Created in 1930 by Edward Stratemeyer, Nancy Drew was ghostwritten by several authors under the name Carolyn Keene (who also turns 80 today, I guess). She has solved over 175 mysteries and provided countless life-lessons to girls (and boys) all over the world. I can't remember which one I read first, but I spent many years obsessively reading about the adventures of Nancy and her two best friends, George and Bess.
Going back now, the books are definitely dated (and pretty formulaic). But there's something about those old yellow hardcovers that reminds me of what it was like to be 10 and not quite sure how Nancy was going to get herself out of whatever trouble she was in. But she always did, often with the help of her friends or her father, and she always figured out the mystery. And for all the stereotypes of class and race that were often present in the novels, Nancy was a smart girl who was revered, not ridiculed, for her intelligence.
So, happy birthday to my first fictional role model. Thanks for years of adventures and convincing me, for a brief period of time, that I too wanted to be a detective when I grew up.
Cover image shown from The Secret of the Old Clock, the first of the books published in the original series in 1930 by Grosset & Dunlap.