Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Going Steady (1950)

Going Steady
Anne Emery
1950

Sally Burnaby's a 17-year-old whose long summer after high school graduation is a mixture of the delights of having a steady boyfriend and the frustrations of being almost but not quite an adult. Despite the dated nature of the material - did that world ever exist, even in 1950? - and the way the author's evasion of certain topics makes her heroine look a bit dim at times, it's a more honest examination of being female, young and (inescapably) naive than most of the current crop of cutting-edge problem novels.

At the book's start, Sally appears to be just a cute teenager. She's completely absorbed with her boyfriend, Scotty, and restless with being more than a child and less than an adult in a busy family. She's set to attend college in the fall, but she grows increasingly aggravated by her own sense of inadequacy as the summer progresses. Scotty, for all his good qualities, possesses that typically male trait of overweening confidence, and Sally grows anxious to gain his approval. She's indifferent to tennis and diving, but struggles to get better at both because he excels at them and simply expects her to want to improve. She can drive a modern reader insane with this, and with the way she hesitates to even share a difference of opinion. But has this really changed? Don't many girls still fall into line with male opinion, become caught up in trying to 'live up' to male expectations even in subjects and fields that don't interest them? A more frustrating anarchronism is the way Sally's parents agonize over how the relationship will impact Scotty. I do not like this behavior, having had a similar conversation once with a brother who implored me not to 'hurt' a boyfriend. Boy-boy loyalty apparently trumps blood ties.

Apart from her romance, Sally's other major concern in this summer is her position in her family, and how that's changing. Aware suddenly that all her friends have summer jobs, she realizes belatedly that maybe she's expected to work too. When she does get a job, she hates it, does it poorly, and realizes belatedly that she was wrong to approach it with such slipshod indifference. And she spends her first paycheck on a frivolous item instead of contributing to the family finances or buying a needed coat. These are somewhat old-fashioned ideas; I wonder how many middle-class kids really feel pressured to help support themselves at 17 today - but one thing is timeless. Sally feels that all her bad decisions are irrevocable, that she just keeps digging herself in deeper without remedy. She's haunted by a steadily worsening sense of having repeatedly failed to understand or figure out the right thing, whether it be with Scotty or her job or her family. What she thought would be a beautiful summer with her steady boyfriend turns into a long, hard season of growing up, and by the end of it, both she and Scotty are panicking, so frustrated by their family woes and personal confusion that they agree to take a leap into a different life. But is marriage at 17 really what Sally wants?

The terms of 'going steady' are utterly outdated and adorable and largely alien to anyone born after 1940. Sally's observations of her coworker Carol, a 26-year-old who's desperate to find a husband and escape drudge work, are painfully realistic, even in the 21st century. Go to any library and choose 3 books with pastel covers, and they'll all be chick lit with Carol as the heroine. The only difference will be the modern format's fantasist insistence that most Carols are actually successful career women with expensive shoe collections. Sally's friend Millie, on the other hand, probably doesn't exist anymore. Sudden pregnancy usually derails modern youth engagements, it doesn't result in shotgun
marriages.







Author Bio

1907-1987
Anne Eleanor McGuigan was the eldest of five children with a father who was a professor. She graduated from Northwestern University in 1928, spent a year travelling with her family, and then began teaching. She married John Emery in 1933, and had five children. The Illinois town of Evanston appears to be the model for Sherwood; she lived in Evanston most of her life.

Other Books
About the Burnabys
Senior Year - about Sally
Going Steady - about Sally
High Note, Low Note
Campus Melody

Dinny Gordon Series:
Dinny Gordon, Freshman
Dinny Gordon, Sophomore
Dinny Gordon, Junior
Dinny Gordon, Senior

Jane Ellison 4-H
County Fair
Hickory Hill
Sweet Sixteen

Pat Marlowe
First Love True Love
First Orchid for Pat
First Love Farewell

Sue Morgan
The Popular Crowd
The Losing Game

Other Books
Scarlet Royal
Vagabond Summer
That Archer Girl
Married on Wednesday
A Dream to Touch
Tradition
Bright Horizons
Mountain Laurel
Jennie Lee, Patriot
American Friend: Herbert Hoover
Mystery of the Opal Ring
Danger in a Smiling Mask
Carey's Fortune
The Sky Is Falling
Free Not to Love
Stepfamily

Spy books
A Spy in Old Philadelphia
A Spy in Old Detroit
A Spy in Old New Orleans
A Spy in Old West Point


Links
Image Cascade Publishing

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Meet The Malones


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Lenora Mattingly Weber
1943, Thomas Y. Crowell Company

Mary Fred had just bought a horse. He was black and his name was Mr. Chips and Mary Fred was riding him home. The January wind had the moist breath of snow as it rippled the bridle reins, flapped the green scarf over Mary Fred's unruly dark hair, tugged at the end knotted under her tanned, squarish chin. She thought, "I've bought a horse." The thought could still startle her. For certainly she had not had the slightest intention of buying a horse with the money which had been sent her to buy a formal for the spring prom at school.

With this impulsive beginning we are introduced to 16-year-old Mary Fred Malone, the eldest daughter currently in residence at the ramshackle Malone house in Denver. Her widower father, Martie, is a columnist more involved in the war news than his family, leaving Mary Fred to organize the affairs of 15-year-old Johnny and 13-year-old Beany. When Martie trots off to cover the war news from Hawaii, Mary Fred decides to forgo the services of a housekeeper and split the salary between the siblings, who each have expenses: Mary Fred's upkeep of Mr. Chips, Johnny's new typewriter and Beany's remodeled bedroom. Things don't go smoothly, especially when their 19-year-old eldest sister, Elizabeth, returns home unexpectedly and sickly from a troubled pregnancy. But the two biggest cogs in the wheel of domestic harmony are Mary Fred's romance with high school hero Dike Williams (yes, I know) and the interfering kindness of their chic Philadelphia aunt.

