THE CURLYTOPS SERIES
|The first time I read a Curlytops
book -- I think it was "The Curlytops and Their Playmates" -- I
was stuck by the thought that if you changed the kids' names to Flossie and
Freddie, you'd be reading an unrevised Bobbsey Twins book; the writing style
and plotting are virtually indistinguishable from the Bobbseys. So, I was
tickled to find out that Howard Garis had, actually, written a
number of the Bobbsey Twins books. Events and details bear a very strong
resemblance: The younger Curlytop brother is incessantly getting lost
and even has a
"fire engine that pumped real water when you put some in the tank and
wound up a spring. It had a little rubber hose with a shiny end for the
water to spurt from."
The series, published from 1918-1932 by Cupples and Leon, tells the adventures of the nauseating "Curlytops" -- a curly-haired brother and sister named Teddy and Janet, and their (non-curly) little brother William, nicknamed "Trouble". They live in the town of Cresco "in one of our Eastern states". At the beginning of the series, Ted is six, Janet five, and Trouble two. At the end of the series, the stories of which are sequential, they are around ten, nine, and six.
"Adventures" is an exaggeration -- like the Bobbseys, the Curlytops' adventures tend to be very mild: the lost dog is found, the monkey comes down from the roof, the children plunge through frozen ice (but the water is only knee-high), Ted gets sucked into quicksand (but only up to the ankles.) The writing seems to be aimed at a younger audience than the Bobbsey Twins books, and the style is even more cloying and soporific.
I have trouble reconciling the length of the books --several hundred pages -- with the attention span and the reading ability of the intended audience, who were probably four or five years old. Either small children had vastly longer attention spans and lower excitement thresholds in those pre-television days, or the books were intended as bedtime read-aloud books. For that purpose, I should think they would work very well -- they nearly put me to sleep reading them.
Excerpt from The Curlytops at Happy House:
As Ted and Tom made the turn, and, once more, came within sight of Trouble, he fell into a puddle.
"Oh, there he goes!" cried Ted as he saw what had happened. "There he goes! Oh, dear!"
"Too bad!" murmured Tom. "But it's just like Trouble; isn't it, Ted?"
"Sure is! Gosh, what am I going to do with him?"
Before Ted and Tom could reach the fallen little chap, a storekeeper, near whose shop the accident had happened, ran out an lifted Trouble to his feet...
"Hurt yourself, little man?" asked Mr. Blunton.
"No -- no, thank you. That is, not much!" Trouble was bravely trying to hold back his tears. He had bruised his knees and skinned his hands, but he wasn't going to cry. "No," he decided as he saw Ted and Tom hurrying toward him, "I didn't -- I didn't hurt myself!" Thank you."
"Well, that's good," said Mr. Blunton. "But you're all wet," he added.
"Yes," Trouble admitted, trying to smile but not feeling much like it, "I -- I guess I am sort of wet."
"Sort of wet!" cried Ted, coming closer and taking hold of his little brother, after thanking Mr. Blunton for picking him up. "Why, you're soaked!"
"He sure is!" agreed Tom, trying not to laugh. "He couldn't be much wetter if he had gone in swimming."
"You couldn't go swimming in a puddle like that!" said Trouble, pointing to the place where he had fallen. "T'isn't deep enough!"
"It was deep enough to get you good and wet," remarked Ted. "Gosh, what am I going to do with him?" he asked his chum as he stood there in the middle of the sidewalk, at the edge of the puddle, holding by the arm poor Trouble from whom much muddy water was still dripping. "What am I going to do with him, Tom?"...
Three pages later, Trouble is still wet...
"What's the matter?" asked Janet Martin, when she saw the boys.
"He fell in a puddle," Ted answered.
"Oh, you poor child!" murmured Lola Taylor, who was Tom's sister and as much a chum to Janet as Tom was to Teddy. "Poor Trouble!"
"I was running fast, Jan," explained Trouble,"...and I fell down."
"Yes, I see you did," remarked Janet. "Oh, you poor thing!"
*Bobbsey Twins Authorship -- a webpage of James Keeline.