Meg: The Mystery of Black-Magic Cave (Meg Duncan #3) By Holly Beth Walker

What was the sinister secret of the black-magic cave? Meg and Kerry were soon to find out…

Black Magic Cave

Background: From the 1950s through the 1970s Whitman published a huge number of these squat, dust jacketless hard covers, separately targeting boys and girls. Some of these were based on TV shows, some were based on celebrities having imaginary adventures and solving crimes (Annette Funicello! Patty Duke!), and some were original series about plucky eponymous girl-heroines solving mysteries, having adventures and learning valuable lessons: your Trixie Beldens, Ginny Gordons and Donna Parkers.

While Julie Campbell’s Trixie Belden series is probably the only one of these that can be considered a certified classic, the others are, at least by reputation, satisfyingly solid efforts.

We’re getting a late start on our annual autumnal extravaganza, so let’s start by checking in with our old chum Meg Duncan. Continue reading

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Checking In With The Imaginary Summer Book Club: Please Don’t Eat the Daisies By Jean Kerr

Click here for information on the 2014 edition of Molly’s Imaginary Summer Book Club Featuring Classics of Women’s Literature. As all of the four selected titles have filmed adaptations, we will be looking at the movie versions as we go along. This month, the August selection, Jean Kerr’s Please Don’t Eat the Daisies.)

Please Don't Eat the Daisies

Jean Kerr’s phenomenal best-seller of the late 1950’s might be the earliest archeological example of “Mommy Snark”- here in the future, parents are constantly baring the souls online (always with a knowing wink) about letting their kids eat Pop Tarts for dinner or concerns about how Avery or Madison is probably going to grow up to be bum or a serial killer.

I can only imagine that such confessionals had more shock value in 1957, when Kerr confessed that her “special chicken creole soup” was made by mixing together a can of Campbell’s chicken soup with a can of Campbell’s creole soup or that when none of the children will fess up to throwing the calendar in the toilet she “relies on blind instinct” in selecting the probable culprit for a spanking, shrugging off the fact that “this undoubtedly leads to an occasional injustice, but you’d be surprised how it cuts down on the plumbing bills.” Continue reading

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‘Twixt Twelve and Twenty By Pat Boone

Teen-age can be a confusin’ time, but it can also be a great adventure.

Twixt 12 and 20

Pat Boone was a teen idol who rose to fame recording sanitized cover versions of Rhythm & Blues songs deemed too scary for mainstream radio. The pros and cons of this practice of musical “whitewashing” are still up for debate: while Boone had the #1 hit version of “Ain’t That a Shame”, it was eventually and irrevocably eclipsed by Fats Domino’s original, with Boone’s becoming little more than a pop music footnote. If they’re feeling charitable, music historians credit Boone’s popularity with bringing R&B to a mainstream audience (not to mention royalty payments to songwriters).

And Boone embraced his white-bread image all the way (his cover of Little Richard’s “Long Tall Sally” gives the impression of a man who had no idea what the song was about until the moment he stepped up to the mic, and is desperately trying to improvise clean lyrics on the spot), so it’s no surprise that his advice to the teenagers of 1958 focuses on clean living, going to church, concentrating on school and near-constant spankings. Continue reading

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Love Comes To Anne By Lucille S. Warner


This week, something from the archive…

Originally posted on Lost Classics of Teen Lit, 1939-1989:

The last Wildfire title that appeared in this space, Recipe for Romance was basically a stupid story that was well-written. This one is just a stupid story that is badly written. Whereas that title at least had a gimmick, a main character with a goal and some local color, Love Comes to Anne is set in a generic suburb of an unnamed city (all we know is that it’s not Chicago) and features a main character who does not do much of anything. It is also the first book under the Wildfire imprint, so I assume much of this is because they haven’t really decided what to do with the series or built up their stable of reliable Cooneys, Cavanaghs and Claypool-Miners.  Luckily for you, readers, there is at least enough weird stuff going on in this one to make it worth taking a look at.

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Rhapsody in Orange and Brown: 15 Favorite Classic YA Covers

A few weeks back there was a something of a kerfuffle over Penguin’s 50th Anniversary cover of Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. I was a holder of the minority opinion that the new cover was kind of  great… at least it was memorable!  

What was the last really memorable cover art you saw on a YA title? A glance at Amazon’s bestsellers in the “Teen & Young Adult” category reveals plain graphics, boring stock photos, and movie tie-in reissues.

It wasn’t always this way! Illustrated covers of decades past were constantly compelling, evocative and terrifying. Mostly terrifying.

Some of the best covers (regardless of literary merit) of books reviewed in this space include…


…with additional special mention to artists, designers and photographers behind Fridays, Green Eyes, Holly in Love, Just Dial a Number, and Since That Party.

As far as books that have not been reviewed in this space, I’d like to to bring your attention to 15 of my all-time favorite covers: Continue reading

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Barbara Nichols: Fifth-Grade Teacher By Bernard & Marjorie Palmer

It had seemed to Barbara that she had always wanted to be a teacher…

Barbara Nichols 5th Grade Teacher

Back to school! Time to start the year with a good attitude cautionary tale wacky scheme inspirational message!

The Plot: I have been pleasantly surprised by the Palmers’ “Career Books” for the Moody Bible Institute, in that they present fairly progressive tales of young women pursuing their career dreams, even when their parents or society may not entirely approve. Continue reading

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Mirrors Never Lie By Isaacsen-Bright

Caught in the nightmare of anorexia nervosa, Bonnie could lose more than just weight. She could lose her life.

Mirrors Never Lie

I have not been able to uncover any information on this book’s author, the mononomenclature’d Isaacsen-Bright, so I have no idea if he or she is a professional in the field of social problems (other books published under this name include YA novels dealing with homelessness, Lupus, and giving up a normal life in order to become a professional figure skater) or just a meddler pushing an agenda (I am looking at you, Anonymous!)

Either way, this book ends up with a message that has to be the exact opposite of what the author intended: anorexia will make you popular at school, win you the boy of your dreams and even reunite your divorced parents!


The Plot: Teenaged Bonnie Isherwood is short and fat, which we know because the author tells us that she is exactly 5-feet, 3-inches [Editor’s note: LOL] and weighs 109 pounds [Editor’s note: LOLOLOLOLOLOLOL] Is this supposed to be an early indication of Bonnie’s body dysmorphia? No, because her mother is constantly nagging her about her weight and she is taunted by the senior cheerleaders during her try-out for being “pretty hippy” and looking “like a young buffalo”. Continue reading

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