A well-written, warm book which hits all the normal marks for books of this kind. A dead mother, a distracted father who has an intellectual yet underpaid job, a heroine who yearns to break free from drudgery but never will because she's so mentally enslaved, and a moral which rewards her slavish devotion to everyone but herself. All the males in her life spend their free time (which is plentiful, despite the fact they are forever held up as paragons of useful work) staring disapprovingly at anything she does which might be interpreted as, you know, selfish, and endlessly droning on about duty and how she'd be much happier supervising an impromptu Christmas play with pox-stricken 7-year-olds than skiing with a football hero.

I don't feel too bad for Mary Fred, though - she participates in other unsavory traditions of this breed of book. With the rest of her family, she casually scorns her neighbor, Mrs. Adams, who doesn't share the Malones's lively, warm, messy sense of what's important; Mary Fred loves to help Martie cater to a drunken old colleague, but she's indifferent and rude to the poor woman, who clearly hates living next door to a pack of obnoxious kids and their vicious dog.

It is a WWII book: Father said, looking around the table, "The fight's getting tougher. That means tougher on all of us." He wouldn't say more than that. But they knew he meant that they must give more of themselves, their work, their money. "Yes, we know," each one nodded soberly.

Yes, all right, it's war. And not just war, but THE war, the war against pure evil. But - I suspect that Martie Malone would have been like this anyway; he strikes me as a pain in the ass. He doesn't give up much. He clearly adores going off to Hawaii for work, he follows up this little lecture by lighting up his pipe, and he never seems to take a sabbatical from hectoring his womenfolk. Elizabeth, earlier, had dragged herself in off the prairie after giving birth in a shack, having been quelled by the menfolk into thinking:

"In times like these, we agreed, everyone has his own burden, and no one should add his. Don has his; Father has his; and this was mine."

I am agog to find out how this works out in divorce court; does he get custody of his war experiences while she retains full control of the children?

Other Editions










Other Books
Beany Malone
Leave It To Beany
Beany And the Beckoning Road
Beany Has A Secret Life
Make A Wish For Me
Happy Birthday, Dear Beany
The More The Merrier
A Bright Star Falls
Welcome, Stranger
Pick A New Dream
Tarry Awhile
Come Back, Wherever You Are
Something Borrowed, Something Blue
Don't Call Me Katie Rose
The Winds Of March
A New And Different Summer


Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Season Of Love (short stories)

Season Of Love

Sylvie Schuman, il. William K. Plummer (jacket)

1961, Franklin Watts, Inc.


A short story collection divided into seasons. Very readable and likable, with a generally positive tone and upbeat resolution.


Winter

In "Second Love," Linda yearns after the girl-blind boy next door for years, only to see his first love be a glamorous newcomer.


In "A Living Doll," the crusading Marianna is impatient with her mother, who prefers to donate her hand-crafted dolls to a charity auction rather than show up at a fundraiser, but gains a glimmer of understanding when her boyfriend grows impatient with the stand she's taken on a malicious rumor.


In "Sister Act," Joan is terrified that her natural born flirt sister will snatch away a boy she's fallen for.


In "Won't Somebody Notice Me," Barbara discovers her little sister's value through the eyes of a boy she wants to impress.



Spring

In "End Of A Season" Margaret's happy security is threatened when her father grows ill and decides to sell their large family home; at the same time, she becomes aware that her heart doesn't belong to her boyfriend, now in college, but to herself.


In "The Shy One," Janey runs off to her uncle's for comfort when she simply can't stand being around her confident sister Joan one more moment.


Summer

In "Her Name In Lights," Linda chases stardom after seeing an old friend end up a movie star. But does she really want to put in the time and effort?


In "A Different Sort Of Girl," Jenny's first real relationship monopolizes her life, including the hobby she shares with her father - refinishing old furniture.


In "People Don't Live On Lakes," Terry is frustrated with her own dislike of her first real job - and tired of explaining to people that she does want to work, it's just that...


Autumn

In "Sweet Lorraine," Lorraine is estatic that her summer romance with the enigmatic, older Mike isn't over - then a little tired of dating an older guy.


In "A Time To Love," Joan's sudden popularity make her neglect an old friend and her family.


In "A Girl Of Spirit," Trudy visits her big brother at college and, away from their middle-class suburban hometown, is torn between the expectations of her parents and her own desires to be a doctor.


In "One You Love," Jennifer loses her summer romance and takes comfort in the experience of a friend, who recently became engaged after being desolate over another boy.



Vanished Worlds

The author was the editor for the teen magazines where these were originally published: Ingenue Magazine, Deb, and Co-Ed. Three words that have largely passed from use.


Other Books

For Girls Only

The Ingenue Date Book

Saturday, November 21, 2009

The Country Cousin


The Country Cousin

Betty Cavanna, il. Joseph Cellini (cover)

1967, William Morrow and Company


"You have this body in a raw silk right now," Eddie said of a sample he called a "very strong dress," apparently meaning it had been especially successful in the summer line. "Now we're doing it in a light-weight wool."


17-year-old Mindy Hubbard is disconsalate on her brother's wedding day. Jack, at 22, has always been her buddy and her shining star. Now, watching him move off into a new life, she's aware that it's past time she made her own mark. But how, stuck as she is on her family's beautiful but remote Berks County, PA farm?


The answer comes when a sympathetic cousin, Alix Moore, asks her to come stay and work at her dress shop, The Country Cousin, on Philadelphia's Main Line. Mindy, aware she's a little overweight, goes on a diet and sets in to learn the dress shop business. Through her mistakes and trips to New York City's garment district, Mindy learns quite a bit about the business of selling clothes, but it's through Bob, the friendly son of a dressmaker, that she realizes what she wants to do - design. He's also the first person to drop the name Parson's, and give the recent high school graduate an idea of where she'd like to further her education.


On the romance front, the newly svelte Mindy dates a bored but handsome Peter Knox, the son of a wealthy Main Line family who resents the idea of anything changing his beloved foxhunting region.


A dark, remarkably handsome boy with imperious eyebrows and the golden bloom of an early summer tan. Peter seemed aware that most girls thought him attractive, so he made no special effort to be charming, behaving correctly out of habit but barely concealing a deep-rooted ennui.


Mindy, while wistful over his good looks, quickly learns he's a jerk, but takes some convincing that shaggy-haired, bespectacled Dana is the right choice.


