Christmas in Toronto, Canada, c.1937

Jane of Lantern Hill is one of Lucy Maud Montgomery’s lesser-known stories. (Ms. Montgomery is, of course, the author of the Anne of Green Gables books as wells the series about Emily of New Moon.) Jane of Lantern Hill tells the story of a girl, Victoria Jane Stuart, who finds out at the age of ten that her father is not dead as she had presumed, and soon after that Jane is compelled to go and visit for the summer with the father she never knew on Prince Edward Island.

This Christmas passage comes from late in the story when Jane is back in Toronto but has grown to know and love her estranged father very much:

The week before Christmas Jane bought the materials for a fruit-cake out of the money dad had given her and compounded it in the kitchen. Then she expressed it to dad.She did not ask anyone’s permission for all this—just went ahead and did it. Mary held her tongue and grandmother knew nothing about it. But Jane would have sent it just the same if she had.
One thing made Christmas Day memorable for Jane that year. Just after breakfast Frank came in to say that long distance was calling Miss Victoria. Jane went to the hall with a puzzled look . . . who on earth could be calling her on long distance? She lifted the receiver to her ear.
“Lantern Hill calling Superior Jane! Merry Christmas and thanks for that cake,” said dad’s voice as distinctly as if he were in the same room.
“Dad!” Jane gasped. “Where are you?”
“Here at Lantern Hill. This is my Christmas present to you, Janelet. Three minutes over a thousand miles.”
Probably no two people ever crammed more into three minutes. When Jane went back to the dining room, her cheeks were crimson and her eyes glowed like jewels.

I do think that perhaps this L.M. Montgomery book, one I don’t remember ever reading, will be my first read of 2018. Skimming it was a delight, and I’m fairly sure that reading the story properly will be quite a good way to start the new year.

I wish my copy were this Virago edition. I love the cover on edition pictured above.

Christmas in Sweden, c.1930

Flicka Ricka Dicka and Their New Skates by Maj Lindman

What a lovely Christmas gift this book, with its accompanying set of triplet paper dolls, would be for a doll-playing or ice skating little girl. Flicka, Ricka, and Dicka are Swedish triplets from the 1930’s who each receive a pair of “shiny skates on white shoes” for Christmas. The three blonde Scandinavians go to visit their Uncle Jon and Aunt Lisa after Christmas, and as they are out skating on the pond they make a new friend and have a rather breath-taking adventure.

This new edition of an old storybook, published by Albert Whitman & Company, comes with the afore-mentioned paper dolls. (DO NOT buy paperback editions of these books. The paperbacks are poorly constructed, and the pages fall out with only a little wear.) The illustrations, and the paper dolls, are beautiful, and the story is old-fashioned and charming, with just a hint of danger to spice it up. I loved these books when I was a kid of a girl, and I love them now.

The other books in the series are:
Flicka Ricka Dicka and the Three Kittens
Flicka Ricka Dicka and the New Dotted Dresses
Flicka Ricka Dicka Bake a Cake

Flicka Ricka Dicka and the Little Dog
Flicka Ricka Dicka and the Strawberries
Flicka Ricka Dicka Go to Market
Flicka Ricka Dicka and the Big Red Hen
Flicka Ricka Dicka and Their New Friend
Flicka Ricka Dicka and the Girl Next Door

The ones in italics are the ones I have in my library. I wish I had all of the others—and all of the Snipp Snapp Snurr books, too:

Snipp Snapp Snurr and the Red Shoes
Snipp Snapp Snurr and the Big Surprise
Snipp Snapp Snurr and the Reindeer
Snipp Snapp Snurr Learn to Swim

Snipp Snapp Snurr and the Buttered Bread
Snipp Snapp Snurr and the Gingerbread
Snipp Snapp Snurr and the Yellow Sled
Snipp Snapp Snurr and the Seven Dogs

Snipp Snapp Snurr and the Big Farm
Snipp Snapp Snurr and the Magic Horse

There’s something about twins and triplets that just intrigued me as a child, and these books still suck me into the small, simple world of a trio of Swedish sisters (or brothers) growing up in the rural halcyon days of the early twentieth century. If it’s idealized, then perhaps we can use a little of the ideal from time to time.

