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After Years out of Print, THE HAPPY HOLLISTERS Return!

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In elementary school, I was crazy about THE HAPPY HOLLISTERS mystery adventures, but there was a problem: the series, published between 1953 and 1969, was out of print. Because the books couldn’t be found in stores, I had to be patient, collecting second-hand copies found through friends and book fairs. Fortunately, an incredible 11 million HAPPY HOLLISTER books had been sold in the ‘50s and ‘60s. With that many out there, I eventually completed the set, all 33 volumes.

In recent years the author’s family has been publishing THE HAPPY HOLLISTERS again, and Interabang Books has added them to our children’s book section. We are proud to be the first retail bookstore to carry the relaunched series. So far, 19 HOLLISTER mysteries have been reprinted in colorful paperbacks that contain the original illustrations by Helen S. Hamilton and the text by Jerry West, the pen name of Andrew Svenson.

The Happy Hollisters Cover Image
By Helen S. Hamilton (Illustrator), Jerry West
ISBN: 9781452865065
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Createspace Independent Publishing Platform - September 10th, 2010

Svenson was a partner in a book conglomerate called the Stratemeyer Syndicate. The company might sound unfamiliar, but the characters its writers created probably don’t: Nancy Drew, the Hardy Boys, the Bobbsey Twins, and Tom Swift, among others. While most of those series were written by multiple authors over the years, THE HAPPY HOLLISTERS has the distinction of being the work of Andrew Svenson alone. He wrote every word about the travels and adventures of the five Hollister kids and their parents. Another distinction: his storytelling holds up. Kids today are captivated by the series.

In a way, THE HAPPY HOLLISTERS’ enduring appeal to readers should be no surprise. Aren’t the things we love best about childhood considered timeless? These books contain plenty of 20th century traditions that are still with us: car trips for family vacations, visits to relatives during school breaks, camping, class projects, field trips. However, the Hollisters do have the advantage of finding a mystery at every turn, including in the big old house they move into in the first book (not to be confused with the mansion in the series’ #1 best seller, THE HAUNTED HOUSE MYSTERY).

Over the years I have given HOLLISTER books to more than a few young friends, and it is notable that things I expected them to ask – Why don’t they go online to find that out? Why not just call home on their cell phones? – never got mentioned after they began to turn the pages. Not once did I have to explain how Pete, Pam, Ricky, Holly, and Sue could spend long, lively, unsupervised days ambling all over their neighborhood; their town (Shoreham, U.S.); the surrounding woods, rivers, and lakes; and quite a few major cities in ways that kids today rarely can. Thank goodness for that: The contrast would be a bummer, to use slang you won’t find in a HOLLISTERS book (if you’re looking for “swell” and “jeepers,” though, you’re in luck).

Something I do take care to discuss with today’s readers is the Hollister books’ midcentury stereotyping based on gender. Though for me it detracts only a little, it is there. I make it a point to mention that when adventure is calling, girls want to answer as much as boys do, so Pam and Holly shouldn’t be expected to hold back and clear the table after a meal as their brothers dash out the door. The welcome reaction of readers today: of course they shouldn’t!

A bit of editing might have addressed this in the newly republished editions, but as a devotee of the originals I celebrate the Svenson family’s decision to reprint the books without changing a word. To revise the books even a little might have tempted editors to tamper with the books’ vocabulary, which is impressive and instructive without being off-putting. Just be prepared to explain that dungarees are blue jeans.

Fifty years ago, THE HAPPY HOLLISTERS was the best-selling series in the U.S. for children seven and up. Forty years ago, and for many years after, the books could only be found used. Today they’re back in bright new editions, and I see kids in our bookstore as delighted with them as I was at their age. That makes me as happy as a Hollister.

Click here to see a full list of HAPPY HOLLISTER titles available now!