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Mysteries for Children; Ephesians
(Books #5, June 2, 1999)

   I was packing away some old books a few weeks ago, and I discovered, in my daughters' books, one that brought back a lot of memories. Not the book itself, but the reading trend it represented. During the post World War II years several series of books for children appeared in book and toy stores throughout America. These were mystery stories for children, typified by the Nancy Drew series, by Carolyn Keene, for girls, and the Hardy Boys series, by Franklin Dixon, for boys, both published by Grossett and Dunlap. There were several other series as well, but these two set the pace and were never eclipsed.
   There had been children's mysteries well before The War: the Tom Swift series, Tarzan, Flash Gordon, and several others. But the new series were different—their main characters were presented as plausible, attainable young people.
   These series had a different formula, which worked almost every time. They were written for children from about ten to fourteen years old; their main characters were young women and men between eighteen and twenty, the perfect age to be arresting rôle models for the younger teens and preteens.
   Each main character was athletic, attractive, intelligent; from an upper middle class professional family. Each family had a live-in extended family member (Aunt Gertrude for the Hardys, Hannah Gruen, the housekeeper, for the Drews. Both of these were caring but savvy dames who could be counted on in a tough situation.)
   Each main character had a retinue of reliable friends who helped them in their mysteries. One of the friends was always a little on the fat side and always thinking about food. All the characters were highly mobile. They had their own cars, and they had access to boats, trains, and even planes and helicopters.
   All the young people were highly moral and ethical; and they were unusually responsible. If they didn't keep a promised meeting it always meant one thing: they were in trouble. If they recovered a treasure or received a reward for their work their first thought was to share it or to give it to its rightful owner, not to keep it for themselves. They could do this because they were sure of themselves and had good self images. Contrast these outgoing books to the series by Judy Blume, which are highly self-centered stories from a later time which concentrate on developing the main character's defective self image or family situation.
   The stories always took place in unusual surroundings, often remote or mysterious. The mysteries frequently involved finding and retrieving lost coins, maps, treasures, family heirlooms, even lost family members. In every case there was mysterious opposition from determined rivals with evil motives.
   There was often violence, but never graphic violence; frequently kidnapping, but almost never murder.
   At each step of the way, when the heroes felt they were winning, a reversal of fortune was only a page or so away. Interestingly, though reversals occurred frequently, they were almost always resolved quickly and in sequence; they never stacked up so much that the reader felt confused or discouraged. It was good psychology for an audience so young. And the chapters all ended in cliff-hangers. One simply had to keep reading.
   Each book was 175 to 190 pages long; almost never 200 or more, just the right size to seem a reading challenge for a ten- to fourteen-year-old child; but never an impossible one. The stories were concise and very linear. They must have been fairly easy to write, and fairly easy to vary from book to book without leaving the basic formula.
   These stories weren't perfect in today's terms. There is some class- and ethnic-consciousness in the main characters and in the handling of foreigners. I'm not bothered by this; it sort of reminds me of real life everywhere on this planet except in politically-correct doofusland. There is also a great deal of emphasis on profession, especially for the girls in the stories. When one remembers the time during which the series appeared and grew, a lot is explained. What remains laudable is that the books affirm high standards of personal behavior and family and social responsibility.
   When the original authors became too old to continue writing, they passed the torch to new writers who maintained the series traditions and formulas, but converted many of the books to contemporary style and content. This is why eighteen year old Frank Hardy could drive a roadster in one book, a sports car in a later one, pilot a plane in another, and even fly a helicopter in yet another—while still eighteen, going on nineteen. This is also why many of the books are available in old and new editions.
   These series are still widely available in bookstores and online bookstores (including ours) and in libraries everywhere.
   When I decided to reread several of these books I started at the public library in Cocoa, Florida. I found only one on the shelves, so I asked an assistant in the juvenile section if it were the only one.
   "Oh no! I've put them all on their own set of shelves."
   "Why not just in with all the others?"
   "Well, I put them in a place where I could find them easily for myself. I like to read them, and I don't want to have to search for them."
   I feel the same way. I selected four for this review, and I quickly remembered why I liked them so much. They're like the exciting after-school radio serials and Saturday matinee serials I came up on: simple, concise external adventure; people I like; villains I despise; clarity! A commodity not so easy to come by in our real world.

