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Girl Sleuth: Nancy Drew and the Women Who Created Her
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Girl Sleuth: Nancy Drew and the Women Who Created Her

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3.75  ·  Rating details ·  1,885 Ratings  ·  373 Reviews
Aplucky "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 c ...more
Hardcover, 364 pages
Published September 12th 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Richard Derus
Sep 23, 2012 rated it really liked it
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 she was by their grandmothers, Nancy Drew has both inspired and reflected the changes in her readers' lives. Now, in a narrative with all the vivid energy and page-t
...more
Lori
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
...more
Ashley
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
Julia
Jan 16, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
Macjest
Nov 14, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
Cormac Zoso
Nov 22, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Janet
Jan 01, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
Christina Baehr
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
...more
Rachael
Jan 03, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
...more
Susan
Dec 24, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Renae, Lady Disdain
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
Rana
Oct 31, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This was pretty decent, informative and interesting enough to finish. However, my poor synopsis reading skills strike again; what I wanted was more about how Nancy and the stories evolves over time and their impact on modern authors. What I got was exactly what the title says: the story of the two women who wrote as Carolyne Keene.
Carla Remy
I'm frustrated that I didn't love this. The subject is incredible: I love the story of the Statemeyer syndicate, publishers of pseudonymous ghost-written kid lit. I appreciated the writer's touch for history and feminism. All the same, I was kind of bored ... Just like with actual Nancy Drew books! Even as a kid, I always wanted to love them then was so bored!
Amy
A fascinating look at the publishing world, women in business, life at the turn of the century, and Nancy Drew herself. I'm sure I remember finding out that Carolyn Keene was a pen name; however, I don't think I ever heard the real story behind these books.

Along with Nancy, the Stratemeyer Syndicate was also behind several other series for children. The Hardy Boys and the Bobbsey Twins were some of the ones I read as a kid. There were many others, though. The founder of the Syndicate kept tight
...more
Sarah Hunter
Jan 17, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Tom Franklin
May 16, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
Kelsey Bryant
Oct 15, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Tori
May 28, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
Mere
Jan 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book far exceeded my expectations. It's immensely enjoyable, interesting, and very well researched. I'm extremely impressed with this writer.

This book is a must-read for any older Nancy Drew fan whose understanding of "Carolyn Keene" remains murky or who remains curious about the types of changes the book has gone through during its numerous editions and reboots.

The breadth of this book is insane. It covers everything that existed as a backdrop of this series, from the Great Depression, to
...more
Bookmarks Magazine

Rehak glows as a biographer of the players behind the creation of the mythic girl detective, exploring Adams's background as a Wellesley graduate at a time when few girls completed high school and her subsequent transformation from housewife to businesswoman after inheriting her father's publishing company. With her own sleuthing, Rehak pieces together the working relationship between Benson and Adams from their business letters and dealings. As a historian, however__especially of the emerging f

...more
Debbie
Oct 03, 2011 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
For someone who grew up thinking that Nancy Drew was the greatest, I was excited that our book club chose this book for the January meeting.

Sadly, not much about Nancy Drew herself is shared. This is a much more of a back and forth about the behind the scenes struggles, writers, collaborators, and history than I expected. Harriet Stratemeyer Adams and Mildred (forgot her last name) both seemed like interesting strong women, both with a reasonable claim to part of Nancy's rise to fame. At times
...more
Megan
Apr 19, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
Sybil Johnson
Jul 12, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Lauren
Jul 26, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Suzette
Sep 10, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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!
Heidi
Apr 06, 2009 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, gave-up
Why do I persist in reading books like this? This was like the Woolworth's book--now I know far more about the Nancy Drew books than any normal person should. I read almost the whole thing, but quit when the story got to the 1960s and started discussing Nancy's role in the feminist movement, blah blah blah. You will all want me on your team when we're playing Trivial Pursuit and a Nancy Drew question comes up!
Andrea
Jul 15, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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!
Jen
Nov 17, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Carla JFCL
Mar 09, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was really interesting. I was a major Nancy Drew fan growing up, but knew nothing about how the series was conceived or written. Fascinating information about the family/publishing syndicate as well as ghost writers and controversy over the "real" Carolyn Keene. Bonus for me was Mildred's Iowa roots. The beginning seemed a bit slow but it was well worth sticking with this book.
Chloe
Jul 22, 2010 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This book was tedious at times, and a little scattered in its focus, but the subject was interesting and chronicled the lives of two remarkable women for their era. I think the book did a good job of addressing the mystery of Nancy Drew, her novelty and her importance in juvenile fiction- but the book was a struggle to finish because of its repetitive and overly straightforward nature.
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