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Who was Lillian S. Gardner?
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.
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 She could have been a victim of the times too, as going into the 1960s and 70s may have made her wholesome books outdated to young readers.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
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
From Bobcat To Wolf
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...