Thursday Throwback: Ginnie and the Mystery Doll

“I wish you still had that doll,” Ginnie said.

Miss Wade glanced down at her hands, and for a moment Ginnie thought that she was not going to answer. “She disappeared,” she said finally. “Years ago–oh, thirty years ago–I went to Europe one summer and I let this house to some people from California. Lady Vanderbuilt was put away in a trunk up in the attic. Sarah Brooks–she worked for me then; she was Ernie’s grandmother–Sarah had wrapped her up and put her away. When I looked for her months later she was gone.”

When I was younger I never realized that Ginnie and the Mystery Doll, by Catherine Woolley, was part of a series featuring the heroine. To me it was just another old Scholastic book gracing my shelves, picked up heaven knows where. I was in a little bit of a reading rut, and having recently been reflecting on children’s books I decided that an old friend was just the thing.

The families of Ginnie and her best friend Geneva have decided to rent a cottage on Cape Cod for the summer. While there the girls befriend their next-door neighbor, elderly Miss Wade, who has lived there her entire life. Long ago, a beautiful French doll belonging to her mother disappeared. Now, however, Lady Vanderbuilt has unexpectedly reappeared only to vanish again! Can Ginnie and Geneva take a break from the sun and sand to solve this double mystery?

I didn’t read this book as frequently as other favorites, and it’s funny the things that must have stood out to me. For example, I remembered small details, like Ginnie buying a jar of buttons at an auction, rather than the major plot points. The mystery itself isn’t all that complicated, though the girls do put in some sleuthing effort.

True to series books expectations, Ginnie is the clear heroine here. Though she and Geneva do almost everything together, it’s Ginnie who makes pretty much all the major discoveries, and the narration focuses on her thoughts. Geneva is by no means an inferior character, and is even described as more bookish; neither is Ginnie perfect. It just stood out to me for some reason that the book could just as easily have made them equal protagonists.

As I mentioned, the mystery is not the most suspenseful, but it seems to be almost secondary to atmosphere. Ms. Woolley does a wonderful job capturing the full experience of a Cape Cod summer by having the girls go clamming, collect beach plums for jam, and just spend time by the bay. Ginnie seems to love the outdoors and takes pleasure in observing the beauties of nature. The writing also doesn’t have the fast pace sometimes inherent in mysteries:

Late sunshine slanted, golden, across the green lawns. A thrush trilled from a treetop and a quail whistled, “Bob-white!” The breeze from the sea was almost cold now and carried the fresh scent of pine. Ginnie felt full of salt water and fresh air and at peace with the world.

There are so many other books from my childhood that I’d love to revisit as well. I can’t afford to detour too often from the TBR mountain, but perhaps once a month? I’m a sucker for alliteration so it could be a third Thursday throwback. I’ll hold of on choosing the next book, but I have a hunch it will either be The Codebreaker Kids or Magic Elizabeth, since I don’t completely remember those plots.

Published in: on August 20, 2009 at 12:33 am  Leave a Comment  
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