The Middle Moffat focuses on Jane Moffat, as opposed to the all-encompassing Moffat family viewpoint of the first book, and her thoughts, struggles, and opinions over a year-ish of time. I don’t remember this book nearly as much as The Moffats, so it was almost entirely new to me. And it was a delight to read.
I think the thing I enjoyed the most about this book
was Jane’s thoughts, her rambling, sometimes odd, but exactly on point in terms
of age, thoughts that cover at least half of most of the chapters. As she
explores playing the organ, taking care of the oldest inhabitant, dealing with
Wally Bangs, and participating in the basketball game and the parade, her
thoughts perfectly encompass the sorts of things a child doing those things
might think about. It really is so delightful and fun to read her wondering
about shooting baskets in a basketball game, and all the running and chaos that
incurs, and all the things she doesn’t want to do beyond shooting baskets.
For younger readers, the book might be a little hard
to understand because of all the outdated language, especially in terms of
describing clothing, but Jane is inviting and endearing as a character, so I
don’t think the setting will inhibit too much.
The Moffats was a good book, but The Middle Moffat made me fall in love with Estes and the Moffat family, especially Jane. I’m really looking forward to seeing what charm and delight the next books might bring.
There are a lot of dog books out there, but Ginger Pye is probably one of my favorites. It has the sadness you might expect from a dog book, but without the heartbreak. It has humor, charm, memorability, and a nice sense of oomph and depth. It deals with difficult topics without getting into crying-lots-of-tears-at-the-end territory, like Old Yeller or Where the Red Fern Grows, and so is a much better vehicle for communicating those topics to younger children.
is about, of course, Ginger Pye, the dog that Jerry buys for a dollar. The
story, though, is more than just about Ginger—it’s about Jerry, and his sister
Rachel, and their Uncle Bennie (who is only three years old—this book also is a
great vehicle for communicating different family dynamics, such as a girl who
marries young, who has young parents who have another child ten years (thus
becoming “old’ parents) after their daughter gave birth to two of her own.).
It’s a much more daring book than The
Moffats in several regards: the aforementioned family dynamic, the whole
idea of “unsavory characters,” and, of course, kidnapping and animal
abuse—because it can’t be a dog book without something happening to the dog.
In this case, Ginger is kidnapped. This happens about
halfway through the book, and so the rest of the book is Jerry and Rachel
searching for him and wondering where he is. Estes also portrays this quite
realistically: time passes, and even as Jerry and Rachel continue to hope
Ginger will return, life goes on for them. They go to school, they hike, they
camp, they play with friends. Yet they never stop thinking about Ginger, or
thinking up ways to find him, so of course at the end of the novel, they are
reunited, though not without some trauma on Ginger’s side.
I think that’s probably what I liked most about this
book: the way Estes handles these difficult topics, the way she includes
stories and asides everywhere, the way she communicates danger and abuse
without being graphic or overly angsty or even losing a bit of the charm and
simplicity that’s in the book. In fact, really the only complaint I have is
that this book is massively long because Estes takes her time building
everything up, as well as telling lots of stories to establish the characters.
It maybe takes too long to get to the climax—two chapters too long—but it’s an
adventure worth taking.
The Moffats, by Eleanor Estes, was published in 1941 by Harcourt.
I am a huge fan of continuity and chronology, so when I saw that Ginger Pye was on the list of Newbery Medal winners, I knew that I would first have to read the Moffat books that came before it, if only to familiarize myself with the characters. (Note: I now of course realize that Ginger Pye is a completely separate book, but in the moment I forgot!)
I have, of course, read The Moffats before—they were right up there with the Melendy family as my favorite childhood “family.” And even now, after all these years, this book is familiar to me—the hitching post, the sailor’s hornpipe, and the Salvation Army truck were all things that I remembered. Then, of course, there were the things I didn’t remember, like the ghost, the For Sale sign, and the adventurous trip to get coal.
I’m not sure why I enjoy books that are so centered on childhood adventures. Perhaps it’s because I love books that focus on family. Perhaps it’s because the adventures are usually things that are so close to what could actually happen, and yet seem as if they would never happen to anyone. It’s that dance between reality and fiction that I like, I think. It matters that I can see it happening, even if I know it probably would never happen.
I feel as if I am much more familiar with some other Moffat books than this one, but some I have no recollection of at all, so I’m excited to revisit them. I think, perhaps, I enjoy Elizabeth Enright’s Melendy family more—Enright is a better writer—but I can tell that I will really enjoy the Moffats.