Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Book Review: The Red Trailer Mystery by Julie Campbell (Trixie Belden #2)

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Story sure to capture kids' imaginations. Great characters
Cons: None
The Bottom Line:
A runaway teen
Mysterious family
Keep Trixie busy

Where's Jim?

The Red Trailer Mystery is the second book in the Trixie Belden Mystery series. The series is aimed at kids who enjoy such series as The Hardy Boys or Nancy Drew, but I don't let that stop me from enjoying it, too.

Trixie is a thirteen year old who lives with her family in Westchester County, New York. In the first book, she meets her new neighbor, Honey Wheeler. Together, the two of them make friends with Jim Frayne, a run away. As the last book ends, Jim has inherited five hundred thousand dollars. However, he ran away again before he could find out.

This book picks up minutes after the girls find out that Jim is no longer the ward of his cruel step-father. Knowing that Jim would run from any hint that a man was searching for him, they decide they need to find him. After all, Jim won't run from them.

So Trixie, Honey, and her governess, Miss Trask, set out in the Wheeler's trailer to find him. The first night out, they stop next to a mysterious red trailer. The family stays inside with the curtains closed. Why? The mystery only grows every time they run into that trailer.

When they arrive in upstate New York, they learn that trailer thieves are operating in the area. Will Trixie and Honey be able to find Jim before he leaves New York for good? What is going on in that mysterious trailer? And have the girls stumbled on the thieves' hide out?

The fact that this book is really a continuation of the first is unusual in kid's books, and I rather enjoyed it. There's enough of a recap that anyone new to the story will feel right at home, although it's obviously best to read book 1 first.

The first time I read the story, I knew the ultimate outcome of their search for Jim since I read the series out of order as a kid. However, the sub-plots kept me interested the whole way through. Trixie and Honey are more themselves then in the last book. Trixie takes more time to think about others. Honey, while still afraid, is more willing to take risks.

And, like the last book, so much happens that it's hard to put the book down. This book also contains one of my all time favorite scenes from the series. I always laugh when Trixie and Honey are trapped in the loft by Al. Honey especially is funny while being perfectly in character.

The book was originally published in 1950. While it does show its age with some of the word choices and amounts of money, it won't hinder most kids from getting into the story. They might need a few words defined, but that's all. For their reprints, Random House has included the original black and white illustrations. Again, the styles give away the age of the original text, but the one picture a chapter is really charming.

Julie Campbell took her time setting up the characters and events of the series, so these first books are really needed to fully enjoy what follows. The Red Trailer Mystery is one important part of that chain.  But it's no trouble since they are so much fun to read. I've been reading them since I was a kid myself, and I don't plan to stop.

If you're looking for more, here are the Trixie Belden Mysteries in order.


  1. I read the first two books (and others) back to back, but come to think of it, 2 years is a LONG time for a cliffhanger in kids books! I wonder what kids thought from 1948 to 1950 as they wondered what would become of Jim

    1. I wonder how many of the kids who read #1 when it came out where still interested by the time this book came out.

  2. This book gave me unrealistic expectations about traveling and camping. They keep running across that same family!

    I always had it in my head that the Darnell’s were Hispanic or of Spanish descent. Reading it now, I don’t know why I thought that, unless an illo in the cello set me off in that direction (although the one that might have done that is late in the story). Not the only time I added more ethnic variety to a book than the author specifically offered. Reading really is a partnership, and I think some kids' series books are so "open" the reader's imagination has a lot of room to play.

    I love that Mrs. Smith is careful never to see the trailer, so she doesn't feel any responsibility to turn the Darnells in -- that's the sort of rationalizing Trixie herself does! This is also the book when I realized the BWG's are hobbits (Jim proposes "second breakfast" at one point).

    The food in this one is to die for. A lot of the Kathryn Kennys, the Beldens seem to live on roast or meatloaf, while the kids parties are always hamburgers and/or hot dogs -- in this one they've got homemade baked beans, waffles, creamed chipped beef, broiled ham with pineapple, kidney stew, scrambled eggs with cheese, lemon chiffon pie, chocolate cake, spiced grape juice, and on and on. Totally hobbits!