Celebrating Nancy Drew
The first book in the Nancy Drew series was published on April 28, 1930, making the detective 90 years old this year! The iconic sleuth is my favorite book character of all time, so I couldn't let this anniversary pass without acknowledgement. In this video, I talk about the creation of Nancy Drew, the evolution of her character over the past 90 years, and why she remains so popular after all these years.
To learn more about the creation of Nancy Drew, I highly recommend the book Girl Sleuth: Nancy Drew and the Women Who Created Her by Melanie Rehak. This book details everything from Edward Stratemeyer and his creation of the Stratemeyer Syndicate to Mildred Wirt Benson's original work on the Nancy Drew character and the later alterations made by Harriet Stratemeyer Adams. This is a great book for major Nancy Drew lovers who want to know all the details of how their favorite teen sleuth came to be, although, fair warning, it will likely be an overload of information for casual fans.
Over the past 90 years, Nancy has exploded in popularity. Beyond the traditional Nancy Drew mystery series many of us grew up reading, there are graphic novels, a Clue Crew series featuring an elementary-age Nancy and friends, a video game series by Her Interactive, movies, a television show, a coding game, and so much more. It's truly amazing how a sassy teen sleuth from 1930 has continued to find new fans for generation after generation.
Nancy Drew has inspired many strong-willed female detectives in literature over the past 90 years. If you're a Nancy fan, check out some of these other young amateur detectives who all have a little Nancy in them.
Enola Holmes The Enola Holmes Mysteries by Nancy Springer
Enola is the 14-year-old little sister of Sherlock and Mycroft Holmes. When her mother goes missing one day, Enola's brothers are quick to assume their mother has simply run off, but Enola knows her mother would never abandoned her. Escaping her brothers' plans to send her to finishing school, Enola runs away to London and becomes a detective specializing in missing person cases. Enola is like a Victorian Nancy Drew. Like Nancy, Enola doesn't fit the mold of a typical young girl from her time period. She is outspoken and a bit of a wild child, much to Sherlock and Mycroft's dismay. She has a fiery personality but is also kind and quick to help those in need. The Enola Holmes books are geared towards a middle grade audience and have recently been turned into a set of stunning graphic novels (just look at that gorgeous cover!). There is also a movie coming out soon staring Millie Bobbie Brown (Eleven from Stranger Things) as Enola, Henry Cavill (aka Superman) as Sherlock, and Sam Claflin (Finnick from The Hunger Games) as Mycroft. Be ahead of the game and check the books out now before the movie comes out!
Sammy Keyes The Sammy Keyes mystery series by Wendelin Van Draanen
When her mother decides to take a shot at becoming a famous actress in Hollywood, 13-year-old Sammy is sent to secretly live with her grandmother in a seniors-only building . This 18-book series follows Sammy as she solves various mysteries around town. Sammy is a spitfire who is reminiscent of the original version of Nancy Drew from 1930s. She challenges authority, speaks her mind, has a lot of sass, and always stands up for her friends.
The Sammy Keyes series has won many junior mystery book awards. Each book has a different theme (gratitude, forgiveness, redemption) and, unlike Nancy Drew, the series is intended to be read in order as each book builds upon the previous one. The Sammy Keyes series is a must-read for middle-grade mystery loves - and adults will likely love this spunky teen sleuth, as well!
Stevie Bell Truly Devious series by Maureen Johnson
Stevie Bell is a true-crime loving teen who is invited to attend an exclusive boarding school in the woods of Vermont called Ellingham Academy. Back in 1936, a notorious crime was committed at the school that has never been solved, but Stevie thinks she's the right person to finally piece everything together. When a murder is committed at the school in the present day, Stevie is in a race against the clock to solve the mysteries of the past and present before Ellingham Academy is shut down forever.
As I talk about in an earlier video about Truly Devious, this trilogy has a lot of Nancy Drew vibes. Much like Nancy, Stevie is smart and observant, and she is able to make connections and find clues that the police have overlooked. She is brave, determined, and outspoken and has some truly amazing friends. She also makes mistakes, both in her investigating and in her relationships with other people, which makes her a more realistic character than Nancy Drew, who is perfect at everything she does. Stevie also has anxiety and takes medication to control her panic attacks, which also makes her relatable to many teen readers.
One of the most interesting things about the Truly Devious trilogy is that the three books serve as the beginning, middle, and end of the same mystery rather than as standalone mysteries. This is a trilogy that both teens and adults will enjoy - especially if you're a fan of other popular mystery books like Sherlock Holmes and anything by Agatha Christie.
Flavia de Luce Flavia de Luce series by Alan Bradley
It's the 1950s, and eleven-year-old Flavia de Luce lives in the small English town of Bishop's Lacey with her father and older sisters. Flavia doesn't set out to be an amateur detective, but she can't seem to stop stumbling across dead bodies and getting entangled in mysteries.
Much like Sammy Keyes, Flavia de Luce has elements of the 1930s Nancy Drew. She is brilliant and sassy, she defies authority, and she's a total wild child. Her greatest love is chemistry and she especially excels at creating poisons.
Despite featuring a child protagonist, the Flavia de Luce series is written for adult audiences, although teens who are fans of cozy mysteries would enjoy this series, as well. Full disclosure - I've read the first book in this series, The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, about five times. I adore Alan Bradley's writing style and can't get enough of his beautiful sentences. I highly recommend checking out the audiobooks for this series to hear Flavia's voice come to life.
These are just a few of my favorite young detectives who remind me of Nancy Drew, but there are many more out there!