Summary: Deep within the country resides the Jamestown School for Girls, a boarding school meant to offer a good education to girls of all backgrounds and they are in need of a nurse! The headmistress is an old friend of Cherry’s mother and the school is near her hometown Hilton, Illinois, so Cherry decides to take the job.
On the train there, Cherry unexpectedly meets one of her future charges, a friendly but secretive girl named Lisette. Cherry observes her partiality to a huge book she carries with her (and won’t let Cherry see the title of or its contents) and flowers. Over the course of the school year Cherry navigates both her official and unofficial duties as a boarding school nurse; colds, scrapes and the general psychological well being of the students.
Lisette and her book remain a mystery until Cherry discovers her tiptoeing around the infirmary at midnight! It turns out Lisette is on the scent of a secret. Hidden somewhere in the school is a cupboard. By using the clues in her great-grandfather’s diaries, Lisette is sure she can find her great-grandfather’s cupboard and its contents. Cherry, unable to resist a mystery and the hopeful look in Lisette’s eye, agrees to help.
Review: It has been a long time since I have read any of the golden age young adult mysteries and I forgot how much I enjoyed them! (Seriously I don’t know how I forgot I made my way through all the Nancy Drew’s) I didn’t know this series existed until I was perusing thru Powell’s collectable YA shelves and ran across this series and I am glad I decided to pick one up! I am hooked! What is even better is the fact that most all the titles are still in print!
Still in print after all these years? How is that possible, you ask? Well, a few years back, a fan of Cherry Ames met Helen Wells’ brother and he was getting on in years. His sister Helen had left him the rights to her books and he didn’t know who on earth to leave them to when he joined the great turtle in the sky (my word not his - a bad allusion to Pratchett btw). He mentioned this quandary to her and she raised her hand and said leave them to me!!! So he did and she set about having them reissued again, which is great news - because if the rest of the books are half as fun as this one I am hooked!
What I enjoyed about this book:
- it didn’t rely on a series of coincidences to move the plot forward - it was a mystery a kid could find and investigate on their own (and romanticize) - the distrust of adults was based on their ridicule of another adult - adults were not portrayed as being inept or inherently untrustworthy
The writing was warm and inviting, and while I didn’t start with the first in the series I in no way every felt lost or left out of the loop at any point while reading this installment. Plus the series and the singular book shows a rather wide variety of situations where a nurse’s presence is needed and the practicality of their training. I would highly recommend this series to anyone looking for a warm, safe and lively read!
Why did so many people consider that because she was young she might not be capable of handling responsibilities?
Interesting Fact: What do "Bob’s Burgers", Cherry Ames Boarding School Nurse and Valentine’s Day have in common?
No, this is not a punch line to some bizarre joke, I promise!
(the Belcher kid's discovery of ambergris)
Just in case you haven’t watched "Bob’s Burgers" season 4 episode 18 Ambergris (which, to be fair, is likely as it is the lowest viewed episode in its history) and don’t know what the heck ambergris is let me review (as the episode was surprisingly factual!). Ambergris is a waxy-like substance which male sperm whales secret in order to protect their soft inside bits from being damaged by the beaks of the giant squids they enjoy eating. Eventually after the material accumulates into a large enough mass the whale either throws it up to poops it out - several tons at a time. Scientists aren’t sure exactly which end it comes from because no one has ever witnessed its passage - however since it smells more like the back end than the front cetologists (people who study whales, dolphins and porpoises) favor the poop hypothesis. Conversely most non-scientists call ambergris whale vomit, favoring this notion probably because the thought of wearing highly process whale poop doesn’t set the heart aglow. But I am getting ahead of myself.
