The Riddle Club Series

The Riddle Club Series
by Alice Dale Hardy

"I read in a book that people with sense always watch things.  When they are taking a walk, they see the trees and the plants.  When they are out driving they notice the landmarks.  I like advertisements—I always watch them.  And when our car tipped to let the other go by, I looked right at that advertisement for orange marmalade and I remembered it.  So when Polly said she dropped her pin I knew she must have dropped it there."

"My goodness, you read a lot of books, don't you, Artie?" Jess said, with manifest respect.

" 'Improving' ones," Artie said modestly.

"Huh, what about the story books you keep under your bed?" Fred suggested.  "Nothing very 'improving' about Indians and pirates, that I ever heard of."

"That's because you don't read 'em," announced Artie.  "Ward and I have an invention most made now—a new kind of arrow.  Any book is 'improving' that teaches you something."

                                                                  —pages 43-44, The Riddle Club at Sunrise Beach

The Riddle Club Series was published by Grosset and Dunlap from 1924 through 1929 and was in print until around 1931.  The books were written by Josephine Lawrence under the pseudonym of Alice Dale Hardy.  Each book was printed with a dust jacket, a glossy frontispiece, and three glossy internal illustrations.
Titles in the Riddle Club Series:

  1. The Riddle Club at Home, 1924
  2. The Riddle Club in Camp, 1924
  3. The Riddle Club Through the Holidays, 1924
  4. The Riddle Club at Sunrise Beach, 1925
  5. The Riddle Club at Shadybrook, 1926
  6. The Riddle Club at Rocky Falls, 1929

This series is about a group of three boys and three girls who live next to each other on the same street in the town of River Bend.  The six children form a Riddle Club for the purpose of asking each other riddles during club meetings.  The children also share a wide variety of fun activities.  Polly and Artie Marley are the children of the town's hardware dealer.  Fred and Margy Williamson are the children of the town's department store owner.  Ward and Jess Larue are the children of the president of the steamboat company.

Polly Marley is the president of the Riddle Club and is the natural leader of the group.  Polly's age is never given, but Polly's maturity makes her seem like the oldest of the children.  Polly is wise beyond her years and always knows how to smooth over difficult situations.

Artie Marley is eight years old and is the youngest member of the group.  Artie is very open and spills secrets without meaning to do so.  Artie is warned many times to never tell nosy Carrie Pepper the club's secrets, but Artie can never resist answering Carrie's questions.  Artie also loves to read and continually recites bits of trivia that he has learned from books.

Margy Williamson is ten years old, loves to dress well, and is always worried about her appearance.  Margy is also excessively concerned about her comfort and wishes that it were summer during the winter and wishes that it were winter during the summer.

Fred Williamson is Margy's twin brother.  Fred is the club treasurer and takes his role quite seriously.  Fred admonishes the other club members for not paying their dues on time.  Fred also makes the quickest decisions and is respected by the other club members.

Ward Larue is nine years old, overweight, and loves to eat.  Ward stuffs his pockets with food and eats most of the time.  Ward is less interested in athletic activity than the other children and has to frequently rest during the club's various adventures.  Ward is often teased about his love of food.

Jess Larue is eleven years old and is Ward's older sister.  Jess's personality is not as well-defined as those of the other club members.

Carrie Pepper, Mattie Helms, and Joe Anderson are members of the rival Conundrum Club.  Carrie has an unfortunate habit of inviting herself to join the Riddle Club in its various activities and then deciding how the Riddle Club will spend its time.

"It's such an awful day," said Carrie, coming up the Williamson porch steps, her face damp and rosy from the brief walk in the wind and rain, "that I said to Mother that I knew Polly and Jess would be having the blues.  So I came over to spend the day and kind of cheer you up."

Mrs. Williamson was the only one with presence of mind enough to make the visitor welcome.  The members of the Riddle Club seemed stupefied, and as Carrie took off her hat and raincoat, talking volubly all the time, the six chums stood dumbly in the background and stared at her.

                                                                 —page 54, The Riddle Club at Shadybrook

Carrie and her friends criticize everything nice that the Riddle Club has and make the Riddle Club feel like what the Conundrum Club has is better.  At the same time, it is apparent that what Carrie wants most is to be like the Riddle Club.  Joe Anderson and Fred Williamson despise each other and are always getting into confrontations with each other.

All of the books in this series are scarce, though not in great demand.  The dust jackets are extremely difficult to find.  The prices for Riddle Club books with intact dust jackets can range from very low to well above $100 per book on eBay, depending upon dealer knowledge and amount of buyer interest.

Dust Jacket Gallery

  #1 The Riddle Club at Home                                             1924
Polly, Artie, Margy, Fred, Jess, and Ward form a Riddle Club at the suggestion of Polly.  The children fix up a meeting room in the Larue barn and have meetings once every three weeks.  At each meeting, the members are required to tell a riddle and must answer someone else's riddle correctly.  The children have lots of fun and find themselves the subject of much interest by their classmates, especially nosy Carrie Pepper.

Carrie asks the friends endless questions about the club and continually drops hints about how much she'd like to join.  Polly, the president of the club, knows that the club would not function as well if membership were opened to everyone.  In retaliation, Carrie and her friend, Mattie Helms, form a rival club, the Conundrum Club.  Carrie brags about the special badges that Mattie's father is having made for them.  The Riddle Club members feel bad since their badges are homemade.

