Friday, May 27, 2011

The Moffats - a good summer series

The first book in a series of four, The Moffats introduces Sylvie, Joe, Jane, and Rufus who live with their mother in the yellow house on New Dollar Street. Imagine their surprise and disappointment when the handyman comes and tacks up a "For Sale" sign on their house! Janey wonders, "Why? Why did it have to be their house. Because it was the best one, of course." 

The book is mainly episodic, giving it the feel of a collection of short stories, and yet it still maintains a loose connection between chapters. This gives the overall effect of a window into the "real life" of the Moffat family, recounting the adventures of each child and their unique ways of thinking. One story tells of how Jane is terrified of getting arrested by the chief of police and ends up hiding in the grocer's breadbox! And who should find her there but the chief himself! Of course, they become fast friends after that.

Another story recounts the Moffat's dance recital. Even though they are rather poor, the Moffat were able to take dancing lessons because Miss Chichester had no other way to pay Mrs. Moffat for the dresses she made. Sylvie was a born dancer, following instructions so well that Miss Chichester often had her help teach the rest of the class! Jane, well, she liked the idea of dancing, but somehow her legs never did quite what they should. And Joe! He insisted, "I think I feel worse going to dancing school than Miss Chichester would if I didn't go..." What would happen then, when he had to step in and do the Sailor's Hornpipe for the little boy who never showed up to the recital? 

The book ambles through the year, allowing the reader to truly feel like he is getting to know the characters as they go about their lives. Sometimes, the children are not so nice--like when they play a trick on their mean neighbor and scare him with a ghost in their attic. Or when Janey breaks the unspoken rule of "share and share alike" and spends her nickel all on herself instead of getting something that she can split four ways among her siblings. But of course, the charming part is that she feels absolutely terrible as she's eating her ice cream cone and vows that she'll never do such a selfish thing ever again. 

Once you pick up The Moffats, you'll just want to keep on reading about this quirky family. In this first book, you'll learn the most about Janey, her fantastic imagination, and her wonderful upside-down way of looking at the world. And Rufus of course, even though he's only six, gets into the biggest and messiest adventures! You can read more about him in Rufus M. which won a Newbery Honor award in 1944. The Moffat series makes classic, light reading, a perfect series to kick off the summer!

The Moffat books by Eleanor Estes: The Moffats (1941), The Middle Moffat (1942), Rufus M. (1943),  and get a peek of the Moffats when they're older in The Moffat Museum (1983). 

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