Trixie Belden, Girl Detective
By Christine Gunderson
This month we’re blogging about our favorite character. Who do we love and admire so much that we’d like to step inside the book and trade places with them?
Obviously, the answer to this question is always Elizabeth Bennet, because:
1. Mr. Darcy
3. A cook. And a maid. And a gardener. And a housekeeper. And you get the idea.
But, since Elizabeth Bennet is low hanging fruit, I will write about another immortal heroine from the annals of great literature who I have also loved and wanted to become. That character, my friends, is none other than Trixie Belden.
Many voracious readers have never heard of Trixie Belden. This puzzles me, because Trixie is the bravest, smartest, most intrepid girl detective who ever lived.
Please do not confuse Trixie Belden with Nancy Drew. Nancy. Nancy. Nancy. Trixie Beldon is no Nancy Drew, let me tell you.
Nancy Drew is the Martha Stewart of girl detectives and was way too pulled together for my taste, what with her cardigans and her fancy roadster and her perfect boyfriend, Ned.
If Nancy Drew invited you over, she’d give you tea and cucumber sandwiches on the terrace. But Trixie? Trixie would give you Twinkies and orange Kool Aid on the tire swing. To steal a phrase from the millennials, Trixie is authentic.
I couldn’t relate to Nancy Drew because she was so perfect. But not Trixie. Trixie was real. She had three irritating brothers. Her mom made her weed the garden and do chores, and best of all, Trixie had trouble with math. This attribute alone was enough to build a six lane super-highway to the center of my heart.
If the Trixie Belden books were written today, she would likely defy gender stereotypes by solving mysteries at the STEM Olympics in anticipation of her future career as a bio-chemical engineering physicist who invents CRISPR while designing rockets for NASA.
But back in the day, girl detectives freely admitted they thought algebra was both very hard and a complete waste of time, time better spent re-reading Pride and Prejudice and Barbara Cartland novels. Trixie wasn’t a character to me. Trixie was a comrade, a fellow traveler, a sister-in-arms bravely bearing the slings and arrows of middle school and the fresh hells of solving for X.
Trixie had short blonde hair, like me. She wore jeans and dirty sneakers, like me. She lived on a farm and loved horses, and I did too. Trixie lost her temper and got discouraged and had flaws and felt insecure, also like me and like every other teenaged girl on the planet. Every teenaged girl on the planet except Nancy Drew, that is.
Trixie had a wonderful group of friends. They called themselves the Bob Whites of the Glen, and they ran around solving mysteries and doing good deeds while wearing matching jackets.
Trixie had a boyfriend too, named Jim Frayne. Unlike stuffy old Ned from Nancy Drew, Jim came from a broken home. Jim had issues. In other words, he was real, too.
But he was saved by Trixie’s love, the rich neighbors who adopted him, and by the enduring friendship of the Bob Whites of the Glen, who addition to matching jackets, also had a clubhouse AND a secret signal that sound like a bird call!!!
It was all so thrilling and perfect, if you were a thirteen-year-old girl, which I was. After it become obvious to me that I couldn’t go to Narnia, I wanted to crawl into Trixie’s world and live there instead.
There were 39 Trixie Belden books, and I’m pretty sure I read them all. And now my daughter can read them too, because a Trixie Belden fan grew up and became an editor at Random House. Several years ago, she spearheaded the effort to re-release the Trixie Belden books with updated covers.
Thanks to her, Trixie is back in the world again, reminding thirteen-year-old girls everywhere that being real is always better than being perfect.
Christine Gunderson is a YA writer who lives outside Washington, D.C. with her husband, children and Star the Wonder dog. When not writing, she’s sailing, playing Star Wars trivia, re-reading Persuasion, or unloading the dishwasher. You can reach her at www.christinegunderson.com