Unless you are Gene Belcher or King Charles II of England who enjoyed noshing on ambergris, the most common use for the substance is in perfumes and/or colognes. Why? When ambergris is blended with the other perfume ingredients it allows these scents to last much longer than they would otherwise. Plus ambergris adds its own unique signature to the perfume! From what I understand, the scent of ambergris is rather unique and no two lumps are exactly the same. Why? When the ambergris is first expelled from the mammoth marine mammal, it has a rather dubious dung-of-the-sea smell. However as it floats in the ocean (which it can do for decades) the salt in the sea water, sun and wind all leach the liquid out of the ambergris, transforming the lumps from a fishy fecal smell to the coveted sweet, earthy and musky scent it is renowned for. So the older the piece of Ambergris you find the more it is worth (the lumps also get broken up over time due to the same forces which ripen them - so while a beachcomber might find a relatively small piece like the Belcher kids - it can be worth a pretty penny to the right buyer). Thus no two lumps ever smell the same - which allows the perfume which uses the same claim to fame as well.
(what an aged lump of ambergris looks like)
While the perfume that Cherry and Lisette made relied on floral notes to create a new unique scent, it still required a fixative - and even back in the fifties in which this mystery was set - with more whales wandering the ocean - ambergris would still have been too rare and expensive for the two chemists' budget (seriously Cherry was a school nurse and Lisette a school girl). They did use a far cheaper but more consistent smelling synthetic fixative which most perfumers favor. Perhaps not the synthetic version ambergris but the story didn’t specify - so perhaps they did!
While pricing would restrict the potential perfumers for using ambergris back then (and now for that matter) - legal issues would constitute a more significant barrier for them now. The same legal barrier which caused Tina, Gene and Louise try their very first black market deal - with dubious adult supervision. In the US and Australia, it is illegal to own or sell ambergris due to the sperm whale’s place on the endangered species list. However if you live in Europe - the EU has no problem with it, since ambergris is naturally passed from the whale and hunting them in hopes they contained this pearl would only net a poor quality (since it has not been ripened by the sea), significantly less valuable stuff. Well, that's the theory anyway.
(a reputed user of ambergris)
What does this mean for you? Well, if you have a great Valentine or treat yourself to your own Valentines Day present - like a nice bottle of French perfume - there is a chance you could be swiping your neck and wrists a concoction which includes essence de whale waste! (We won’t touch where musk comes from....)
Thus Cherry Ames, "Bob’s Burgers" and Valentines day are all related - no matter how loosely!
"The retailer said Wednesday that sales at its established stores fell 2.1 percent in November and December compared to the same period last year. Macy's Inc. pointed to changing consumer behavior and said its performance reflects the challenges that are facing much of the retail industry."
From SeekingAlpha.com: "To give an idea of how much Amazon dominated sales from November 1 to December 16, its closest competitor Best Buy (NYSE:BBY) wasn't even able to grab 4 percent of online e-commerce sales. The rest, including Target (NYSE:TGT) and Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT), weren't able to even produce a market share of 3 percent, with Target having a 2.9 percent share, and Wal-Mart only able to generate a 2.7 percent share of online sales."
From intelligence.slice.com: "Amazon’s share of U.S. e-commerce sales grew significantly as we got closer to Christmas and Hanukkah. From November 1 through Cyber Monday, Amazon’s share of e-commerce was 33 percent, compared with 44 percent during the final stretch (December 15 through December 25). However, this was consistent with Amazon’s share during the 2015 Holiday season. Amazon netted out with a consistent share of 38 percent in both 2015 and 2016." They posted the following graph of where consumer's money went:
There were also many stories about how sales did not meet expectations at the big department stores during the same period. From Reuters:
"Disappointing holiday-season sales at Macy's Inc (M.N) and Kohl's Corp (KSS.N) underscored the uphill task facing department stores to win back shoppers, who are increasingly turning to online retailers and spending less on apparel.
Macy's shares fell as much as 14 percent on Thursday, their biggest percentage drop in seven months. Kohl's stock dropped as much as 20.5 percent, its biggest decline in more than 14 years.
Both reported lower-than-expected sales for November and December and cut their full-year profit forecasts on Wednesday.
Macy's, known the world over for its flagship Herald Square store in Manhattan and its annual Thanksgiving Day parade, is considered a bellwether for department stores."