Nancy Drew:
Clue in Crossword
The Clue in the Crossword Cipher
Carolyn Keene
While visiting her friend Carla Ponce, from Peru, Nancy notices an unusual carved wooden plaque with a stylized monkey on one side and almost illegible writing on the other. Carla explains that it's a family heirloom passed down from an ancient ancestor. Nobody knows what the plaque signifies. Nancy smells a mystery.
   After Carla discloses that she has been shadowed by a strange man, has received a warning note from someone named "El Gato," and that she will be returning to Peru in only a couple of days, Nancy is discouraged. But Carla invites her to visit her in Lima to continue the mystery, and to bring her two best girlfriends, George and Bess. Before they can leave a stranger knocks at Nancy's door. He has a court order to confiscate the plaque. Nancy smells a rat. When she resists, he tries to grab it. George uses a judo flip on him, and he runs away. The plot thickens!
   The rest of the story sprawls across Peru's famous and picturesque landscape: Lima, Cuzco, Machu Picchu. During the adventure the plaque changes hands, from Nancy's to El Gato's and back, time and time again; but it is always recovered.
   The mystery is concluded on the plain of Nazca, among the mysterious ancient lines. The ending is for you to discover. The Clue in the Crossword Cipher is a surprisingly interesting book, written in a simple, but engaging style. Plausible? Well...enough to point me toward...

The Hardy Boys:
The Viking Symbol Mystery
Franklin W. Dixon
Sam Radley's shortwave message to Fenton Hardy, a private investigator and Frank and Joe Hardy's Dad, is jammed, then interrupted by a deep voice: "Stay away, Hardy. You'll never get out of the Northwest Territories alive!"
   When the jamming ends Radley is able to report on a string of thefts near the town of Yellowknife, in the wilds of Canada. Suddenly a loud crash alerts the sleuths. It turns out to be their shortwave antenna–wrecked. A threatening message from Canada with a connection in Bayport? The Hardys smell a mystery.
   But Mr. Hardy selects Biff and Tony, two of Frank and Joe's friends, to go to Canada and contact Radley about the thefts. Frank and Joe are disappointed, but not for long. It seems there's another mystery for them.
   A French-Canadian trapper named Caron has discovered a Viking rune stone in a nearby Northwest Territory area. While authenticating the stone, it was stolen and the archaeologist was beaten badly. The stone is still missing.
   So the boys leave for Canada; Biff and Tony in one team, followed later by Frank and Joe, and their friend Chet, in the other. In Canada the boys are put in jeopardy immediately: their plane blows a tire on landing, an imposter is caught impersonating their Dad, and they meet Pierre Caron, AKA "Caribou," the man whose rune stone was stolen. Next, a near miss by a thrown knife, a leak in their white water canoe, a night fight in the woods with a tough stranger, an encounter with a grizzly bear, and a buffalo stampede. Wow! Will the Hardys survive?
   Of Course! Throughout their adventures the boys keep the Mounties informed of everything that happens, and eventually they and Caribou link up with Biff and Tony and their Dad and realize that the two cases are connected–and they're getting close to the rune stone and the thieves!
   Finally, after more adventures, the stone is recovered and decoded. It leads to buried Viking gold.
   In the end the bad guys are locked up, the treasure is given to the Canadian Government, the stone goes back to Caribou, even the body of a buffalo killed in the stampede is given to the Indians for meat. The Hardys' reward: the satisfaction of a job well done, and a buffalo steak, also well done.

