by Julia Buckley
The Nancy Drew books of my childhood were lovely, yellow-spined hardbacks with gorgeous full color covers and alluring titles like Password to Larkspur Lane and The Mystery of the Moss-Covered Mansion. To my child's eyes, these were sophisticated books, because they replaced the kiddy paperbacks and the tall thin children's books I'd read before I "grew up" and embraced Nancy Drew.
For a while, she was an addiction. I asked for those books for every Christmas and birthday until, between my sister and myself, we'd accumulated quite a collection. And then, suddenly, we were done with them. We were reading older stuff--Mary Stewart and Victoria Holt, and Nancy seemed immature now. We donated the entire collection to our tiny town library.
Nowadays, Nancy Drew is an advertising brand. Put her name on a product, and it will sell, because Nancy's mystique has been passed down through generations of women--little girls who grew up and encouraged their own little girls to read Nancy. So there are Nancy Drew journals and stationery and pajamas. And, inevitably, there are Nancy Drew video games.
Check out Her Interactive, where you can preview some of the games and play some of them for free, allowing you to solve along with Nancy in a way we never could when I was a child.
My concern, though, is that these games do the imagining for the child who plays them. And this Nancy doesn't have titian hair, but a dark bob that makes her look more like George than like the Nancy of my imagination (and Keene's descriptions).
Sure, even in the old days "Carolyn Keene" was a fiction, and Nancy Drew was a successful conglomerate. Nancy Drew and The Hardy Boys were always about sales, but little girls and boys made them about more than that. They became a part of our memories, our nostalgia, and therefore, a part of our imaginations.
It's not horrible that Nancy has morphed into new forms--it's just not Nancy--not as we knew her once.
Is that bad or good? Are these games entertaining or not? They are visually pretty, and probably please the little girls of today the way that the old covers pleased me.
But I wonder . . . is change always necessary? Must Nancy become a video to stay alive?
The books that enchanted the children of this generation, especially the Harry Potter saga, were all immediately made into video games. I know, because I was instructed to buy them for my boys even AFTER I read those seven books--ALL SEVEN--out loud to them.
The boys tell me that the books and the videos are utterly different things; that one experience doesn't really inform the other. So what of the children who don't read the books at all, and go straight to the videos? Are they missing out on the magic of Nancy? Or is the magic of Nancy that she can please children in various forms?