Maureen Daly Essay - Critical Essays

Daly, Maureen


Maureen Daly 1921–

(Has also written under the name Maureen Daly McGivern) American short story writer, novelist, and nonfiction writer for children and young adults, and editor.

Maureen Daly's first novel, Seventeenth Summer, published in 1942, became the prototypical young adult novel. In this story of first love in a quiet Wisconsin town Daly describes the emotions of her protagonist, Angie, in a skillfully artless way, and through her makes all the intricacies of adolescent relationships come alive. Daly displays an intuitive sensitivity to teenagers and an ability to convey the sense of immediacy and urgency her characters feel. Some critics believe these aspects were due to the closeness of Daly's own age to those of her protagonists. However, her later stories and novels show her to be no less skilled in capturing the changeable moods of adolescence.

Daly has also written several works of nonfiction related to her extensive travels, such as Mention My Name in Mombasa and Spanish Roundabout, which exhibit a characteristic understanding of the people she meets and describes. Her most recent works of fiction have also been set abroad, many of them intended for younger children.

Daly has based her career on writing about what she has personally seen or felt. "I seem to travel far for the subject—or else write microscopically about things that happen right at home," she has written. Her consistent popularity with young people has proven both the universality of her experience and the success of its communication. (See also Contemporary Authors, Vols. 9-12, rev. ed., and Something about the Author, Vol. 2.)

Edith H. Walton

Lyrically young and breathless, "Seventeenth Summer" deals with one of the oldest themes in the world, the theme of first love, and deals with it in a fashion which is so unhackneyed and so fresh that one forgets how often the same story has been told before….

Prosaically and less sensitively handled, "Seventeenth Summer" might seem rather trite, its plot both thin and shopworn. Actually, by a kind of miracle, and perhaps because she is so close to an experience not easy to recapture, Miss Daly has made an utterly enchanting book out of this very fragile little story—one which rings true and sweet and fresh and sound. Nor, for all its charm, is her novel sentimental…. "Seventeenth Summer" is possessed of considerable humor and a kind of sturdy common sense. Not even in its most lyric moments is it saccharine. Completely up to date in its idiom and its atmosphere, vividly authentic in a warm and homely way, it seems to me to be as unpretentiously good a first novel as any one could ask—limited as is its scope. Simply, eloquently, Maureen Daly tells one how youth in love really feels—how it felt yesterday and how it feels today.

Edith H. Walton, "Fiction: 'Seventeenth Summer'," in The New York Times Book Review (© 1942 by The New York Times Company; reprinted by permission), May 3, 1942, p. 7.

Anne Brooks

Such a story as ["Seventeenth Summer"] is tenuous and must be told with perfect timing, with well thought out and careful characterization and, above all, with atmosphere. Maureen Daly has done this expertly, with a technical skill that is above that of the average first novelist. To read the book is to revel for a few hours in small town heat, the slow pace of living,… the dimness of roadside houses where juke boxes play and young couples dance slowly together,… and most of all, the breathless, expectant sense of a seventeen-year-old, that the world is really beginning for her, that she has stepped into life.

Anne Brooks, "Magic Love at Breathless Age," in New York Herald Tribune Book Review, Vol. 18, No. 37, May 10, 1942, p. 4.

J. G. E. Hopkins

If [Miss Daly] continues to read life with her present honesty and an increasing depth, she will be an important writer…. (p. 88)

The narrative of ["Seventeenth Summer"] is extremely slight; it rises to no great climaxes of action; the curve of its progress is emotional rather than dramatic. The author has, however, a native sense of form which rounds out and includes all the wealth of observation and sensibility which gives distinction to her story. The reader senses the same effect of a job done as well as it could possibly be done that one finds in such a novelist as Jane Austen; a complete success on a scale deliberately limited. Miss Daly knows adolescents; normal, healthy, fairly imaginative American boys and girls. These she gives us, and makes no attempt to soar, to uplift, to probe, or to exaggerate. For this reason alone, her book would have succeeded. And yet, more than this, her novel has reality in the true sense of a vastly abused word. It is the reality, not of nightmare and Krafft-Ebing and melodrama, as most American novelists and critics seem to define the word, but the reality of a middle-class Wisconsin home, much like thousands of other American homes where life is placid and thoughtful and kind….