Viking Symbol
Nancy Drew:
Quest Map
The Quest of the Missing Map
Carolyn Keene
Nancy agrees to accompany her new friend, Ellen Smith, on a job interview as a music tutor for Trixie, wealthy Mrs. Chatham's impulsive daughter. On the way Ellen mentions a family treasure map, but changes the subject as they arrive at Mrs. Chatham's huge, sinister home.
   But Trixie wants no part of piano lessons, especially in the studio in the estate's old cottage. "Because the place's haunted, that's why!" Trixie declares. She's sure she's seen strange eyes watching her from the mirror in "The Ship Cottage."
   Nancy visits the ship cottage to prove that Trixie's imagining things, but in the cottage she's threatened by a rough voice, "Leave here and never come back!" Nancy smells a mystery.
   Later, Ellen tells the story of the family treasure map–half- map, actually, for her family has only half of the map. The other half was given to the other of twin brothers; and he was lost at sea. Nancy suspects the other half-map might still be recovered, and she sets out to find it and the other half of the Smith Family. Along the way she is constantly thwarted by strange events and a mysterious couple who always seem a step ahead of her. Eventually they steal the Smith's half-map.
   On the night of the prom Nancy is kidnapped and imprisoned in an old apartment building while the evil couple heads for the treasure island with both halves of the map. When Nancy is rescued, she, Ellen, Mrs. Chatham, and a party of friends also set sail for the treasure island. Perhaps they can get there first.
   This mystery has one reversal after another, as Nancy slowly pieces together the Smith Family, then the secret of the half-maps, and finally, Ellen's job as tutor for Trixie. Along the way she reveals secret passages in the ship cottage, hidden tunnels on Mrs. Chatham's estate, secret codes inside old ship models, and even a dastardly plot by their ship's first mate.
   When the treasure is recovered it's split among the girls and members of Mrs. Chatham's party, the owners of the treasure island, and Ellen Smith's family, who need it because Mr. Smith has been out of work while he is recovering from a crippling accident.
   For Nancy, the reward is in helping her friend, Ellen, the satisfaction of putting crooks behind bars, and yet another mystery solved.

The Hardy Boys: Hunting for Hidden Gold
Franklin W. Dixon
The bullet crashed into a tree just inches from Joe Hardy's head. Another attempt to bushwhack the Hardy Boys? No; this time it seemed just a careless hunter–but it was a close call; and close calls are always suspicious in a Hardy Boys book.
   As the boys and their friends, Chet and Biff, turned and trudged back toward their new cabin in the woods outside Bayport, they were met by Lenny Haskins, who told them they'd received an emergency call back in town. It must have been from their Dad, Fenton Hardy, who was in Montana tracking a gang of dangerous outlaws. They returned to the tiny town with Lenny. The phone was ringing when they walked into the hotel.
   "This is Hank Shale. Your Pa asked me to call and say he needs your help pronto!" And that's the way the Boys began their hunt for hidden gold.
   On the way back to the cabin the Boys help an injured man shot in the leg by the same group of careless hunters they'd met earlier. He was Mike Onslow, an old friend of their Dad who had once worked a rich claim near Lucky Lode, the Montana town where Mr. Hardy was working. He and his partners had been chased out by Black Pepper and his gang of claim jumpers. They managed to get their gold out with one of the partners, and they'd escaped. But Mike had never recovered from the loss or his anger at his missing partner, Bart Dawson. Onslow's knowledge of the area around Lucky Lode would help the Hardys as they worked in the territory trying to capture the current outlaws.
   In Montana the Boys and their Dad split up. Mr Hardy worked in Helena, the Boys there in Lucky Lode. But it quickly became apparent that they weren't welcome in town. They're chased, shot at, and sabotaged in their attempt to get information that will help their Dad.
   Throughout their stay in Lucky Lode the Boys are menaced by mysterious men. Who are they? The men of the town are likely candidates, but the boys can't be sure. This is typical of the normal suspense in a Hardy Boys novel.
   Finally they are able to track some suspicious toughs to a secret box canyon where they learn that they've been marked for death.
   They also, finally, learn the identity of their enemies in town, and as a bonus, the location of Mike Onslow's old partner–the one who spirited their gold to "safety." The pages of their casebook closed on another solved mystery.

   You can order most of the Nancy Drew mysteries and the Hardy Boys books at a refreshing discount from, through our Online Bookstore.

Hidden Gold
And One From The Good Book
"The Letter to The Ephesians"
by Saul of Tarsus, called Paul
Scriptural citations are from the New English Bible
Saul of Tarsus was a classic devout Jew. He actively persecuted Jesus' church until he met The Lord on the road to Damascus. (Acts chapter 9). Jesus would use Saul, now called Paul, and an apostle, as His spokesman.

