64. The Secret of the Mansion (Trixie Belden #1) by Julie Campbell
Publication: Random House Books for Young Readers (June 24, 2003) originally published 1948, Hardcover, 272pp / ISBN 037582412X
Genre: Children’s, Mystery
Read: ?-March 13, 2010
Summary from Amazon:
Trixie’s summer is going to be sooo boring with her two older brothers away at camp. But then a millionaire’s daughter moves into the next-door mansion, an old miser hides a fortune in his decrepit house, and a runaway kid starts hiding out in Sleepyside!
I’ve been trying to write this review for something like two weeks now, because I can’t seem to figure out a way to explain why I like this book when I don’t like the writing and 1950’s kid detectives annoy the crap outta me. By all accounts, I should hate this book, right? And, in truth, I went through massive emotional fluctuations while reading The Secret of the Mansion.
I started out hating it, but unable to stop reading it for some reason. The I grudgingly enjoyed Trixie and Honey’s antics. Then Jim showed up and I was suddenly sucked into the story in a way I never expected to be! And then I hated it again, because Ms Campbell was trying to sneak in 1950’s family values and I hate 1950’s family values (at least in books). But by the end I had swung around to the “love” side of things and now I find myself a big fan of Trixie Belden.
Just like it has its low points (the writing, the sappy 1950’s values and so on), it has its high points. Trixie is, I think, a better sort of Nancy Drew. She’s more of a tomboy, willing to get her knees dirty and her hair cut short, and how many heroines like that do you find in kids books from the 1950’s? Not many, at least not in the US, and I appreciated that.
I also thought it was really interesting that Ms Campbell was so against cities– for kids, I mean. Honey grew up in a city with a rich, neglegant family, and she’s miserable until she moves to the country and meets Trixie. It sort of reminded me of A Secret Garden, when the moors and whatnot help Mary become happier. The farmlands Honey moves to (and Trixie, a farm kid) helps her become happier. And healthier! And I’m so glad she became less of a drip, because for a while I was really hating Honey and her fainting spells.
I think you have to go into these sorts of books in the right frame of mind. You have to be willing to read slightly sappy, slightly ridiculous stories about kids who don’t really act like kids but are lovable anyway. And you have to be willing to give it a chance as well, I think. Although if you’re a kid you might be able to bypass all of that and enjoy it straight away, because I think kids would really enjoy the Trixie Belden books (if they’re the sort of kids who read books like the Little House on the Prairie series, anyway. Not sure if Hanna Montana sorts of kids would like Trixie Belden, but that’s just speculation).