And here you have a perfect meeting of the old and new - the sixties hair and pseudo-intellectual glasses are overtaking the perfect physical specimen. Cavanna, you must admit, was game to change with the times. In her older books, Mindy would have wrinkled her nose at shaggy and gone tripping after Peter.


Minor quibbles - Mindy's unnervingly amiable at being told she's too fat by her cousin, and there's a feeble attempt to conceal the obvious nepotism of Alix just happening to choose her family member out of all the store's staff to go to Paris with her. If it's about family, just admit it, already.


About the Author

Cavanna grew up in southern New Jersey, attended Rutgers and worked for the Westminster Press in Philadelphia. The store in this book really did exist; The Country Cousin was a dress shop in Bryn Mawr and Strafford, PA, owned by Dorothy Lewis Lummis. The Bryn Mawr location closed down around 1996, according to the Tredyffrin Easttown Historical Society History Quarterly Digital Archives.


Other Books

Accent On April

Almost Like Sisters

Angel On Skis

The Boy Next Door

A Breath Of Fresh Air

Fancy Free

Jenny Kimura

Mystery At Love's Creek

The Scarlet Sail

Passport To Romance

Stars In Her Eyes

A Time For Tenderness


Fashion note

The brand John Meyer is mentioned several times. This was a women's wear company based in Norwich, CT, and one of the places Perry Ellis worked.


Links

Merion Cricket Club (site of wedding reception)

Photo, exterior, Merion Cricket Club (clearly, the bride's family was not poor)

Parson's

Versailles

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Beany Malone (1948)

Beany Malone

Lenora Mattingly Weber

1948, Thomas Y. Crowell Company


The Second World War is finally over, but the Malone family is still struggling. Eldest daughter Elizabeth is awaiting the return of soldier husband Don while raising their now 3-year-old son. Their father, Martie Malone, is still recovering from the near-fatal bout of pneumonia which he survived only because Mary Fred missed a year of high school to nurse him. Johnny is racing time with old newspaperman Emerson Worth write a history of Denver. And 16-year-old Catherine Cecilia or Beany is hopelessly in love with Norbett Rhodes, a moody senior who has a history of hopeless adoration for Mary Fred.


This is Beany's story. Martie goes off to recuperate further, leaving the entire clan in her hands, a less-than-responsible but typical thing for Denver's most self-righteous crusading columnist to do. Before he goes, though, he triumphantly carries out a campaign against Norbett's guardian, the city's safety manager, for not enforcing traffic laws. By the time he's done, Norbett has sworn vengeance against the entire family, a vividly unpleasant problem for lovestruck Beany - and possibly for the complicated Norbett, whose guardians are not the warmest or most loving of people.


Beany: "You wouldn't feel right if you didn't have an excuse for hating the Malones."

Norbett: "I'd hate you whether I had an excuse or not, Beany. Because you're everything that I'm not. You like people - and everyone likes you. You're like that breakfast food on the radio - you're strengthened from the inside."


She, meanwhile, has come under the influence of a new friend's mother. Faye Maffley looks and acts more like her daughter's sister than her mother, and says that she's stayed so young and happy by not getting involved in unpleasantness. Beany, constantly harassed by unpleasantness like an old drunk reporter bunking on the sofa or the pain of losing foster kids back to their real parents, decides that from now on the Malones will look out for themselves first and not stick their necks out for others.


And she'd see that the other Malones didn't lay themselves open to disappointment and hurt.


This is, of course, not possible. Beany learns how impossible - and undesirable - it would be to change this aspect of her family, and gets her guy.


About the Author

1895-1971


The Beany Malone books

Meet The Malones

Beany Malone

Leave It To Beany

Beany and the Beckoning Road

Beany Has a Secret Life

Make a Wish for Me

Happy Birthday, Dear Beany

The More the Merrier

A Bright Star Falls

Welcome Stranger

Pick a New Dream

Tarry Awhile

Something Borrowed, Something Blue

Come Back, Wherever You Are


The Belford books

Don't Call Me Katie Rose
The Winds of March
A New and Different Summer
I Met a Boy I Used to Know
Angel in Heavy Shoes
How Long Is Always
Hello My Love, Goodbye
Sometimes a Stranger


Stand Alone books

My True Love Waits

Happy Landing

Sing For Your Supper

Nonie: An Autobiography

Wind On The Prairie

The Gypsy Bridle

Podgy And Sally: Co-eds

A Wish In The Dark

Mr. Gold And Her Neighborhood House

Rocking Chair Ranch

Riding High
My True Love Waits
For Goodness Sake! - cookbook
Beany Malone Cookbook - cookbook


Links

New editions available through Image Cascade

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Healing Water (2008)

On October 11, 2009, the long process by which the Catholic Church mulls declaring a person a saint culminated in the canonization of Father Damien, famous as the 'leper priest' of Hawaii. His feast day will be May 10. His story is part of a very good new young adult novel whose young protagonist is a 19th century boy diagnosed with what is now called Hansen's disease and sent off to exile on the isolated colony of Molokai.




Healing Water

Joyce Moyer Hostetter
2008, Calkins Creek

"You're as good as dead already. And you are, too!" I shouted to a little girl with a thin face and wide eyes. I tried not to notice that she looked like my sister. "And you and you and you!" I pointed to anyone who dared to stare at me. "You're all going to die - all of you. Your grave is waiting on Moloka'i!"

If 13-year-old Pia is angry, he has good reason. The year is 1869, and the fatherless young Hawaiian has been diagnosed with leprosy, the dreaded disfiguring disease with (then) no cure, and sent to the new leper colony on Molokai'i. On a barren, lawless penninsula cut off from the rest of the island by massive sea cliffs too formidable for an ailing population to scale, Pia and his fellow sufferers are abandoned, save for a token police force and shipments of supplies which never come close to providing for all the unwilling inhabitants.

