2016: 133.-138. (Mostly) Old-Fashioned YA Round-up

As I continue to blast through the December 2016 reads, I realized I read a bunch of old fashioned YA last month.  Who knows what got me started on it, but below find a review of a bunch of old fashioned girly books, and the new Potter play.

133. Jack and Jill, Louisa May Alcott

“'Clear the lulla!' was the general cry on a bright December afternoon, when all the boys and girls of Harmony Village were out enjoying the first good snow of the season.”

This is a pretty deep Lousia May Alcott cut - as far as I can tell, it’s not in even print by a normal publisher anymore (though I have a Puffin edition from the ‘90s).  And it’s no surprise the masses aren’t clamouring for this one - it’s both old fashioned and didactic, plus it has that classic old “headstrong girl is injured and learns to be lady-like” plot a la What Katy Did and Pollyana.  Here we have rich Jack Minot who is best friends with hoydenish Jill Pecq.  One day they take a dangerous sled ride.  His leg is broken, but her back is sprained - and she may never walk again? What will happen to the poor Pecq’s and headstrong Jill?  Well, SPOILER, just in case you never read a book before, she will learn patience and strength in her sufferings, and the rich family will take in the poor family and help them (more on that below), and in the end she will walk again but be a better person from the healing power of pain.  I mean, it is real bullshit.  Sexist bullshit, too - why are men never beatified through suffering?? I remembered having read this as a kid and not liking it, and now I really remember why.  Only for total total completists, or perhaps if you want something to get your dander up about 19th century nonsense.

134-135. The Five Little Peppers and How They Grew; The Five Little Peppers Midway, Margaret Sidney

“The little old kitche had quieted down from the bustle and confusion of midday, and now, with its afternoon manners on, presented a holiday aspect that, as the principal room in the brown house, it was eminently proper it should have.”

Speaking of 19th century nonsense, we have the Peppers.  They live in extreme povery in “the little brown house” in Holcombe, Massachusetts.  Their father is dead, Mamsie must take in sewing to support them, the oldest son Ben goes out to work, and Polly the oldest daughter must keep the house and watch the others - Joel, Davy, and little Phronsie (short of Sophorina, I believe).  Their poverty is a little mysterious to me - they have the house, but cannot afford white flour, or a working stove, or Christmas or anything - they are dirt poor.  But of course, they are cheerful and love each other, and through the beauty of their personalities, fall in with a rich young man who takes them in and his family adopts them.  And at the end, they turn out to be related after all! Except in the next book, no one mentions the relation thing so that a mean old aunt can sneer at the peasants the family has taken in.  I don’t know, I guess continuity hadn’t been invented in 1880.  

These books are total nonsense (evidently there are 11! I’ve only read two, and am tempted to go t to Project Gutenberg to see if I can read the rest for free - I am assuming Polly Pepper marries the rich young man in the end, for one), but they are delightful nonsense.  I read the crap out of this book when I was a kid (indeed my copy is missing a back cover), finding, as all kids do, old-fashioned poverty to charming, rather than miserable, and old fashioned morality (“My whockety!” is a swear) to be endearing.  Something about this one, though really just as preachy as Jack and Jill comes off as daffily fun.  The sequel isn’t quite as great, but still an easy read.

136.-137. The Blue Castle & Jane of Lantern Hill, L.M. Montgomery

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I re-read two Montgomery favorites as I was recovering.  Total comfort reads, and since I’ve already blogged about both (and my opinion hasn’t changed) I will direct you to:

Favorite Books: The Blue Castle

Jane of Lantern Hill

All I will add is that if you have any affection for Anne and you’ve somehow missed these, they are both delightful.  And both concern women who are oppressed by family but find the inner strength to stand up for themselves, which is a delightful topic (and sadly a bit of wish fulfillment on Montgomery’s part - her family sort of sucked). I’m being terse because I’m trying to actually finish the 2016 books by the end of January 2017, but I really do love both of these books.

138.  Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Rowling, John Tiffany & Jack Thorne

And now for something completely different.  Not old fashioned young ladies, and barely YA at all.  As you all know this is the script for the new Harry Potter play, and the themes are pretty adult.  I liked it.  Well, I liked the idea behind it - I liked what Rowling came up with.  I wasn’t too impressed with the writing itself - it may work theatrically, but when you read it you just realize that it’s not Rowling writing, which stinks.  Still the ideas behind it are interesting, and I think a plausible place as to where Harry would be as an adult.  Recommended for Potter fans - I mean, you can’t not know what happens!! And, as I said, I think it must be pretty amazing to see on stage.

© Carrie Dunsmore 2017