Friday, April 27, 2018

Trixie Belden series by Julie Campbell and “Kathryn Kenny”

Reviewed by Kristin

Certain books can transport me back to my childhood:  The Fire Cat by Esther Averill, The Borrowers by Mary Norton, Smiling Hill Farm by Miriam E. Mason, Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey, The Secret of the Old Clock by Carolyn Keene, and so many more.  We lived near a neighborhood library and the highlight of my week was picking out more books to read while riding in the car, eating breakfast, or especially hiding under the sheets with a flashlight after bedtime.  Many times I begged, “Just one more chapter!” when I was discovered reading in the late night hours.  Even though Nancy Drew was a pretty sharp sleuth, the amateur detective who captured me in my pre-teen years was Trixie Belden.  I may have been nine or ten when I started reading the series, but all these years later I still have been known to pick one off my bookshelf and just spend an hour or two lost in happy memories.

Trixie lives with her parents and brothers on Crabapple Farm in upstate New York.  Her mother is “Moms,” who always has a cheerful smile and a quick reminder for Trixie to dust the living room before she goes out to ride her bike or swim in the nearby lake.  Trixie usually gives the dusting a lick and a promise before bursting outdoors, often with younger brother Bobby who she considers a terrible pain.  As the series begins in The Secret of the Mansion, big brothers Brian and Mart are off working at a camp, and Trixie knows that she will just die of boredom before the summer ends.

When moving vans pull up the long driveway of the neighboring Manor House, Moms tells Trixie that she might want to go meet the Wheelers’ daughter, but be sure to take Bobby along!  Honey Wheeler is the stereotypical “poor little rich girl” but is soon tramping through the woods, teaching Trixie to ride a horse, learning how to ride a bike, and pretty much having more fun than she ever had before in her sheltered little life.  But trouble is afoot!  Mr. Belden finds a miserly old neighbor unconscious in his driveway.  Will Mr. Frayne recover?  And whether or not he does, is there any truth to the rumors that he has a fortune hidden in his decrepit old house?

Thus begins the adventures of Trixie and Honey, as well as the other members of the club they will soon call the Bob-Whites.  Brian, Mart, Jim, Diana and Dan round out the group of teenagers who seem to find a mystery around every corner, whether in their sleepy little town of Sleepyside-on-the-Hudson or on their travels across the country.  Between hidden/lost/stolen jewels, brown eyed uncles, and missing sheep, Trixie and the Bob-Whites have their hands full.

The Trixie Belden series was begun in 1948 by Julie Campbell, who wrote the first six books.  Following those classic titles (and the best written, in my opinion) several authors were assigned the pseudonym Kathryn Kenny to continue the teens’ adventures through the next few decades, finishing in 1986 with #39, The Mystery of the Galloping Ghost.  It’s no surprise that the vocabulary can seem a bit dated with Trixie continually exclaiming “Oh jeepers!” and “Yikes” as well as referring to big brother Brian’s old but beloved jalopy.  In some of the later books, the terminology was updated, but the original wording seems fitting to that time.  In 2003, Random House began reprinting the first books in the series, but unfortunately stopped after the first fifteen titles.  I was hoping that a new generation would come to love Trixie as I did, and still do.

Trixie always seemed to me a most realistic figure in teenage sleuth-dom.  Sure, Nancy Drew has her little blue roadster convertible which she jumps into at a moments’ notice (probably wrapping a scarf around her titian colored hair—that’s a rosy apricot color if you were curious) and a seemingly unlimited budget to travel around solving mysteries.  Trixie has siblings, chores, school responsibilities, and an outdoorsy personality which was extremely appealing to me.  She sometimes made mistakes, but always owned up to them and tried her best to help other people.  Her generous nature and compassion for others, as well as a strong sense of right and wrong always shone through, no matter which author took up the pen.

What books take you back to your childhood?


  1. Trixie was my go-to teen sleuth as well. I fully endorse your opinion about the first books being the best. They took another downhill dive around #16 and never quite recovered their original spirit. In some of the latter Trixie came off as more of a brat than a well-intended but stubborn investigator.

  2. I'm another huge Trixie fan. I discovered her about the time I was tiring of the Hardys and Nancy. I completely agree about how realistic Trixie was as a character with strengths and weaknesses and chores. It would take all of the Bob-Whites to have the skills to solve a mystery, no hidden talents for Trixie. Having rich friends helped with the budget and getting them out of Sleepside at times, but it was still more realistic since it wasn't the Beldens coming up with the money.

    Can you tell how much I still love Trixie?

  3. I'm glad other people have these Trixie memories as well! I could probably summarize half their adventures without even going back to read them again. I heard rumors of a 40th book being written a decade or so ago, (probably as fan fiction,) but I don't think I ever tracked that down.