World War II Novels and Nonfiction

On September 1, 1939, Hitler invaded Poland, and World War II began. So I’ve gathered up for you and for me a list of as many of the reviews of novels and nonfiction set during World War II that I could find while looking through the back posts of the Saturday Review of Books.

Adult Novels:
The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah.
A Town Like Alice by Nevil Shute.
The Auschwitz Violin by Maria Angels Anglada. Reviewed at Bart’s Bookshelf.
War on the Margins by Libby Cone. Reviewed at Amy Reads.
The Gathering Storm by Bodie and Brock Thoene. Reviewed by Beth at Weavings.
Against the Wind by Brock and Bodie Thoene. Reviewed by Beth at Weavings.
A Thread of Grace by Mary Doria Russell.
The Madonnas of Leningrad by Debra Dean. Reviewed by Mindy Withrow.
My Enemy’s Cradle by Sara Young.
Sarah’s Key by Tatiana De Rosnay. Reviewed at Small World Reads.
Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson.
The Swiss Courier by Tricia Goyer and Mike Yorkey. Reviewed by Beth at Weavings. Reviewed at 5 Minutes for Books.
The Snow Goose by Paul Gallico.
Blackout and All Clear by Connie Willis.
The Postmistress by Sarah Blake. Reviewed at Small World Reads. Reviewed at Diary of an Eccentric. Reviewed at The Common Room. Set in New England and in London.
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows. Reviewed by Janet at Across the Page. Set on Guernsey Island.
While We Still Live by Helen MacInnes. Sheila Matthews, a young Englishwoman is visiting in Warsaw when the Nazis invade. She stays and joins the Polish underground to fight against the German occupation.
The Kommandant’s Girl by Pam Jenoff. Reviewed at Lucybird’s Book Blog.
The Winds of War by Herman Wouk.
Atonement by Ian McEwen.
Winter in Madrid by C.J. Sansom.
My Enemy’s Cradle by Sara Young.

Young Adult and Middle Grade Fiction:
Eyes of the Emperor by Graham Salibury.
Code Talker by Joseph Bruchac.

The Devil’s Arithmetic by Jane Yolen.
Meet Molly by Valerie Tripp. Reviewed at Diary of an Eccentric.
Twenty and Ten by Claire Huchet Bishop. Reviewed by Nicola at Back to Books. Set in France.
Someone Named Eva by Joan M. Wolf.
Don’t Talk To Me About the War by David A. Adler.
On Rough Seas by Nancy L. Hull. Young adult fiction. Fourteen year old Alex lives in Dover, England in 1939, and he is eventually a hero as he participates in the rescue of the British soldiers at Dunkirk.
Snow Treasure by Marie McSwigan. Reviewed by Nicola at Back to Books. Set in Norway.
Blue by Joyce Meyer Hostetter.
Yellow Star by Jennifer Roy.
Jimmy’s Stars by Mary Ann Rodman
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak.
The Devil’s Arithmetic by Jane Yolen.
Weedflower by Cynthia Kadohata
The Fences Between Us: The Diary of Piper Davis by Kirby Larson.
Flygirl by Sherri L. Smith.
Tamar by Mal Peet.
Tropical Secrets: Holocaust Refugees in Cuba by Margarita Engle.
Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys. Reviewed at Books and the Universe. Set in Lithuaina and Siberia. YA.
The Berlin Boxing Club by Robert Sharenow.
The Boy Who Dared: A Novel Based on the True Story of a Hitler Youth by Susan Campbell Bartoletti.
For Freedom: The Story of a French Spy by Kimberley Brubaker Bradley.
Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein.
Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein.
The Winged Watchman by Hilda van Stockum.
Children of the King by Sonya Hartnett.
The Winter Horses by Phillip Kerr.
The Green Glass Sea by Ellen Klages.
The Extra by Kathryn Lasky.
Up Periscope by Robb White.
My Family for the War by Anne C. Voorhoeve. Reviewed at Hope Is the Word.
Projekt 1065: A Novel of World War II by Alan Gratz.

