by Laura Lee Hope
Yes, the Bobbseys are back: the 6-year-old blond twins Freddie and Flossie and their 12-year-old dark-haired twin siblings Bert and Nan. These two are part of a series of four new books, and the press release distributed by the publishers claims that the stories “have been updated and given a faster pace and more intriguing mystery structure to appeal to today’s young readers between the ages of 7-10.”
The self-respecting segment of today’s preteen set is likely, however, to find the Bobbseys as nauseatingly goody-eight-shoes a bunch as many 7-to 10-year-olds no doubt found them 85 years ago, when the series debuted. The fact is, the Bobbsey twins have probably always appealed more to adults than to children. These kids never, never quarrel. They’re never rowdy. They get into only the most innocuous scrapes. They respect their elders and love to go on camping trips and roast frankfurters over a fire. As for the adults in the books, well, they never lose their tempers, always have construction paper and crayons handy, and always have hours and hours to romp with the kids (none of this “quality time” stuff).
To be sure, there are changes in the updated series. Flossie’s father no longer hails her as “my fat little fairy.” Freddie is spared the vocative title “my fat little fireman.” Dinah Johnson, the black housekeeper, and her husband, Sam, no longer talk in dialect. As for plots of these two books: In The Bobbsey Twins of Lakeport the twins must find the treasures Mrs. Marden, a local widow, left in her former (probably haunted) house. A trapdoor, a false wall and a hidden staircase later, the twins triumph and put resident bully Danny Rugg in his place.
The twins’ country adventure centers on the disappearance of farm animals and offers a bit more suspense than the Lake-port-based adventure. Faint praise, but there you are. The original Bobbsey books are interesting as period pieces; the tedious new Bobbsey books don’t even have nostalgia going for them. (Grosset & Dunlap, $4.95)