There was news that Macy's will be closing 100 stores due to poor sales and what that would mean to their soon-so-be-unemployed workers. Washington State will lose stores in Everett and Kelso, Oregon is losing stores in Salem and downtown Portland.
"Jeff Bezos, one of the Seattle area’s wealthiest and best-known residents, has reportedly purchased a mega-mansion in Washington, D.C. But don’t expect him to abandon us.
The Washington Post on Thursday cited unnamed sources in reporting that the Amazon.com CEO had dropped $23 million on the former Textile Museum, a 27,000-square-foot property in D.C.’s Kalorama neighborhood. The 10-bed, 14-bath home, which spans two historic mansions, was bought under a trust in October but the paper outed Bezos as the man behind the purchase."
When you own the world, why not spend millions on a mansion you'll not occupy?
Sorry to sound like a broken record but we've been writing and warning about this for years.
"You’re going to be living in a company town, where the company owns the store, sets the prices and rakes it in.
Don’t want to live like that? Fight it now. Talk about it with the people you know.
Friends don’t let friends support the Borg.
Resistance is not futile."
Maybe it is.
Last year, we had our GoFundMe campaign to help us stay afloat, and you came through like champions! However, that - in and of itself - will not be enough to continue to sustain us through this next year. We still need you to help out as a customer. Come into the shop, buy online, but choose us over Amazon, please. Choose all your mom-and-pop shops first.
Otherwise we're afraid that we'll go the way of those bigger stores, squashed under SPECTRE's big boots.
When editor Susan Ryeland is given the manuscript of Alan Conway’s latest novel, she has no reason to think it will be much different to any of his others. After working with the bestselling crime writer for years, she’s intimately familiar with his detective, Atticus Pünd, who solves mysteries disturbing sleepy English villages. An homage to queens of classic British crime such as Agatha Christie and Dorothy Sayers, Alan’s traditional formula has proved hugely successful. So successful that Susan must continue to put up with his troubling behavior if she wants to keep her job.
Conway’s latest tale has Atticus Pünd investigating a murder at Pye Hall, a local manor house. Yes, there are dead bodies and a host of intriguing suspects, but the more Susan reads, the more she’s convinced that there is another story hidden in the pages of the manuscript: One of real-life jealousy, greed, ruthless ambition, and murder.
Masterful, clever, and ruthlessly suspenseful, Magpie Murders is a deviously dark take on vintage English crime fiction in which the reader becomes the detective.
B: March 29, 1910 Danville, Il. - D: February 10, 1986 New York City, NY (BTW: Our author was legally born Helen Weinstock, but changed her name to Wells at some point)
About: Helen Wells’ background is rather interesting!
She was born in Danville, Illinois, and as a child her family (mom, dad and brother) moved to NYC.
As a teenager, Wells studied painting and then music at the Art Students League in NY (a 142 year old institution in NYC whose mission is to provide access to art classes and studios to all regardless of financial or technical background - which is pretty cool!). Later while attending NYU she became the school’s first female editor of their literary quarterly. After graduating in 1934 with a major in philosophy and a minor in sociology and psychology she became a social worker for a few years.
(Art Students League building)
Like many women during WWII, she volunteered her time; unlike many who rolled bandages or worked in a hospital (as Agatha Christie did), Wells worked in the State Department’s Office of the Coordinator of Inter-American Affairs. Meaning? She escorted foreign visitors from (in this case) Latin America around NYC.
After winning two writing contests and submitting articles to magazines for several years, Wells began writing full time. In 1943 she created Cherry Ames - a nurse who solves mysteries while on various jobs (think Nancy Drew with a cap), first in the military during WWII and later while working for various private companies and people. Wells drew upon her own life to help flesh out Cherry’s background - basing Cherry’s hometown directly on her own, Danville, Il. The house Cherry grew up in was the same as the one which Wells spent her childhood in, according to her brother. In addition,Wells made Cherry an NYC transplant, just as she herself was, moving Cherry’s entire family to the city later in the series. All of these parallels, I am sure, is what help to make this series feel as warm and inviting as a Christmas cookie.
