The Bobbsey Twins in the Country

The Bobbsey Twins are practically the archetype of inofensive, harmless writing for children.

I found this book at my parents’ house on my last visit nd brough it back with me. I vaguely remember seeing it while growing up, but can’t recall anyone actually reading it. It bears copyright dates of 1950 and 1953, and seems to be an original printing.
The cover shows four kids on a haystack out in – yep – the Counry. There’s a curious calf,a white goose, and a white kitty. It looks bucolic and inoffensive as all heck.
And then on pags 14-15 we get this:

Yeesh! I realize that times and sensibilities have changed in fifty years. But still – how many stereotypes can you fit into that small a space? And nobody mentions this aspect of a Venerable American Classic?

That’s pretty disgusting.

Glad you guys let the Indians into town, though.

Good heavens. I wonder if they’ve been edited since for later printings? I don’t remember them being like that when I read them as a child.

I remember those books! I remember the Dinah character. Not the stereotypes, but something tells me that that’s more because I didn’t realise they were stereotypes at the time, I was 8 after all!

Bobbsey…Bobbsey…That name sounds so familiar. Perhaps it was in the stack of books my mother’s friend gave me years ago- what approximate length was it?

And I certainly don’t remember writing that bad.

Aw. I know the feeling. I was watching “Holiday” this past weekend (Cary Grant. Katharine Hepburn. Lovely film, if you ever get a chance to see it), and came upon a scene in which someone is playing the banjo. Katharine Hepburn turns around and says, “Eeeeebnin, Massa!” I almost fainted!

And monica: the Bobbsey twins! You know, Bert and Nan and Freddie and Flossie?

I’m not sure if this is still copyrighted material, and as such I’d be hesitant to link to it, but if you Google the title of the book, it’s not hard to find it written out online. One such site is complete with pictures of Dinah in her apron…oy.

More like 70 or 80 years. My mom read those books as a child and she’ll be 70 this October.

Not an excuse, just a correction to the timeline. Still an atrocious representation. If it’s any consolation, though, later books when the Bobbseys started solving mysteries lost about 99% of the icky Dinah characterizations. IIRC she didn’t have the minstrel speech patterns, but she was still afraid of ghosts and such.

P.S. Oh, and it gets even worse once you get further into it:

Oh, that wacky Dinah! So good-natured. But…“my lan’ a-massy”? Dear Lord!

I have two Bobbsey Twins books that are just as bad - The Bobbsey Twins in the Land of Cotton (1957), and The Bobbsey Twins in Eskimo Land (1936).

Here’s a quote from the first:

“Colonel Percy was waiting for the children. He drove them in a car to watch the wagons and trucks being loaded with cotton pickers. The Negroes, both men and women, were gaily dressed in bright-colored shirts, or sunbonnets and aprons. Most of them were singing.
‘They must like their work,’ said Nan. ‘They seem so happy.’
‘Cotton picking is healthful exercise.’ The plantation owner smiled.”

In the Eskimo book, there’s one scene where Nan dresses one of the native children in her dress, and the child’s father says:“She like white girl now. ‘Very nice. Very good.’”

I can remember reading these in the 80s - they were still in print, with all stereotypes intact.

I have a huge collection of Bobbsey Twins books - 50 or more - that I started collecting when I was in 2nd grade. Mostly the purple-bound editions that came out, I think, in the 60’s and 70’s (maybe earlier). I’m still keeping an eye out for the few books I am missing. I also have a couple BT books from the 20’s and 30’s which are smaller and have orange or green covers.

I probably stopped reading them when I was a pre-teen, but I do sort of remember the inappropriate stereotypes of Dinah and other minorities. They’re very much a product of their time (not an excuse) and seem very dated now. I’ve never picked up any of the very recent editions so I don’t know how much they’ve been edited to reflect more modern sensibilities.

I remember being so awed by Bert and Nan – they were so mature and smart. They solved mysteries! They were twelve!

Let me go on record & say that while perhaps there should be edited reading editions for modern children, that I’m totally against taking the originals out of print to appeal to modern sensibilities. Bobbsey Twins, Uncle Remus, Huck Finn, Dr. Doolittle, Willy Wonka & of course, L.B. Sambo all should have intact originals available.