Pia, mourning the separation from his mother, sisters and 'ohana (extended family), is also embittered by a more personal betrayal. Kamaka, the young man who has been Pia's best friend, surrogate older brother and father, the person he looked up to and emulated all his life, fled from him even before the government shipped Pia away to Molokai'i. Haunted by memories of a childhood encounter with a leper, Kamaka ran rather than visit Pia in the hospital, or join the rest of the family to bid him aloha at the dock when he's forced to leave Honolulu for the last time.

Kamaka was like the steamer that dumped me here and then brought supplies to me. He was like Boki, who rescued me and then made me his slave. I hated all of them. But I kept wondering - how could I survive without them?


Angry and fighting to survive his first weeks in the colony, Pia becomes involved with the criminal Boki, a relationship which brands him a thief and an outcast even among this community of outcasts. Pia's only affection is for the little girl Maka Nui, who reminds him of his sister, and the elderly woman Keona. A few years later, a pair of new arrivals change Pia's world - Kamaka, who's unafflicted but accompanying his afflicted wife, and a 33-year-old Catholic priest named Damien. Kamaka, sincerely grieving his actions, patiently tries to persuade his old friend to give him another chance, while the assertive new priest sets to work rehabilitating the colony.

The book is haunting. On his first day on Molokai, Pia stumbles across a wild pig rooting in a shallow grave, and realizes with horror that the animal is consuming the remains of a leper. The reality of their shortened lives and the general lack of community in the colony means that Pia is revisited often by the question of his own death, and what will happen to his body in a place where there is no proper system to bury the dead. On Damien's first day on Molokai, he bullies Pia into helping him bury a dead man; seeing the man's disfigured, decayed form, he breaks down, leaving Pia with the impression that for the first time, someone cares about the hapless inhabitants of this de facto prison. And Damien proves this on a more personal level, caring for Pia's neglected feet. Leprosy causes nerve damage, and throughout the book Pia increasingly loses sensation in his feet. This loss of the ability to feel pain is a practical issue - infection sets in when patients fail to notice or care for small injuries, resulting in the disfigurement popularly associated with the disease - but Hostetter uses it to echo Pia's desire to stop feeling anything emotionally as well.

The questions of anger, forgiveness and their role in a good v. a bad life are handled well. Kamaka earns his forgiveness, and Pia witnesses, without neccessarily participating in, the unearned forgiveness dispensed by Damien. Pia is a strong character with a distinctive, believable voice, and there is great consistency to his actions. The plot is neat and collected, showing good control over the ending. One point that seemed to get away is the young girl Piolani, who seems for a time to be a romantic interest but who fades out of the picture.

About the Author
Author website
Author blog

Other Books
Blue
Comfort

Molokai
Visit Molokai website
National Park Service - Kalauppa
Photos of Molokai

Father Damien links
Catholic News story
Statue in the Capitol, Washington, D.C.

Movies
Molokai: The Story of Father Damien (1999)
Damien (1978)
Damiaan (1986) (TV) (Belgian)
Father Damien: The Leper Priest (1980) (TV)
An Uncommon Kindness

News
St. Augustine Catholic Church in Waikiki plans to build Damien museum
Belgian and Canadian film crews work on documentaries on Damien

Leprosy/Hansen's Disease
1-2 million people are still affected by Hansen's today, though it is treatable.

Links
The World Health Organization - Leprosy Today
Wiki
Centers For Disease Control - Leprosy
Evidence that leprosy existed 4,000 years ago

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Center Line (1984)




Joyce Sweeney, il. (cover)
1984, Laurel-Leaf Books, Delacorte, Dell Publishing

"I've seen all of you changing because of what he's been doing to us. Rick's getting sullen, Steven's a coward, Mark laughs at things that aren't funny, like he's losing touch with reality. You were getting to the point where you blamed yourself for everything that happened. And me..." Shawn hesitated, took a drink of coffee. "I think I was starting to be like him."

The five Cunningan boys lost their mother to a car accident when they were small; their dad is a drunken jerk who beats them when he can get off the couch. Now it's the final days of the summer before Shawn, the eldest at 18, goes off to college. But seeing one of his brothers get beaten up yet again drives Shawn to a decision; instead of him escaping legitimately to college and leaving the others behind, he'll skip college and take his brothers on the road. They steal their dad's car and run, four minor runaways and one technical adult in a stolen car.

A prolonged character study of five very different brothers, and their relationships as they try to make their way in the world together while avoiding the notice of the authorities. The stress of their situation brings out the best and worst of all their personalities - Shawn's leadership and bullying, Steven's warmth and fearfulness, Chris's morality and blind loyalty, Rick's cleverness and amorality, and Mark's courage and immaturity.

Shawn was the leader and had all the ideas, and Chris's job was to back him up, to second the motion, to quell doubts in the ranks. Shawn depended on him for that.

Shawn and Chris have always had a particular friendship; the tall, confident eldest looks out for his somehow vulnerable younger brother, whose religious leanings are a family joke but whose loyalty is a balm to Shawn compared with the cynical testing of the other siblings.

Steven is a loner by nature, but he considers his brothers his anchors. The true loner of the family is Rick, who only came along on this little venture because the alternative was being alone with their dad. He's just biding his time until he gets the chance to run off from the rest, go to a big city and take care of himself. Mark is the blindly faithful youngest, doglike in his devotion to Shawn. But as their journey to Florida develops complications, even Chris and Mark question their leader. And Mark, who questioned him all along, ignites a battle that draws police attention.

A classic problem novel set-up, complete with abusive parent, but it manages to be more interesting than most.

About the Author
Author website
Interesting bio info here

According to this website, Center Line was inspired by something Sweeney read about the Beatles as young men in Germany, alone and forced to look out for each other. Her first novel, it was published after winning Delacorte's first competition for first YA novels.

Other Editions










Also by Author
The Guardian
Headlock
Takedown
Waiting For June
Players
The Spirit Window
Free Fall
Shadow
The Tiger Orchard
Piano Man
Face The Dragon
The Dream Collector
Right Behind The Rain

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Follow Your Dreams (1961)


Follow Your Dreams
Marjorie Holmes, il. James Talone (cover)
1961, The Westminster Press

"But I say again and I can't say it too often - veterinary medicine is no place for a girl!" He had said it once too often.

