Sunday, October 19, 2014

Scholastic Fest: #8, Mystery by Moonlight

  • Title: Mystery by Moonlight
  • Author: Mary C. Jane (1909-1991)
  • Illustrator: Raymond Abel
  • Cover design: Ethel Gold
  • Publisher: Scholastic Book Services
  • Year: Seventh printing, December 1974
  • Excerpt:
    "They went down to the living room, and with Lianne's father and mother watched a detective story on television. When that was over, the grownups left the girls alone to enjoy their favorite program, 'The Howland Girls.' It was a boarding-school story that the twins and Conan hated, so Gail was surprised to have Conan appear at the door and announce that he thought he'd watch TV with her and Lianne.

    "She felt a pang of envy. Conan liked Lianne so much he didn't even mind watching 'The Howland Girls.'"

    [FYI: "The Howland Girls" is a fictitious TV show. I checked.]
  • Notes: Are you getting the sense that I like book covers with old or wonderful (or creepy) buildings? We've already had #10 The Wizard of Oz (back-cover illustration) and #13 The Witch House and Other Tales Our Settlers Told. And there's one more great one to come. (Plus, of course, you should check out Guide to Papergreat's photos of graveyards and old buildings.) ... Mary C. Jane is not a pseudonym. She was born Mary Grace Childs in 1909 in Massachusetts and died in 1991 in Maine, according to her obituary on Find a Grave. Here is an excerpt:
    "[S]he was a graduate of Bridgewater State Teachers' College in Massachusetts. After graduating in 1931, Mary Childs taught for one year in Kentucky. In 1932, she returned to Massachusetts where she taught fifth and sixth graders. In 1937, she married William Jane and moved to Newcastle, Maine. She gave up teaching to raise their two sons. Reading aloud to them sparked an interest in children's literature. After the boys were grown, she returned to teaching. From her teaching experiences, she learned that many reluctant readers could be encouraged to read with mysteries. In 1955, she wrote her first book, a juvenile mystery entitled Mystery in Old Quebec. Over the next 15 years, Mrs. Jane authored more mystery novels ... [and] she continued writing at the rate of one book per year until her last book in 1970 when she retired."
    ... Her literary papers can be found at the Raymond H. Fogler Library at the University of Maine. ... One of Jane's admirers on the Find A Grave page writes: "I absolutely loved her books, and grew up reading them in the 1970s.. On especially cold weekends, my dad would go to the library for me and take out one of her books." ... And an Amazon reviewer named Marla wrote this in 2008: "I discovered Mary C. Jane books at my parent's house. Apparently my older sister was addicted to them as a child (and hid them from me since I didn't know about them.) I love the settings of these books. Just the right blend of 'spooky' happenings and 'danger.' I read them to my 10 year old son who is a Scooby-Doo fan. Great for introducing kids to mystery books!" ... It appears that illustrator Raymond Abel provided artwork for many of Jane's books, but I cannot find much more about him. If anyone has biographical information about him to share, please include it in the comments section. ... I can't find much, either, about Ethel Gold, who did the marvelous cover design. She might have worked in-house for Scholastic Book Services, as she is credited with multiple cover designs, includingly, in an amazing Papergreat coincidence, Hi There, High School! ... Finally, Mystery by Moonlight has a wonderful dedication:
    To those delightful people, the boys and girls who read my books, and to the understanding teachers and librarians who introduced us to each other.

1 comment:

  1. I can't tell you much about Raymond Abel, Chris, but Mary Childs Jane was my aunt -- one of the two younger sisters of my Dad, Charles Dyer Childs -- and throughout my childhood, one of the most anticipated events each year (often, but not always, at Christmas) was the arrival of Aunt Mary's latest mystery. And summer visits to her home in Newcastle (and to my Aunt Nell's nearby home in Alna) were always high points, as well. As I grew older, Mary began to send passages from Emerson -- whose writings she loved -- and to share more serious thoughts about life and living. One of my older siblings also carried on an extensive correspondence with her, and she had a significant influence on aspects of our thinking, and on what we decided was important and valuable in life. So this children's mystery writer ran deeper than many people know. I am grateful for her affection and for her longterm interest in me and in the course of my life and career(s). Thank you for honoring her with your response to her work.

    Warmly, Christopher Childs