The Hidden Harbor Mystery

April 24, 2010

They don’t make children’s book covers like they used to …

This is the original cover to one of the Hardy Boys mysteries. Published in 1935, the book came in the midst of the publisher’s “art deco” period, with bold colours (mostly orange) and odd, cartoonish art. The cover would be replaced a few years later and redone completely when the early books were rewritten and shortened in the 1960s and 70s.

Rewritten? Yeah. A lot of the early books had to be updated, because they were still in print, and people in the 60s weren’t hip to 20s and 30s jargon. Besides, language changes. This book includes this line: “She was talking to the detective in the garden, and he was making love to her!” That doesn’t mean what you think it does.

It’s also really, really racist. Set in the south, the book features several African-American characters who are routinely described as “stupid-looking colored boys.” Another book from this period, Footprints Under The Window, features several Chinese characters who say, and I am not making this up, things like “Louie Fong, he a velly velly bad man!” And they all own laundries.

I collect these books as artifacts of an earlier time. They aren’t my Hardy Boys; mine are the books from my childhood, the late 60s and early 70s. The old ones, which were actually the first I read, came to me from an uncle. They’re weird. They’re strange. They’re a bizarre look at what it was like to be a child before the concept of “teenagerhood” really took hold in the 50s.

Kids don’t read the Hardy Boys today. That’s a shame. I learned a lot from these books, chiefly that if you blunder around long enough, you’ll eventually stumble into a ridiculous coincidence, during which the bad guys will explain everything in detail before your father rescues you. And nobody ever gets hurt.


One comment

  1. Why is Abraham Lincoln wearing a jet engine?

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