late seventies and eighties who grew up reading Nancy Drew, and then gifted the book to their children, remember few actual details about the text beyond identifying strongly with Nancy herself. This perfectly describes my relationship to the series, which I'm sure I spent a lot of time reading, but I don't remember well enough to describe any particular plot or even any of the characters beyond ...more
Oct 28, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Girl Sleuth” isn’t trivia and entrenches us far more thoroughly than a biography. Edward Stratemeyer had more ideas than he could write. A tobacconist’s son, he could afford to open a company for them. At a few cents each, he struck a royalty deal with a publisher in the late 1800s, Grosset & Dunlop. The notion of adventure literature made for children is a tidal wave that arrived later. Even through wars and a depression, his series were in the right position to prosper. Edward needed his crud ...more
Cormac Zoso
Nov 22, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Having been far more a Nancy Drew fan when I was young than a fan of the Hardy Boys (being male everyone pushed Hardy Boys on me ... but really, I found them boring compared to that sparkling Nancy Drew lol), I always assumed that Carolyn Keene was the sole and loving author of all those mysteries and that she perhaps was writing them from overblown memories or wanted-fantasies from her own childhood with her friends. I stumbled upon this book on a discount table and snapped it up for a couple o ...more
Jan 03, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: fans of feminism, women's college students, Nancy Drew fans
Recommended to Rachael by: http://evillibrariansupervillain.word...
When I was young my grandma had an entire bookshelf of Bobbsey twins, Hardy Boys, and Nancy Drew books. And not just series novels, the ORIGINAL series novels. So I got the pleasure of reading the classic, original Nancy Drews growing up. So it was a trill that this novel also tied in the histories of all my favorite childhood series, not my favorite girl detective.

I have to admit I was annoyed while reading the first 115 pages for a few reasons. First of, though it built the foundation for Nanc
Dec 24, 2016 rated it really liked it
I love reading mysteries, and it must be in part because I loved Nancy Drew mysteries as a young reader. I am old enough and have old enough relatives that I have read many of the "original" earlier versions and will now go back and reread a couple. I knew there was no real Carolyn Keene but did not know the depth and breadth of the Syndicate that created, wrote and published all those books as well as Hardy Boys and other series. There was lots of detail, sometimes a bit too much, but the manne ...more
The Story Girl
Nov 28, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: e-t-olves, history
I saw this book on Marie's goodreads page, so I decided to check it out from the library because I loved Nancy Drew when I was in the fifth grade. It started out okay, but I ended up only liking the historical parts of it, and started skimming the parts about "the women who created her" because I just wasn't interested. Edward Stratemeyer started a lucrative syndicate, came up with the idea for Nancy Drew (I think?). When he died, his daughter Harriet outlined the books, while Mildred wrote most ...more
Mar 21, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a fascinating read! I remember reading all the Nancy Drew books that my grandma had in her basement - which were originally my mom's- and thinking that Carolyn Keene was the greatest writer ever. To find out about the many authors who wrote these books made me want to read them all over again.
Oct 06, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2018

Girl Sleuth tells the story Nancy Drew through biographies of the three people instrumental in creating and developing the series. Edward Stratemeyer, his daughter Harriet Adams, and Nancy's principal ghostwriter Mildred Benson. It also examines Nancy's cultural impact. This book was really well-written and is the first examination that I've read of the syndicate outside of more academic publications. This is a must read for anyone who ever held a flashlight underneath the covers in breathle
Tom Franklin
May 16, 2009 rated it really liked it
An interesting look at the lives of the two women most responsible for the Nancy Drew books, as well as the father of one who created the character and ran the writing syndicate behind the Drew series (as well as The Hardy Boys, The Bobbsey Twins, Tom Swift, The Rover Boys and many others).

The Stratemeyer Syndicate wrote brief outlines for the plots of the books and then bought the manuscripts outright from their writers. The books were then published under pseudonyms (and via contracts) that k
Kelsey Bryant
Oct 15, 2015 rated it really liked it
Girl Sleuth: Nancy Drew and the Women Who Created Her by Melanie Rehak is a must-read for anyone who is or has been an ardent fan of Nancy Drew, original or revised. It clears up the mystery of her authorship, the identity of pseudonym Carolyn Keene, the wide appeal of Nancy, and the differences between her old and new versions and when exactly she changed. It goes into all things Nancy Drew in pop culture. Beyond that, it gives a fascinating peek into the history of children’s book publishing i ...more
Christina Baehr
Jan 31, 2016 rated it liked it
I picked this up on a whim at the local library. At times I skimmed it because I was less interested in a general history of changing social expectations of women in the 20th c (about which I know quite a bit already) than I was in learning about the fabulous Nancy Drew and then people who made her and protected her untarnished reputation for decades.