Nonfiction:
A Boy’s War by David Michell.
The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom.
Anne Frank: The Book, the Life and the Afterlife by Francine Prose. Reviewed by Girl Detective.
Night by Elie Wiesel.
The Zookeeper’s Wife by Diane Ackerman
Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand. Reviewed at Library Hospital. Reviewed by Alice at Supratentorial.
Lost in Shangri-La: The True Story of Survival, Adventure, and the Most Incredible Rescue Mission of World War II by Mitchell Zuckoff. Reviewed at Sarah Reads Too Much.
South to Bataan, North to Mukden by W. E. Brougher. Reviewed by Hope at Worthwhile Books. More about the same book.
Winston’s War: Churchill, 1940-1945 by Max Hastings.
The Mascot: Unraveling the Mystery of My Jewish Father’s Nazi Boyhood by Mark Kurzem.
We Die Alone: A WWII Epic of Escape and Endurance by David Howarth. Reviewed by The Ink Slinger.
W.F. Matthews: Lost Battalion Survivor by Travis Monday
High Flight: A Story of World War II by Linda Granfield. Illustrated by Michael Martchenko. A children’s biography reviewed by Nicola at Back to Books.
Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Prophet, Martyr, Spy by Eric Metaxis. Reviewed at 5 Minutes for Books.
The Port Chicago 50 by Steve Sheinkin.
Home Front Girl by Joan Wehlen Morrison.
The Boy on the Wooden Box: How the impossible became possible . . . on Schindler’s list by Leon Leyson with Marilyn J. Harran and Elisabeth Leyson.
Helga’s Diary: A Young Girl’s Account of Life in a Concentration Camp by Helga Weiss, translated by Neil Bermel.

D-Day: The Invasion of Normandy, 1944 by Rick Atkinson.
The Story of D-Day: June 6, 1944 by Bruce Bliven, Jr. (Landmark Book #62)

Mission at Nuremburg: An American Army Chaplain and the Trial of the Nazis by Tim Townsend.
Churchill and Orwell: The Fight for Freedom by Thomas E. Ricks.
Last Hope Island: Britain, Occupied Europe, and the Brotherhood That Helped Turn the Tide of War by Lynne Olson.
Irena’s Children: The Extraordinary Story of the Woman Who Saved 2,500 Children from the Warsaw Ghetto by Tilar Mazzeo.
For the Glory: Eric Liddell’s Journey from Olympic Champion to Modern Martyr by Duncan Hamilton.

More World War II reads and reviews at War Through the Generations.

What is your favorite World War II-related novel or work of nonfiction?

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The Jersey Brothers by Sally Mott Freeman

It’s raining; it’s pouring here in Houston, Texas. And Hurricane Harvey is headed for Corpus Christi and set to bring Houston a whole heck of a lot of more rain and possible/probable flooding. And my personal and family life is a bit of a mess, too.

However, if ever a book would cause me to pause and count my blessings, The Jersey Brothers: A Missing Naval Officer in the Pacific and His Family’s Quest to Bring Him Home is that book. I thought the scenes and descriptions in Unbroken by Laura Hillebrand were harrowing and violent and disturbing, but this book tops that one for sheer cruelty and horror, man’s inhumanity to man. It’s not gratuitous, either. As far as I can tell the scenes and events the author describes really happened and were the central truths of the experience of Barton Cross, an American Navy prisoner of war to the Japanese in the Philippines during World War II. YOu’ve heard of the “Bataan Death March”? Well, that’s described in this book in excruciating detail, even though Ensign Cross didn’t have to participate in that particular piece of history. (Many of his fellow prisoners did.) And the Battle of the Coral Sea and Iwo Jima and Tarawa—all described, again in horrific detail because one or the other of Barton’s two brothers were there. All three brothers were Navy officers, and the older two, Bill (the author’s father) and Benny, spent the war fighting on Navy ships or working in Washington, D.C. and trying all the time to find Barton, their baby brother.

