Goodreads: The Bobbsey Twins’ Adventure in the Country
Series: Bobbsey Twins #2
The Bobbsey twins visit their aunt and uncle in the countryside, but a pleasant vacation takes an unexpected turn when a couple of cattle rustlers show up in the neighborhood.
The second Bobbsey twin book follows much the same formula as the first. The focus remains on the childhood adventures of the twins—going on picnics, fishing, climbing trees. Every so often a clue to a low key mystery appears, diverting their attention for awhile, but if no immediate results are forthcoming, the children have no problem returning to their play. They seem almost convinced the mystery will solve itself given enough time, so that the whole story remains lighthearted and not driven by any sense of danger or suspense.
This structure means that the characters themselves have to carry the book; if readers do not feel connected to the twins, their family, or their friends, no point remains in reading. Reader response to the characters will probably differ, but most older readers will recognize immediately that the characterization relies on stereotypes and gender expectations. The Bobbseys constitute the perfect family of their time. The oldest boy Bert is proficient at all “boy” activities such as camping, tree climbing, and making things like kites or fences. His twin Nan sews, cooks, and cleans to perfection, and takes especial care of the younger twins. Six-year-old Freddie likes fire engines and his twin Flossie likes dolls. Their father and mother fulfill their expected roles as model parents, providing for the family and never, ever raising their voices. Even when the Bobbsey children endanger their lives or destroy or lose property, their parents never chastise or punish; they seem to believe that a simple, “It was an accident” or “Don’t do that again” will suffice to keep their young ones out of mischief. It is a nice family, but a little bland.
Refreshingly, the Bobbsey twins do seem to keep expanding their circle. Unlike Nancy Drew, they do not hang out with the same three people all the time, but constantly make new friends whom they eagerly invite on all their adventures, not caring to hoard the glory of mystery-solving for themselves. These friends, though, have not even the stereotyped personalities of Bess and George; all the boys and girls seem interchangeable with one another. They are distinguished from the Bobbseys, however. If any type of contest or activity arises, expect one of the Bobbseys to take the award or earn the most attention.
The only child who ever stands out is the bully—a role that seems designed especially to bring out the good qualities of the well-behaved Bobbseys and to highlight in particular the perfection that is Bert Bobbsey. In the absence of Danny Ruggs in the countryside, the author thus provides the audience with his counterpart, bully Mark Teron. Both Danny and Mark have the same explanation for their actions: they cannot stand Bert Bobbsey. One almost wonders if this character is supposed to be a projection of the feelings of older readers who have an aversion to Gary Stus.
The time period in which the book was written can explain much about the characterizations, and I can accept that the Bobbseys are supposed to be a model family and that distinguishing a bunch of their friends was not a top priority for the writer of a popular mystery series that was clearly sold well despite its lack. I continue to find myself baffled by the criminals, however. No one seems concerned about them. The parents and relatives of the Bobbseys constantly allow the children to track down thieves and cattle rustlers, even knowing that they have gone so far as to knock down an elderly man. Do people in this world really believe that no criminal will ever harm a child?
I bought three Bobbsey twin books at a used book sale and I will probably read the last one simply because I now own it, but after that, I feel no need to continue with the series. I might have enjoyed it as a child when I was also reading Nancy Drew, but today I find myself sidetracked from the story because I keep wondering why Nan cannot join in the race and why Mrs. Bobbsey even needs a servant and if any six-year-old even talks like Freddie. I know the formula on which the series works; there is no need to see it in action dozens of times.