17-year-old Tracey Temple is determined to be a veterinarian, like her idol Dr. Jane Baldwin, despite the hostile reactions of male vets, including the one who's been asked to address her junior class for Career Day. Tracey objects passionately to his sweeping dismissal of women, sadly aware her classmates think the whole argument a huge joke and herself a funny thing.

Tracey's thrilled when she lands a summer job with Dr. Baldwin, but quickly succumbs to first love when she meets the cranky vet school dropout Whitney, whose aloofness and misanthrophy perversely attract her just as loyal neighbor Dudley's quiet devotion goes completely unnoticed. The situation becomes even more interesting when Whitney's gorgeous, charismatic former girlfriend Diane comes to work at the hospital, and Tracey's childhood buddy Jeff arrives in town. Both men fall wildly for the alluring Diane, whose description is a triumph of a certain sort of horribly perfect female:

For one thing, she was so petite... Her hair was a soft, silver-gold puff. Her skin was honey-colored. And her face, in all its distinctive, perfectly arranged proportions, was the kind of face people turn to gaze at just an instant longer on the street.... As if this wasn't enough, she emanated a kind of golden radiance. Plainer people lighted up in her presence, as if basking in a glow. She wasn't particularly witty, but whatever she said, in a soft little voice of surprised amusement, made you want to smile... Then, when you were rearing back in sheer self-defense, when you realized you'd have to hate her a little bit too, if only to survive, you noticed something else; when she turned, with a swish of her embroidered peasant skirt, and started across the office, you noticed the slight but definite limp.

Tracey manages to learn how to handle the various situations, including jealousy of her own prematurely widowed mother, who is as feminine and dainty (though sensible and a good mother), and who depressingly reminds Tracey of everything she is not. It's mentioned a few times that she's really dealing with people a few years older than herself; Whitney, Diane and Jeff are all in their early 20s, and Tracey's somewhat stuck when it comes to experience or ease. And unlike many heroines, she's too genuinely innocent to utilize that asset with the boys.

Although Whitney does his time as the overbearing male know-it-all, he's also tormented by Tracey and Diane, and suffers great moroseness over his on-again-off-again engagement to the fickle beauty. There is one gruesome scene where he watches Tracey revel in helping a dog deliver a large litter of puppies, then informs her of a very nasty fact that may have just about passed muster in 1961 but is unrelentingly awful in 2009. And something about the setup of that scene makes it impossible to like him, though Tracey seems to get over it quickly.

About the author
1910-2002
Born in Storm Lake, Iowa, she graduated from Cornell College in 1933. Married twice, she had four children and taught writing at colleges. She was most famous for her religious-themed books, particularly three novels following the lives of Mary, Joseph and Jesus - Two From Galilee, Three From Galilee, and The Messiah. She wrote an autobiographical book, a nostalgic look at her childhood in Iowa, You And I And Yesterday.

Links
Obituary in the Des Moines Register
University of Iowa collection of papers

Books
young adult
Saturday Night
Cherry Blossom Princess
Love Is A Hopscotch Thing
Saturday Night
Senior Trip
Sunday Morning
Ten O'Clock Scholar
World By The Tail

Thursday, September 10, 2009

A Second Look For Avis (1961)


A Second Look For Avis

Lee Priestley, il. Don Lambo (cover)

1961, Julian Messner, Inc.


Every year her own position worsened, Avis thought. Her mother and sister took her more and more for granted as the provider, resented more and more her dictates as to spending. The problems of plugging holes in the family financial dike got little help from Lucie and Stella. Their feeling about making ends meet was that if one ignored the annoying gap some miracle might bridge it.


The sleepy Louisiana town of Valcourville is beautiful to outsiders, an old place lost in time. But to several members of the Barton family, ownership of one of the town's gracious homes has been nothing but a trap. 22-year-old Avis Barton is the latest victim.

When her father (a frustrated poet who planned for her to live the dream he never achieved) died, she put her own dreams on hold to keep her family together. Her mother Lucie is an impractical southern belle who resents any responsibility, and her younger sister Stella has been raised in her likeness. Avis has managed to continue her college studies nearby, but the implication is that she's only doing so to earn more money as a teacher in the local school system. But after a few years of sacrifice, Avis is fed up. She is starting to see only too clearly how her mother sees the future; Stella married off, and Lucie merrily continuing her spendthrift ways supported by her dutiful eldest daughter who, she'll confide to friends, was never very interested in marriage.

The return of a childhood admirer, Paul Guidry, and a newcomer, Tracy Warren, set up an interesting situation with Avis and her flirtatious little sister. But the real problem Avis faces is how to deal with the financial and power situation in her family. Her sister and mother are being selfish, she realizes, but her own 'noble sacrifice' is rooted partly in disdain for them. Avis, her daddy's girl, places tremendous value in brains and social class, which she can't quite overcome even when she desperately wants to, as when she visits Paul's Cajun family, and she tends to undervalue other people's strengths.


An interesting book where the romance is nearly incidental to the heroine's resolution of her own personal problems. The atmosphere is nice, with details that convey a sense of living in an old southern town in a house that's crumbling genteely around your ears, but doesn't become a cartoon.

Bending over the marble hollow of the basin in the bathroom, Avis squeezed lather through her hair. Winding the wet brown length at the back of her head, she straightened with a care for the graceful swan faucets. They could deal a numbing blow. She asked herself how the Valcour sisters had managed their famous tresses in this antique skull-cracker; but then, it would be easy with body servants to soap and lave with pitchers of rain water.


Interesting touches include the presence of a Syrian family in town.


Other books

Teen

The Sound Of Always

Rocket To The Stars

Now For Nola

Believe In Spring (1964)


Children's

Rocket Mouse

Because Of Rainbows

A Teacher For Tibby


About the Author

Born in Kansas, she was a teacher.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

A New And Different Summer (1966)




Lenora Mattingly Weber, il. Jo Polseno (jacket)
1966, Thomas Y. Crowell Company

She got up and glanced in the McHarg's refrigerator. Beautiful! Butter in neat cubes, bacon in flat packages, clean white eggs in their own niches. Neat stacks of brown'n serve rolls and coffee cakes ready for the oven. That's the way the Belford refrigerator was going to look, once Mother took flight to Ireland and Katie Rose was at the helm.

