Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Two American Girl mysteries

I first encountered American Girl books when Amber was three and
Katie was a baby. We were at the Bangor Public Library. When Amber
added the first Addie book to the pile of picture books she'd chosen I
was skeptical. I thought toddlers required pictures on every page.
Amber insisted. I conceded.
That night as I was reading to Amber I was overcome with a wave
of tiredness. I finished the paragraph I was on and shut the book.
"Mom, how could you? At least get Addie out of the river," Amber
demanded. I was amazed that without the abundance of pictures she was
following along just fine.
As Amber and Katie grew up we spent a lot of our reading times
in the worlds of Addie, Samantha, Molly... Molly, I remember, was our
favorite. The girls, sadly, outgrew the books. I never did. One
Saturday, shelving at Orono Public Library, I saw two new Rebecca
mysteries and snapped them up. It was the literary equivalent of "You
had me at hello." Everything about these books--the front cover
pictures, the back cover blurbs, the perfect take along size--was
I read the books curled up on a sofa in the cozy home of my
friends, John and Shelley. The delicious aroma of soup simmering on
their stove helped lure me into the stories. It was an odor Rebecca
would have been very familiar with. I'm sure clever soup concocting
from odds and ends and butcher shop bones was a way her mom, just like
mine, made food resources stretch to feed a growing family.
The Rebecca books are set in New York City in the nineteen
teens. Our heroine is the fourth oldest in a family of seven. Twin
sisters, Sophie and Sadie, help with much of the household work.
Older brother Victor often worries the family with his escapades. But
he's little brother Benny's hero.
In A Bundle of Trouble, Rebecca's family gets new down stairs
neighbors: Morris and Naomi Brodsky and their daughter, Norah. They
have moved from a squalid tenement so Naomi can be cured of a serious
eye infection. Rebecca and her mom start helping with Norah so Naomi
can get some rest. One day, coming home from the park, Renecca
suspects that Rebecca and another baby girl have been switched. How
can she return the babies to their rightful families? What can she do
about Victor who seems to be falling in with a very bad crowd?
In Secrets at Camp Nokomis, Rebecca is getting out of New York
where an epidemic of polio is endangering young people to go to a free
fresh air camp. She hopes for new friends who will be as close as
sisters. Unfortunately things don't go as smoothly as she'd like.
And her bunkmate, Tina, may be hiding dangerous secrets.
Some people might criticize my decision to review American Girl
books. We all know there is this whole consumerist other side to the
company with those oh so expensive dolls and their outfits and
accessories. I take the stand I do because of the literary merit of
the books. The plots are solid. Historical aspects are well
researched. The heroines ate spunky, smart, resourceful,
my mind, all that one could ask for in role models for our daughters.
As my own girls can attest, it is easy enough to savor the reading
experience, be inspired by the related crafts books, and never buy the
more pricey merchandise.
On a personal note: I had a wonderful Christmas and New Years Eve. I
must be on Santa's nice list. I found time with family to be priceless.
A great big shout out goes out to the women's studies department at
the University of Maine and its wonderful, bold, empowered women.

Sent from my iPod

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