The Declarer (Floyd McWilliams' Blog)

Monday, July 05, 2004

On Saturday InstantMan wrote:

QUEST FOR FIREWORKS: When I was a kid, I read a book (already old by then) called Henry Reed's Journey. Reed is a boy who, on a cross-country drive, is trying to buy fireworks, but they turn out to be illegal almost everywhere he goes.

I remember Henry Reed from my childhood, and I can't believe the book was old when Glenn Reynolds, age 44 or so, was a kid. The book seemed contemporary when I read it in the 70's. I looked up the link Glenn provided and found that the first book of five in the series was published in 1959.

This is of course a great opportunity for me to wax nostalgically about the boys' books that I read as a child. I suppose the canonical boys' book is The Hardy Boys, but I found them boring. I much preferred Nancy Drew. I don't think that is a sign of low testosterone levels; Nancy Drew mysteries did not have as much fighting action, but did have lots of spooky sequences inside old houses and abandoned buildings. The Hardy Boys, on the other hand, would just react to some indignity performed by the villain upon their hapless pal Chet, the Ur-Star Trek-Redshirt.

Most of the stuff I really liked was not so mass-produced -- either short series such as Henry Reed, or one-offs like a book I found at my Mom's house while on vacation, Sinbad and Me. As a kid I remembered the book as a big complex mystery that was over my head. When I read it as an adult I found it a big complex ... mess. But still fun.

The all-time best kids' book has to be the Mad Scientists' Club. This is a club of seven (!) boys in Mammoth Falls, who are also opposed by the nefarious Henry Muldoon and four or five of his compatriots. (Are there enough kids in town not in these clubs to have a Little League?) The Scientists embark on many a madcap adventure, which often involves pranking adults (such as the construction of "The Unidentified Flying Man of Mammoth Falls"). There's no ponderous Hardy Boys seriousness here; the anarchic wit and infinite mechanical competence of the Scientists are perfect wish fulfillment for any little boy. Or, when he gets done with the Amazon web interface, any 36-year-old man.



I completely agree that The Mad Scientists Club is the best (kids') book ever...just one slight correction for the sake of perfection. The antagonist is "Harmon" Muldoon. The head scientist of the MSC is "Henry" Mulligan. Other than that, I totally agree! :)

By Anonymous Julie, at 9:53 AM  

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