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Nancy Drew and the case of a secret identity

This time, it was quite serious – how to appeal to boys? A quick-thinking mother comes to the rescue.

(Page 2 of 2)

There was only one thing to do: Turn "Nancy Drew" into a boys' story. To do that, I knew I'd need a strong male character. One of Nancy's two best girlfriends and accomplices is called George. I decided to make her a boy.

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My eyes have always moved faster than my tongue. This has proved a disadvantage in several situations, including when I read bulletins for an internal radio station at the UNESCO headquarters in Paris in 1998. Sometimes I'd be so engrossed in eyeing the second or third news items that I'd realize with a shock that I was still only enunciating the first.

This time, a quick eye worked in my favor. Sam and I plunged into the mystery of the disappearing monkeys at the Corcovado Ecologica resort in Costa Rica. "She" became "he" every time George was mentioned. I scrapped all references to clothes, makeup, and relationships that were sure to annoy Sam. I lingered over descriptions of digital cameras, global positioning system devices, and ATVs, all dear to any 7-year-old boy's heart.

"I like this story," Sam said after the first chapter.

Emboldened, I made female scientist Parminder a man, too. This proved tricky later on in the story when Parminder turns out to be in love with a fellow researcher. Lodge manager Jason, who's fueling the illegal trade in scarlet macaws, has dismissed this researcher, worried he'll discover his secret.

I tilted the pages away from Sam so he couldn't pick up on my fast and furious editing. In my version of "Nancy Drew for Boys," Parminder was simply respectful of his colleague. There was no mention of matters of the heart.

Several afternoons running, Sam and I snuggled on the green-and-white-checked cushions of his cousin's veranda in Johannesburg and plowed through Nancy and George's exploits in the lush Costa Rican rain forest. Somebody stole George's prized camera. Nancy and George (and Bess, George's cousin) stumbled on the cages the crooks were loading the scarlet macaws into. Nancy fell into an underground trap and twisted her ankle. She very nearly got kidnapped....

"Can't we get some more of these stories?" Sam asked, his eyes shining.

I nodded.

After all, I thought, looking down at Sam's tiny newborn sister, fast asleep in the crook of my arm: In a few years, "Nancy Drew" books might come in useful again.

And then I won't have to turn them into boys' stories.


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