Between the three of them the Jersey Brothers, called that because they were from New Jersey, had a sweeping view of the war in the Pacific, from FDR’s War Room in the White House to Pearl Harbor to the battles across the Pacific to the prisons and camps of Mindanao and Leyte and other Philippine islands. As I read about the experience each of the brothers and of their mother, Helen Cross, at home in New Jersey, I was overwhelmed with gratefulness both for their sacrifice and that of many, many others and for my relatively easy and uneventful life. We may have our problems, but not many of us since World War II have had to suffer or endure anything near what those “greatest generation” men and families did.

I was also convinced again that maybe the atomic bombs that were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki were the best solution for an intractable problem—that of ending the war with the least possible loss of life for all concerned. The Japanese were employing suicide bombers (kamikaze) to a much greater extent than I ever remember reading about, and they were not willing to surrender. General MacArthur was intent on invading the Japanese islands, but the predictions of 600,000 American casualties—or more—convinced Truman that the threat of the atomic bomb would save many American and Japanese lives. The army was predicting Japanese casualties during an invasion to run over a million. The Japanese civilians and military were instructed to fight to the death, and many, many were willing to do so. Deaths from both atomic bomb blasts were much, much fewer than any of those estimates and many times fewer than the deaths already sustained by both the Allies and the Japanese in the battles across the Pacific. As horrific as the atomic bombs’ destruction and devastation were, they were not nearly as cruel as the terror and savage brutality that the Japanese visited upon the prisoners of war and the subject peoples that they conquered and ruled over in the Philippines and elsewhere. Take what you’ve read about the Holocaust and the concentration camps in Europe and transfer it to jungles of the Philippines and Southeast Asia, and you will have some idea of the absolute evil that was put to an end by the evil of two bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Yes, the atomic bombs were vicious and horrible, but maybe it was God’s mercy that allowed it to happen.

I recommend The Jersey Brothers, if you are able to read about the savagery and the suffering that went on during the war in the Pacific. It did make me thankful for the problems I have and the ones that I don’t.

Lassie Come-Home by Eric Knight

I finally read this justly famous and best-selling dog story, and the first surprise was the title. It’s not “Lassie, come home!”, a plea or a command for Lassie to return to home and hearth, as I always thought it was. Instead, “Lassie Come-Home” is a nickname for the faithful collie who does return home, through many miles and obstacles, from the highlands of Scotland all the way back to the Yorkshire country family in the south of England who were her original masters. Lassie is a “come-home dog” in the Yorkshire vernacular.

Perhaps Lassie Come-Home is the template for many books that came after: The Incredible Journey by Sheila Burnford, A Dog’s Way Home by Bobbie Pyron, and other stories of faithful dogs and other animals finding their way home after a series of adventures and difficulties. Or maybe the plot mirrors Black Beauty and other earlier books that show faithful animals making their way back home to the owners they love. Lassie’s journey home is certainly an adventurous one.

The author note in the back of my book says:

“Lassie first appeared in a short story published by the Saturday Evening Post in 1938. The story was so popular that Mr. Knight expanded it into a full-length book, which was published in 1940 and instantly became a best-seller. In 1942 the MGM movie based on the book launched the career of Elizabeth Taylor.”

All those survivors of economic depression and war-weary readers and movie-goers most likely needed a hopeful story about overcoming seemingly insurmountable odds, the kind of victory through suffering that is depicted in Lassie Come-Home. The story itself is pretty incredible: a dog somehow finds his way home form Scotland to Yorkshire, 400 miles as the crow flies or over 1000 miles with the obstacles such as lakes and rivers that Lassie has to skirt around or find a way over.

