"She had led them into and out of some mighty thrilling episodes."
July 2, 2014 10:44 PM   Subscribe

“Would you like to – solve mysteries? belong to a secret club? ride, swim, travel, go to parties with the best friends in the world? Then the wonderful adventures of Trixie Belden are written just for you. Don’t miss a single one!”

First published in 1948, Trixie Belden series by Julie Campbell (and later by various writers under the pseudonym Katherine Kenny) carved out a niche as a cherished childhood character and schoolgirl shamus. The books followed the adventures of Trixie, her best friends Honey Wheeler and Diana Lynch, her brothers Brian and Mart, and Honey’s adoptive brother Jim, as they solved mysteries in and around the fictional town of Sleepyside-on-Hudson. Unlike the more glamorous and worldly Nancy Drew, Trixie was always frustrated by her appearance, her chores, and her irritating brothers. As such, she seemed to speak to successive generations of bookish teen girls hungry for an adventurous role model, and wishing they too belonged to the Bobwhites of the Glen.

While the mysteries may not have been particularly sophisticated, and the series trope-laden, in the late 1940's, Trixie herself was something of a breakthrough female character. “She had short hair like mine, and like me, the regrettable tendency to get snappish with a younger sibling. Being a tomboy didn’t keep her from getting an identity bracelet from a boy, but that triumph was almost an afterthought in an adventure”. Each book centres on Trixie’s heroism, and the boys ”do very little”.

Much like her modern-day successor, Veronica Mars, Trixie had plans to be a professional detective when she grew up, but alas, the series finished before we ever found out if that came to pass.

Beginning in 2003, Random House began to reprint the series with careful editing, and audio and e-book versions are also available for some of the mysteries.

And to complete your nostalgia fix, read the old Fan Club Newsletters, check out the original cover art, and get your hands on some etsy crafts and paper dolls.
posted by szechuan (26 comments total) 46 users marked this as a favorite
I read every single one of these when I was between 9 and 12. I LOVED them, from her best friend Honey Wheeler (really??) to her exclamations (Jeepers!). I think it probably spurred my interest in horse racing... and being nosy.
posted by taterpie at 10:59 PM on July 2, 2014

I read all the original Belden books as well, decades ago, despite the fact that I never was (and never will be) a teenage girl. On Sunday, in a small village on a offshore Maine island, I was happy to see a friend's teenage daughter sitting in the back of a station wagon, avidily reading a Nancy Drew book written in the 1930s. The schoolgirl shamuses will never die!
posted by LeLiLo at 11:18 PM on July 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

I loved these (read them late 70s early 80s) though I couldn't tell you much about the plot of any I read!

One of the few things I remember was the shock Trixie felt at learning her mother had a secret talent for tongue twisters ... and realizing her mom had this whole other life.

Oh, and how to whistle like a Bob White!

I never knew about those fan club newsletters though -- those are pretty awesome. (I have solved the mystery in issue #9). And the paper dolls!!!!
posted by chapps at 11:19 PM on July 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

I need this t-shirt.
posted by julen at 11:26 PM on July 2, 2014 [2 favorites]

You think you know Trixie? Take the Trixie Belden Quiz.
posted by unliteral at 11:28 PM on July 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

My mom had some originals and then I found more at the library. Then I saw they'd been reissued and I would go to Zellers and Woolco to buy books. When I started, they were $1.75, but they gradually went up to $2.50 and I pestered my parents to increase my allowance so I could keep reading. I think I have about 30 boxed up in my parents' basement somewhere.
posted by Chaussette and the Pussy Cats at 11:59 PM on July 2, 2014 [2 favorites]

I read these way back in the day! I never knew about the paper dolls either - but that's something I so would have wanted back then!
posted by SisterHavana at 12:05 AM on July 3, 2014

My mom had a thing against Nancy Drew (too rich and too much of a girly-girl?), so when I started to get into the YA mystery genre in elementary school, I was gifted with the large collection of Trixie Belden books, which I promptly inhaled over the course of a summer. Didn't stop me from also reading a significant chunk of Nancy Drew books, but Trixie was always a little more relatable than the preternaturally poised titian blonde.

Seeing the cover of "Mystery off Glen Road" immediately brought me back to the heat of my bedroom in August and the feeling of the peeling, well-loved spine of the cover, and the smell of the organic hippie graham crackers I'd smuggled into the no-food zone of my room. That was a potent flashback.

Anyway, I'll be forwarding this on to my mom.
posted by wakannai at 12:05 AM on July 3, 2014 [3 favorites]

I loved these, although there were only 16 when I read them -- which frustrated me! So many bad Nancy Drews, so few Trixie stories. By the time the series re-started in the late 70s I was 15, well past the age of interest.

And I had the "uglies", apparently, according to the cover design listing (except for my copy of Mystery Off Glen Road, which had the cello cover featuring Trixie holding her saddle) . Oddly enough I never got them from the library and didn't buy the paperbacks: those didn't appear until the late 70s.
posted by jrochest at 1:57 AM on July 3, 2014

Oh, I would have loved these as a kid. I read heaps of Nancy Drews, as well as school stories and girls' annuals, and I loved paper dolls. The only thing I remember from Nancy is that flour is intensely flammable, as it's a fine powder, but at least I learned something from her.

