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Who was Lillian S. Gardner?

Updated on August 23, 2017
Nightcat profile image

Nightcat is an avid reader who loves writing reviews to spread her addictions with the masses.

Even Sal can only guess!

I don't even know her real name. Is it Lillian S. Gardner or Lillian Gardner Saskin? When was she born, when did she die? How old was she? Why did she write about the Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, and a few other slim volumes of fiction?

I adore her even with only one of her books to my name, because I'd swear the woman was a Girl Scout herself. Although some of the wording in "Sal Fisher at Girl Scout Camp" makes me cringe, it is a testimony to how all girls from all over are equal in the GSA (Girl Scouts of America).

I read and reread this book every summer, being sure to get my kapers (chores, KP) done double quick so I can follow Sal on her adventures. Yet I know nothing of the mysterious lady who wrote the book.

Please note: All illustrations are scans of my own copy. If you own the rights and want something removed, please contact me. All illustrations are by Mary Stevens.

Some Guesses

Unless she was a literary wunderkind I'm placing her age in 1959 (when my book was copyrighted) in her early twenties to early thirties. So if she were alive today she would be almost ninety, so she could still be out there being a GSA leader, or working with the Boy Scouts, which she also wrote about.

She wrote relatively few books, so maybe she was a teacher, full time mom, or other job that kept her busy. She could have been a victim of the times too, as going into the 1960s and 70s may have made her wholesome books outdated to young readers.

She was a decent woman, and she cared about young people. Her main characters, if Sal is any indication, had the same fears as any young person, but faced them, disappointments and dilemmas and came through on top.

San Diego Girl Scouts sing Taps

Writing Style

The book is refreshingly modern. Yes, there are charming illustrations, clearly from the 1950s, but Sal could be camping today, though the ways things were done was a little different. But the story unfolds from Sal Fisher's point of view, a young girl under ten who has an older sister, a mom and dad, and good friends.

But she soon learns, thanks to Gardner's strong characters that every girl's life is different. Some girls have far more money and expensive things, some girls come from the city, some girls complain a lot, and she has to master being friends with them all.

There are plently of problems for Sal to face that every Girl Scout will fondly remember, being homesick, then campsick, learning to meet new girls, dealing with dilemmas without breaking the Girl Scout laws, handling setbacks and more.

I liked that there is an innocence to the story. There are no words you couldn't use in front of a nun, none of the gross humor in today's books for kids, no rampant violence. These things have a place in children's books, at times, but it is nice not to see them all the time.

More Books by Lillian S. Gardner

She wrote books on both Girl Scouts and Boy scouts but readers here may also enjoy:

Sal Fisher, Brownie Scout

Sal Fisher's Fly-Up Year

Brownie Scouts (A Golden Book)

Exactly Like Ben's

The Oldest, The Youngest, And The One In The Middle

Franklin Watts

From Bobcat To Wolf


Sal Fisher, Brownie Scout
Sal Fisher, Brownie Scout

Sal's first big adventure! What did she do as a Brownie? Does it match the adventures you had? One can only wonder as photos of this gem are rare.

 

What did she do?

I've often wondered what she did. Did Ms. Gardner travel around to GSA meetings talking about Sal? Did she have book signings? Did she lead a troop or just remember the Scouts from her younger days?

Did she even like children? Some children's author's are said to be real grouches who can't stand the sight of a child. Why write about both Girl and Boy Scouts? Why write other fiction and what, oh what, was it about?

What did she look like? Was she white (my guess), African American, from another country? What did she do when she wasn't writing? I'll never know the answers and that's one reason I adore her.

I can picture a slim, attractive woman typing away at a neat as a pin desk, her own morning kapers already finished. Perhaps there were children around, but I'm sure they well well-behaved, because how could her kids be anything but?

Maybe she made angels on horseback for her children for lunch, or went family camping after showing dad how much fun it could be. I want to say golly gee in the worst way, because she is very much of the "Leave it to Beaver" era and set.

