HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW
Book: The Mystery of the Double Kidnapping: A Power Boys Adventure
Author: Mel Lyle
Illustrator: Raymond Burns
Publisher: Whitman Publishing Company, 1966
Language level: 2 (a few common euphemisms)
Reading level: Ages 10-15
Rating: 4 stars (GOOD)
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
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Lyle, Mel. The Mystery of the Double Kidnapping: A Power Boys Adventure (published in 1966 by Whitman Publishing Company, a division of Western Publishing Company Inc., Racine, WI). During the 1950s and 60s, the Whitman Publishing Co. came out with several series of boys’ adventure books, probably in an attempt to compete with Grossett and Dunlap’s republishing of the Stratemeyer Syndicate’s Hardy Boys. One that I remember reading as a child was “The Walton Boys.” I had never heard of “The Power Boys” until I recently picked up a copy of The Mystery of the Double Kidnapping (#5) on the free table at a used curriculum sale. Jack and Chip Power, aged 17 and 15 respectively, with their Dalmatian, Blaze, live with their widowed photojournalist father Thomas, in Chicago, IL, and travel with him a lot because of his job, becoming involved in various adventures in which they act as detectives and track down criminals and get into various dangerous situations as a result of investigating crimes. Thomas is hired by a wealthy New York City, NY, businessman Barry Donovan, to do some work for him. They meet Donovan, his son Dick, his personal secretary Barry Updyke, and his chauffeur Mike Cheever. Jack and Dick look very much alike, and when they start off for a ball game, Dick has to go back into the house for something, but when he comes out Jack has been kidnapped. About the time Jack escapes, Chip is also kidnapped. What is going on? And is anyone in the Donovan household involved?
The book was very exciting and enjoyable to read. There were six books in this series. The other five were:
1. The Mystery of the Haunted Skyscraper (1964)
2. The Mystery of the Flying Skeleton (1964)
3. The Mystery of the Burning Ocean (1965)
4. The Mystery of the Million-Dollar Penny (1965)
6. The Mystery of the Vanishing Lady (1967)
No one would reasonably identify these books as “great literature.” They are pulp fiction for children, but I have to admit that they are far better than a lot of the drivel that is passed off as “children’s literature” today–and even wins awards! While there is not very much about them that is truly uplifting or edifying from a moral standpoint, there is really very little that is actually objectionable.
The language is not bad, with only a few common euphemisms (“gee” and “gosh”). The brothers bicker some but it is mostly good-natured. I did notice that the Powers trio arrived in New York City on Sunday and there was no mention made of church. I recall that in the editions of the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew that I read growing up, whenever any action took place on Sunday, it was always mentioned that the Hardy and Drew families attended church. Stratemeyer certainly knew how to uphold the traditional values of our Judaeo-Christian background. Wikipedia reports, “Nothing at all is known about Mel Lyle. It is unknown whether this is his real name, a pseudonym for a single author, or even a house name for different writers – nor is it known whether he is still alive.” There was another series of children’s adventure books referred to as “Power Boys” books, written by Woody Gelman under the name Arthur Benwood in the 1950s and antedating Lyle’s books. The brothers referred to are different characters (Ted and Steve Power instead of Jack and Chip Power), and Gelman’s books would appear to be completely unrelated. Whether Lyle was influenced by this earlier series in his choice of his Power Boys’ surname is unknown.