The Bluebird Books
The Bluebird Books is a series of novels popular with teenage girls in the 1910s and 1920s. The series was begun by L. Frank Baum using his Edith Van Dyne pseudonym, then continued by at least three others, all using the same pseudonym. Baum wrote the first four books in the series, possibly with help from his son, Harry Neal Baum, on the third. The fifth book is based on a fragment by Baum and written by an unknown author. The last five books were written by Emma Speed Sampson. The origin of the title is uncertain, but the books were all published in hardcover with blue cloth.
The books are concerned with adolescent girl detectives — a concept Baum had experimented with earlier, in The Daring Twins (1911) and Phoebe Daring (1912). The Bluebird series began with Mary Louise, originally written as a tribute to Baum's favorite sister, Mary Louise Baum Brewster. Baum's publisher, Reilly & Britton, rejected that manuscript, apparently judging the heroine too independent. Baum wrote a new version of the book; the original manuscript is lost.
The title character is Mary Louise Burrows. In the first books of the series, she is a fifteen-year-old girl with unusual maturity (though the other girls in her boarding school find her somewhat priggish). She is suddenly confronted with the fact that her beloved grandfather is suspected of no less a crime than treason against the United States. With the help of old and new friends of Mary Louise, her grandfather's innocence is revealed and the truth is uncovered. The novel features a federal agent named John O'Gorman; he is assisted by his daughter Josie, a young woman he has himself trained to function as an investigator. (The Josie O'Gorman character, despite preceding Nancy Drew by more than a decade, is much less traditionally feminine.)
Subsequent novels in the series ring changes on this basic formula. The second book, Mary Louise in the Country, involves the struggle for Irish independence from Britain. Josie O'Gorman, tougher and less ladylike than Mary Louise, has a more prominent role, and eventually she takes over the series. Sampson eventually relented and named the last few books after this character.
Marie Louise in the Country contains a passage that bears upon the question of racism in Baum's works. Baum draws a contrast between the crude racist attitude of a local shopkeeper with the more egalitarian attitudes of Marie Louise and her grandfather. Mary Louise and the Liberty Girls is concerned with the strong anti-German sentiments in the United States during World War I.
Books in the series
- Mary Louise (1916)
- Mary Louise in the Country (1916)
- Mary Louise Solves a Mystery (1917)
- Mary Louise and the Liberty Girls (1918)
- Mary Louise Adopts a Soldier (1919)
- Mary Louise at Dorfield (1920)
- Mary Louise Stands the Test (1921)
- Mary Louise and Josie O'Gorman (1922)
- Josie O'Gorman (1923)
- Josie O'Gorman and the Meddlesome Major (1924)
- Peter E. Hanff, "Bibliographia Pseudonymiana — Edith Van Dyne: The Bluebird Books," The Baum Bugle, Vol. 18 No. 3 (Winter 1974), pp. 12-13.
- Bobbie Anne Mason, The Girl Sleuth, Athens, GA, University of Georgia Press, 1995. ISBN 0-8203-1739-X
- Katharine M. Rogers, L. Frank Baum, Creator of Oz: A Biography, New York, St. Martin's Press, 200; pp. 219-20. ISBN 0-312-30174-X
- A poster on The Ozzy Digest once wrote, "Compared to Josie O'Gorman, Nancy Drew's a girly-girl." — John W. Kennedy in The Ozzy Digest, 21 December 2003.
- Rogers, p. 272.
- Rogers, pp. 221-2.