Sal Fisher at Girl Scout Camp

I adore this book as a former Girl Scout because it brings back fond memories of camping, troop meetings, and earning badges. True, I seem to remember girls never being this nice, lots of fights, and helpless leaders, but that's why this is called fiction.

I NEVER had this type of troop or camping experience, as a matter of fact the leaders were often worn out looking and royal grouch bags. But again, why I like the book so much. It is the shining ideal Scouts should be but somehow seem to miss.

I'm teasing of course, the leaders were fine. You try putting up with a bunch of screaming girls all summer and see how cheerful you are. I got two in mind right now I'd like to tie to a tree and leave for the bears...

Sal Fisher at Girl Scout Camp
Sal Fisher at Girl Scout Camp

.OK, serious review from now on. Sal Fisher gets to go to camp for the first time, but nearly doesn't make it due to a good case of camp jitters. But she faces them gets on the bus with her friend Ginger, and meets new girls from all over.

At camp she meets a lot of new girls, and has to learn how things are done at camp, like repeating your medical exam, having to test for swimming, learning many skills she knows because other girls may not know them too.

But Sal has some serious problems. What can she do as troop leader when a girl cheats on the camp poetry contest? How can Sal deal with not passing her swimming test? Does she really have to make friends with the bookish girl? The rich one? The one with trouble at home?

As the tagline says, reading the book is as good as spending a summer at camp yourself.

 

Hear Sal Fisher, Brownie Scout Read!

Do you know anything about Lillian S. Gardner? Please share!

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    • Nightcat profile image
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      Nightcat 15 months ago

      "Spoiled" in the other girl's eyes. I have to give this article a once over, but that's what I enjoyed about Girl Scouting myself. Some girls had more, some less and we all had very different backgrounds. I'd say some girls would call her spoiled in the sense she doesn't seem to hear "no" much, not based on her things. But she turned out to be one of the best scouts after all, which is why I loved the book. Thanks for solving the mystery at long last.

    • Nightcat profile image
      Author

      Nightcat 15 months ago

      Thank you, she's proved to be quite the mystery lady, even beyond the resourceful local librarian.

    • profile image

      Harriet Reisen 15 months ago

      Was the "spoiled" girl Stephanie? I'm sure Mrs. Soskin's experience as a Cub Scout leader of her son Bill's troop was the basis of her Cub Scout books. You may be right that the changed atmosphere of the 60s and 70s may have limited her marketability. I had a copy Mrs. Soskin gave to me autographed with an inscription thanking me for my contribution but I'm not sure where it is now.

      There was a picture of our troop's "fly up" ceremony on my high school class' Facebook page; I'll see if I can find it. I think Mrs. Soskin must have taken it -- I don't remember her being in it, but my mother was. I am the only girl in a Brownie uniform because I didn't "fly up" on time. I was terrible at organizing and keeping track of the requirements.

      Mrs. Soskin was the loveliest woman you can imagine. Not conventionally pretty, but warm and with a wonderful smile. Her hair was black -- I think she may have colored it to cover gray; my mother never colored hers so I think I noticed the contrast. I think Gardner was probably her maiden name, but in those days women always went by their married names.

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      Harriet Reisen 15 months ago

      Lillian S. Gardner was my girl scout troop leader. We knew her as Mrs. Soskin. My mother was the co-leader. My favorite meeting was when Mrs. Soskin asked us about summer camp. I gave her a lot of ideas, especially for the character of the girl who brings hair curlers and a lot of clothes. I forget her name, but Mrs. Soskin named a character Harriet as a thank-you for me. All the girls' names were combinations of the first and last names of our troop members, but she wouldn't use Harriet in her first books because it was an uncommon name... but she made this exception because of my contribution to her book. I am a professional writer and recently wrote a biography of Louisa May Alcott, one of my favorite writers. Mrs. Soskin lived in Maplewood, N.J. and in the late 'fifties would have been in her early 40s, judging by my mother's age. I haven't heard of her death, but she is probably gone, or over 100 years old. I saw her son Bill some years ago. She also had an adopted daughter, Doris, who was in our troop. Glad you like the book that was based on my camp experiences. Best wishes, Harriet Reisen