The Owl Service seriously creeped me out as a kid.
I think Wes Anderson would agree that the Golden Age for older kid’s lit began in the Fifties, reached its full potential in the Sixties… and began to decline after 1973. Many good kids’ books have been published since ’73, of course, but the Golden Age was over.
On an entirely unrelated note, Joshua Glenn and Wes Anderson were born in the 60s.
Just the book covers alone evoke fond memories!
My local public library had one of the very rare copies of Brinley’s The Big Kerplop *before it was republished. I debated whether to tell them that it would fetch several hundred dollars on the internet.
*the publisher went out of business in the middle of the hard-copy print run, ,but t the two earlier volumes were released in paperback by Scholastic. Which created the mix of relatively high demand and rarity that make prices high.
It’s a few years too early (published in 1960), and may not belong among the “highbrow” works, but there’s a little known novel called Secret Under The Sea by Gordon R. Dickson. Set in 2013 it’s about a young boy named Robby who lives in an undersea research lab with his parents. If I tried to describe the plot (which involves Martian animals) it would sound goofy, but it was really quite good.
And I guess we’ll have to wait a few years for the anniversary of William Sleator’s dark and disturbing House of Stairs.
I believe they were written in bulk by the same folks who wrote the Nancy Drew series, but I was a fan of the Hardy Boys back in the day–I could always rely on that fucking idiot Chet (his name was Chet! Short for Chester!! HAHAHAHAHA) to get the ball rolling with something zany. I would expect him to be either dead today by heroin overdose, or he’d be a captain of industry…such a moron, he was.
On the other hand, Clearly’s Mouse/Motorcycle fulfilled everything I needed as a young reader–I plugged into that book as though it was made for my head. I think that book allowed me to accept that I could embellish the world with my imagination without needing validation from anyone else, and really, a mouse riding a bad-ass motorcycle with a ping-pong ball helmet? I don’t know what could be better than that.
Other than watching Chet take a high dive from the Empire State Building, that is. Because that would be awesome!
Thanks to BoingBoing for bringing Mad Scientists’ Club to my attention 2 or 3 years ago. I bought it for my kids.
I let my kids carefully read my treasured original copy of Mad Scientists Club. I can’t help but think what a great kids TV series it would make, especially if it was made “period”, with old tech. If you ever wonder if what we read affects us: I ended up in SFX and have built my share of RC critters and gizmos.
several of these books and comics helped form the internal landscape of my imagination as a preteen and early teen. i remember them fondly and still have my childhood copies of some of them. does anyone remember the bob fulton books by jerome beatty? i would have added them to this list.
I was a HUGE fan of The Three Investigators series. Such a great run of stories.
Can’t believe how many I missed back then!! But I did have my fill of great stuff and not-so-great stuff; I read a ton… also partially due to TV not being so great, always, and parental restrictions on time spent watching it, but I have to say reading invoked the imagination more.
BTW Mad Scientist’s Club was reissued a few years ago… I had to buy myself a copy and re-read it
I loved the Mad Scientist’s Club as a kid, so I bought a used copy for my kids to enjoy. We like to figure out which parts of each story are hokum.
We also enjoy the Alfred Hitchcock Mystery series about the three investigators.
Well I hope someone reissues it, because every single person I tell about that book thinks that either I’m making it up or I dreamt it.
I read a lot of these Back in the Day. Good times.
I’m cautious about golden age pronouncements. It’s like saying the 60s produced the very best music ever. I think every decade has a lot of crap books and a lot of good books, but it is the good stuff that people remember. There’s a saying, “The Golden Age of science fiction is when you were twelve,” and maybe that applies to children’s lit as well.
Interestingly, while I didn’t read the Mad Scientists’ Club, I did read Brinley’s rocketry manual! I still have a copy or two. Very valuable.
Trivia: If you look at the map in one of the books Suzy is reading in Moonrise Kingdom, you’ll notice it is the map from Dune.
Enduring quality from the late '50’s
The_Wheel_On_The_School, Meindert de Jong 1957
The_Enormous_Egg, Oliver Butterworth, 1956
Journey_To_The_Mushroom_Planet, Elizabeth Cameron 1954
Hadn’t heard of the first one, but I loved the other two!
The “Mushroom Planet” books were smart and full of crunchy technical details. Not like hard SF, but elaborate and thoughtful.
Ah, Rocket Manual for Amateurs, I remember thee well.
I treasured my dad’s copy found after my grandparents died, along with the feeling that it was now a banned book. It was easier to buy Estes rocket motors from K-mart model section but they only went up to D in normal stores. We made some cool stuff buying first nitrates then perchlorates rom a suspicious pharmacist and sugar for fuel graduating to aluminum from the car paint shop. I even still have all 11 fingers.
Gosh, how fortunate for them that they just happened to be children when the best children’s stuff in history was around!
Seriously though, I was born in '78 and it’s surprising how many of the books here I read as a kid–The Dark is Rising series, the Chronicles of Prydain, The Mouse and the Motorcycle. All great books. There certainly was some quality stuff happening then.
I think Sleator has a bit of a cult following, mainly from people who discover him through either Interstellar Pig or Singularity. It’s been reissued a couple of times–most recently in 2008, but I picked up my copy of House of Stairs in a used bookstore, which seems to be the only place you can find it anymore.
It does seem weird that it’s not better known.