I remember reading the series when I was younger and thinking Nancy Drew was so old. It’s funny, reading it now, because I’m currently a year older.
Important Background Info:
Nancy Drew is an extremely popular mystery series that was first published in the 1930’s. It centers around an eighteen year old detective and her friends who help her solve mysteries. Each book is a separate mystery, so you could start the series by reading book 50 and not have to worry about missing information.
What I liked:
There are a lot of positive elements in these stories, and the books are clean, which is nice. Nancy and her friends are respectful, kind, and clever. The bad guys are represented as bad guys, and usually end up going to prison. Police officers are treated with respect and usually work in partnership with Nancy Drew. Nancy and her Dad have a great relationship. Nancy also has a great relationship with their house keeper (their house keeper is like a mother to Nancy, because Nancy’s mother died when she was young).
The bad guys are usually bad guys and the good guys are usually good guys – there isn’t any line blurring.
What I didn’t like:
Even though each book is a different mystery, some of the characters, or what happens in the story seems similar. For example, as you continue to read the series there almost always seems to be a character who is unpleasant, the same people (Helen in the first several books and then Ned, Burt, Dave, George and Bess in the rest of them) always get involved, and somehow the mystery she is working on always lines up with the case her Dad is working on, or the two separate mysteries she finds always connect. This might not bother younger readers as much, but it’s always bothered me! 🙂
For some reason, Ned is mentioned in book five before we actually meet him in book 7.
Content Concerns/Things to know:
There really isn’t much. These books are clean.
Each mystery is generally centered around a crime, such as stealing, kidnapping, a hostage situation, a family member mistreating their family, etc.
Nancy drew sometimes makes unwise decisions in order to solve a mystery, and puts herself in danger. Characters experience life-threatening danger (bad guys will lock them up and leave them to starve, etc.), however they are always rescued.
Sometimes Nancy and her friends will stretch the truth or trespass and take things to solve the mystery, but these things are never glorified.
Nancy and her friends often get knocked out or drugged by the bad guys.
Some of the mysteries have to do with something that is “haunted” – it’s always revealed at the end that there is a reasonable explanation that has nothing to do with ghost and definitely has something to do with the bad guys tricking people.
As Nancy is 18, she goes on dates with other guys and eventually (starting in book 7) she has a boyfriend. It’s not a huge part of the story, though. It’s usually just mentioned, and if a date or dance is part of the story it’s because something with the mystery happens there.
In one of the books, someone is named Gay, and occasionally the word is used with its former meaning (happy, joyous).
George likes to rile her cousin, Bess by teasing her. Bess is very romantic and occasionally plays matchmaker (in book 5 by setting up a 14 and 15 year old). She likes to state when she thinks certain guys are handsome. This never plays a huge rule in the story, but it’s definitely part of the story
Luck is occasionally mentioned, or something is called jinxed.
In book 4, one of the characters has a crush on Nancy’s Dad and tries to get him to like her (it doesn’t work, and isn’t bad).
In book 6, they encounter a strange cult that turns out to be a counterfeiting ring.
The villain in book 8 is found to be running a lonely hearts club – he takes money from people, promising to find them a husband, and then skips out without doing so. Also in book eight it’s mentioned that in a college fraternity play, a boy plays a pair of twins – girl and boy.
In book 10 Nancy imagines that she’s an ancient grecian maiden and if she was she would probably praying in the temple of Apollo – it’s not presented as fact, but more like something she is imagining.
If your younger girl (I’m meaning pretty young, like first, second or third grade) is highly sensitive, you might want to be discerning in the ones you let her read, as a few of them might be scary. They really aren’t that bad at all, but for highly, highly, highly sensitive kids, a few might be frightening.
These books are great for girls to read. They’re fun, and the main characters have old fashioned manners, meaning they are nice and respectful. These books also hold a certain level of nostalgia for older readers!
What does Nancy do to solve mysteries?
How do you think she finds these mysteries?
What would you do if you were faced with solving a mystery?
Have you ever solved a mystery?
What are some things you notice about the time period Nancy Drew lives in that are different from now?
There is a definite good side and evil side in this series. How does this relate to the Bible?
There aren’t individual book summaries for books 1-4. Starting with book 5, there is a summary within the first few pages of the book (except for book 6. There is a “series summary” on the back of each book, though. This is what it says*:
“For cliff-hanging suspense and thrilling action read THE NANCY DREW MYSTERY STORIES® – the world’s most popular mystery series for young readers! Millions of fans have matched wits with Nancy Drew, helping her solve more that fifty baffling cases – from THE SECRET OF THE OLD CLOCK to the haunting mystery of THE THIRTEENTH PEARL. Join the fun! Start your collection of original hardcover Nancy Drew® Mysteries today!”
