Re-envisioning our childhood hero: “Nancy Re-Drew”
Article written by Caroline Haller
Figure 1. Nancy Drew and the Secret of the Old Clock cover, Audrey Day, 2022, Courtesy of the Artist
Artist and Illustrator Audrey Day is re-envisioning one of our childhood heroes in a beautiful way. Nancy Drew has always been and always will be one of my favorite characters. As the heroine of a long-running mystery series, Nancy is a teenager and amateur sleuth who solves mysteries with the help of her friends. Originally ghost written by Mildred Wirt Benson, the books were published by many authors under the pseudonym, Carolyn Keene. From 1930-2003, 175 novels were produced as part of “The Nancy Drew Mystery Series.” However, there have been many spinoffs featuring Nancy and her friends. They include video games, comic books, movies, and tv shows from 1940-present. With each new iteration came the debut of a contemporized version of Nancy. Despite updated wardrobes and new technology, Nancy maintains the same characteristics in all versions. Her determination, kindness and relatability make her both a spokesperson for “girl power” as well as a beacon of virtue.
Day wrote, “Nancy Drew was my childhood hero. Her feminine personality and dashing style captured my imagination. I have always looked up to Nancy as an example of feminine elegance and strength, with a strong sense of justice.” Day’s illustration of the cover from Nancy’s debut novel “The Secret of the Old Clock” shows just how she is re-envisioning our heroine. (Figure 1) The Secret of the Old Clock Cover depicts Nancy deep in the forest. The whimsical arching trees, characteristic of Day’s illustrations, encircle the clock and Nancy. Dressed in a vintage dress, Nancy looks back at the clock, and the shadowy figures on it. Her confident gait suggests she will not stop until the mystery is solved. Looking at this illustration, I immediately want to dive into the mystery, knowing that in between those trees waits an enthralling tale.
Day chose Nancy Drew’s second novel, “The Hidden Staircase” as the focus for her capstone show for her BFA in illustration through Brigham Young University. Day’s BFA show “Nancy Re-Drew” was on view at the B.F. Larsen Gallery in Brigham Young University’s Harris Fine Arts Center from May 3, 2022- May 31, 2022. In the show, Day displayed her own illustrations of the novel’s cover and scenes from the novel. (Figure 2)
Figure 2. B.F.A. Show “Nancy Re-Drew” works by Audrey Day, Photograph courtesy of the artist.
Figure 3. Through the Trap Door, Audrey Day, 2022, Courtesy of the Artist
Day also illustrated scenes from the novel. For instance, Through the Trap Door is an illustration of a scene from the “Hidden Staircase” (Figure 3). Beside the print, Day posted the text from the novel.
“Let’s find out who’s in the attic!” Nancy urged as she ran from the room, Helen at her heels.
Nancy and Helen did not bother to go noiselessly but raised up the creaking stairs. Reaching he attic, they lighted two candles and looked around. They saw no one and began to look behind trucks and pieces of furniture. Nobody was hiding.
“There’s only one answer,” Helen decided. “The ghost was here. But how did he get in.”
Reading the text while looking at Day’s illustration awoke in me that little girl who read way past her bedtime. Sheets pulled overhead, with a book light, I read in the dark. I hoped that Nancy and her friends would not encounter a ghost, but I needed to know what happened next.
Day’s illustrations are fun, fanciful and engaging. They pay homage to the vintage book covers while engaging the young girl of today, who will no doubt encounter the spunky heroine that is Nancy Drew.
While at BYU, Day worked as a graphic designer at the BYU library. During her time there, Day was a finalist in the Creative Quarterly Student Scholarship competition and runner-up for the Creative Quarterly 66 Student Section in 2022 and 2021 respectively. She also was a finalist in the Brigham Young University Figure Drawing Show.
Day has been working as a freelance artist for many years. She has always been passionate about illustration and children’s books. In fact, her first, fully illustrated children’s book Friends Come in All Sizes just released this month! You can find it wherever books are sold, including on Amazon at the link here.
Friends Come in All Sizes, written by Raven Howell, is geared at children aged 2-10 and in the story two boys consider would-be companions of all different shapes and sizes in imaginative adventures! This new book from Lawley Publishing is sure to delight. Day’s whimsical illustrations make the pages come alive.
Day’s art can be viewed on her Instagram @audreygraceart. Her illustrations and the Nancy Drew prints are available for purchase on Day’s website www.audreygraceart.com.