Eric Knight was born in England (in the Yorkshire country that her writes about), came to the United States as a teenager, and died in an airplane crash while serving in the U.S. Army during World War II—but not before giving us this classic dog story. It’s well-written, hopeful, and —-spoiler here—the dog doesn’t die!

The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton

So, here’s the backstory for this famous YA novel, according to Wikipedia:

The Outsiders is a coming-of-age novel by S. E. Hinton, first published in 1967 by Viking Press. Hinton was 15 when she started writing the novel, but did most of the work when she was 16 and a junior in high school. Hinton was 18 when the book was published. The book follows two rival groups, the Greasers and the Socs (pronounced by the author as soshes, short for Socials), who are divided by their socioeconomic status. The story is told in first-person narrative by protagonist Ponyboy Curtis. The story in the book takes place in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in 1965, but this is never stated in the book.

I read this book a long time ago, probably when I was in high school. This year, by the way, is the fiftieth anniversary of its publication date. Now, reading it forty or more years later for me, I am struck by several things about the novel and its author:

First, like everyone else, I am surprised and impressed that this book was written by a teenage girl. It’s a bit melodramatic, I suppose, but the voice of Ponyboy, a fourteen year old boy from the wrong side of the tracks, is pitch-perfect. I don’t think anyone would guess, who didn’t know already, that S.E. Hinton was a teenage girl.

Second, the book is about boys who are gang members from the lower socioeconomic class in a town in Oklahoma. The only thing Ms. Hinton had in common with her characters was her hometown: Tulsa, Oklahoma. I’m fairly sure from reading her bio that Susan Hinton would have been more of a “Soc” than a “Greaser” when she was in high school. And yet she doesn’t make her Greaser characters into stupid stereotypes or even air-brushed, sympathetic victims. They are both criminals, to some extent, and scared kids.

Third, I grew up in West Texas in the 1960’s and 70’s, and although there were several social groups in my high school, I could identify with the social and socioeconomic tension between the two groups in this novel. We had what we called “rich kids” who held all of the leadership positions in the high school, were featured in the yearbook, and often spent their weekends partying and getting drunk. Then, there were the druggies, the goat-ropers or kickers, the band kids, and the smart kids. And the Hispanic kids mostly stuck together, as did the black kids. There was some overlap in the groups, but Hinton’s picture of poor kids and rich kids not understanding each other and not associating with one another is pretty accurate.

I watched the movie based on this book after I re-read it, and I would say that the movie script stayed very close to the book. I’m not sure that was a good thing because even though I didn’t get the sense of melodrama and sentimentality when I was reading the book, I did get that sense from the movie. I’m not sure why. Watch the movie along with Rebel Without a Cause and West Side Story to get a feel for the Hollywood version of the rise of youth culture and youth rebellion in the fifties and sixties in the United States. If all of the kids weren’t exactly as alienated and rebellious as the kids in those movies and in this book, many of them were.

Anyway, The Outsiders is a good book, a tear-jerker, but also thought-provoking.

We Were There at the Opening of the Atomic Era by James Munves

I don’t know Mr. Munves, but the historical consultant for this book in the historical fiction series We Were There is also a character in the book, Dr. John R. Dunning. Dr. Dunning really was there. In fact, in his introduction to the story, Dr. Dunning explains:

“When Mr. Munves asked me to serve as his historical consultant in the writing of this book, I agreed at once because to me there is nothing more important than recapturing for our you men and women the wonderful creative excitement those days in which the atomic age began. When I went over Mr. Munves’ manuscript with him and discovered that I was a character in his story, I asked him if he would let me write a preface so as to make it clear to you that this Dr. Dunning is a real person. Most of the characters in the story, except for the young hero and his father, are real people.”