Book 5 Summary:
“NANCY DREW arrives in Phoenix, Arizona, eagerly looking forward to a fun-filed vacation at Shadow Ranch, but abruptly finds herself involved in a baffling mystery. The ranch is being haunted by a phantom horse and maliciously damaged by an unknown enemy. Local people believe that the ghostly animal is carrying out the curse of Dirk Valentine, the romantic outlaw who was killed many years ago at Shadow Ranch, where he had gone to fulfill a promise to his sweetheart.
Suspecting that a treasure hidden by Valentine may be at the root of the Shadow Ranch mystery, Nancy undertakes a challenging search, aided by her friends Bess Marvin and George Fayne. The first vital clue is found in an antique watch, and sparks a series of clever deductions and dangerous developments. While seeking further clues, the girls’ investigation in a ghost town ends in near disaster when Nancy is trapped inside a building that is toppled by a rockslide – a rockslide which is deliberately caused. But the pretty titian-haired detective remains undaunted in her determination to solve the mystery.
For those who enjoy a suspenseful thriller, Nancy Drew’s first Western adventure makes truly fascinating reading. “
Book 7 Summary:
“Nancy and her friends, George and Bess, are returning from a country carnival when they witness the explosion and burning of a beautiful country mansion. Fearing its occupants may be trapped in the blazing building, they rush to the rescue – and unexpectedly find themselves confronted with a mystery that seems to be insoluble.
The first clue is an anonymous diary, its entries in a handwriting difficult to decipher. Even more puzzling are the technical drawings and chemical formulas contained in its pages.
Who dropped the diary near the burning house? Was it the gaunt stranger Nancy glimpsed running away from the flaming structure? What was he doing there? And does he know the whereabouts of Felix Raybolt, an unscrupulous dealer in patents, who has not been seen since his home burned? Or did Raybolt die in the fire?
Fire Investigators believe that the destructive explosion and fire may not have been an accident – but an act of revenge. Evidence mounts against Joe Swenson, an inventor who was swindled by “Foxy Felix” Prompted by her affection for Mr. Swenson’s five-year-old daughter Honey, the young detective makes a desperate effort to exonerate the inventor of the suspicion of arson. ow she accomplishes this makes another exciting Nancy Drew mystery.”
Book 8 Summary:
“By mistake Nancy Drew receives a letter from England intended for an heiress, also named Nancy Drew. When Nancy undertakes a search for the missing young women, it becomes obvious that a ruthless, dangerous man is determined to prevent her from finding the heiress or himself. Clues that Nancy unearths lead her to believe that the villainous Edger Nixon plans to marry the heiress and then steal her inheritance.
During her investigation Nancy discovers that Nixon is engaged in a racket that involves may innocent, trusting persons. The thrilling hunt for Nixon and the heiress takes Nancy in and out fo many perilous situations.
How the teen-age detective saves the British heiress from the sly, cunning schemer makes a highly intriguing story of mystery and suspense.”
Book 9 Summary:
“Another exciting mystery begins for the attractive young detective when her friends Bess and George ash her to investigate a rumor that their wealthy great-granduncle, Asa Sidney, is virtually a prisoner in his own mansion. But solving the mystery and befriending Carol Wipple, the sixteen-year-old foster daughter of the caretakers of the old mansion, nearly costs Nancy the friendship of Bess and George. It takes all of Nancy’s sleuthing ability as well as diplomacy to save it.
At the same time Nancy braves one danger after another to bring to the justice the swindlers who are stealing Asa Sidney’s fortune. With only the sign of the twisted candles to guide her, Nancy uncovers hidden treasure and an amazing letter that ends a family feud and brings unexpected happiness to Carol.”
Book 10 Summary:
“Blue bells will be singing horses! This strange message, attached to the leg of a wounded homing pigeon, involves Nancy Drew in a dangerous mission. Somewhere an elderly woman is being held prisoner in a mansion. Nancy is determined to find and free Mrs. Eldgridge.
While working on the case, the young detective’s close friend, Helen Archer, begs her to solve a weird mystery. Helen’s grandparents, the Cornings, are frightened by a sinister wheel of blue fire that appears after dark in the woods outside their home at lonely Slyvan Lake. When Nancy discovers the significant of the eerie signal, she also learns that her two mysteries are connected. How the clever young detective fathoms the meaning of the strange message, how she locates the stronghold of a ruthless ring of swindlers, and how she rescues the gang’s victims makes absorbing and exciting reading.”
*Please note that each summary above has been taken, word for word, from the inside of the Nancy Drew Books, or from the back cover. 🙂