Posts Tagged ‘childrens’

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The Cuckoo Clock

October 16, 2017

The Cuckoo Clock is another Mrs. Molesworth, and my first experience with her more fanciful stories. I gather that this is one of her most famous books, but I’m not that into it.

The protagonist is Griselda, a young girl who has been sent by her family in India to live with two elderly aunts. The house is cool, and her aunts are kind, but it’s a cold and dreary winter and she has no one to play with. Then she starts talking to a cuckoo that lives in a cuckoo clock that belonged to her grandmother. The cuckoo is probably really alive — not just in a dream, or her imagination — and he takes her on a series of adventures to places that don’t exist, like a version of China populated by dolls. Griselda is a little inclined to grumble, and the cuckoo is condescending, but they do seem sort of fond of each other.

Honestly, in spite of all the things that happen to Griselda, it feels kind of mundane. She goes places and looks at stuff, but nothing really happens, and she doesn’t talk to anyone. Interaction may be why the real world bits are more fun than the imaginary stuff, even though not much happens in the real world, either.

It’s kind of weird, how I’ve immediately gone from avoiding Mrs. Molesworth to cutting her a lot of slack, but that seems to be what’s happening. I don’t really care about this book, but I didn’t not like it, and even when I don’t like her, I think she’s really good.

 

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My New Home

October 13, 2017

My second Mrs. Molesworth was My New Home, which was nice, but never really felt like it got started. The narrative conceit (a young girl telling the story of her own life) is good in theory, but in practice the entire book feels like exposition.

Helena Wingfield (she thinks her middle names are also important, but I do not) was orphaned at a very young age and lives with her grandmother. She doesn’t really interact with other kids, until a nice family nearby starts sending their kids over to learn French from Mrs. Wingfield. Which would be fun to read about, if Mrs. Molesworth wasn’t in full-on tell-don’t-show mode.

The first person narration isn’t the problem. First person usually makes things more immediate, not more distant. An excess of realism might be part of the problem: this could in fact be how a girl in her early teens would tell the story of her childhood, but that doesn’t make it a good way to tell a fictional child’s story. An excess of foreshadowing, plus immediately stopping when you reach the foreshadowed events, is definitely a problem. But you know what? I’m not mad at it. I just think Mrs. Molesworth was capable of writing a version of this book I would have enjoyed much more.

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Cottage on the Curve

June 26, 2017

I’m unenthusiastic about Mary Lamers’ Cottage on the Curve, but I can’t figure out what’s wrong with it.

There’s a family, and they’re a nice family. They live in Wisconsin, and they have a summer cottage not far out of their town. There’s a mom and a dad and four kids, and they’re good kids. Janie, 13, gets what seems like an unfair share of the responsibility for good behavior. Billy, 12, has a round face. James, 10, eats a lot, and maybe likes books? Davey, 6, has a pet monkey.

The kids go swimming, and weed the garden, and there’s a 4th of July party and James falls off the roof. There’s some theoretically exciting stuff with an elderly hermit and a fire. Everyone collects stamps and also pets. The illustrations are nice, like an amateurish Pelagie Doane.

Guys. I was super, super bored.

Maybe it’s just that this is one of those kids’ books that hold nothing for adults. Maybe I would have liked it as a kid. I think I would have liked it more than I do now, anyway. Maybe it’s just not doing anything to my brain. I bet people who had an upbringing anything like the one in this book would get something out of it, but for me, it’s got to be one of the least challenging books I’ve ever read.

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The Vanderlyn Silhouette

July 9, 2016

I seem to be incapable of writing a review of Flaming Youth, so here’s another by Augusta Huiell Seaman. The Curious Affair at Heron Shoals was my favorite of her books so far, so to go next to The Vanderlyn Silhouette was a little disappointing. This one is a proper historical novel, set around 1820 in lower Manhattan. Varick and Charlton Streets are pretty far downtown now, but back then the area was far enough north that it wasn’t in the city at all. 13-year-old Dosia Watkins, the central character, lives on the grounds of Richmond Hill, an estate occupied at various times by some pretty important historical figures, including Aaron Burr, who lived there with his daughter. By the time this story starts, it’s passed into the hands of John Jacob Astor, who rents it out as a summer home. Dosia’s grandfather is the caretaker and her mother is the housekeeper. Read the rest of this entry ?

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Catching up, 2/5/16

February 5, 2016

It’s time for another clearing-out of things I’ve read recently, so I can write at greater length about one or two in particular.

The Phantom Treasure, by Harriet Pyne Grove

This story of an orphan discovering her long-lost family and moving into their home, which is historical and filled with secret passages and things, ought to be great. I just wish it had been written by Margaret Sutton or Augusta Huiell Seaman or someone. Jannet, the main character, gets fried chicken mailed to her at boarding school. She and a friend try on historical costumes in the attic. She finds a stash of notes written by her ancestors when they were being forced to host British soldiers during the Revolutionary War. I just wish the author had felt some kind of enthusiasm about any of those things. But since she didn’t, I couldn’t either.

Carolyn of the Corners, by Ruth Belmore Endicott

Run of the mill story about an orphan softening the heart of a cranky relative, by an author who has definitely read Pollyanna and Little Lord Fauntleroy. Probably other versions of the same trope, too, but those are the ones I’m sure about.

A Poor Wise Man, by Mary Roberts Rinehart

I’ve read this one before, but only once, probably because I’d already sort of read it as V.V.’s Eyes and The Clarion. Still, it’s Rinehart, and if you want to read a book about a rich girl in a growing city falling in love with an idealistic young social reformer, this one’s pretty good. Few authors understand better than Rinehart how attractive it is when a character combines strong emotion with massive amounts of restraint.

This is fun, this catching up thing. It’s better to write a bit about a bunch of books than to sit around feeling guilty about not writing about them, or to write about them at length and then never bother to type up the review, both of which are things I’ve been doing lately.

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Six Girls and Bob

March 19, 2015

I’ve been having a hard time putting together a review of Marion Ames Taggart’s Six Girls and Bob, and I’m not really sure why. It might be because it hasn’t finished growing on me yet.

This is one of those books where some siblings have fallen on at least moderately hard times and have to keep house on a budget. Books like this are sort of a cornerstone of children’s literature, right? The trope covers everything from Little Women to The Boxcar Children. And this is a pretty nice example of it. Read the rest of this entry ?

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The Turned-About Girls

July 21, 2014

Cathlin recently recommended The Turned-About Girls, by Beulah Marie Dix, and it was already sort of in the back of my head, because someone else — Mel? — was reading it recently. And I’ve been reading a whole string of things trying to avoid reading any more of Bulldog Drummond, so I started it almost immediately. And it’s really, really good. Read the rest of this entry ?