Friday, May 22, 2015

What I Read in December Part I . . .

What I Read in December Part I . . .

Marjorie's New Friend by Carolyn Wells -- Middle Grades Classic/Historical Fiction

The irrepressible Miss Marjorie Midget Mops Maynard is back for another adventure. This one picks up where the last left off with Christmas and continues to early March. While I love the Maynard family and their closeness, this book wasn't as charming as Marjorie's Busy Days. Her hijinks were less memorable and entertaining. There's also a strong sexist slant to the story at times, which in 1909 was becoming less OK. That was the year woman suffrage became a big issue again but it doesn't show in this novel. Marjorie's new friend is a spoiled, manipulative brat who learned from her spoiled, weak, manipulative mother how to get her own way. I didn't like her very much. 

Marjorie's in Command by Carolyn Wells -- Middle Grades Classic/Historical Fiction

When Mr. and Mrs. Maynard go on a trip, Marjorie and her siblings are left to the care of Miss Larkin, a middle-aged spinster who is not used to children. The children don't know what to make of Miss Larkin and she isn't sure what to do about their frolicking and teasing.

The story in this book was compelling enough to keep me reading later than I intended. It's less episodic than the first two books because of the Miss Larkin plot. I didn't know what to think about Miss Larkin. Sometimes she's fun and sometimes she's stuffy. I don't know why the Maynards would leave the children with a spinster in the first place but Miss Larkin proved to be a surprise for me. I felt some sympathy for occasionally and worried the children's "hi jinks" would upset her. There aren't too many "'Jinks" in this story. The children mean well and everything turns out all right. As with the other books, I enjoyed the detailed descriptions of childhood and life in turn-of-the-century New Jersey for an elite family. What ruined the book for me was the elitist attitudes of the adults. They come across as completely uncaring and rude towards a poor family who has lost everything. The solution to the problem even has an elitist slant. I know this was common for the period but it still really bothered me, especially since the children were so innocent and honest in their motive. It wasn't good of the adults to be so snobby. There is also a sexist slant to the novel. I wouldn't let the attitudes of the period stop you from enjoying the series though. They're fun and though not as timeless as Anne of Green Gables or Little Women, fans of those classics will enjoy this series.

The Google Books edition is a faithful scan of the original book. No errors whatsoever.  

Marjorie's Maytime  by Carolyn Wells -- Middle Grades Classic/Historical Fiction
The Maynards go touring in their new motor car. Marjorie gets up to hi jinks and they make some new friends. 

I really liked seeing Marjorie's hi jinks. She's so bad but so funny. She's as irrepressible as ever. I also liked seeing the difference between city life on Fifth Avenue vs. "country life." The Maynards are indulgent parents - probably more than most - but it was interesting to note the city kids' view of people who live outside the city. I just love their new friends who are more indulgent than the Maynard parents. What I didn't like were the dated racist depictions of gypsies and playing Indians. The section with gypsies is so improbable and stupid but it's integral to the plot. There's also a section on playing Indians which I skipped. These attitudes were common at the time and I think unfortunately prevent this series from being a timeless classic.

Marjorie at Seacoate  by Carolyn Wells -- Middle Grades Classic/Historical Fiction 
The Maynards go to the seaside for the summer. The children make new friends and form a new club but their fun is threatened by a jealous rival.

The description of their vacation reminds me of my childhood at the beach. They always manage to have fun wherever they go. Their new friends are boys, who I don't usually care for, but Marjorie is such a tomboy that she like the company of boys. Their inventive games and newspaper remind me a lot of Little Women. The introduction of Hester shows the Maynards to be just a bit too good to be believable. Hester is one crazy, messed up girl. She's downright crazy but she's more real than the Maynards. The Maynards have good hearts and I can't help but love them though. They're not perfect at any rate. There's another impossibly good girl introduced who makes the Maynards more balanced. I despise perfectly good children in novels.

The only section I didn't really like was when Marjorie overheard something that was SO obvious to me but she misunderstood and then took it upon herself to solve her problem. She's shown to be naive and trusting here when normally she's so outrageous. I didn't like that side of her. I also found that section a bit elitist.

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