I was really interested to discover that one reason for her success was that ND appealed to the sensibilities of both conservatives (she was chast
May 28, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
4.5 stars. I'm not sure why I can't give it 5 stars......, because I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Maybe part of it's because the title annoys me...... the "women" who created her.....when the book relates the fact that a man was the one who came up with the original idea!
I'm not big on non-fiction usually - but this story was so enthralling! Like many others, I loved Nancy Drew as a child, and was so interested to read about her history. I did not realize the controversy that surrounded her aut
Jan 01, 2013 rated it liked it
As a child I had found the original Nancy Drews in my grandmother's basement. They had belonged to my aunt and my mother, and I read through them eagerly. When my grandmother died my mother gave me the books, and when my kids, a girl and boy, were probably 6 and 4, or 7 and 5, I began reading the books to them and we went through "all" of the original series, replacing a few that were missing with the "updated" versions.

I really love Nancy Drew, her "skillful" driving, perfection, her knack for
Apr 19, 2015 rated it really liked it
I love that the history of Nancy Drew has a bit of mystery and intrigue in it, given how the pseudonym “Caroline Keene” encompassed at least 3 writers over the years. I had forgotten how much I loved these stories when I was young and just the names “George and Bess” and "Ned Nickerson" were enough to bring up memories of stories about hidden heirlooms, secret passageways and mysterious disappearances. All solved by a smart, brave young woman who I looked up to.

This book connected the events of
May 01, 2015 rated it really liked it
An overnight success upon her 1930 debut, the character of Nancy Drew has continued to be popular among young readers for almost a century. In spite of changing times and the unique tastes of successive generations, Nancy has remained popular. As someone who clearly remembers—and still has—the Nancy Drew starter set her parents gave her at the age of five, Melanie Rehak's investigation into the history and people behind the mystery series was of immediate interest. Overall, I found Girl Sleuth t ...more
Sybil Johnson
Jul 12, 2016 rated it really liked it
This is a great book if you're interested in the history of the Nancy Drew series. It details the series from its inception to pretty much current time, focusing on the two women most responsible for developing the series. The first bit that deals with their background I admit to being a little slow for me, though it's still interesting to see what women had to deal with in the early 20th century. The book picked up once the focus was turned to the series. A must-read for anyone who is a Nancy D ...more
Melody Schwarting
Like so many other budding bookaholics, I grew up reading Nancy Drew mysteries. To this day, the titles still tantalize—The Secret of the Old Clock, The Mystery at the Moss-Covered Mansion, The Secret in the Old Lace. It makes me want to pull out a magnifying glass, hop in a roadster, and drive into the mist. If there is an Aesthetic™ called NancyDrewTitleCore, I’m there.

Girl Sleut is a history of Nancy Drew, the Stratemeyer Syndicate, and the ghostwriters who were Carolyn Keene. The Stratemeyer
Jul 26, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: fans of Nancy Drew (obviously)
A bit confusing at the beginning as the author skips around among the lives of three women (two of whom played an integral role in the creation and continuation of Nancy Drew)--the Stratemeyer sisters, Edna and Harriet, and Mildred Augustine. More than adequately covers the changes and developments of Nancy Drew's character as well as the series overall from its inception in the 1930's up to the present-day version.
Sep 10, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: owned-books
What fun to read this book about the history of the Nancy Drew novels! My daughter gave me the book for my birthday, and I read it in two days, enjoying all of the story. It made me wish I had some of the Nancy Drew mysteries I read when I was ten to twelve years old, to re-read them! Lots of interesting history from the early twentieth century in this book , too. If you ever thrilled to the mysteries of Nancy Drew, you will love this book!
Jul 15, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Engaging and entertaining... as one who loved Nancy Drew books in the fourth grade, I was thrilled to learn more about the "young sleuth." Learning about the Syndicate, the ghost writers, and the fifty-cent series books that became popular in the first half of the twentieth century was both a literary and historical education. Also: one of the ghost writers was writing Nancy Drew books in Cleveland, Ohio!
Nov 17, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
a completely interesting (although at times a bit dry and jumpy) tale about the man who created Nancy Drew and the women who truly fleshed her out. as an avid Drew fan (i've got my fingers crossed that i someday inhereit my grandmother's dark blue hardcovers), i was giddy to find this book on a used shelf. and was not dissapointed.
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