A literary mystery

by Lauren

Recently I experienced a moment of great joy when a friend spontaneously remembered the name of the girl band we liked in elementary school that no one else seemed to remember. I couldn’t remember any helpful details like the band’s name or song titles or song lyrics or even melodies I could hum. But it turns out they were called BoyKrazy, and they were even worse than I might have guessed.

This is not book-related in itself, but it has come up as a topic of conversation over the last couple years on occasion with my friend Nell, who has her own life mystery to solve. On realizing the joy of solving mine, it occurred to me that I could try to pay it forward by asking for the help of you, our well read audience, to solve hers. Nell loved a children’s book when she was in elementary school that must have been first published no later than 1986, but she suspects it was probably from the mid-to-late 70s or early 80s. Here’s what she remembers:

The main character is a young girl who always paints mustaches on herself. Her teacher tells her that mustaches are for boys and that she can’t paint any more on herself. She has black hair that I think is in a bowl cut with bangs.

At some point in the story, she makes a new friend who has an electric train set in her attic, closet, spare room, or someplace like that. I believe the story takes place in New York City or some other metropolitan area with apartment buildings (I vaguely remember the new friend living in her building), but I may have projected that on my memories from my earliest childhood memories.

The story ends with the girl painting mustaches on everyone in art class, including the girly girl and the art teacher–who ends up laughing about it.

So, please, if this is at all familiar to you, help a girl out in the comments! If you understand the agony of kind of sort of remembering something that no one else seems to know exists, you’ll want to lend her a hand. Thanks!

UPDATE: Mystery solved!!  Nell reports that it was in fact Elizabeth Levy’s Nice Little Girls.   Thank you very much, Rebecca!  Now tell me, do you own the book, or are you the best Google detective of all time?

13 Responses to A literary mystery

  1. Mary Witzl says:

    I really wish I could help! I understand very well how maddening it is to recall a few elusive details of a plot or a bar of music, but no more, meaning that you can never remember the title and read the whole book or buy the CD and hear the whole song.

    When I was a kid, I loved defacing the photographs in Good Housekeeping magazines with a magic marker. That book would have been right up my street.

  2. Sangu says:

    Oh, I do wish I could help. I know exactly how this feels. I've never heard of or read this story, but I've done some Googling, and still, nothing. I hope someone can find the answer!

  3. J.J. Bennett says:

    Yeah… I got nothing.

  4. Mary McDonald says:

    Wow, that sounds vaguely familiar, and it's right in my era. Hmm…now it's going to drive me nuts too!

  5. Anonymous says:

    Well, me and my husband (we're more curious than cats) googled it upside down. The closest we've got was this book – Mr Brown and his Magic Moustache, by Monica Tap, & Martha Jablonski-Jones. It has 39p, and was published in 1979.
    Unfortunately there's no review of the book available anywhere, so we can't ensure that's the one. We weren't born in those years, so this is the closest we can get. Hope it helps!

    Elda & Ricardo Veyller.

  6. Liesl says:

    If no one come ups with an answer, go to http://www.chacha.com/

    You can ask them just about anything and they'll research it until they find and answer for you. I'm not sure it's free anymore, but I've heard you can get the answer to just about any question, including if you should get married or have a child, who starred in you favorite childhood movie or what kind of underwear to buy. I'll bet they can handle a long lost favorite book so fully described.

  7. A.B. Fenner says:

    Unfortunately, I don't know the book. Sounds like a fun one, though!

    Did anyone else click over to the BoyKrazy video? Wow, walk down memory lane! Also, I totally didn't remember that Uma Thurman was in that band! (Seriously, one of the singers is a dead ringer. It's bizarre.)

  8. Lynn says:

    I don't think this is it, but it brings to mind a children's series from Belgium written in French. The young girl's name is Martine. Her dog, Patapouf, and her cat, Moustache, are her loyal companions, as well as Jean, her older brother. One of the books is entitled 'La leçon de dessin" (The lesson in drawing). There are 59 titles that began in 1954, about one a year. A new one is scheduled for 2010. Hope that helps, but I can't guarantee it!

  9. Michelle says:

    Reminds me of Harold and the Purple Crayon or something I saw on Sesame Street.

  10. Suze says:

    I'm sorry, I don't know it. But the theme and story sounds like a foreign book translated into English. Good Luck

  11. Readerly Person says:

    I've got Nice Little Girls, by Elizabeth Levy. Is this it?

    – Rebecca

  12. Anonymous says:

    I'm Lauren's friend whose mystery this was. Rebecca, _Nice Little Girls_ is absolutely the right book, and I feel like a massive weight has been lifted from my shoulders! Thank you! I've been trying to figure this out for years at this point. (I have also come to realize that my memory of the plot was a little off.) I've already placed an order on Amazon and can't wait to force everyone I know to listen to me read it.

    Thank you, again!


  13. Readerly Person says:

    Neither, really – I'm just connected! I belong to a community on livejournal called "whatwasthatbook". Its sole purpose is to help readers find books they've partially forgotten (best idea ever), so when I read this post I immediately jumped over there. It took some time, but my fellow readers came through. Those people rock – I haven't seen them stumped yet.

    – Rebecca

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