   In a message to Ananias of Damascus (the man who would baptize Paul) Jesus said He would show Paul what he would have to suffer for Him; and He was true to His word. Paul's assignment was to be the conversion of the Gentiles.
   For a Jew, dealing with Gentiles was an insult; but Paul, though a Jew, was now something bigger: already a true believer, now called by Jesus, ready to serve Jesus with all his zeal. In serving the Gentiles, Paul wrote letters—of encouragement, of instruction, of reproof—letters which we now read for the same purposes.
   In his letter to the Galatians Paul broke new doctrinal ground by explaining God's great plan for using the Law of Bondage to get the Jews ready—spiritually mature to live under a new Law of Freedom. That explanation is found nowhere else in the Bible as clearly and concisely as Paul wrote it in the Galatian letter; supplemented by his words in Romans:  "When Gentiles who do not possess the law carry out its precepts by the light of nature, then, although they have no law, they are their own law, for they display the effect of the law inscribed on their hearts." (Romans 2: 14-15).
   Paul would break even more important doctrinal ground. He would reveal, also for the first and only time in the Bible, God's eternal purpose:  "...namely, that the universe, all in heaven and on earth, might be brought into a unity in Christ." (Ephesians 1: 10).
   It is clear that Paul understood the significance of his mission, and it is also clear that he would meet great opposition from his Jewish brothers. After all, to share God's eternal blessings with the Gentiles would be, in their eyes, to end the importance and uniqueness of the Jews as God's chosen people.
   But Paul reveals that God was always true to His purpose—that His meaning of "Israel" had never been limited by flesh and blood, but defined by the nature of a believer's faith in Him–the very faith of Abraham.
   The letter to the Ephesian church is written to Gentiles and Jewish Christians living in Ephesus, converts from paganism and from the Old Law. He encourages them by reminding them of what they already know: they are Christians, former unbelievers who have turned to Jesus from the dark. He spurs them to not give up their faith because of difficulties and persecutions; to keep their behavior pure and simple, as was Jesus'. The apostles who wrote letters all used this basic pattern of encouragement:

  • remember who you were;
  • remember how you believed the message of Jesus;
  • remember the goal you're working for;
  • remain faithful to your vows.
   The story of Paul's Ephesian adventures is told in the Acts (18: 18 to 20: 11); the encouragements in this letter are similar to those in his other letters. So, what sets the letter to the Ephesians apart from other letters? Basically some clarifications revealed to Paul by God and subsequently by Paul to us:

1. That all the world's races would be united into one church by Jesus' sacrifice:  "He has made known to us His hidden purpose—such was His will and pleasure determined beforehand in Christ—to be put in effect when the time was ripe: namely, that the universe, all in heaven and on earth, might be brought into unity in Christ." (Ephesians 1: 9&10).
"For He is himself our peace. Gentiles and Jews, He has made the two one, and in His own body of flesh and blood has broken down the enmity which stood like a dividing wall between them; for He annulled the law with its rules and regulations, so as to create out of the two a single new humanity in Himself, thereby making peace." (Ephesians 2: 14-16).

2. That man was created to do good deeds on the earth in God's name:  "And in union with Christ Jesus He raised us up and enthroned us with Him in the heavenly realms, so that He might display in the ages to come how immense are the resources of His grace, and how great His kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by His grace you are saved, through trusting Him; it is not your own doing. It is God's gift, not a reward for work done. There is nothing for anyone to boast of. For we are God's handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to devote ourselves to the good deeds for which God has designed us." (Ephesians 2: 6-10).

3. That man's behavior in The Church was being observed by heavenly beings with an eye toward assessing God's wisdom:  "It was hidden for long ages in God the creator of the universe, in order that now, through the church, the wisdom of God in all its varied forms might be made known to the rulers and authorities in the realms of heaven. This is in accord with His age-long purpose which He achieved in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Ephesians 3: 10).

   To me the importance of the letter to the Ephesians is summarized early in the letter, in the third chapter: "In former generations this was not disclosed to the human race; but now it has been revealed by inspiration to his dedicated apostles and prophets, that through the Gospel the Gentiles are joint heirs with the Jews, part of the same body, sharers together in the promise made in Christ Jesus. Such is the gospel of which I was made a minister, by God's gift, bestowed unmerited on me in the working of His power." (Ephesians 3: 5-7).


   To get the most from Paul's letter to the Ephesians, and from all the other Bible scriptures, may I suggest that you ignore the verse notations and read it in paragraphs; read it only for what's written in the passage, not what you may have heard before; read it in at least one modern language translation, like The New International Version, and one older translation, like the King James Version or the Revised Standard Version. You can find several Bible translations in our Online Bookstore.
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   See you next time for more reviews of interesting books. To read book reviews from previous issues see our "Back Issues" in our "Library."


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