Cherry Ames, Nurse and Detective

Curious George
One must be curious to be a detective.

I can’t remember a time when I didn’t love mysteries. I suspect I was a mystery fan back when I was spitting up strained apricots and wearing onesies. Would the Cat in the Hat get punished for wrecking the house with Things One and Two? Would the Man in the Yellow Hat find George in time to keep him from getting hurt or deported? Where did the Moon go after we said goodnight to it? Granted, the children’s literature my folks read to me didn’t include murder mysteries, but they raised many of the same questions about right and wrong, mercy and justice, finding order in a world that is naturally chaotic. By the time I could read on my own, I was reading books that were explicitly mysteries: Encyclopedia Brown, Nancy Drew, the Hardy Boys, Trixie Belden. (Nostalgia time out: I also read the Black Stallion series, all the Oz books, Aesop’s fables, Grimm’s fairy tales, the Little House books, and so many others.)

Cherry Ames, Flight Nurse
Solving mysteries worldwide!
My favorite mystery series, though, the series that made me a die-hard fan, was Cherry Ames. For those of you unfamiliar with the books, Cherry Ames was a nurse who solved mysteries. Written by Helen Wells, and later Julie Campbell Tatham, the books followed Cherry’s progression from student nurse to various nursing assignments around the globe. Looking back, I think the reasons Cherry, rather than Nancy, won my allegiance were her career, her independence, and her travels. Nancy was circumscribed by River Heights and environs, and had Carson Drew and Hannah Gruen to answer to. She could only go so far in her blue roadster. Cherry, on the other hand, was an independent career woman. She changed locales and jobs with every book. Dude ranch nurse in one book, cruise nurse, flight nurse, and ski nurse in subsequent books. (There are 27 books in the series.) For a little girl (moi) raised in a military family, Cherry’s reality paralleled mine—frequent moves and adjustments to new communities.

I can’t say why Nancy seems to have endured better than Cherry. Maybe it’s because Cherry became a student nurse during World War II and some of her adventures seem dated. Maybe it’s because Nancy’s a perpetual teen and attracts a new crop of young readers each year. Whatever the answer is, I’m happy to see that some of the Cherry Ames titles have recently been reprinted and are now available again. I was searching for one last gift for my younger daughter and now I’m thinking a boxed set of the first Cherry Ames books is just the ticket! Too bad my original copies of the books found their way to a garage sale or Goodwill bin long ago . . .

So, mystery fans, what book or series first attracted you to the genre?

Laura DiSilverio spent twenty years as a U.S. Air Force intelligence officer—serving as a squadron commander, and with the National Reconnaissance Office, as well as with a fighter wing—before retiring to parent and write full time.

Click here to read an excerpt of Laura DiSilverio’s Swift Justice and enter for a chance to win her latest mystery, Swift Run!


  1. Laura K. Curtis

    I had forgotten Cherry Ames! I had about five of her books that I inherited from my mother along with Betty Gordon and Betty Wales and … darn, I can’t think of the other one. They were all clothbound hardcovers which had long ago lost their dust jackets, but I loved them. Thanks for bringing back the memory!

  2. Bea C

    Oh, I haven’t thought about Cherry Ames in years! I only read a few of them but I enjoyed them. Nancy Drew irritated me, I preferred the Hardy Boys and the Three Investigators. I still read mysteries today.

  3. Cheryl Fuller

    I read all of Nancy Drew and Cherry Ames when I was a kid, a long time ago now as I am in my 60’s. An oft repeated line from Cherry Ames — Never stand when you can sit, never sit when you can lie down — words to live by! I too was a military kid but. I never made the connection with my moving around so much with Cherry doing the same. I came away from those books believing I’d rather be a doctor than a nurse, because I realized I prefer being in charge. Those series did seed a lifelong interest in mysteries for me too.

  4. KateH

    I read all the Nancy Drew and Cherry Ames books, as well as several Vickie Barrs, though those were harder to find. I lived overseas as a kid, so could absolutely relate to Cherry’s exotic locales. British books were easier to come by, so after I’d burned through all the American mysteries in our school library, I became addicted to Enid Blyton’s Famous Five and Secret Seven series.

  5. Marci Jefferson

    Love this post! My mom and I are nurses, and we collected as many Cherry Ames books as we could find! But we don’t have Jungle Nurse. Love them all!! That was a tough one to get our hands on!!

  6. Terrie Farley Moran

    Wonderful post. I forgot how much I loved Cherry Ames. I will have to scour around and find some of the books for my grand daughters. Thanks for this great reminder.

  7. patebooks

    Love this post and comments. I was a Cherry Ames fan, as well as fan of Nancy, Trixie, Vicki, Dana Girls and Enid Blyton’s groups. Then I graduated to Phyllis Whitney, Mary Stewart, Joan Aiken, Victoria Holt, Dorothy Eden for romantic suspense, and Christie, Marsh, Sayers, Tey for classic detectives. Still reread the latter!

  8. Joyce Delaney

    It was the Cherry Ames books that set me on the path to mystery reading, also. There was a department store in Paterson, NJ in the 1950’s that had a small book department, but they carried every Cherry Ames title as it came out. Forget about ” a Christie for Christmas.” I asked for ( and received) Cherry Ames books instead. I’ve managed to find a few originals at book sales and used book sites, and I treasure them.

  9. Judy Mullen

    I too developed what was to be my lifelong interest in reading mysteries when I had a chance to read my cousin Sally’s collection of Nancy Drew, Judy Bolton, Vicki Barr, Connie Blair, Tom Swift, the Hardy Boys and the Bobbsey Twins. I have since collected many of these series and treasure them and the memories.

  10. Beth Talmage

    Remember Sue Barton? She trod the same nursing path as Cherry Ames, but without the mysteries. My mom was an RN, and I remember trying to imagine her having the same kind of adventures. When I was in my thirties, my mom and I visited with her nursing school room-mate, and the stories they told amidst peals of laughter reminded me of the Cherry Ames and Sue Barton hijinks–there were dumb-waiters involved, and rigid supervising nurses to foil, all very silly and innocent.

  11. jmullen

    How could I have forgotten Sue Barton? Those are wonderful book, so interesting and a sweet romance.

  12. Diane Vallere

    I still remember the day I decided to make my own perfume, based on the Cherry Aames’ book where she discovered a secret perfume formula. Our poor lilac tree was never quite the same after I scalped it and boiled the petals! I also love Connie Blair, who shared some of Cherry’s independence, but my heart belongs to Trixie Belden. Fun post!

  13. Rachel

    I love Cherry Ames! I agree, much more fun than Nancy Drew, in many ways. I have an almost-complete set (the originals), and I just ordered my final missing book on today, so I’m very excited.

    I loved that the Cherry Ames books started out grounded in the reality of WWII, and that they revolved around an exploration of a career field as well as around mysteries. That, I think, gives them some extra depth.

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