The writing is excellent, although there are infrequent times where some forcing for effect may be noticed. "Seventeenth Summer" is filled with those infinite shadings of feeling which the mind forgets as it matures and sharpens; the quick response to natural things, to weathers and to intuitions, the inexplicable sadnesses, sudden joys and all-embracing pities. (p. 89)

J. G. E. Hopkins, "Books of the Week: 'Seventeenth Summer'," in Commonweal (copyright © 1942 Commonweal Publishing Co., Inc.; reprinted by permission of Commonweal Publishing Co., Inc.), Vol. XXXVI, No. 4, May 15, 1942, pp. 88-9.

Rebecca Lowrie

["Seventeenth Summer"] is very appealing. There is no effort to recapture the emotions of youth, or to give them the dewy touch of sentiment with which even elderly people in their thirties like to caress their memories. The seventeenth summer in a perfectly charming little girl's life writes itself in her own words from the June evening when Angie Morrow and Jack Duluth first smiled at each other in McKnight's drug store, to the August morning when she said "'Bye Jack" and started away to school….

Not all smooth, this seventeenth summer, but it is recorded with a limpid honesty and simplicity that make novels about adolescence seem pontifical and phony. Angie Morrow and Jack Duluth are the young people for whom the world should be made free—and beautiful.

Rebecca Lowrie, "Fiction: 'Seventeenth Summer'," in The Saturday Review of Literature (copyright © 1942 by Saturday Review; all rights reserved; reprinted with permission), Vol. 25, No. 22, May 30, 1942, p. 10.

Very successful, this etiquette book ["Smarter and Smoother"] for the "coke crowd". Written in breezy, slangy style, the author gets across good stuff on a variety of subjects from "What makes one guy the super-man of the study hall, and another the droop-of-the-troop", to "Smooth Dates" and "Petting". Parents should be thankful to Maureen Daly, for she gives all the advice and council that teen agers think is sermonizing from parents, but that they'll lap up in this form.

"Fifteen and Up: 'Smarter and Smoother'," in Bulletin from Virginia Kirkus' Bookshop Service, Vol. XII, No. 5, March 1, 1944, p. 120.

May Lamberton Becker

"Going to high school these days has developed into a profession," says Maureen Daly in ["Smarter and Smoother"] the best book, all things considered, on our high-school manners and ethics and their relation to those of later life, among many lately offered to the teens. One special advantage is the author's time of life; just old enough to look back on the teens, she has, as a novelist, already developed mature sympathy that lets her see them unclouded by the scorn the twenties often feel. Another is the confidence she has already inspired in high-school readers…. Above all, she has the advantage of knowing and speaking for small town high schools and the social scheme of the small town that is in its own way America….

Written directly to high-school students, its language is so utterly their own that in five years the book will need a glossary. Its advice, especially on boy-and-girl matters, is for this reason more likely to be heard, and hearts wounded at sixteen need advice just as much as if they were not likely to need it again, reasonably soon, for another non-lethal wound. And as the high-school world changes every four years, it would be a good idea for older people who have to do with the teens to brush up on their experience and find out what that world is at this time of writing.

May Lamberton Becker, "Books for Young People: 'Smarter and Smoother'," in New York Herald Tribune Book Review (© I.H.T. Corporation; reprinted by permission), Vol. 20, No. 34, April 16, 1944, p. 5.

Dwight L. Burton

Seventeenth Summer, perhaps captures better than any other novel the spirit of adolescence. Probably one reason for this is that the author was so near adolescence herself when she wrote the book. In fiction with adolescent protagonists and in our thinking about the adolescent generally, we have never freed ourselves from Booth Tarkington's influence, which has projected itself into 1951 as the Corliss Archer—Henry Aldrich tradition, a vision of adolescence which infuriates the adolescent, amuses some adults, and adds nothing to the understanding of either. Seventeenth Summer is a cogent refutation of Tarkington's Seventeen. Basically, Seventeenth Summer is a serious story because...

