Tween Queen Roberts chats with Sheigh Crabtree

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Relentless reports of celebrity decadence and dysfunction associated with reigning “It” girls Lindsay, Paris and Britney provide a dark backdrop for the as-yet untarnished Emma Roberts.

The star of “Nancy Drew” was poised and graceful as she walked into Paddington’s Tea Room in Beverly Hills last month. She handed her manager-publicist David Sweeney her quilted Chanel purse, and slid onto a pillowy damask couch, then dove into talking about playing one of America’s most adored literary heroines.

“Nancy is like every mother’s dream child,” Roberts said. “She really knows what’s right and wrong and she abides by her own set of morals and values. I think it’s realistic, but Nancy takes it to an extreme, where I don’t think any kid is really like that, I’ll be honest.”

Roberts’ schedulers had squeezed her interview in between a fitting with red carpet stylists the Maude Girls (who talked the 16-year old into wearing a pair of on-trend high-waist Dittos jeans with a ruffled polka-dot blouse for an upcoming event), and a public reading from the beloved mystery series for a group of young girls at a nearby Barnes & Noble.

Reading, as it turned out, is a lynchpin of the “Nancy Drew” marketing campaign. In case you missed it, Roberts shared a summer reading media relations event with first lady Laura Bush at a Washington, D.C. all-girls middle school earlier this month.

“I just think Nancy’s a really good role model for kids and there aren’t a lot of role models out there, especially characters like that to look up to,” Roberts said. “Even when she doesn’t do the right thing, it’s still not bad or harmful to anyone.”

Roberts also went out on a two-week 10-city promotional tour where she read section’s of classic girl sleuth mysteries to curious children and nostalgic adults, many of whom went to school before the terms “queen bees” and “wannabes” entered popular parlance.

“I think girls like movies like ‘Mean Girls,’ but we really shouldn’t want to be mean girls,” Roberts said of the 2004 film that parodied high school girl culture and made a film star of Lindsay Lohan.

“I read magazines and hear stories about actual mean girls at school. It’s sad,” Roberts said, who is also a concerned older sister.

“Middle school and high school are supposed to be fun. Kids shouldn’t have to deal with people giving them a hard time for no good reason. There are always going to be mean girls — you’re not going to get rid of them. Nancy will just show kids a different perspective.”

Roberts also admires Nancy Drew’s sartorial and romantic choices in the new film.

“She learns a lot, she’s really smart, fashionable and she shows that girls don’t have to play stupid to get the boy.”

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Sheigh Crabtree

Sheigh Crabtree is an entertainment reporter at the Los Angeles Times. Previously, she was the new media editor, weekly cinema technology columnist and daily film reporter at The Hollywood Reporter.