Wednesday, January 18, 2023

Murderous Miscellany

The abandoned Christmas tree is gone. I noticed its absence when I was walking the dog a few days ago, and someone is working in that adjacent vacant shop. I predicted it would languish there for three weeks and it was only a bit more than two, so that's not too terrible. I suspect it would have been longer but for the shop renovation.

Yesterday I walked to work and weirdly, I was part of a veritable river of people walking up Broadhurst Gardens through South Hampstead. Normally, when I walk that route I'm one of just a few people on the sidewalk, so I figured something must be going on. I wish I'd taken a video because it was like Fifth Avenue out there. Sure enough, when I got to work I read that the Jubilee line was partly down, so all those people were probably getting off trains in West Hampstead and walking to the next closest station at Finchley Road.

In library news, I noticed yesterday that by strange coincidence, almost all our books from the "Murder Most Unladylike" series were on the shelf. This happens so rarely I was motivated to take a picture. It's a wildly popular series with fifth and sixth graders and usually only a handful are available at any given time. "A Spoonful of Murder," book six, was checked out, so this photo still doesn't show all of them.

(Side note: I'm only now noticing that the book on the far left is misshelved! It's from a different series! Gotta fix that today.)

I've mentioned our "red dot" system before -- we put red dots on books that are suitable for younger readers. So these are all approved, despite the fact that they're apparently about murder. I guess that's no worse than the Hardy Boys or Nancy Drew, though as I recall they were more about thievery and and other villainous shenanigans. Were people ever murdered in the Hardy Boys? I can't remember.

Anyway, I've never read the "Murder Most Unladylike" books, but they get stellar reviews from the kids. The Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew still get read these days too, but maybe less than when I was young. I used to love Hardy Boys books. As I recall, "The Melted Coins" was my favorite. I still remember Mrs. Rideau and her corn soup.

Let's catch up with long-lived celebrities! In January 2021, I wrote a post listing a few nonagenarian and centenarian actors and singers who were still alive at that time. Several of them have died in the two years since, but still with us are Glynis Johns (99), Eva Marie Saint (98), Dick van Dyke and June Lockhart (97), Mel Brooks and Tony Bennett (96), and Harry Belafonte (95). The relatively youthful Mitzi Gaynor (91) and Gene Hackman (92) are persevering, as is spring chicken Tina Louise (88). Producer Norman Lear is still around at 100. I'm sure there are others!

(Top photo: Frosty baby shoes, abandoned on the sidewalk yesterday morning.)


Moving with Mitchell said...

A colorful shelf and a great frosty shoes photo. SG's mother's local library had shelf-upon-shelf of books with red heart stickers on their spines. Romance novels.

Andrew said...

Murder Most Unladylike sounds like an interesting title of a book series. One of my favourite books when I was young, I must have read it three times at least, was Our Brother Nick and the Tattooed Gardner. I think that would be a great title for a gay adult film. Somehow the kids in the book solved the crime (murder?) by some post boxes in England being marked GR or ER, or was that postal vans. It was a long time ago.

Sabine said...

Now I feel old. When I started to read, backinthedays, I don't think there was any age appropriate vetting in place. My first books were the gruesome fairytales of the Brothers Grimm (it's in the name), lots of murders, beheading, burning, hot tar etc. and then I moved onto Jack London's White Fang which has plenty of animal cruelty, drink, dog and human fighting and an escaped convict as far as I remember.

Yorkshire Pudding said...

I spotted the misplaced Scarlet and Ivy book straight away. Surely there must be a serious post mortem involving all library staff to get to the root of this worrying issue. Author Sophie Cleverly would be appalled if she knew what was happening. Coincidentally, "The Dance in the Dark" is my favourite in the entire series - a fabulous book filled with excitement and mystery.

Debby said...

Mary Downing Hahn is a popular author here. She writes ghost stories and murder mysteries. For a time, William was all about her. It came as a shock the first time that I realized that someone was actually murdered in her story, and that it wasn't a big misunderstanding. Or that the ghosts were real spirits, not easily explained in the last ten minutes like Scooby Do. ("I'd have gotten away with it too, if it weren't for those blasted kids!!!")

Marty said...

Haven’t heard of that series before. I might check it out just out of curiosity.
Glynis Johns! Loved her voice

Bob said...

I'd have read those murder books when I was a kid. I used to love those kind of detective mystery tales.

Boud said...

When entertainers die at a very old age, I'm usually surprised to find they had still been alive! And since I know every name on your list, that places me in the advanced class, too.

Interesting to hear what kids like to read. Also that they do still like books, it's not all little screens. Like the one I'm on right now..

Ms. Moon said...

I'm with Boud- when I hear that some aged celebrity has died, I usually am surprised that they'd still been alive.

Pixie said...

I was lucky in some ways, my parents, despite all of their faults, never censored anything I read. To be honest, I doubt they noticed what I was reading. I'm glad that kids are still reading. We read to Jack every night before bed and he's come to enjoy it very much.

ellen abbott said...

My sister was into the Nancy Drew books. I read a few as I recall. I think my reading was a little more eclectic. I remember reading Edith Hamilton's Mythology when everyone else was reading Charlotte's Web. I'm trying to get through the #1 ladies Detective Agency books but can't find the next one in the series. The library says it's there but if it is it's misplaced because the library ladies can't find it either.

Ellen D. said...

I was a Nancy Drew fan back in the day.
I remember the kids liking the Guardians of Ga'hoole fantasy series when I worked in the school library and some liked the silly Captain Underpants books. As long as they were reading, we were glad!

37paddington said...

I read all the Hardy Boys and have often wondered since why I never read any of the Nancy Drew series. Maybe I was just going with what was on my brother's book shelf.

Sharon said...