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[What's Your P.Q. (Personality Quotient)? is another] helpful book of advice for teen-agers by an author who seems to understand their dreams, aspirations, and bewildering experiences. The clever chapter headings are preceded by a paragraph of teen-age conversation in which a problem is posed.

Nelle McCalla, "New Books Appraised: 'What's Your P.Q. (Personality Quotient)?'" in Library Journal (reprinted from Library Journal, May 1, 1952; published by R. R. Bowker Co. (a Xerox company); copyright © 1952 by Xerox Corporation), Vol. 77, No. 9, May 1, 1952, p. 800.

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Margaret A. Edwards

With the publication of Seventeenth Summer, the awakening of love was first depicted for teenagers in language they could understand….

Maureen Daly is unique. It is interesting that she has stood behind Seventeenth Summer as her testament to youth and has not converted her enormous popularity into specie of the realm. It is interesting that a generation of bobby-soxers despaired of by the moralists have identified themselves with unsophisticated Angie Morrow. It is interesting that in sixteen years no other story of first love has rivaled Seventeenth Summer in quality or popularity. (p. 70)

Margaret A. Edwards, "How Do I Love Thee?"...

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Richard S. Alm

Undoubtedly, the most widely talked about and most praised of all contemporary novels for the adolescent is Maureen Daly's Seventeenth Summer….

Novelists themselves have recognized the significance of Seventeenth Summer. Rette, the heroine of [Betty] Cavanna's A Girl Can Dream, senses what is great about the Daly novel when she reads it in preparation for a writing task of her own. (p. 156)

This sense of immediacy which Rette feels in reading Seventeenth Summer is the result of Daly's telling the story from Angie's point of view and capturing the excitement of a young girl bursting with happiness (sic) she wants to share with intimate friends. The story...

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Sara L. Siebert

Although [Twelve Around the World] has informational value and is a sincere and realistic attempt to interest American teen-agers in the problems and lives of their overseas counterparts, it lacks dimension, pace, humor, and warmth.

Sara L. Siebert, "Jr. Books Appraised: 'Twelve around the World'," in Junior Libraries, an appendix to Library Journal (reprinted from the November, 1957 issue of Junior Libraries, published by R. R. Bowker Co./A Xerox Corporation; copyright © 1957), Vol. 4, No. 3, November, 1957, p. 38.

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Alberta Eiseman

The subtitle of ["Twelve Around the World"], "True Accounts of the Lives and Countries of a Dozen Teenagers," is a better indication of the contents than the title itself. The author makes no attempt at covering the world: Western Europe is predominant, and whole continents are left out entirely. However, the "dozen teen-agers" she describes, and the countries in which they live, provide the subject-matter of fascinating and totally varied vignettes….

Sometimes Miss Daly tries to accomplish too much. It's hard to bring a person to life and describe a country, too, in twenty or thirty pages, and her asides are frequently confusing. The last chapter seems tacked on as an afterthought. Still, this is...

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Beverly Grunwald

["Mention My Name in Mombasa" is] a travel book written in a leisurely fashion: One feels that there were some "must-sees" for the McGiverns and their two youngsters, but that's all. The result is a frank and fresh series of anecdotes and impressions of other people and other ways of life by an appealing American couple who took time to observe and to live….

Life is fun and life is earnest, albeit phony, among the international starving artists, writers and category-defying queer characters in this tourist's paradise [in the south of Spain]. But it couldn't be funnier or earnester (Hemingway included) than the discussions of bullfighting and the aficionados….

Like all good...

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Lavinia R. Davis

["Spanish Roundabout"] is not a guide book in the usual sense. It is, rather, a cohesive series of profiles and sketches of Spain drawn from affection, experience and compassion … [The] emphasis is on people in contemporary Spain. Family life, bull-fighting, religious observances, cooking and teen-age mores are described so skillfully and with such a complete lack of condescension that the reader cannot help sharing the author's enthusiasm and eager curiosity. Similarly the treatment of individuals, whether brief notes on historical personages like Torquemada and Cervantes or the more detailed account of two contemporary teen-agers, will whet the appetite for more.

Lavinia R....

