It's all about...popular girls...rec rooms...summers at the lake...dates with wealthy, thrill-crazy antiques...small town political corruption...and finding your true path in life. The Paris Hat considers the sometimes frothy, sometimes serious world of novels for teenage girls from the 1950s and 60s.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Poetry and Iron

Title: Always Anne
Author: Holly Wilson
Publisher: Julian Messner, 1957
Jacket: Georgeann Helms
Setting: Henry's Bend, on the shores of Lake Superior
Provenance: Formerly owned by Sue Greane, 11th grader
Fun: fashion design contest; poetry contest; an accidental dip in the lake; plagiarism; grand larceny
Quote: "Honey Bunny!" warbled an excited voice at her elbow, and there was Glory Hoffman beside her...

Holly Wilson also wrote The Hundred Steps, and like that book, Always Anne is set in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, in a town dominated by the Great Lakes shipping trade. While The Hundred Steps focused on class divisions (literally), Always Anne is a more conventional high school story, with a best friend, a sneaky girl rival, and a nice-looking boyfriend caught in between.

Always Anne is also an I-want-to-be-a-writer book, with a difference, for Anne is the first heroine of this period I've run across whose secret wish is to be a poet:

That night she went home inspired, and before she went to bed she wrote a poem which she thought was the best she had ever done...the thing that pleased her about it was that, at last, she had managed to convey the feeling she had been searching for -- the change in the middle of the sonnet that had eluded her for so long. Now she understood it. In the first eight lines you said something important, then, in the last six line you came to a conclusion about it. That was the way to do it.

Always Anne moves along quickly and the plot provides a fair amount of drama in the person Glory Hoffman "the femme fatale of Henry's Bend High School," who eventually departs the story in a trail of bad debts and dropped charges. Anne heads off to the University of Michigan -- probably to have her notions about sonnets changed forever -- and Tom, her boyfriend, takes a job on an ore carrier for the summer. As with The Hundred Steps, this is a book to make you fall in love with the Great Lakes.


  1. Question, since you've obviously read a lot in this genre: can you think of any books from this era (or slightly earlier) that feature girls who make their own clothes? That could be a detail totally peripheral to the plot, or something bigger. Any suggestions would be *awesome*. Thanks!

  2. In Always Anne there is a subplot with the girls making their own clothing as part of a contest sponsored by their Home Ec teacher.
    It's pretty common in these books for the girl's mother, to make her clothes.
    Still, the only one I can think of right now is Beverly Cleary's SISTER OF THE BRIDE, in which Barbara makes her bridesmaid's dress, plus a Roman costume for her little brother, and helps another bridesmaid who can't sew.
    If I think of any more I'll let you know.
    Thanks for reading!

  3. Wow, I haven't read any YA books from the 50s and 60s. I'll have to look into this one.

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