It’s summertime! It crept in more slowly for some than for others – school children were released in staggered succession from mid May to late June – but now it is completely official. It is summer. I realized a couple of years ago that as seasons turn, I instinctively turn towards different books. About two years ago, right as our homeschool year was drawing to it’s academic close, and summer was beginning, I ordered the complete set of Trixie Belden mysteries off of ebay. I have no idea why this heroine came back so strongly in my mind, I hadn’t read her since I was a child, but her summer adventures of riding her bike, riding horses with her best friend Honey Wheeler (who is a millionaire, natch), swimming in the lake, and solving mysteries on the side, came back to me in vivid, idealized childhood technicolor. It was ideal. Trixie had the ideal summer, set in the Hudson River Valley of New York in the late 1940’s. If you haven’t heard of Trixie Belden, she’s a girl detective. She’s a lot less famous than her contemporary Nancy Drew (who is enjoyed in heavy rotation in this house) and unlike Nancy, she’s a spunky, imperfect thirteen year-old, a middle child sandwiched between two older brothers, and one younger brother. She lives on a farm – Crabapple Farm! and helps her mom, who she calls “Moms’, in the garden and is sometimes stuck watching her little brother Bobby. In her first adventure, a new girl moves into the mansion up the hill, a shy, retiring girl named Honey Wheeler, who becomes Trixie’s best friend and fellow sleuth.
For me, a great detective story, whether it is for adults or children, is best set against a wholesome, sanguine backdrop. This pastoral setting makes the mystery more mysterious, more incongruous, and therefore more insidious. Trixie’s summer and life are full of swimming, riding, gardening, jokes with her brothers, cut off shorts and then changing into a dress for dinner at Honey’s house. So, when a light is left on in the old gatehouse, or some strange tire tracks are found in the quiet woods where Trixie and Honey go riding, you know something is definitely up!
A few summers ago, I put away our homeschool materials, made a tomato and cucumber salad, baked a chocolate cake and put it in the refrigerator, brewed strong coffee to keep cold, and ordered a complete set of Trixie Belden mysteries. It was summertime.