Few things in literature have imprinted on me with the durability of the moment when Honey Wheeler's adopted brother, Jim Frayne, gave Beatrice (Trixie) Belden, a charm bracelet. Be still my tiny ten-year old beating heart. To this day, I have wanted a charm bracelet of my own. To this day, this bucket list item eludes me.
Trixie Belden books, even more so than Nancy Drew books, were a staple of my childhood. Trixie, along with her parents and her older brother Brian, twin brother Mart, younger brother Bobby and their badly behaved Irish Setter, Reddy, live at Crabapple Farm in the town of Sleepyside on the Hudson River. Crabapple Farm is bordered to the west by the big estate -- the Manor House -- and at the beginning of book one (Trixie Belden The Secret of the Mansion), the Manor House is getting a new occupant.
Honey Wheeler is soon to become Trixie's best friend, although at first Trixie isn't so sure. The only child of wealthy parents, Honey has more money than Trixie, better manners and better hair than Trixie, and she has better toys -- namely, horses. When they first meet, though, Honey's main quality is that she is lonely. Living next door to Trixie, whose imagination sometimes exceeds her common sense, means Honey will be neither lonely not bored for long.
During the series of Trixie Belden books, Trixie will introduce Honey to Di, and Honey's family will adopt redhead, Jim Frayne. These four plus Trixie's brother Brian, who is serious and wants to be a doctor someday, and her brother Mart, who is the bane of Trixie's existence and teases her mercilessly despite loving her, will not only pair up in very G-rated romances, they will form an exclusive club, the Bob Whites, complete with clubhouse and club jackets, and will have adventures and solve crimes together.
The money backing Honey's family enables the six teens to travel to locations including New York City, Arizona, the Mississippi River, Cobbett's Island, Happy Valley in Des Moines, Iowa, and the Ozark Mountains. Trixie's less affluent family requires the children to participate in chores such as dishwashing and babysitting eight-year old Bobby, which Trixie detests, but Honey, who has been raised by a governess, rather likes. It is in the normalcy of Trixie's home life that much of the charm of these books occurs, and it is the contrast in these two lifestyles that Trixie Belden books distinguish themselves from other crime-solving teenagers.
Among the memories created for me by Trixie and her gang, are younger brother Bobby's lisp, the introduction of stalactites and stalagmites as well as ghost fish when Trixie and the gang go spelunking, the horror (for Trixie) of almost missing the Christmas trip to an Arizona dude ranch because she is failing math (her parents relent only because Brian promises to tutor her while there), the concept that sheep can get 'cast' or stuck on their backs, and the idea that venison stew is delicious. That's right, author Kathryn Kenny actually managed to write about meat and vegetables in a pot in such a way that a ten-year old girl believed stew must taste great! Too bad no one has ever done the same for brussell sprouts and liver.
The first Trixie Belden book was originally copyrighted in 1948, then reprinted in 1976, which may be why they are so much warmer and so much less frightening than the Nancy Drew series. There were 39 books in the complete series, published under the pseudonym Kathryn Kenny, with the last book, The Mystery of the Galloping Ghost, published in 1986. As an adult I have wondered, sometimes, why I enjoy murder mysteries so much. It's not like I would really condone the actions of the murderers in my fiction, nor, actually, the law-bending of the cops chasing them. Perhaps the answer is as simple as my early reading exposures. Perhaps I owe my slightly quirky writing imagination to Trixie and the rest of the Bob Whites.
"Then," said Honey in a more hopeful tone of voice, "if your theory is right, the carcass will be gone when we get back."
"That's right," said Trixie, "But to be on the safe side, we'll bring along spades."
Honey shook her head. "If we discover proof that the dogs really did kill that deer, we will have to tell Jim. With daddy gone, he's the head of the family, and you know as well as I do, Trix, that he'll only laugh at us if we tell him that we're going to keep the dogs shut up. That just couldn't be done. With all the people in and out of our houses all day long, why, it's just about impossible--" Her voice dwindled away.
"I know," Trixie said in a small voice. "Besides, we can't collect the money for being game keepers if we don't report the dogs. And if we don't get the money, Brian won't get his jalopy. Why does life always have to be so complicated?" she finished miserably.
-- Excerpt from #5 Trixie Belden and the Mystery off Glen Road (where Trixie and Honey go up against deer poachers).
These days, the Trixie Belden series appears to be completed. If you want to purchase them, you may get lucky in used bookstores, as I did recently, or you might search them out on Amazon, where there still exist copies for sale. If you do, though, save some from me. I wouldn't mind completing my set.