Friday, April 14, 2017

Kids' Review: The Happy Hollisters by Jerry West

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The Happy Hollisters by Jerry West
Publisher: Doubleday & Company, Inc. 
Publication Date: 1953
My rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Publisher's description (from Amazon on the reissued books)

Hooray, The Happy Hollisters are back! First published in 1953, these charming mystery-adventure stories, faithfully reproduced, are now available in paperback for the very first time! Written for boys and girls between the ages of six and twelve, The Happy Hollisters are wholesome books, with an accent on humor and good, clean fun. Integrity always pays off and right wins over wrong. Parents, grandparents, and teachers will love these books for their healthy celebration of life in simpler times. Kids will be thrilled with the fast-paced action and will not want to put them down. This is a perfect gift for the young reader in your life!

The adventures for the Hollisters begin as soon as they move into their new house on the shore on Pine Lake in Shoreham. First, the moving van carrying their toys and their father's important new invention disappears. Next, they learn that their house may be haunted, with a treasure hidden somewhere inside! Right away they all set out to solve these mysteries. Each one of the Hollister children - Pete (age 12), Pam (10), Ricky (7), Holly (6) and Sue (4) - plays an important role in finding clues, along with their parents who are always ready to join in on the excitement. Even Zip, the collie, and White Nose, the cat, are part of the family, and find thrilling adventures of their own. As the Hollisters explore their new town and make friends, they discover what happened to the moving van, and learn more about the mystery surrounding their new home. Excitement abounds when a secret stairway is discovered. Then, on the trail of a mysterious intruder, their chase leads them to a deserted hut on nearby Blackberry Island. Over seventy action-packed illustrations make the story- and the Hollister family- so vivid that the reader has a feeling of really sharing in on the adventures of this lovable and interesting family.

My review

How times have changed! The Happy Hollisters (Book 1) was published in 1953. Four books were published in the series that year. The series continued to be published until 1969 with a  total of 33 books in the series. The series was similar to The Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew, both in it being a youth mystery series and in the listed author being a pseudonym. Unlike the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew, which each had multiple authors all publishing under the same pseudonym, The Happy Hollisters were all written by the same author, Andrew Svenson, who modeled the Hollister family after his own family. 

There are five children in the Hollister family, ranging from ages 4 to 12 when the series starts. Its target audience was a little younger than The Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew with their teenaged protagonists. I grew up reading my mother’s Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew books but had never heard of The Happy Hollisters until we learned of it in my daughter’s writing curriculum. A search at the local library found nothing so I posted on Facebook to see if anyone had a copy we could read.  We were in luck!  A friend, who had grown up reading them, had recently bought quite a few of the books so she could share them with her daughter. 

Back to that “how times have changed” statement. Boy howdy! I’m not going to get into the pros and cons of letting our children run wild still like the “old days”, but the places and situations these children got themselves into with little adult supervision or intervention is just terrifying! The youngest nearly drowns at one point (unsupervised… fortunately an older sibling sees her) and then later catches her dress on fire! Two of the girls, who know they can’t canoe well, take the canoe out by themselves and are then washed up on a lake island by a storm (because, naturally, they dropped their oars).  On the island, one is nearly sucked under by quicksand (this book was apparently a little ahead of its time since the height of the quicksand trope didn’t peak until the 1960s).  

Even setting all the imperiled, unattended children aside, this book is pretty dark for a children’s book. The Hollisters had a van full of their belongings stolen when moving to their new house… and now there is an intruder paying almost nightly visits. Regularly, the children are the detectives with the parents and the police seemingly doing nothing to help solve the mystery. All this being said, I can also see where this book would be super exciting to a kid. The kids go on great (albeit dangerous) adventures and help solve a crime!  And, probably most importantly, get theirs toys back.  I imagine Miss R’s review will be very different than mine. We did read this together, which I would recommend for younger kids so you can have a conversation about why some of the choices the kids made were not the safest or best.  The series went out of print in 1983 but has been reissued in paperback and ebook starting in 2010 so even if your local library doesn’t have it, it is available again on Amazon and in many other libraries through WorldCat. 

Miss R's review

It was a good book - dark, but it has a happy ending. Like most kids' books do. I suggest it for kids who like spooky books. I wouldn't suggest reading it right before bed because it can get you a little scared. 

I liked Holly because she was pretty adventurous. I liked Pete because he was pretty cool but the downside is that he attacks his neighbor Joey who does not-nice things but he shouldn't attack him. He should use his words. I liked Ricky because , of course, he is adventurous like Holly. I liked Pam because she was super enthusiastic. I liked Sue because she was really unsafe and it was amazing how unsafe she was (can you see how sarcastic I'm being?). It worried me that a 4 yo caught her dress on fire and she almost drowned!

I recommend it to kids who like action, mysteries and dark humor.    

For more reviews of books for children and teens, check out Booking Mama’s feature, Kid Konnection, posted on Saturdays. If you’d like to participate in Kid Konnection and share a post about anything related to children’s books (picture, middle grade, or young adult) from the past week, you can go to her site to leave a comment and your link .

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