16-year-old Katie Rose Belford is secretly thrilled when her mother is called away to tend an ailing relative in Ireland for the summer. Finally, a chance to run the chaotic Belford household in her own way. Katie, sick to death of contributions from their rural family and slightly off produce from a friendly grocer, has her eye set on the gracious middle-class lifestyle of her favorite babysitting client, Mrs. McHarg. And who can blame her? The Belfords are respectable people but with lots of kids, second-hand food, slapdash housekeeping, etc., they veer too close to an appearance of disreputable for Katie Rose's comfort. She knows that to some people, her family could look like the slatternly Flood family, whose calculatingly crass daughter Rita is in her grade at school.

"I don't dodge Rita because of her messy folks or that messy house or the way she dresses - or even because her brothers are always in and out of the Regorm School. I feel sorry for her - "
"You can feel sorry for someone without liking them," Jeanie had said in understanding. "She's the kind that if you gave her an inch, she'd take three miles."

This old-fashioned practicality has a dark side - as when Katie's adopted pal Jeanie worries that she might not come from 'good stock' - but on the whole, it's refreshing to see poor people portrayed as something more complex than a simple morality task for a family which is poor but stable (Mr. Rose is a journalist, not a criminal, etc.)

Katie learns inexorable lessons during the course of the summer, mostly having to do with the costs of feeding a large and voracious family while coping with a handsome college student/boarder whose cluelessness verges on autism most of the time (he obsessively harasses her about the costs of her project, despite the obvious attempts she's making to seduce him) But most of her financial problems arise not from her attempts to feed the hogs at her trough with food other than potatoes, but in impulse decorative purchases. If there had been a Mikasa nearby, the poor girl would have been sunk on the first day, she shows so little resistance to placemats and glassware.

Vastly out-dated, with Katie's old-fashioned take on the disadvantaged asshole, the admittedly creepy view of 'good stock' from the adopted friend, the family's obsession with tomboy Jill's refusal to wear a dress, and college boy Perry's obnoxiousness. But the best anachronism is Katie's agony over the horrible old-fashioned food - the 'thick Irish bread', 'rich Jersey cream' and thick slabs of farm-fresh bacon and ham - all ingredients modern cooks salivate over while glaring at the plastic-wrapped mass-produced articles that Katie Rose swoons over. Whatever you have, you want the opposite. I spent some envy time as a child wishing we had central air and a finished basement while my friends were wishing they lived in a rickety old house filled with neat old stuff.

This is part of Weber's very extensive series of books about the Malones and Belfords, all set in Denver. Beany Malone, now a grownup with a baby, makes a brief appearance. The first in this series was published in 1963; the last was published in 1972. They necessarily reflect the enormous social change. As I mentioned above, in this 1966 novel Katie and her friend Jeanie hold a common-sense attitude toward their low-class neighbors the Floods. By the 1968 sequel Angel In Heavy Shoes, Katie's little sister Stacy has been pulled into helping Rita Flood and her brother, reflecting the new, more sympathetic view of poor white trash. And by 1971's Hello My Love, Goodbye, Stacy experiences a rape attempt.

About the Author
1895-1971

The Beany Malone books
Meet The Malones
Beany Malone
Leave It To Beany
Beany and the Beckoning Road
Beany Has a Secret Life
Make a Wish for Me
Happy Birthday, Dear Beany
The More the Merrier
A Bright Star Falls
Welcome Stranger
Pick a New Dream
Tarry Awhile
Something Borrowed, Something Blue
Come Back, Wherever You Are

The Belford books
Don't Call Me Katie Rose
The Winds of March
A New and Different Summer
I Met a Boy I Used to Know
Angel in Heavy Shoes
How Long Is Always
Hello My Love, Goodbye
Sometimes a Stranger

Other
My True Love Waits
Happy Landing
Sing For Your Supper
Nonie: An Autobiography
Wind On The Prairie
The Gypsy Bridle
Podgy And Sally: Co-eds
A Wish In The Dark
Mr. Gold And Her Neighborhood House
Rocking Chair Ranch
Riding High
My True Love Waits
For Goodness Sake! - cookbook
Beany Malone Cookbook - cookbook


New editionsAvailable through Image Cascade

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Two's Company (1951)

Two's Company

Betty Cavanna, il. Edward J. Smith

1951, The Westminster Press


Along the flat, straight road to Williamsburg the slender branches of Scotch broom were strung with flowers, but Claire Farrell, driving her new convertible slightly faster than the speed limit, saw only a blur of yellow.


18-year-old New Yorker Claire Farrell chases her winter boyfriend, actor Whit Bowden, south for the summer. He's appearing in a summer theatre near Williamsburg, and Claire has hastily invited herself to stay with her grandparents, who live in the town. Also living in their old Virginia home is summer boarder Philip Young, an architect working on the restoration, who Claire understandably dislikes from the moment he virtually carjacks her on the road to town. Over the course of the summer, Claire learns to slow down and appreciate more than her beautiful boyfriend.


Claire, a headstrong and somewhat bullying personality, isn't exactly appealing, but her struggles make her sympathetic. Her patrician old grandfather's opinion puts the reader firmly on her side.


"She's selfish," Claire's grandfather's heavy voice boomed. "Takes after me, takes after Gregory. The Farrells are all selfish. They want what they want when they want it. But it isn't becoming in a woman. She ought to be taught."


The other women in the book are, basically, women who have learned to appear unselfish. Grandmother, after a lifetime in Virginia, still retires to her bedroom to nap with a hanky over her face when it's hot - selfish, posing as delicate. Aunt Rosemary is sweet and quiet and retiring - and manages to attract and land a famous, wealthy movie director by book's end. Lida Belle, the Southern vixen and rival for Whit's affections, purrs like a kitten and bravely - if pointlessly - neglects to ask for assistance when she's hurt in a car accident.


