Phronsie Pepper; The Youngest of the Five Little PeppersJune 18, 2007
I’m completely confused by Margaret Sidney’s Five Little Peppers books. It’s not about the contents of the books — they’re fairly straightforward. But the number and order of the books has always been a bit jumbled, and now, after reading Phronsie Pepper; The Youngest of the “Five Little Peppers,” I’m baffled.
See, there’s Five Little Peppers and How They Grew, Five Little Peppers Midway, and Five Little Peppers Grown Up. That sounds like a straightforward trilogy, right? But then there’s Five Little Peppers Abroad, which seems to start exactly where Five Little Peppers Midway leaves off, and I know there’s one called The Five Little Peppers and Their Friends, and I’m pretty sure there’s one with Joel Pepper’s name in the title. And then, Margaret Sidney’s preface to Phronsie Pepper calls it the fourth and final Pepper book, which makes no sense. I mean, I guess she changed her mind, but she seemed pretty emphatic about this being the last book. Also, there are characters who seem to have a fair bit of history with the Peppers that I don’t remember from the first three books.
Maybe I’m just bothered by this because I’m still annoyed over Five Little Peppers Grown Up — mostly because Jasper’s proposal to Polly, which I’d been waiting for for ages, was so disappointing.
I continue to be annoyed with Jasper and Polly in this book, partially because they haven’t grown up or improved at all, and partly because they’ve named one of their children Elyot. I know it’s Jasper’s middle name, but still. Margaret Sidney has funny ideas about rich peoples’ names. Pickering Dodge and Alexia Rhys got married, which is nice, but then they named their son Algernon Rhys Dodge, which is awful, and Phronsie’s love interest is named Roslyn May. It reminds me of Anne of Green Gables — Anne’s earliest literary efforts are full of characters called Montmorency.
Phronsie actually has grown up a little, and she and Joel, who has become a minister, almost make this book’s existence worthwhile. Nothing, however, makes its being 450 pages okay, though, especially since so much of it is filler.
Basically, this is a story about how Mr. King, Jasper’s father, won’t let Phronsie marry this sculptor, Roslyn May, because he selfishly wants her to be his little girl forever. Eventually Roslyn falls ill in Rome, and Mr. King relents. He and Phronsie and Joel take the next boat to Europe, but the boat sets on fire, so it takes them a while to get there. Joel is very heroic — he works with the sailors for nine hours to try to put the fire out, and is the last person off the boat. But that plot takes up only twelve of the twenty-eight chapters. I wasn’t kidding when I said it was mostly filler.
In conclusion: Margaret Sidney ought to have quit while she was ahead.