Nancy Drew Goes To Mayne Island  — Sonja de Wit

When I was a kid, the Nancy Drew books were the page-turners every girl read. It’s been many, many years since I read those books, but I still remember her well, though you may want to judge whether I remember her accurately.


Nancy had no mother but a tall, handsome father, who never criticized or told her what to do. She had a dashing roadster. I wasn’t totally sure what a roadster was, obviously some kind of car. She wore dressy, perfect clothes we would have died for, and she had two somewhat silly guys hanging around at her beck and call. She did exactly what she wanted to do, and all grownups, including bad guys and police officers took her completely seriously.

Amber Harvey’s Magda books are page-turners, too. They have the same fast pace, cliff-hanger chapters, and improbable coincidences as well as the complete plot wraps, that I seem to remember were part of the Nancy Drew formula, which, face it, has been an indubitable success.

Magda, though, is a completely different girl. Although she is brave and adventurous, she is human enough to sometimes feel the need to remind herself of this. She has a mother who works, and who does not indulge her every whim. She has a bicycle, rather than a roadster, and although her clothes are not described in detail, I’d be willing to bet that some may have been bought second hand.

Where Nancy boldly called herself the girl detective (if I remember right), Magda happens on her adventures in the style of many contemporary adult detectives, just by being in the right (or wrong) place at the right time, and not backing off. Her friends are also grounded in real places and times, with (or without – one boy is under threat of going into foster care) real parents, who behave like grown-ups. They worry, provide advice, misunderstand, but also come through with help and support.

Amber Harvey has chosen Mayne Island, which she knows well, as the setting for her youthful heroine, and provides many interesting and telling details of this somewhat old-fashioned (people don’t lock their doors) Gulf Island.

If I were a ten to fourteen year-old today, urban or rural, you’d find me curled up with Magda and her adventures, envying her just a little, for her freedom to roam her safe, rural, lovely island.

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