The Riddle Club at Home
The Riddle Club members don't dare ask their parents for real badges, since both the Larues and Marleys are facing a crisis.  A large shipment of radio sets was lost at the wharf recently, and it is unclear whether Mr. Larue's steamboat company or Mr. Marley's hardware store will have to pay for the missing sets totaling $1000.  How the Riddle Club finds a solution to their problem makes for an interesting story.
  #2 The Riddle Club in Camp                                             1924
Summer has begun, and the Riddle Club leaves for a camping trip at Lake Bassing.  As luck would have it, Carrie Pepper and the Conundrum Club also depart for Lake Bassing.  The Conundrum Club causes problems from the start.  The members fail to plan ahead and try to bring all of their baggage on the boat.  When the Conundrum Club must leave their things behind, they borrow much of what they need from the Riddle Club.

The Conundrum Club camps on a nearby island.  When the Riddle Club visits Conundrum Camp, they feel bad because the Conundrum Club has nicer tents with windows.  After thinking things over later, the Riddle Club realizes that they are perfectly happy with their own camp.

The Riddle Club makes friends with Dick Hare, who operates a taxi between the nearby town and the lake.  Dick is invited to a Riddle Club meeting along with the children's mothers, and all of the adults enjoy the meeting immensely.

The Riddle Club in Camp
The parents plan to ask the Riddle Club difficult riddles at the next meeting, and the Riddle Club members study hard.  Meanwhile, the children meet a strange hermit who lives on a nearby island.  The man dresses oddly and thinks everyone ought to know who he is.  The Riddle club members hope that they can learn who this man is and what his secret is.
  #3 The Riddle Club Through the Holidays                        1924
It is back to school for the Riddle Club, and the members look forward to winter and the holidays.  The children express concern about their meeting room in the Larue barn, because the room will soon be too cold for their meetings.  In the meantime, the children plan their Hallowe'en party, and each child creates a clever animal costume to wear.

As fall turns to winter, the Marleys have finished a new room in the back of their house, and Mrs. Marley wants to wait until spring to furnish the room.  The Riddle Club gets to have the room for their meetings until spring!  The children excitedly move their things into the room and have their first meeting in the Marley house.

Thanksgiving arrives, and the children go on a winter camping trip with Mr. and Mrs. Williamson.  Soon after Thanksgiving, River Bend has its first large snowfall.  The children have a great time creating a huge snowman which they name Riddle Chap.

The Riddle Club Through the Holidays
At around this time, the Riddle Club's bank, which holds the club's money, disappears!  Fred is distressed—how could he have lost the bank?  The other members are gracious and forgiving about the loss, but Fred hopes that the bank will someday be found.  In time, the bank is found in a very surprising fashion.
  #4 The Riddle Club at Sunrise Beach                               1925
School is once again out for summer, and the Fourth of July holiday rapidly approaches.  The Riddle Club uses part of their dues to buy some nice fireworks, but Joe Anderson throws a lit match at the Riddle Club's fireworks, causing them to explode prematurely.  Fortunately, an old friend gives the Riddle Club a package of nice fireworks.  The Riddle Club has much fun on the Fourth of July.

The next day, the Riddle Club and their families depart for Sunrise Beach, where they are to spend most of the summer.  To the dismay of the Riddle Club, Carrie Pepper, Mattie Helms, and Joe Anderson also travel to Sunrise Beach for the summer.  Carrie and Mattie brag about the nice house they are staying in and put down the place where the Riddle Club is staying.  Carrie and Mattie also annoy the Riddle Club by prying into their private plans and then showing up uninvited whenever the Riddle Club has a party.

The Riddle Club at Sunrise Beach
The Riddle Club has many exciting adventures, particularly on one day when they find themselves stranded on a boat with a balky motor.  The excursion results in the club being temporarily stranded on an island, and while on the island, the children make an astonishing discovery.
  #5 The Riddle Club at Shadybrook                                   1926
Mr. and Mrs. Larue and Mr. and Mrs. Marley have inherited a sum of money from a man whom they once helped.  The Larues and Marleys must travel to Nova Scotia to gain possession of this fortune, but they will not be able to take their children along.  Polly, Artie, Jess, and Ward stay at the Williamsons' house while their parents are away.  The children are dreading the start of school in another week, but then a terrific storm hits River Bend and the school is heavily damaged!  The children are thrilled to learn that school will not start for three more weeks!

Soon, Mr. and Mrs. Williamson receive news that requires them to leave town.  The Williamsons arrange for the six children to stay at Shadybrook Farm with Peter Pepps and his wife.  The children pack with great excitement and depart on the train for Shadybrook.  Their trip passes hilariously as a result of the misadventures of both Artie and Ward.

The Riddle Club at Shadybrook
The children have much fun at Shadybrook, but soon troubles cloud their stay.  The children read about a destructive fire in Canada which has destroyed the entire town of Chassy, as well as quite a few of the surrounding towns.  The Marleys and Larues had said they were going to Chassy—the children can do nothing but wait for news about their fates.
  #6 The Riddle Club at Rocky Falls                                    1929
The Riddle Club parents are all stockholders in a hotel at Rocky Falls.  Recently, the manager, Mr. Grice, skipped out with all of the hotel's payroll.  The employees had not been paid for five weeks of work.  The hotel had to be closed, and all three families stand to lose quite a bit of money.  The stockholders must make a decision about the hotel and do something about paying the workers, but a couple of the stockholders are away and cannot be reached.

In the meantime, Polly suggests that they all go to the empty hotel to stay on a vacation.  Much to Polly's surprise, the parents love the idea, and the entire Riddle Club as well as the three mothers immediately travel to Rocky Falls.  The children have great fun exploring the hotel, although the large empty building is rather spooky.  During their first night in the hotel, the children hear strange sounds, as if someone is walking around in the hotel.

The Riddle Club at Rocky Falls
The children learn that rumors are floating around among the dock workers that Mr. Grice left behind a valuable tin box when he skipped out on the hotel.  The children lay a trap for Mr. Grice, hoping that they can catch him red-handed.  The children's plans don't go quite as they expect, but the mystery is eventually solved.
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