Josephine Lawrence--Children's Books

Children's Books -- Stratemeyer Syndicate

Sunny Boy - Seashore In 1917, during her early years at the Call, she interviewed Edward Stratemeyer, author of numerous boys' books and head of the Stratemeyer Syndicate. The resulting article, "The Newarker Whose Name Is Best Known," was published in the December 9, 1917, Call. Lawrence impressed Stratemeyer enough for him to tell her that, should she want to write juveniles, he'd be interested in seeing her work. She first submitted a story she'd written, for which he felt there was no market, then, in 1919, ghostwrote her first book for the Stratemeyer Syndicate, following an outline prepared by Stratemeyer. It was Sunny Boy in the Country, the initial volume in the Sunny Boy series. Advertised as the adventures of "a little fellow with big eyes and an inquiring disposition who finds the world a large and wonderful thing indeed," the series enjoyed moderate success, reaching fourteen volumes before its end in 1931. Using the Syndicate pseudonym Ramy Allen White, Lawrence wrote all but the last volume, ending her connection with the series only after Stratemeyer's death in 1930. Four Blossoms

She soon expanded her work for the Syndicate, ghostwriting another series about young children, the seven-volume Four Little Blossoms series (1920-30), this time under the Syndicate pseudonym Mabel C. Hawley. Pleased with her ability to write about children, Stratemeyer soon approached Lawrence about beginning yet another such series, and, posing as Alice Dale Hardy (another Syndicate pseudonym), she penned all six books in the Riddle Club series (1924-29). The latter was somewhat of a departure from the Stratemeyer Syndicate's previous tots' series, since it used a group of friends rather than members of only one family as protagonists. It centered on six children (two apiece from three families), who form a club to tell riddles. Stratemeyer considered the riddles such an essential part of the series -- each book usually included at least one or two chapters devoted to club meetings and the exchange of brain teasers or riddles -- that he sent Lawrence pages of riddles along with the usual plot outlines, instructing her to cross off each riddle as it was used.

Riddle Club at ShadybrookIn addition to writing tots' series, Lawrence also worked on several of the Stratemeyer Syndicate's girls' series. Under the Syndicate house name Alice B. Emerson, she ghostwrote the first four volumes in the Betty Gordon series in 1920-21, as well as volumes seven and nine a few years later. Betty Gordon Additionally, when another ghostwriter, W. Bert Foster, was unable to continue the Syndicate's Oriole series, Lawrence wrote its third (and final) volume, When Oriole Went to Boarding School (1927) as Amy Bell Marlowe.

From 1923 to 1934, she also ghostwrote the first sixteen books in one of the Syndicate's most popular girls' series, Honey Bunch, under the pseudonym Helen Louise Thorndyke. Although Stratemeyer usually created the outlines for each volume in a series, he apparently allowed Lawrence to both outline and write the series's fifth volume, Honey Bunch: Her First Little Garden.

Honey Bunch #1 Honey Bunch -Garden Honey Bunch - Airplane Honey Bunch - Mystery

Lawrence's fiction for the Stratemeyer Syndicate generally dealt with children leading comfortable, often privileged, lives. Sunny Boy -- whose nickname embodies his optimistic, naive outlook -- is the only child of affluent parents who (along with his other relatives) dote on him and try to keep his environment as bright as his nickname. Like many children's series, Sunny Boy titles emphasize this affluence, stressing travels and possessions: Sunny Boy and His Games, Sunny Boy in the Far West, Sunny Boy on the Ocean, etc. Honey Bunch follows a similar pattern, although her series titles have the additional gimmick of highlighting novelty, in that each begins with "Her First" (Honey Bunch: Her First Visit to the Seashore; Her First Days in Camp; Her First Auto Tour, etc.). In an analysis of Honey Bunch, Bobbie Ann Mason observes that the stories "celebrate materialistic values . . . in Honey Bunch's luxurious world, the thrills of travel, mystery, and novelty are the pleasures of a comfortable superior order." [7a] Even Betty Gordon, who begins her series newly orphaned and spends the first book at a run-down farm owned by a mean-spirited farmer, soon finds her circumstances dramatically improved when her wealthy guardian sends her off to a fashionable boarding school and allows her to take numerous vacations with her friends.

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[7a] Bobbie Ann Mason. The Girl Sleuth. The Feminist Press, 1975.

[7]"Household Editor."

Copyright 2001 - Deidre Johnson