Why did I wait so long to read The Moffats? We have listened to and read both Eleanor Estes‘ Newbery Medal winning Ginger Pye and Pinky Pye (both links to my reviews) with great pleasure, but my efforts at reading The Moffats always stalled out before I was a chapter into it, for some reason. Determined to read what I think must surely be a classic piece of children’s literature, I added it to my Classics Club list and decided to read it aloud, knowing that my children wouldn’t let me quit reading it if it was even remotely entertaining. 😉 Well, no one wanted to quit after the first chapter!
Like the Pye books, The Moffats is set in the town of Cranbury, so some of the characters are the same. The Moffat family consists of mother, Sylvie, Jerry, Janey, Rufus, and Catherine-the-cat. Father is deceased, and since his death, the Moffats have moved from their original home to the yellow house on New Dollar Street, which is situated in the best possible location, smack in the middle of New Dollar Street, so that one can see to the end of the street on both ends just by standing in the yard of the yellow house . The story opens with a problem, though: their landlord has decided to sell the yellow house, and like most children, the Moffat youngsters cannot fathom the idea of living somewhere else. This sense of uncertainty hangs over the story, but in between the fretting and plotting how to keep the house from being sold, there are plenty of chapter-long vignettes that are just pure, childish fun. I found myself laughing out loud with my girls as we read of the Moffats’ adventures. My own personal favorite chapter begins with Jane innocently mimicking a man walking down the street, and then being accosted by an annoying neighbor boy and told that the man is none other than Mr. Pennypepper, the new school superintendent, and that she, Jane Moffat, could be arrested for being disrespectful to him. Shortly after this, mama sends her downtown to the delicatessen on an errand, and because Jane is so frightened of being arrested, she hides inside a bread box outside the store when she sees the police chief coming down the street. And then she goes to sleep. It’s a very comical scene, with one of the neighborhood gossips sitting stop the bread box and bending the ear of the deli owner, with Jane inside wanting desperately to get out, etc. It ends happily, though, with Jane and Chief Mulligan becoming the best of buddies (once Jane is found, of course). I can just imagine myself being that frightened of getting in trouble as a child, so this little vignette is both humorous and true-to-life. Eleanor Estes had a way of thinking like a child and distilling childish thought into a pure, comical, and, at times, poignant point-of-view.
Another aspect of her books that I particularly enjoy are all the characters and the humorous dimension they add to the story. Here’s an example:
Mrs. Shoemaker hesitated a moment. Then she said ruefully, “Thank you, but I have had my dinner, so I’ll be on my way, I guess. I’m meeting Mrs. Cadwalader in the cemetery. You know, we spend every Sunday afternoon in the cemetery. It’s so restful.
The names of the characters usually add just a bit more dash and humor to the story, too:
There was a good deal of suspense in ringing the Cadwaladers’ bell. There were seven Cadwalader sisters. Of course, you never knew which one of them would open the door. When the door opened, you had the excitement of thinking fast to say the right Hello: Hello, Tilly; Hello, Milly; Hello, Molly, Polly, Lollie; or Hello, Oily. And last, Hello, Nelly. “Like the game of beast, bird, or fish, almost,” laughed Jane as the door swung open.
Read that aloud without laughing. 😉 We were quite disappointed to have The Moffats come to an end, and we look forward to sharing more of their adventures in a few more Moffat titles.
This is the first book that I’ve read aloud to my children on the Kindle, and I have to say that aside from the fact that there are some spelling or mechanical errors and the fact that the illustrations (quite good ones by Louis Slobodkin) are not always in the right place with the text, it was a good experience. In fact, I’d consider doing most of our read-alouds on the Kindle just because it’s easier for me to keep up with it (and not lose our place!) than it is with a paper copy, especially since we have so many of those lying around already. (What? You too? 🙂 )
This book reminds me of so many books about close-knit families and the scrapes and fun times they have. This one definitely gets a Highly Recommended from the House of Hope! (1941)