Judy Bolton Series

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Cover of Judy Bolton book, illustrated by Pelagie Doane

The Judy Bolton Mystery Series, created by Margaret Sutton, follows a realistic young woman who solves mysteries. Although the series was not quite as popular as Nancy Drew, Judy Bolton has been called a more complex and believable role model for girls. Judy was also unique in that halfway through the series, she married (something series book heroines rarely, if ever, did). The 38 volume series is the longest-lasting juvenile mystery series written by an individual author.

In September 2012, the 39th volume, The Strange Likeness, was published by Applewood books, which has re-printed titles in the series since 1991. In 1968, Sutton had created the title and the beginnings of a plot outline of a mystery located in Panama; however co-authors Kate Duvall and Beverly Hatfield never saw the original outline and wrote the book instead from their original ideas, with the Sutton family's permission.


The mainstays of the series were Judy Bolton, auburn-haired girl detective; her brother, news reporter Horace Bolton; her parents, Doctor and Mrs. Bolton; and her loyal black cat, Blackberry. For most of the early volumes she was torn between suitors: the wealthy Arthur Farringdon-Pett, and the upstanding lawyer Peter Dobbs, before finally choosing Peter in volume 10. Her best friend was Peter's sister, Grace Dobbs, also known as Honey; her rival for Arthur's affections was Lorraine Lee. Judy was friends with Arthur's sister, Lois Farringdon-Pett, and one of her high-school archenemies was snobbish Kay Vincent. Judy also befriended a mill worker, Irene Lang, who later became Irene Meredith.[citation needed]

Critical assessment[edit]

Judy Bolton has been called a better feminist role model than Nancy Drew because "Nancy Drew is more likely to uphold the ideological status quo, while Judy Bolton is more likely to restore moral rather than legal order, because her mysteries tend to emphasize human relationships over material possessions."[1] Unlike Nancy Drew, Judy Bolton often enlists the aid of family members and friends in solving mysteries; she "works in a collaborative way that subverts dominant values."[2]

Judy is emotional and self-doubting; for this reason she has been called a "more believable" female role model.[3]

As a part of her collaborative approach, Judy is often defined in relation to men: as Dr. Bolton's daughter or later, as Peter Dobbs' wife.[4]

Publication history[edit]

There were 38 titles in the original Judy Bolton series, all copyrighted between 1932 and 1967. The final 12, particularly the last one, had limited printings and as a result are hard to find. Collectors often find themselves paying upwards of $200 for a volume in good condition. The series ended before the 39th book, The Strange Likeness, could be published.[5] According to author Margaret Sutton, the series was killed due not to poor sales, but to pressure from the Stratemeyer Syndicate. The Stratemeyer Syndicate wished to lessen competition for the Nancy Drew series.[6] Pelagie Doane illustrated many of the early Judy Bolton books.

During, and after, the course of the series, a number of translations were published internationally. Among these were Icelandic, Norwegian, Swedish, Danish and Spanish editions.[7][8]

In 1997, three decades after Grosset & Dunlap issued the last Judy Bolton title, author Linda Joy Singleton completed a book that series creator Margaret Sutton had begun writing several years before.[9] Once the first draft was finished, Singleton submitted it to Sutton for revisions, and the book that emerged from their collaboration carries the name of both co-authors. Chronologically, The Talking Snowman takes place during the Christmas season between the events described in volume 3 and volume 4, and thus is known to collectors as "volume 3.5".

Another title, The Whispering Belltower, was written by Kate Emburg with the encouragement of Margaret Sutton.[9]

In 2012, with the permission of Margaret Sutton's family, co-authors Kate Duvall and Beverly Hatfield wrote "The Strange Likeness" based on Sutton's original title. The book, #39 in the Judy Bolton Mystery Series, was edited by Sutton's youngest daughter, Lindsay Sutton Stroh, and illustrated by another daughter, Marjorie Sutton Eckstein.


Each book in the Judy Bolton series is listed chronologically and summarized at the website Vintage Series Books for Girls . . . and a Few for Boys.[10]


  1. ^ Parry (1997), 145.
  2. ^ Parry (1997), 156.
  3. ^ Diane White (1996), 27.
  4. ^ Parry (1997), 151.
  5. ^ A children's book with that title was published in 1929, written by Harriet Pyne Grove, but is unrelated to the Judy Bolton series.
  6. ^ Ghent (1987), C1.
  7. ^ "P-T - The European Connection". The European Connection. Retrieved 2016-01-20.
  8. ^ Iceland, National and University Library of. "Timarit.is". timarit.is. Retrieved 2016-01-20.
  9. ^ a b The Book Sleuth.
  10. ^ "Sutton, Margaret". Vintage Series Books for Girls . . . and a Few for Boys. p. The Judy Bolton Mystery Stories by Margaret Sutton.


  • Carpan, Carolyn. Sisters, Schoolgirls, and Sleuths: Girls' Series Books in America. New York: Rowman and Littlefield, 2009.
  • Ghent, Janet. "The Mysterious Demise of Judy Bolton." (Oakland, CA) Tribune. 25 May 1987. Page C1. Accessed through Access World News on 10 April 2009.
  • Macleod, Anne Scott. American Childhood: Essays on Children's Literature of the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries. Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press, 1995. ISBN 0-8203-1803-5.
  • Mason, Bobbie Ann. The Girl Sleuth. Revised edition. Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press, 1995. ISBN 0-8203-1739-X.
  • Moske, Jim. Stratemeyer Syndicate records, 1832-1984. The New York Public Library, 2000. Accessed 6 April 2009.
  • Nash, Ilana. American Sweethearts: Teenage girls in twentieth-century popular culture. Indiana University Press, 2006. ISBN 0-253-21802-0.
  • Parry, Sally. "The Secret of the Feminist Heroine: The Search for Values in Nancy Drew and Judy Bolton." In Nancy Drew and Company: Culture, Gender, and Girls’ Series. Edited by Sherrie A. Inness. Popular Press 1, 1997. ISBN 0-87972-736-5.
  • White, Diane (20 May 1996). "Clueless on Nancy Drew". The Boston Globe.

External links[edit]