I wonder if Dick Van Dyke still lives in AZ. I used to see him at the mall but it's been a long time since the last encounter.
I enjoyed a few Nancy Drew books. She was very resourceful.

NewRobin13 said...

I remember reading the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew books. Going to the library was a regular family outing when I was young. My little sister learned how to write her name so she could get a library card like her big brothers and sister. It was quite a celebratory moment at the library for the family that day!

Ed said...

School libraries were not a big part of my youth. Thinking back, I'm not sure my elementary school even had a library other than perhaps a small one in each classroom. In high school, the library was full of dusty old books that to my knowledge, few others besides me looked through. I remember checking out many books with my parent's name in the checkout register.

Fortunately with no television in the house and two parents who were avid readers, we went to the library almost on a weekly basis and so I was exposed to lots of books, including all the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew books. It has been so long that I don't remember if murder was a thing or not. But I do seem to recall that there was a newer series of Hardy Boys that seemed a little bit edgier than the older series.

Peace Thyme said...

OK I admit to being weird in some ways, but I don't get it! Why would books suitable for children to read be marked with a RED dot? To me, a RED dot would mean stay away, or dangerous (well, they are murder mysteries) or hot or Not Allowed. Just a thought from my aging, addled brain this morning.

Kelly said...

I can't believe Tina Louise is 88 - the last remaining cast member from Gilligan's Island. I LOVED that show!!

Margaret said...

I've never heard of that series, but I would have loved it as a young person. I started out with Nancy Drew in 2nd grade because my teacher read one of them to the class. Mystery is my favorite genre to this day; I enjoy interesting and complex characters and a plot.

Allison said...

I read a lot of science fiction from the library. Only once did a librarian refuse to let me take a book out.

sparklingmerlot said...

When I was young I used to read my father's books. He had I always had similar tastes. I remember reading Wilbur Smith and loving it but it wasn't until I re-read them when much older that I realised how much sex and violence there was in them. I guess kids take on board what they are able to at their age. Obviously some censorship is needed but I think too many adults overthink things! It is good to see your library allows your kids to read murder mysteries.

Catalyst said...

Well I'm still here as a lurch toward 83 in April! Talk about a spring chicken in that group, eh?

Red said...

Great list of ancient celebrities.

River said...

That set of books looks very interesting. I haven't heard of them before. I never did read Nancy Drew or the Hardy Boys, my family weren't big on books and I got what I could from the library.

Steve Reed said...

Mitchell: That's one thing we don't have in the school library. Well, not in the Barbara Cartland sense!

Andrew: I have never heard of that book. Must have been a British/Australian thing!

Sabine: It's funny how much cruelty and mayhem makes its way into fairy tales. In true American fashion, the red dots are mostly meant to shield kids from sex and relationship stuff meant for older teens.

YP: It's entirely possible I put that book in the wrong place, but at work I'm going to blame the kids. :)

Debby: Yeah, we have some of her books here too. Kids always like a good ghost story.

Marty: I was singing "Sister Suffragettes" all day at work yesterday!

Bob: Mysteries are perennially popular -- still probably our most requested category.

Boud: It takes a lot of encouragement to get them off those little screens, though! (As it does for all of us, I suspect.)

Ms Moon: I had that reaction with Gina Lollobrigida.

Pixie: We're in a tricky spot as children's librarians. We don't censor them, exactly, but we try to guide them. Parents can always opt out of the red dot system and let their kids read anything, and some do.

Ellen: Probably misshelved like the book in my photo!

Ellen D: It's funny how books wax and wane in popularity. I've never even heard of Guardians of Ga'hoole. I think the Captain Underpants books are in our Lower School library. (Which is separate from the middle- and high-school library where I work.)

37P: I always thought the Hardy Boys were better than Nancy Drew. I tried them both.

Sharon: I thought he lived in California, but maybe I just assumed that.

Robin: Quite a milestone for many young readers! Our town didn't even have a library until I was in Middle School, and that must have been about when I got my first card.

Ed: Yeah, the Hardy Boys series has been regularly updated and rewritten. The newer incarnations do have more of an edge. I suspect some of our students think we're "dusty" too but we really work hard to stay current!

Peace Thyme: You are not the only person to ask that question! The red dot system pre-exists me, so how it came about I'm not sure. We have since agreed that a green dot might have been better, but it's too late now.

Kelly: I know! It's shocking! I always thought Mary Anne would outlive them all.

Margaret: It's hard to beat a well-written mystery. It can be tough to find good ones for kids, though. The adult ones tend to be too bloody/gory/scary.

Allison: What book was it?! Inquiring minds want to know!

Caro: I agree that many kids just roll with the story, no matter how mature it may seem to adults. I suspect we sometimes overthink the need to "protect" them. But at the same time, I wouldn't want to give them a book that glamorizes drug-dealing or contains explicit sex!

Catalyst: Just think, Dick van Dyke was already 14 when you were BORN!

Red: As I said, it's far from exhaustive. I'm sure there are many more!

River: Well, as long as you were reading, that's the main thing! And that's what we try to teach the kids -- to just read SOMETHING that required a longer attention span and is in print.

Jeanie said...

I will go into mourning when Dick Van Dyke passes. He remains my favorite. I just found some of his old shows on a streaming channel and watched them again a few days ago. Mel Brooks, too. This is quite a list ... I will miss them all.

I'm trying to remember if there were murders in Nancy Drew. There must have been but I can't think of anything specific. Of course, it's been a lot of years since I read one. I should do a re-read this summer when we get to the lake where my (small) collection of them live. Now that I think of it, I've read mysteries all my life!

Janie Junebug said...

I wonder what students can find in school libraries in the U.S. these days with all the arguments over books. Some people are offended by everything.