I chose to read The Peterkin Papers by Lucretia P. Hale to my girls because it’s a year four Ambleside Online free-reading selection, it’s free online, and we had read a picture book adaptation of one of the stories a few years ago (a Thanksgiving story, no less!), and I remembered it being very, very funny. Too, we had spent several weeks on modern novels (The Magic Half and The Doll People) as our read-alouds, so I was hankering for something written before I was born. The Peterkin Papers were published as a magazine serial and collected in book form in 1880, so they certainly fit the bill. I think that reading aloud work written long ago requires so much more of my children in terms of attention and vocabulary that it’s definitely worth the trouble. In the case of The Peterkin Papers, the “trouble” is rewarded hundredfold with laugh-out-loud moments of foolishness. The chapters are all stand-alone installments in the episodic tale of a very silly family. Common sense runs AWAY from this family instead of in it, so all of their scrapes are so silly, and their solutions for their problems are even sillier. Take, for example, the story “About Elizabeth Eliza’s Piano.” In this little vignette depicted on the cover above, Elizabeth Eliza is given a piano, but when the movers set the piano with its back to the middle of the room, close against the window, what are the Peterkins to do? Well, simple–Elizabeth Eliza simple puts her piano stool out on the piazza and plays through the window! (An aside: the movers are called by their old-fashioned name carters in the story, which is but one example of the great vocabulary expansion opportunities this book provides.) Their silliness knows no bounds, and while my girls didn’t get it every single time, they did get it more than they didn’t. And I laughed out loud again and again! The Peterkins are rescued from most of their silliness by asking the advice of “the lady from Philadelphia,” a woman who makes a near-constant cameo appearance and is obviously a font of wisdom. All in all, The Peterkin Papers is a fun, fun read and one that I’m very glad we invested the time in. You can read a couple of really fun excerpts that I’ve shared over the past few months here and here. Highly Recommended!
I try to add a book or two to our Christmas collection every year, and I think The Peterkins’ Christmas might be the one this year!