Archive for the ‘lifelessons’ Category

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The Two Elsies and Elsie’s Kith and Kin

April 8, 2008

I haven’t been keeping up with writing about the Elsie books as I read them, but let’s forget about that and skip to book #11, The Two Elsies. The two Elsies in question are probably the original Elsie and her eldest daughter, but neither of them is particularly central to the story and several people have babies named Elsie at this point.

Anyway, a little background: in book #8, Elsie’s second daughter and third child, Violet, married Captain Raymond, a naval man and a widower with three children. Captain Raymond is away at sea much of the time, so Elsie and her father — he and his wife kind of moved in with Elsie after Mr. Travilla died in book #7 — say that the kids can come live with them (Violet is continuing to live at home, too). Max, the eldest, is kind of hasty and impulsive, but basically a good kid. Lulu has a bad temper that she has trouble controlling (in other words, she has a backbone, which means that she’s kind of alone in this series) but she is also scrupulously honest. Grace is a sickly but gentle little girl who soon becomes nearly as religious as Elsie was at her age. At this point, the books start to focus in on Lulu and her father, reworking the father daughter relationship that was so creepy in the earliest Elsie books, except that in this version, Lulu is pretty much always in the wrong, and also there’s a fair amount of corporal punishment, described in more detail than I wanted to read. Read the rest of this entry ?

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Deering of Deal

September 20, 2007

Deering of Deal, by Latta Griswold, is one of the most adorable books I’ve ever read, but I’m going to have a hard time talking about it, because I know I shouldn’t be devoting more time to Reggie Carroll than to Tony Deering, who is, after all, the main character.

Tony is a cheerful but sensitive southern boy, who, like all of the men in his family before him, has been sent north to attend a fictional boarding school called Deal. His father and grandfather, by the way, are named Victor and Basil, respectively. I mention this only because I think the names Basil, Victor and Anthony are sort of in harmony with each other in a way that pleases me.
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Moonfleet

May 20, 2007

Moonfleet is a sort of Robert Louis Stevenson-esque historical adventure novel. I don’t know that I really have much of an excuse for calling it RLS-esque except that it reminds me of Kidnapped and Catriona. There’s a similar friendship between a sometimes kind of idiotic young man and an older guy who is involved with something illegal but sympathetic. And, like David Balfour and Alan Breck, these two spend a while in hiding, with prices on their heads.

On the other hand, even David Balfour isn’t as annoyingly stupid as John Trenchard sometimes is. Read the rest of this entry ?

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Adrift in New York, or Tom and Florence Braving the World

March 11, 2007

Ah, Horatio Alger, Jr. If I have an area of expertise, he’s it. A few of his books were the beginning of what is now a pretty large collection of old children’s novels, and I bought my tenth Alger yesterday. It’s called Adrift in New York, and it’s exactly as ridiculous as I’ve come to expect Alger’s books to be.

You’ve probably heard of Alger in connection with the “Alger Myth”: the idea that anyone can make money and move up the social scale as long as they’re willing to work hard. I don’t like the Alger Myth. Or, at least, I know that it doesn’t really hold true in his books. My friend Sam expresses it much better in his description of Mark the Matchboy: through hard work and good luck, you can become the grandson of a rich man.

Adrift in New York
is something like that.

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