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Readers Reflect: Inspiring Heroines

February 1, 2010

This week we introduce our new series of guest posts, “Readers Reflect.” Each week a guest blogger will reflect on a formative book, character, or reading experience that has been particularly meaningful in their life as a reader. To submit your own “Readers Reflect” essay, please contact us at

Author as a child learning the importance of maximizing productive time by reading on public transit.

I first met my friend Nancy Drew as a child. At the time, lost somewhere in the generation gap, I found her a bit stuffy for my taste. I preferred the more modern experiences of the members of The Baby Sitters Club or the more fashionable twins from Sweet Valley High. Next to Stacy’s perm and Claudia’s junk food, Nancy’s titian hair and afternoon teas just didn’t stand a chance.

Nancy didn’t make her grand (and now, thanks to Mad Men, very fashionable) entrance until nearly the end of my college career. As an American Studies student at Northwestern my irreplaceable advisors encouraged me to explore girls’ serial fiction for my senior thesis. Putting my youthful prejudices aside, I deigned to read a Nancy Drew or two at least to gain a sense of history. I read The Secret of the Old Clock in just a few hours and was hooked. Practically a kid under the covers with a flashlight again, I found myself consumed with consuming Nancy’s adventures.

Though each mystery is perhaps not the height of literary complexity, Nancy Drew herself is a woman and a role model well before her time. Women from many walks of life attribute their self-confidence and sense that women can accomplish anything to sharing their formative years with Nancy.

For me, the Nancy Drew series and the response she elicits from readers of all ages has been an education in the importance of access to reading and the heroines (and heroes) that so perfectly exist in the world of children’s fiction. For a child, especially one who might be most at risk of being left behind or left out, the friends she meets in books can be the lifeline that carries her through to the greatest of successes. Nancy’s kind heart, fierce determination, and courage in the face of obstacles are just a few of the timeless qualities that can be found in the world of children’s literature.

They are also the qualities that, in the short time I knew her, were perfectly embodied by Courtney. Quick to the defense of others, often at her own peril, Courtney would probably have made a great girl sleuth. In fact, the “Courtney and Thomas Mysteries,” proposed by my father-in-law, would certainly have been page turners. As I prepared to write this essay it struck me that in the first pages of The Secret of the Old Clock, Nancy saves a child in danger and immerses herself in helping the child and her family. It is precisely the kind of thing Courtney would have done. In this first chapter of our organization, I hope it’s something Court’s Kids can do too.

Lindsay is a first-year law student at Northwestern and a girls’ serial fiction fanatic. When she is not busy solving the mystery that is learning the law, she assists Court’s Kids in program development and implementation.

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