Please join us in celebrating a very special event in publishing history! Sixty years ago today, on August 3, 1953, the first four volumes of an exciting new children’s mystery series were copyrighted by the Stratemeyer Syndicate: The Happy Hollisters, The Happy Hollisters on a River Trip, The Happy Hollisters at Sea Gull Beach, and The Happy Hollisters and the Indian Treasure. Although the author on the books’ covers was listed as “Jerry West,” all four titles were actually written by a Syndicate staff writer named Andrew E. Svenson (see About the Happy Hollisters in the menu bar above).
The books were initially published and distributed by Doubleday, and were enormously popular with children. Andrew Svenson continued to write more books in the series, all based on the antics and adventures of his own children, and in the 1960s The Happy Hollisters became the best-selling series for children aged 7-11. In 1962, The Happy Hollisters Book Club was formed, introducing more than a million children to the series through its popular 10¢ joining offer. Eventually the series included 33 books, ending with The Happy Hollisters and the Mystery of the Midnight Trolls, copyrighted in 1969.
Andrew Svenson was very proud that The Happy Hollisters series encouraged children to pick up a book . . . and keep reading. He once said, “The trick in writing children’s books is to set up danger, mystery and excitement on page one. Force the kid to turn the page . . . then in the middle of each chapter there’s a dramatic point of excitement, and at chapter’s end, a cliffhanger.” Children loved the exciting mysteries, solved entirely by the children, often with the help of their pets and neighborhood friends. The popularity of the books wasn’t confined to English-speaking children; the series was translated into 11 different languages, including German (Die Fröhlichen Falkenbergs); French (Les Joyeux Jolivet); Spanish (Los Felices Hollister) and Norwegian (Lykkebarna).
Although lifetime sales of the 33 books reached 11,000,000 units in the U.S. alone, Doubleday made the decision to discontinue the Happy Hollisters Book Club in 1971, and the books gradually went out of print. Many children who enjoyed the series grew up to become collectors, relishing their childhood memories of countless hours spent reading their favorite volumes over and over again, or impatiently awaiting the postman’s arrival with the next installment from the book club. Many fans wanted to share the stories with their children, grandchildren, nieces, and nephews, but didn’t want to give up their prized hardcover editions.
In 2010, the Hollister Family Properties Trust reissued volume one, The Happy Hollisters, in paperback, as a test to see what kind of reception there would be for the books. The content was left unchanged, right down to the squeaky-clean vernacular of the 50s (“swell” and “keen” were popular lingo for the Hollisters and their friends). The response to the reissue was very exciting — it turned out that children today still love the stories. The success of the first reissue paved the way for volumes 2-12 and 21, which are now available in paperback, as well as eBook format for the Kindle and Nook eReaders. We are very excited to announce that sales of those 13 volumes will soon reach 10,000 units – 60 years after the series was first introduced! Jerry West would sure think that was just dandy!
Andrew E. Svenson III, on behalf of The Hollister Family Properties Trust