Monday, November 29, 2010

My First Mystery in the Days of Mail

by Julia Buckley
Back when I was a kid--maybe first or second grade--my parents entered me in a children's book-of- the-month club. Of course this was long before e-mail or even computers, so it was when the notion of mail was still almost glamorous, even exotic, to a child who had no correspondents. I looked forward to that brown package every month with great excitement, and when it arrived and I opened it, there was always some great new book inside, with crisp pages and new-smelling ink.

I was reminiscing today about those earliest books--the first ones I read alone. I think the one pictured here--BIG MAX--may have been my first mystery.

Big Max was a wonderful book: the tale of a detective who traveled by umbrella and was hired to solve a case for the King of Pooka Pooka, who had lost his beloved elephant.

I can still remember the joy of getting BIG MAX and reading it again and again, but also the thrill of mystery. I'm not sure if I figured out the ending or not, but I know it was satisfying, even to my seven-year-old self. Eventually I moved on to such sophisticated fare as Nancy Drew and Cherry Ames, and after that I read single-title suspense novels by authors like Mary Stewart, Phyllis A. Whitney and Victoria Holt.

Big Max is still in print and available to a whole new generation of children (and perhaps future mystery lovers). Thank you, Kin Platt, for my first mystery reading experience.

15 comments:

Vicki Doudera said...

Julia, I can't believe I missed Mad Max! I, too, loved my Nancy Drews, Victoria Holt, Daphne DuMaurier and Agathas. You are right -- there is something so satisfying about a mystery. Thanks for inspiring me as I slog away in the middle of mine!

Vicki Doudera said...

oops make that Big Max!

Sue Ann Jaffarian said...

Just this weekend I was reminiscing about those monthly book catalogues distributed in class where students could buy paperback books and they’d be delivered to the classroom in a week or so. My parents gave me a book budget and I was allowed to buy any number of books, as long as it fit in my little budget. I always looked forward to those books and still remember many of them. As for mysteries, I was a Trixie Beldon, Cherry Ames, and Bobbsey Twins fan.

Julia Buckley said...

Yes, Vicki--Mad Max is a whole different story. :) But I agree, they're satisfying even to little ones.

Sue Ann, I liked Trixie Belden, too, but somehow never read the Bobbsey Twins. Did you read The Boxcar Children?

M Pax said...

I remember that book! It was a great one. :)

Darrell James said...

Julia- my early reading was mostly comic books. There was a kid down the road who must have had a million of them. He would lend them to me provided I returned them within a given time. Call him the rural Kentucky version of the public library.

Julia Buckley said...

M Pax--it was great, wasn't it? A fun plot for a brand new reader.

Darrell, that's what my husband read, too--and now look at the amazing rise of the Graphic Novel. You guys could have told the publishing world long ago how alluring text with images was (were?).

paullamb said...

I think Encyclopedia Brown was my first detective story read.

Alice Loweecey said...

Sue Ann, those mini-catalogues were the highlight of my school career. I tried so many new authors because of them. The Bobbsey Twins were my first sorta-kinda introduction to mysteries, closely followed by Nancy Drew and then Sherlock Holmes. But my treasure, that I kept till it fell apart beyond repair, was a Scholastic edition of HP Lovecraft's short stories.

Alice Loweecey said...

Oh, and Julia--I enjoyed reading about Big Max. :)

Lois Winston said...

Julia, I don't remember Big Max. I was a Cherry Ames girl, I suppose because I wanted to be a nurse when I was very young. But Cherry Ames solved her share of mysteries, just like Nancy Drew.

Keith Raffel said...

Julia, Chalk me up as a Hardy Boys boy. But after I was done with them, I must admit turning to Nancy Drew - very glad I read them even though I never did cotton to Ned Nickerson.

Julia Buckley said...

Paul--a great choice that I had totally forgotten about.

Alice and Sue Ann, my son still gets those, and I love looking through the pages still.

Lois, I did like Cherry Ames, though I read just a few of hers.

Keith, Ned is a pretty one-dimensional character.

G.M. Malliet said...

Lois - thank you for that! I don't recall these books, either! Was it before my time or did I just space them out?

Julia Buckley said...

Gin--
Big Max was first published in 1965 by Kin Platt, who was a sort of Renaissance man who had many varied careers.