Claire's a very strong, real character, unlike most of the others in the book, who tend to serve only as tests for the heroine. Claire draws enormous strength from her surroundings - her smart convertible, her good clothes, her own physical beauty - and is deflated when deprived of any of them. She consciously carries her own story around with her - Sophisticated New Yorker - and is very unhappy when anything disturbs her sense of that story. She's very realistic, if not always very pleasant.


But to chug out the Jamestown Road in Philip's decrepit automobile destroyed something of the effect she had planned. She couldn't conjure up the feeling which usually sustained her - that she was a sophisicated young New Yorker down here on holiday. For all anyone could tell she might be just another Williamsburg girl out with her beau. The convertible had been desirable. Without it, Claire felt uncomfortable and even chagrined.


As usual, Cavanna's sense of place is strong. She paints a vivid portrait of a southern summer before air-conditioning:


All over the house blinds were drawn against the heat, which nevertheless lay like a blanket over each and every room, smothering the house as it did the town.


And she evokes a sense of the old Colonial village at the heart of Williamsburg, an atmosphere of brick sidewalks shaded by old trees that lies at the heart of many East Coast towns and cities.


Pulling the car off the road to a stretch of grass which bordered the worn brick sidewalk, Claire parked close to the gnarled paper mulberry which was one of her earliest recollections of Williamsburg. The mimosa and the paper mulberry - these two - spelled the house off Prince George Street to her. They had always stood sentinel in her mind to a quaint, out-of-this-world existence which brushed her life only briefly at irregular intervals.


Anachronisms

Apart from the gender issues and pre-central air era mentioned above, there is a black maid/cook given the standard servant treatment, and a fairly scary car accident in which it is all too obvious that this is an era before seat belts.


Claire realized that her head had hit the windshield with a thud, but for the first few instants she was too dazed to feel anything but relief that none of the three of them had been thrown completely out.


Links

William & Mary Lake Matoaka Amphitheatr

Colonial Williamsburg

Friday, June 19, 2009

Sorority Girl

Sorority Girl
Anne Emery
1952, The Westminster Press

She had always been aware of the Nightingales. The Nightingales and the Amigas were two highly exclusive girls' organizations whose membership comprised about ten per cent of the girls in the school, by special and coveted invitation. The "best girls" belonged to one or the other, the girls with the pretty complexions, the smart clothes, the lovely hair - the successfully glamorous girls who dated the outstanding boys. Jean had always been aware of them, with the resentment of the outsider toward the clique, mixed with a kind of helpless envy.

Jean Burnaby is a junior in Sherwood High School now, and determined to make a mark. She starts the school year intending to 'have lots of activities, make many new friends and gain recognition for achievement.' Instead, she loses herself in a sorority. At Sherwood, secret societies are banned - but the Nightingales and the Amigas fly under the radar by posing as charitable organizations. Of course, they are anything but - they're exclusive private clubs that exist for the joy of separating the sheep from the goats. Jean soon discovers that the privilege of being a sheep and included in the realm of the popular girls comes at a price - she's shunned from other organizations, loses a class election, and is treated with wary dislike by her fellow classmates. Isolated from non-sorority members, she finds the Nightingales increasingly annoying as well. And the boy she truly likes, Jeff, isn't a member of the corresponding fraternity. But to be in this group is to be branded "the best" and how can she give that up?

Another tale of a sensible girl having her head turned by sudden popularity, and the price of that popularity. Interestingly, although there are a few things Jean dislikes about the sorority - the girls will drink beer, their parties can be a little too much for her, their casual dismissal of others - the book doesn't really make a case that the sorority sisters are themselves bad or behaving very badly, but that the sorority system is simply flawed. Over the course of the year, Jean just becomes too uncomfortable with the calculated hypocrisy of a service organization ostrasizing people, and the level of artifice.

The writing is very strong, with excellent descriptions, powerful characters and sense of place.

Before the hall mirror she brushed her hair again and arranged her lipstick with critical fingers. She found her notebook and pencil and pen, looked down at her plaid gingham dres, wishing it were cool enough to wear a new fall outfit, and let herself out the big front door.

Jean makes a heroine who's appealing and yet realistically somewhat unlikeable at times.

Other

I didn't realize there were high school frats and sororities, but apparently...

Wiki

Available New
Image Cascade

Author Bio
1907-1987
Anne Eleanor McGuigan was the eldest of five children with a father who was a professor. She graduated from Northwestern University in 1928, spent a year travellign with her family, and then began teaching. She married John Emery in 1933, and had five children. The Illinois town of Evanston appears to be the model for Sherwood; she lived in Evanston most of her life.

Other Books

About the Burnabys
Senior Year - about Sally
Going Steady - about Sally
High Note, Low Note
Campus Melody

Dinny Gordon Series:
Dinny Gordon, Freshman
Dinny Gordon, Sophomore
Dinny Gordon, Junior
Dinny Gordon, Senior

Jane Ellison 4-H
County Fair
Hickory Hill
Sweet Sixteen

Pat Marlowe
First Love True Love
First Orchid for Pat
First Love Farewell

Sue Morgan
The Popular Crowd
The Losing Game

Other Books
Scarlet Royal
Vagabond Summer
That Archer Girl
Married on Wednesday
A Dream to Touch
Tradition
Bright Horizons
Mountain Laurel
Jennie Lee, Patriot
American Friend: Herbert Hoover
Mystery of the Opal Ring
Danger in a Smiling Mask
Carey's Fortune
The Sky Is Falling
Free Not to Love
Stepfamily

Spy books
A Spy in Old Philadelphia
A Spy in Old Detroit
A Spy in Old New Orleans
A Spy in Old West Point

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Winter's Answer

Winter's Answer
Lucile McDonald and Zola H. Ross
1961, Thomas Nelson and Sons


"You're so poised, so sure of yourself," one of her sorority sisters had told her admiringly.

Would-be journalist Kit Langford is confident and ambitious, but her first taste of failure hits her badly when she transfers from a small college to a larger one and her writing and managerial talents aren't instantly recognized. Angry and humiliated, Kit takes comfort in winning a short internship at a New York magazine over the Christmas break, vowing to win a job there and never return to college. When that plan fails horribly, Kit runs again, joining her cousin Diane on a trip to Florida, where Diane is to rejoin her new husband, Jack.

