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The Little Colonel Series: the first four books

December 22, 2007

So, it’s been a while, huh? But I plan on updating more often now.

It’s hard to know where to start, because I’ve read kind of a lot of stuff since I last updated regularly. Why don’t we start with The Little Colonel series, and how I never knew that it existed, or that it’s really awesome?

I think “The Little Colonel” probably means “Shirley Temple” to most people, but I haven’t seen the movie in years, and all I really remember is the bit with Bojangles dancing on the stairs, so I came to the books with few expectations.

The Little Colonel is sort of the basic children’s story, a shorter, girls’ version of Little Lord Fauntleroy minus some sophistication and plus a basis in fact. Apparently Annie Fellows Johnston actually knew a girl — Hattie Cochran — who, like Lloyd Sherman, shared the mannerisms of her one-armed Confederate veteran grandfather. You can read more about it at the Little Colonel website, but I wouldn’t. Knowing that most of the characters are thinly disguised portraits of people who later married the wrong people or committed suicide is kind of upsetting.

So, you know the drill: Colonel Lloyd has disinherited his daughter Elizabeth for marrying yankee Jack Sherman, and everyone’s miserable until five-year-old Lloyd makes friends with her grandfather and reunites everyone and they all live happily ever after in a big Kentucky mansion called Locust. The end. Then it gets good.

I figure the next book, The Giant Scissors, wasn’t really meant as part of the same series until later. It follows Joyce Ware, a western girl whose Aunt Kate takes her to spend a year in a small town in France, next door to an estate atop whose gates are fastened a giant pair of scissors. Aunt Kate makes up a fairy tale about them, and it’s kind of awesome. That’s one of the cool things about this series: the adults are always making up fairy tales that contain some kind of useful moral which the kids then sort of incorporate into their own personal philosophy. It sounds silly, and — okay — it is, but it’s really fun.

The third of the freestanding stories is Two Little Knights of Kentucky, which is about Malcolm and Keith MacIntyre, friends of Lloyd Sherman. At some point they get all excited about chivalry and their Aunt Allison gives them little enamel pins to wear as badges of knighthood or something and it’s really cute.

I think The Little Colonel’s House Party is where the series really starts. Lloyd has a house party consisting of three other girls: Joyce Ware, whose mother was a childhood friend of Elizabeth Sherman, Betty Lewis, who is Elizabeth’s goddaughter and also the child of an old friend, and Lloyd’s snotty New York cousin Eugenia. Betty is sweet and shy and Kind, Joyce is artistic and thoughtful, and Eugenia is a brat who ends up causing lots of trouble, but by the end of the book all four are good friends, with the souvenirs to prove it. These books delight my materialistic side: pretty much every time someone tells a fable or fairy tale, one of the kids ends up with a piece of jewelry to remind them of it. It’s kind of ridiculous.

There are, I don’t know, maybe about eight more books? You can find them all the the Little Colonel website. More friends, more fairy tales, more moral jewelry. I enjoyed them all.

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