Heck, I remember a version of The Turner Diaries with all the stereotypes and offensive racial material edited out.

It was a leaflet.

Ah, Dinah and Sam. As a child, I was completely perplexed by their use of the mysterious word “gwuine” (I could have the spelling wrong), apparently it meant “going to” as in, “I’m gwuine make a cake fo’ de chillen.”

I’m confused by “nobody mentions it.” It’s often the first thing I’ve heard people mention when they recollect finding old editions of the Bobbsey Twins. There have been a number of major rewrites over the years (as well as other minor tweaks from printing to printing), 1950 would have been when the second version of “In the Country” was printed – that’s the one I had growing up as well. The first printing was 1907. Most of the changes I remember were more about technology than the depiction of Sam and Dinah (unfortunately) – things like Mr. Bobbsey driving his roadster to work instead of taking the horse and buggy. I’m pretty sure they kept the horse for recreational use, though, because I remember wondering why “the country” would be so unique to them as I didn’t realize that people in towns at that time might also have a horse and barn. I don’t think it was until the 1960s that a real effort was made to improve the fate of Sam and Dinah.

I agree with FriarTed about keeping the originals (and subsequent rewrites) available because it’s hugely interesting (if you’re a big geek like me) to compare them as they evolve over the decades, but I can also see how it’s difficult. There isn’t that big of an audience for the original versions, not enough, I don’t think, for most publishers to make a profit. A few smaller publishers have recently released the original versions of some of those old series, like Nancy Drew, Judy Bolton, and the Hardy Boys, as well as some teen romances like the … ugh, I’m blanking on the author’s name, the Penny Parrish series, that have been entirely out of print for a while. Collectors and rabid fans love them, but they can’t possibly be a big money maker.

One interesting thing I have observed (yes, I’ll keep talking about this) is that the more recent versions that cut out the stereotypes are also the most dumbed down in other aspects, switching to a simpler vocabulary and stripped down plots that have almost no twists or suspense or anything else that makes books worth reading. At the same time, the original books bear such a burden of their datedness that they make very little sense for their target audience. So much of the story relies on that bizarre rendering of dialect and the assumption that dark-skinned people are either easily frightened, silly, and childlike, or lazy, shifty, and not to be trusted. Sadly, it’s kind of a lose-lose situation.

I had Bobbsey Twins in the Country, and must have read it thirty times as a kid. Reading your excerpts has brought it all back to me. Doesn’t Freddie plant radishes while Dinah and Flossie plant strawberries, and doesn’t someone give instructions on how to pick young sweet corn?

Try checking Ebay for “Little Brown Koko” books if’n y’all want stereotypes.

Exerpt from “Little Brown Koko WEEDS THE ONIONS”:

It, um…goes on like that. For several books.

Otto – The Bobbsey Twins mighta been around longer, but the copyright date, as I state in the OP, puts that book about 50 years back – no correction to timeline needed

Well, it’s the first I’ve heard of it, and I’ve heard of (though I haven’t read) the Bobbsey twins ever since I was a kid.
Dijon, I don’t doubt that there are plenty of books that would be viewed as offensive today (sensibilities change, as I say), but it was my surprise at finding the apparently inoffensive Bobbsey Twins books suffused with what we wouild today take as unacceptable stereotype that hit me, and without warning. I mean, I expected that sort of thing from the edition of Little Black Sambo that we found (and didn’t exactl;y get, by the way – the edition I have correctly depicts Sambo as an Indian boy – not that calling him “black” isn’t still offensive).

The Bobbsey Twins was one of the children’s book series created by the Stratemeyer Syndicate and goes back to 1904:

The Bobbsey Twins in the Country was first printed in 1907, although it, like many of the other books created by the Stratemeyer Syndicate, has been reprinted and updated several times since then.

The Bobbsey Twins? More like the Hot-bsey Twins!

I don’t doubt that the series is old – but my copy only had copyright daters of 1950 and 1952. It’s usual to include the original copyright date, even if material has been revised. But perhaps things differ on occasion. In any case, it seems likely that this was an updated edition (as has been suggested above), and that this version dates from 1950/2. So it’s not absolved of its language and assumptions.

Just out of curiosity, when Dinah gets on the train with the Bobbseys, does she have to ride in the last car?