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Marjorie in Command

August 2, 2007

A few weeks ago I found Marjorie in Command at a tiny used book store where all hardcovers were a dollar each and paperbacks were fifty cents. (I also got a paperback of Paul Murray Kendall’s Richard III, and that’s part of why I haven’t been updating lately — it figures that I would use the time not taken up by my history classes to read a history book.) It’s by Carolyn Wells, and although I would have been happier to find a Patty Fairfield book, this is pretty good, too.

The Marjorie series is aimed at a younger audience than the Patty series. Marjorie is about twelve, and her chief companions are her three siblings: King — short for Kingdon — is fourteen, Kitty is ten, and Rosy Posy — Rosamond, the baby — is five. King and Marjorie –variously called Mopsy, Midget, and Middy — are a pair of cut-ups, and although Kitty is sort of demure and well-behaved, she’s not above wrestling with her siblings, or pretending to be Brutus stabbing Caesar (the Maynard children think Julius Caesar is a great story).

And really, that’s the charm of these books. Carolyn Wells is rather good at making her characters actually seem like they’re having fun. I think it’s a shame that she devoted so much of her career to writing mystery novels featuring really gullible detectives.

This book begins as the Maynards’ parents are going away on a trip, leaving the children in the care of Miss Larkin, a spinster friend. Mr. and Mrs. Maynard are model parents — much more so than the young Maynards are model children — but thankfully they’re not much in evidence, even in the books where they aren’t on vacation. Usually they show up every once in a while to contribute to their kids’ games.

Miss Larkin isn’t a model anything. She’s not a clichéd strict old maid, but she really doesn’t know how to handle children, and is alternately indulgent and strict. She acts more like a child than the children do, sometimes, and the children seem to know it. They include her in some of their plans, but they know to be wary of their moods, and all in all, they get along with her pretty well.

And then Mr. and Mrs. Maynard come home and find both Miss Larkin and the children covered in mud. The end.

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