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Margaret Sherwood Libby

["Spanish Roundabout"] has a freshness of approach which makes it appear to be the spontaneous conversation of the author about her impressions of a land she loves. Students in high school who are beginning the study of Spanish will receive a very happy introduction to Spain if they read it…. Most of the book generalizes about the country and people as a whole, but there are chapters on famous Spaniards, on the Moorish past and a final "diary without dates" telling of various cities from Cadiz to San Sebastian, with an excursion to the Island of Ibiza. While this is not as searching or as deeply concerned with showing all facets of the country as Claire Bishop's book on France ["French Roundabout"],… it selects...

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Ellen Lewis Buell

The nine short stories in ["Sixteen and Other Stories"] may not be so durable [as "Seventeenth Summer"] but the title piece … is cut from the same sturdy cloth. So also is "Love is a Summer Word." Each is charged with the intensity of youth and with the rueful awareness that first love is not always equal to the exigencies of the everyday world. There is a sense of irrevocable loss in "The Tall Grass," a quiet, beautifully stated mishap of childhood, and a fine example of the author's precise, sensuous observation of the natural world.

One is tempted to say that the most memorable of these stories are—like the tales of great lovers—the sad ones. But then there are "The Gift" and "Dust on the...

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Margery Fisher

A younger sister could learn much and achieve a better understanding of her elders if she reads Maureen Daly's Seventeenth Summer, with its delicate but frank picture of an American small town and a girl working through her first love affair. Angeline Morrow belongs to a comfortable middle-class home and is disconcerted as well as flattered when Jack Duluth, who works in her father's bakery, begins to take her out. There is an anthropological exactness in the descriptions of drug-store and dance-hall, and of the stylized behaviour of young people who like to think themselves grown-up. Above all, Angeline's feelings, her fear and excitement and the inconvenient warnings of her fastidious mind, are convincingly...

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Mabel Berry

[In The Ginger Horse] twelve-year-old Rob, a Scottish miner's son, instinctively recognizes the desire for freedom in a wild ginger-colored pony which has been given a week's reprieve from his labor in the mine. Rob's efforts to let the pony escape involve him and his friend Katie in serious trouble. The growth of understanding which subsequently comes to the boy and his father gives real substance to this story with an unusual setting, well developed plot and finely drawn characters.

Mabel Berry, "Grades 3-6: 'The Ginger Horse'," in School Library Journal, an appendix to Library Journal (reprinted from the December, 1964 issue of School Library Journal,...

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Ellen Goodman

"The Ginger Horse" is another variation on the theme of boy-meets-pony but Maureen Daly depicts characters and scenes more realistic than the usual storybook prototypes….

There is a good deal of information about Scottish life and the rigidity of any insular community. While the plot is totally predictable, the excellent character trimmings and the dusty aura of coal country turn a mediocre tale into pleasant if somewhat lightweight reading.

Ellen Goodman, "Young Reader's Books: 'The Ginger Horse'," in The New York Times Book Review (© 1965 by The New York Times Company; reprinted by permission), January 3, 1965, p. 19.


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Ellen Goodman

[Maureen Daly's meek adventure The Small War of Sergeant Donkey] ends predictably with boy and burro saving the life of the soldier.

For one moment, the book rouses itself from mediocrity. The hungry boy, Chico, is thoughtlessly handed a chocolate bar by the American to feed to a U.S. Army donkey. As Chico's pride wars with his desire, the chocolate effectively represents the enormous gap between the Haves and Havenots. Unfortunately this instant of sensitivity is the exception in a book that reads more like a rough draft than a published novel.

Ellen Goodman, "9 to 12 Fiction: 'The Small War of Sergeant Donkey'," in The New York Times Book Review...

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May Hill Arbuthnot

If the title of [Seventeenth Summer] were changed to Fifteenth Summer, the entertaining story would seem as contemporary as the day it was published. Even so, it is still popular with youngsters and approved by adults. But because little girls are having their first encounters with dating and near-romance earlier these days, they need guidance sooner…. How and why Angie managed to weather [her] first encounters with romance and come through the summer a stable and wise girl makes a good story and presents a picture of growing up that younger girls can profit from. (pp. 173-74)

May Hill Arbuthnot, "Today's World in Books," in her Children's Reading in the Home...

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