The Noonday Friends by Mary Stolz won a Newbery honor in 1966, and that’s the reason I read it aloud to my children–for May’s Newbery Through the Decades Challenge. I actually didn’t plan to read it aloud, but then I realized that with all the hectic stuff going on here at the House of Hope lately (we’re moving, y’all), that was my best chance to actually read it. (I might not read for my own enjoyment when things get wild and crazy in my life, but I still read aloud. Forever and ever, amen.) I also had some vague memory of perhaps having read it as a child, but now that I’ve read the whole thing, I think I can assume that I was either thinking of another book or this one just didn’t stick with me like I thought it had. Either way, I’m glad to have read it this time around, and I’m glad to have shared it with my girls.
The Noonday Friends is a simple story plot-wise. It’s the story of Franny Davis and her family, which consists of her artist father, her longsuffering mother, her twin brother Jimmy, and their five year old brother, Marshall. Most of the story revolves around the fact that Mr. Davis cannot keep a job; he is the stereotypical “dreamy” artist type who loses the jobs he gets because his head is in the clouds most of the time. It’s partially a family tale and partially a friendship story, though the lines are blurred because Franny has a good bit of home responsibilities which prevent her from being totally immersed in the world of school and friends. This is a story with very little action; most of the story is about the relationships, though there is a bit of action revolving around Mr. Davis’ job as shoe salesman, his losing of that job, and finally his finding of another, better job through a very fortuitous turn of events. I would definitely call this a character-driven story, and Stolz really shines at giving each of the characters a very distinctive voice and personality. The writing is just lovely (I shared a sample here). One thing that struck me as I was reading this is that this is the first of the Newberys I’ve read for this challenge that focuses heavily on emotions and relationships. This book is a little bit heavy in that regard. The Davis family faces some pretty difficult things–poverty and the stigma attached to it; accepting the faults of one parent; even race issues. I think this is because we’re moving through the decades, and the sixties (which is the decade for May) is when that sort of thing becomes prevalent in literature, etc. I don’t know that this is true–it’s just a thought. At any rate, I’m very glad to have read this book, and I think we’d all give it a Highly Recomended. I look forward to reading more of Mary Stolz.