But things don't go as planned in Florida either. Jack is in a coma after a car accident. Diane, frantic, spends every moment at his bedside while Kit hunts for a job to support them and the elderly boat Jack had bought as a re-sale project and temporary home. Kit is rejected over and over, first from the newspaper jobs she covets and then, lacking experience, even from menial labor positions. Desperate, she becomes the world's least apt waitress as a greasy spoon, on her feet from 7 AM to 1PM every day.

Kit grinned. She had left Northern expecting to conquer the world. Now she was afraid she could not even keep a menial job.

A depressed Kit bounces back quickly with attention from Paul, the handsome rich boy on the next boat over, and his low-key pal Red. She also finds satisfaction in refitting the Matilda, scrubbing, refurbishing and decorating the old boat in hopes of finding a buyer.

The book lacks a strong sense of place; Florida and New York both get the most cursory treatments, although New York fares slightly better. But the character of Kit is very strong and vivid. Her flaws are as compelling as her strengths, and she's a very appealingly resourceful protagonist, navigating her way around a strange place and reluctantly taking charge of the practical problems of Jack's illness. Her youthful encounter with reality is as painfully realistic today, in essence, though the details have changed (she limits her newspaper search to the women's page, after all). And in some ways, she's more realistic than a modern heroine would likely be - her worries about her clothes and their suitability would not occur to most modern YA heroines - yet is realistic. And yes, there is some clothing porn here:

The two-piece shantung ensemble was a gay print of blurred rose. It was perfect with Kit's dark hair and gray eyes. She could see herself marching confidently into a newspaper office. Wearing the jacket, she would look business-like; on removing it,she had a dine-and-dance dress

Paul's discomfort with working sounds odd, and the near-universal dismissal of Kit's efforts with the boat seem harsh. Red distinguishes himself (and feeds my old theory about boys named Red in fiction) by being the only one who mentions that it was pretty lucky for Diane that Kit came to Florida, and by admiring her work on the Matilda.

She thought back to the moment when she had dressed for her first day at Young Modern. Her confidence of two weeks ago was gone. It had been peeled from her by the failure of her New York dream, the shock of Jack's accident, Mr. Forbes' attitude, the rejection by the employment agency, the realization of her own shortcomings.

Kit loses her boundless confidence and discovers how hard it is to even just earn a living, let alone succeed. It's implied that this will make her a better person and more successful, that a knowledge of her own flaws will strengthen her for the career ahead. I have my doubts. True, Paul's example is convincing - a well-off boy who's never had to struggle and doesn't accept that he ever should have to work hard - but there's such a thing as having the confidence dented, not knocked back a few steps. Kit's so arrogant at the start that she can stand some knocks; others might have folded tents and been destroyed by what only serves to strengthen her. While the moral to this story might be similar to a fairy tale - be humble and work hard - I take from it that it's all luck. The right temperament in the right place at the right time...

About the Authors
Helen Girdey Ross aka Zola H. Ross
1912-
Associate Professor of Creative Writing at the University of Washington 1948-1955
Teacher in Kirkland, Washington
Pseudonyms included Z.H. Ross, Helen Arre, and Bert Lles

Lucile Saunders McDonald
1898-1992
Graduated from the University of Oregon in 1923
Freelance journalist who worked for the Seattle Times Magazine
Lived in Washington State most of her life, and was very interested in its history
Wrote or co-wrote nearly 30 books

Zola Ross and Lucile McDonald wrote several juvenile novels, including
The Mystery of Catesby Island (1950)
Stormy year (1952)
Friday's Child (1954)
Mystery of the Long House (1956)
Pigtail Pioneer (1956)
Wing Harbor (1957)
The Courting of Ann Maria (1958)
Assignment in Ankar (1959)
The Sunken Forest (1968)
For Glory and the King (1969)

Links
Obituary for Lucile Saunders McDonald
University of Washing Special Collections - Lucile Saunders McDonald

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Designed By Suzanne (1968)

Designed By Suzanne
Kathleen Robinson, il. Evaline Ness (jacket)
1968, Lothrop, Lee & Shepard Co., Inc.

Personality clothes. Would you like to have some especially designed for YOU? Expertly made to fit YOU? Satisfaction guaranteed.

St. Louis high school senior Suzanne Bishop dreams of attending fashion school in New York City and, in a moment of boldness, decides to place the above ad, hoping to start her chosen career and earn money toward school at the same time. She's disappointed when the local matrons hire her only to design clothes for their children, but finds she has a knack for handling kids. As she struggles to cope with the extra work and her sister's wedding plans, her comfortable long-time relationship with Barry Castleton suffers, and she's attracted to the wealthy New Yorker who's acting as best man to her maid of honor.

Well-written and engrossing. Suzanne's an appealing heroine, and although her decisions at the book's end seem surprising, it's consistent with her character. Other characters are less well-defined; Barry feels like a generic steady boyfriend, rich boy Ralph seems to exist mostly as a plot device, rival Desiree is a series of flirtatious tics, and only Suzanne's elder sister, Louise comes across as a real person.

There are several unusual features. First, although the action apparently begins only halfway through Suzanne's final year of high school, and ends before the fall, there are no actual school scenes. Friends, outings, etc., yes, but no mention made of Suzanne attending classes. Barry is apparently a graduate working at an architectural firm, and mention is made of Suzanne being rather mature and sophisticated for her age due to her chic grandmother, but it seems strange. As does the chic grandmother's current whereabouts - it's never made clear if she's deceased or simply living in another state.

Vanished Worlds
The Bishop home and furnishings are described by some characters, including Suzanne sometimes, as old-fashioned and antique - and undesirable.

Other Books
When Debbie Dared
When Sara Smiled
Manon's Daughter: The Love Story Of An Outcast In Early St. Louis

About the Illustrator
(1911-1986) Ness won a Caldecott Medal in 1967 for Sam, Bangs And Moonshine. She was married to Elliot Ness, the Treasury agent made famous as the head of Chicago's 'Untouchables,' from 1938-1946.