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Napa student hooked on classic teen sleuth series "Hardy Boys"

Knox Van Emst of Napa is a huge fan of the Hardy Boys book series. So much so that he spend the pandemic reading every single Hardy Boys book -- all 190 of them. Take a look here.

Thwarting a gang of thugs plotting to steal a national treasure. Foiling a notorious jewel thief. Battling a band of thieves to recover a stolen Viking runestone.

Napa student Knox Van Emst “lived” it all during the COVID-19 pandemic — through the pages of classic teen mystery series: "The Hardy Boys".

The 11-year old spent the past months reading every single book in the collection. That’s 190 total if you’re counting.

“I like the mysteries,” said Knox. “There’s a lot of action, danger, excitement, and mystery,” in the Hardy Boys world.

Knox, a fifth-grader at Willow Elementary School, has always been surrounded by books, according to his father Brett Van Emst.

Before Knox could read on his own, “I read to him every night. That’s where we started,” said Brett.

Brett then found some old Hardy Boys books at a used bookshop, brought them home, and began reading them to his son.

“My plan was just to keep books coming into his room, hoping he’d find something that interested him,” said Brett.

Knox eventually learned to read, and his hobby took off during the pandemic and remote learning.

At that point, Knox was reading as much as one book a day, said Brett. And after finishing a few more Hardy Boys books, Knox decided to keep going.

“I want to read them all,” he told his dad.

And that’s exactly what he did.

It wasn’t all smooth sailing. As Knox crossed one Hardy Boys book after another off his list, it got harder and harder to find the remaining Hardy Boys books. After buying Hardy Boys books at local book stores and from the Friends of the Napa Library book sale, they began buying the next numbered books on his list wherever they could find them.

At one point Knox was down to his last remaining Hardy Boys books. But one story, Hardy Boys No. 155, or “The Hunt for Four Brothers,” proved elusive.

Brett finally caved and paid a premium price on eBay for the 1990s-era paperback.

“I had to,” he said. “We’d read 189 out of 190.” They couldn’t stop there.

What did Knox think of his last Hardy Boys book? Was “The Hunt for Four Brothers” a satisfying conclusion to his book reading quest?

“It was a good one,” said Knox. He gave the book 5 out of 5 stars.

In fact, he gives 5 stars to all of the Hardy Boys books. It’s his favorite series, Knox noted.

Even though he’s done with the series, he might not be done with Hardy Boys. When he grows up, he could become a video game programmer, said Knox. Maybe he could invent his own Hardy Boys computer game, for example where the player works with the Hardy Boys to solve a mystery.

“Something along those lines,” he said.

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You can reach reporter Jennifer Huffman at 256-2218 or jhuffman@napanews.com

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Business Editor

Jennifer Huffman is the business editor and a general assignment reporter for the Napa Valley Register. I cover a wide variety of topics for the newspaper. I've been with the Register since 2005.

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