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The New Adventures of Mary-Kate & Ashley

The New Adventures of Mary-Kate & Ashley, The Case of the Dog Camp Mystery (2001) book cover (click for source)

When we were discussing our favorite female protagonists from childhood literature, somehow it slipped my mind- I used to be obsessed with Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen. I had almost every book from their series, The New Adventures of Mary-Kate & Ashley, and I read them over and over, entertained by each mystery they undertook. I would look forward to the next release on the shelves at grocery stores. I remember each book had cards with pictures to be torn out. I had a large stack of them that I would flip through, admiring my idols.

Written by various authors, the series ran from 1998 to 2005 and was published by Harper Entertainment. While most of books in the series can now be purchased on Amazon for a penny used, their suggested retail price was $4.50.

These were girls’ books. The few boys who did venture to read the series risked looking feminine. This loss of masculinity is what keeps boys away from books and activities considered “girly,” as we discussed in class. While some of the individual titles like The Case of the Cheerleading Camp Mystery have an obvious appeal to girls, some of the titles like The Case of the Weird Science Mystery have a non-gender-specific appeal. Titles like the latter could have appealed to boys had the series not been based on two of young girls’ biggest icons. This supports Elizabeth Segel’s conclusion in “As the Twig Is Bent”

“…Many boys are missing out on one of fiction’s greatest gifts, the chance to experience life from a perspective other than the one we were born to—in this case, from the female vantage point.” (p. 76)

In contrast to the earlier books discussed in the Segel reading, the series doesn’t prescribe roles of domesticity and obedience to its adolescent girl audience. Instead, they are the heroes. They go on adventures. They solve crimes. They get the bad guy. And all before dinnertime.

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