While Wells didn’t work in the medical field, her brother later said she spent a large amount of time with nurses while she was writing the Cherry series - I assume to get the details correct! While Wells may not have any direct experience for her first series, the second series she created Wells had far more first-hand experience in it. In 1947, Vicki Barr strolled off the pages in her smart stewardess outfit, flying to exotic locations, finding herself in all sorts of mysterious circumstances and with all kinds of people. This once again corresponds with Helen's life! Not only did her volunteer work during the war (meeting all kinds of important foreign visitors) help her, but she traveled extensively. Brazil, Spain, Austria, Israel, Mexico, England and many other countries stamped the pages of her passport. Thus it seems the inspiration for the Vicki Barr series sprung up rather naturally!
Wells left both these series for a time - handing the reins over to Julie Campbell Tatham who was the creator of the Trixie Belden series - in order to concentrate on radio and television (while, of course, still receiving 5% of the royalties while Tatham wrote the series because she was their creator). Eventually Wells decided to return to her girl sleuth roots and begun writing both her heroines again. (I couldn’t find any info on the shows she worked on during this period, frustratingly enough.)
(Institute of Children’s Literature building)
The last book I can find that she wrote was in the Cherry Ames series in 1968. After this she taught writing courses at the Institute of Children’s Literature, worked with the Mystery Writers of America and several other organizations. Wells passed away on February 10, 1986 in NYC.
“Far in the back of her mind she was thinking. But she could not dredge up these half-formed feelings, these obscure bits of ideas, into clear, definite thoughts. . . Her mind ticked away, singing a song she could not decipher.” - Cherry Ames, Veterans' Nurse
Detective: Cherry Ames
1st Book:Cherry Ames, Student Nurse -- 7th:Cherry Ames, Private Duty Nurse 17th:Cherry Ames, Boarding School Nurse -- Last:Cherry Ames: Ski Nurse Mystery No. of Books in Series: 27 Note: #8 -- #16 were written by Julie Campbell Tatham
Detective: Vicki Barr
1st Book:Silver Wings for Vicki -- 3rd Book:The Hidden Valley Mystery 9th Book:The Mystery of the Vanishing Lady -- 15th Book:The Mystery of Flight 908 No. of Books in Series: 16 Note: #4 - #8 were written by Julie Campbell Tatham It is believed that the final book #16 - The Brass Idol Mystery - was written by Walter B. Gibson (the creator of The Shadow).
Under the Pen Name: Francine Lewis
Detective: Polly French 1st Book:Polly French Of Whitford High - Last Book:Polly French And The Surprising Stranger No. of Books in Series: 3
When Thomas Pitt is summoned to Queen Victoria’s private chambers, he hardly knows what to expect. When she tells him that the body of one of her closest confidantes—Sir John Halberd—has been found in the Serpentine, he knows he is facing his most daunting and dangerous investigation yet.
Sir John was a man who kept many secrets, moving within a circle of the most powerful and prominent members of London society. And the more Pitt learns about Sir John’s past, the more he puts himself and his loved ones at risk.
The royal family cannot be denied…but will the most important case of Pitt’s career be his last?
A Sebastian St. Cyr Mystery
London, 1813. One of the city’s many homeless children, Benji Thatcher was abducted, tortured, and murdered—and his younger sister is still missing. Few in authority care about a street urchin’s fate, but Sebastian refuses to let this killer go unpunished.
Uncovering a disturbing pattern of missing children, Sebastian is drawn into a shadowy, sadistic world. As he follows a grim trail that leads from the writings of the debauched Marquis de Sade to the city’s most notorious brothels, he comes to a horrifying realization: someone from society’s upper echelon is preying upon the city’s most vulnerable. And though dark, powerful forces are moving against him, Sebastian will risk his reputation and his life to keep more innocents from harm…