I enjoyed the 'careful editing' link here, both because of Dussling's affection for the series and for the glimpse 'backstage' into the publishing world. My best friend's book is going to be published by Random House next year (eeee!) and it seems like she's found a fitting home for it.
posted by daisyk at 2:16 AM on July 3, 2014

I loved these books as a kid. Remembering them makes me wonder what happened to all the brave young heroines in the 70s and 80s. It's possible my memory is failing me but I don't remember many characters like Trixie during that period.
posted by rpfields at 3:15 AM on July 3, 2014

Fantastic. These occupied me in my tween years. So funny to see the 70's cover artwork now, but they are very familiar. I think I dumped a box of these, brown and ridden with silverfish, a couple years ago. Would have donated them if they were in better condition.
posted by amusebuche at 4:37 AM on July 3, 2014

I read these in the late 50s, along with Nancy Drew, and Cherry Ames, Student Nurse books. I got them at the library which I could walk to. Nice to be reminded.
posted by mermayd at 4:48 AM on July 3, 2014

I had completely forgotten about this! I devoured these when I was young, and had a whole collection (which I gifted to a younger sibling later) and also read the Nancy Drew books. I think I identified way more with Trixie.

One niece is now too old, and the others probably too young, but maybe I'll put this on the gift list for later for them!
posted by needlegrrl at 5:39 AM on July 3, 2014

My parents used to buy crates of used mystery books for me, so I had piles of Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys and the Little Colonel and the Bobbsey Twins and also some generous lashings of Trixie Belden. I think I still have the slightly creepy cover of the cave one, where she has to deal with the bulging blind eyes of gasping cave creatures. Educational! I'm glad that they're being released with (probably a judicious choice of editing) and not merely turned into a new series, the way the later Nancy Drews were kind of saccharine and sanitized of their zest.
posted by jetlagaddict at 5:40 AM on July 3, 2014

My 11 year old started reading these a few years ago - they hold up. I think more interesting than Nancy Drew.
posted by shothotbot at 5:44 AM on July 3, 2014

I think I am who I am today largely because of these books. Thank you so much for making this post. I am so happy that I am literally welling up with tears.

(This is not going to be a very productive work day.)
posted by iamkimiam at 5:56 AM on July 3, 2014 [2 favorites]

I needed to decide this weekend what to do with a box of books at my Dad's house, piles of original Nancy Drew and Cherry Ames that belonged to my mother. There is also the first of the Trixie Belden books, which made a huge impression on me and probably is why I still fear snakes to this day. I didn't own the rest, but I had a friend who must have had the entire run and I was able to borrow them. I have a clear memory of being quite jealous of her.

I had thought they'd be too old and out of date for my daughter, which is silly, since I never minded paging through the 30-40 year old pages in my youth. So I'll pull that first book out of the barn tomorrow and give to my 9 year old daughter. Thanks for the reminder of how awesome Trixie was!
posted by saffry at 7:01 AM on July 3, 2014

I collected Trixie Belden books like crazy when I was a pre-teen. Back then, in the pre-internet days, it was a major score when I could find a missing volume and fill a hole in the collection. Trixie and Jo (from the Facts of Life) were my heros.

I grew up on the west coast of Canada and on a recent drive from Montreal to NYC and back I remarked to a friend that my ideas about New York State were largely formed by reading Trixie Belden books. NYC was formed in my mind by Judy Blume, of course.
posted by Cuke at 7:36 AM on July 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

julen: I need this t-shirt.

Man, that would look awesome on an Ask-green shirt as a jessamyn tribute, with her "retired" Title under the picture!
posted by wenestvedt at 7:38 AM on July 3, 2014

I'm glad they updated them slightly, and will keep an eye out for more recent editions. I'm always a bit hesitant to share some of my childhood favorites with my kids -- Enid Blyton, for example, has not aged well.

Adult readers might like Mabel Maney's books, which I sometimes find shelved with the kids books at thrift stores. I leave them there.
posted by The corpse in the library at 7:43 AM on July 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

I read these when I was a kid in the early eighties! And I forgot about them almost entirely except for the name and very basic details and the design of the covers until I recently named my car "Belden" in a tortured pun and had to go look them back up. But yeah, Trixie was way better than Nancy Drew.
posted by dilettante at 8:30 AM on July 3, 2014

I read all of the old-school Nancy Drews but not one Trixie Belden. I think it's because my mother was so high on the latter (she read them as a kid) and I made it my mission early on to be contrary.

Now I want to read some, though!
posted by medeine at 8:34 AM on July 3, 2014

I loved the Trixie Belden and Honey Wheeler paper doll set I had as a kid.

Interactive "Dress Trixie" version here. (Adobe Shockwave required.)

Flickr album of some of the pages. The lovely Honey doll isn't shown there, but you can see her here.

Unfortunately, we didn't have any of the actual novels. I was more of a Cherry Ames girl. I may have to go back and read some of the Trixie books.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 8:51 AM on July 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

My parents used to buy crates of used mystery books for me

OMG, yes! The unsorted book boxes were $1.00 at the charity shop, and I can still remember the excitement of diving into a new one to see what treasures were inside. Come to think of it, the first Cherry Ames books I read were probably from one of those boxes.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 8:53 AM on July 3, 2014

I inherited few of the Trixie books from my mom and devoured them during my childhood in the 80s. And yes, she was definitely more relatable than Nancy to this Midwestern book nerd.
posted by weathergal at 4:48 PM on July 3, 2014

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