Old School Nancy Drew


By Carolyn Keene, Illustrated by Macky Pamintuan


Published by: Aladdin; Original edition (September 9, 2008)

Available in: paperback, library binding, Kindle, NOOK

At the time of this review, there were 37 books in the Nancy Drew Clue Crew series, with many set to launch in 2014.


Thanksgiving Thief is a bit of a curiosity.

The Nancy Drew Clue Crew contemporary chapter book series is, of course, based on the original Nancy Drew brand, which first appeared in the 1930s. In this retrofit, nostalgia plays hard into the ambiance of the book, just as it must drive sales. And while Carolyn Keene has always been the author’s name associated with Nancy Drew, even the originals were produced by ghost writers who appear under the Keene pseudonym.

So there’s all this history lurking in the corner of this series. Which to the young reader probably means nothing, other than the text and illustrations do seem old school, but not in a good way. This book, unfortunately, feels stale, a bit left behind and not terribly exciting.

At the same time, there are some aspects worthy of note. For one thing, this book is an intriguing mystery, which can be a timeless draw. Thanksgiving Thief has a particularly fun, holiday-themed solution that is both novel and on topic.

There’s also a small focus on Native American culture, presented by a Native American character. That’s both appropriate and a nice surprise since Native Americans don’t often make appearances in children’s literature.

And finally, the plot solution shows the consequences of urban development—specifically, how wildlife is affected by suburban encroachment on their habitat. It’s a nicely illustrated lesson with a clear A + B = C flow.

But the children don’t really have the dialogue patterns most children do now, and the vocabulary is a steep climb for a traditional chapter book crowd, which is around second grade. Also, the characters are so good and earnest it’s hard to envision them as real kids. For instance, one character leaves at the first really exciting moment because she promised her mom she’d clean her room. What?

The illustrations are obviously stylized clip art, which gets the job done without offending anyone, but is not very clever or original.

I see a clear audience for these books: older girls (say third to sixth grade) who are perhaps quiet, avid readers and don’t demand much in their books. As much as it makes me happy to provide any kid with books they like to read, this also makes me a little sad. Is this old-fashioned brand the best we can do for these girls?

What do you say teachers, parents and writers? Use the comment below and let’s chat….

One thought on “Old School Nancy Drew

  1. Pingback: Greetings from Somewhere | Chapter Book Chat

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