Daring Darleen, Queen of Anne Nesbet's display screen

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Daring Darleen, the heroine of the Saturday series, stumbles into a real adventure in this clever saga from the beginnings of photo plays.

Daring Darleen, Queen of Anne Nesbet's screen. Candlewick, 2020, 354 pages.

Reading level: Intermediate, 10-12 years

Recommended for: 10-14 years

At the age of 12, Darleen Darling played in seven cliff hangers with two roles for the family film business. Although known and popular nationwide as "Daring Darleen", Matchless Studios could use an income boost. That is why Aunt Shirley, the managing director, persuades Uncle Dan the cameraman and Uncle Charlie the director to a brazen advertising stunt. At the premiere of Darleen on the Edge, Uncle Dan will be there to (accidentally) film an alleged kidnapping of Darleen herself! The heroic heroine will then be cheered for sure and wait for her dramatic rescue in "real life".

Darleen's dad isn't too thrilled with the idea, but he's been a bit unfocused and hesitant since Darleen's mother died. So the plan is launched – and goes wrong immediately when Darleen is involved in a real kidnapping! The real victim is Victorine Berryman, heiress to a fabulous fortune that "relatives" can't wait to get their hands on.

The story is told in the semi-breathless, staged style of an early silent film, and the plot also unfolds with chases, escapes and clever tricks. Also few surprises: The bad guys are obvious from the start and completely without nuances. The other characters also show little development, although the girls form an attractive bond and each brings a virtue to their budding friendship that the other lacks. Film fans will enjoy the earliest days of American filmmaking when the action in Ft. Lee, New Jersey. The author, professor of film history, knows her way around. Chapter headings in the style of silent movie title cards add to the ambience, and the story is appropriately summarized:

The girls now had a pact. They would learn to be heroes of their own lives. And while they were learning, they enjoyed the wonder, the sweetness and the promise of these three most wonderful words, which relate to the adventure of life as much as to every story or photo play: CONTINUED!

Overall rating: 3.75 (of 5)

  • Weltanschauung / moral value: 3.5
  • Artistic / literary value: 4

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