THE LUCKY/TED MARSH SERIES
You like adventure, excitement, and action. Of course you do, every live, red blooded boy does. We are all glad you do because it takes a live boy to make a good man.
That's why we know you will like these stories, because
Elmer Sherwood knows and admires boys like you, and wrote these stories
especially for you.*
The "Lucky" series came first; some volumes were reissued as the "Ted Marsh" series. I have only seen the Ted Marsh books, so that is all I can talk about, format-wise. These books are short, under 120 pages, really badly written, haphazardly punctuated, and full of typographical errors. The physical quality is even worse than the normal crappy Whitman editions. Unlike normal Whitman paper, which yellows and turns brittle, the Ted Marsh books are printed on an even pulpier paper that ages to a dark greenish brown, about the color of a grass-stained grocery bag, making them especially difficult to read. They are picture cover hardback books with "tweed" printed on.
As far as content goes, the books describe the preposterous adventures of a fatherless young newsboy (actually, his father -- who abandoned his wife with two young children to fend for herself in Chicago -- turns up later in the series. Needless to say, all is forgiven and the family is happily reunited) who gets the chance to attend a militaristic sort of boarding school in western Canada. In a typical adventure, Ted single-handedly manages to obtain secret information which foils the intended invasion of Canada by a secret force of 180,000 Germans and Irishmen who have been hiding in the US. Of course, Ted's high school German teacher turns out to be a spy...
One thing that makes it hard for me to be objective about any merits that these books might possess is that they are the most viciously racist children's books I've ever read. I'm not just talking about the dialect and stereotyping of African-Americans found in many books of the time, and I'm not talking about the stereotyping of wartime series with their talk of "Japs" and "Chinks" -- these books are far, far worse. I've never even managed to make it all the way through Ted Marsh, the Young Volunteer because I was so turned off by the passage where a high school teacher talks about how the only thing worse than being a <nasty epithet for Mexican-American> was being a <really, really nasty epithet for Black>; he goes on and on about how worthless the <nasty epithet> are. The racist ideas are new to Ted, but "being a fair-minded boy" he is ultimately brought around to an acceptance of them.
Excerpt from Ted Marsh on an Important Mission:
The cellar seemed deserted, when he got there. It was pitch dark and it took several minutes for him to grow accustomed to the extreme darkness. Then he heard the faint murmur of voices.
Strong and Walker had slept fitfully and had been wide awake at various times. Strong had again been awakened and was insisting that Walker listen to him.
As Ted drew nearer, he heard Strong say, "I don't think, the way I feel, I shall ever be able to move again. But if I knew that Ted was just the least bit successful I could be forever content."
"The poor child -- if he did anything at all," Walker answered, "it would be wonderful. It's a man's job, what, then, could a boy do?"
As if in answer to the question, they heard a low voice call, "Mr. Strong, Mr. Strong!"
"Who is that?" the startled voice of Strong demanded.
"It's me, Ted!" said that ungrammatical young man, a bit excitedly.
"God bless you boy. Is it really you? Have you a match?"
Ted struck one. Hurriedly, he untied the two men, who were already questioning him excitedly and to whom he whispered assurances.
As they turned the corner (having left the building without trouble) Strong looked back.
"That's Winkel's car," he said. "We weren't any too soon."
Ted told the two men of the night's adventures and they both listened eagerly. Strong was laboring under great excitement as the boy went on with his story. When Ted was through, he placed his hand on Ted's shoulder and said, quietly and very impressively, to him:
"I simply can't tell you the things I long to say. You're going to be a man, my boy! This is a day's work of which you can always be proud."
THE LUCKY SERIES
Some books were later reprinted as the "Ted Marsh" series.
THE TED MARSH SERIES
*Advertisement in Ted Marsh on an Important Mission by Elmer Sherwood. No date. Whitman Publishing Co. Racine.