A favorite author when I was in grade school was Lavinia R. Davis, first recommended to me by a classmate, Pru Hobbie. She wrote great books about kids and animals, mainly horses. Davis is largely forgotten today, her best and best known book is “Hobby Horse Hill,” title page below.
I searched for and found many other Davis books, the best of which were illustrated by Paul Brown, as above. A few years ago I discovered through Wikipedia that she also wrote under the pen name of Wendell Farmer. I already had one book by that author, “Fish Hook Island Mystery,” which I liked a lot, so I’ve been looking for more Davis books written under the Farmer name. “Bicycle Detectives” is one I found recently.
The book was published in 1944, and is very much a wartime story, though of kids in a small town only affected by the war from a distance, but in ways that matter to them. Rig O’Hare’s father, for instance, is away fighting in Europe, and in their own town is a small factory making metal parts for the war. When that factory is bombed, the entire town is turned upside down, and Rig and his friends form a group, the Bicycle Commandos, to try and find the saboteur who did the bombing. There are plenty of clues, but many point to someone the kids feel couldn’t be guilty. Is there a frame-up? Who is the mysterious man Rig and others have seen poking around in the woods and elsewhere? The Commandos are determined to find out.
I enjoyed reading this, though I don’t think it’s on the same level of writing as Davis’ best work. The illustrations by Alice Harvey are fine, if not too exciting. Even as a second tier Davis book I’m glad to have it in my collection.
Recommended, if you can find it, but I can more highly recommend these books by Lavinia R. Davis:
Hobby Horse Hill (1939)
Buttonwood Island (1940)
Pony Jungle (1941)
Plow Penny Mystery (1942)
Melody, Mutton Bone and Sam (1947)
Sandy’s Spurs (1951)
Secret of Donkey Island (1952)
Donkey Detectives (1955)
If you like stories about kids and animals, these are well worth looking for.