This book was published by Grossett and Dunlap in 1960, and it begins in 1942 with fifteen year old school boy, Tony Brenner, whose father works with Enrico Fermi, Professor John Dunning, and other scientists at Pupin Laboratories in New York City. When Tony makes a presentation to his high school science club about the possibilities of nuclear fission, his father is both proud and alarmed. “If a Nazi spy heard about your speech, he might think I was doing research in atomic energy,” says Papa Brenner, who is German immigrant and a physicist. Of course, that’s exactly what Dunning, Fermi, the fictional Brenner are doing, but the project is Top Secret. SO Tony gets taken into the top secret Manhattan Project so that he will learn what he needs to keep secret and why.

Tony’s family moves first to Chicago and then to New Mexico, all in pursuit of an atomic weapon that will defeat the Germans (and the Japanese) and win the war. The story presents most of the common arguments both for and against the bomb, and it gives a lot of scientific and technical information about the bomb and how it was developed. The ending sentences will give you a feel for the moral consensus of the book’s authors and consultants:

“It is not a nice thing to think about—that you helped make something that killed or hurt at least 230,000 people. But it doesn’t really matter whether this was done by bullet, sword, fire or atomic energy.
What does matter is that people wish to kill or hurt other people. . . .
The atom promises unlimited power. It also threatens the destruction of civilization. It is up to all of us to decide how it will be used.
The atom is neither good nor evil. Only people are.”

If you are interested in the events and people surrounding the Manhattan Project and the making, testing, and use of the atomic bomb, I would suggest you find a copy of this novel for a 1960-ish perspective on the project, its genesis and aftermath. For other children’s and young adult books on the subject, take a look at:

Fiction:
The Green Glass Sea by Ellen Klages.
The Secret Project Notebook by Carolyn Reeder.
The Bomb by Theodore Taylor. Nuclear testing on Bikini Atoll.
Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes by Eleanor Coerr.

Nonfiction:
Bomb: The Race to Build—and Steal—the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon by Steve Sheinkin.
Sabotage: The Mission to Destroy Hitler’s Atomic Bomb by Neal Bascomb.

On July 16, 1945 at 5:29:45 a.m., the scientists of the Manhattan Project successfully tested the first atomic bomb in Alamogordo, New Mexico. Less than a month later, in August, the bomb was used to force the Japanese to surrender to Allied forces and end World War II.

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If you like Little House: The Older (Golden) Years of Laura . . .

For the month of July, I’m planning a series of posts about readalikes: what to read (or what to suggest to your favorite child reader) when you’ve read all of your favorite author’s books or all of the books of a certain genre that you know of, and you don’t know what to read next.

On Saturday we talked about Little House (Laura Ingalls Wilder) readalike books for middle grade readers; today I have some prairie and frontier fiction for middle school, high school and even adult readers.

The Jumping-Off Place by Marian Hurd McNeely. Becky, Dick, Phil, and Joan, orphaned brothers and sisters, work hard to retain their Uncle Jim’s homestead in Tripp County, South Dakota at the turn of the century, early 1900’s. This book won a Newbery Honor in 1930, around the same time that the Little House books were being published, but it’s not nearly as well known. I put it here in this post for older children and teens because it’s a little darker in tone than the Little House books. A baby dies of snakebite; some homesteaders go hungry; life is hard. But the children/young people survive and thrive with grit and determination.

Patricia Beatty’s historical heroines are usually strong, spunky, and full of life and mischief. Often her novels have themes related to women’s rights, women’s suffrage, and feminism. These have a much more comical, individualistic, and adventurous tone to them than the Little House series, and they’re written for twelve year olds and older.
A selection of some of my favorite frontier fiction titles by Patricia Beatty:
That’s One Ornery Orphan. In Texas in the 1870’s orphan Hallie Lee Baker tries to get herself adopted, but her plan go awry.
Just Some Weeds from the Wilderness. In Oregon in 1873, Adelina Westlake, with the help of her niece Lucinda, goes into business, unheard of for a well-bred female, to save her family from financial ruin.
Something to Shout About. Thirteen year old Hope Foster and her family become the new residents of a new town in 1875: Ottenberg in Montana Territory.
How Many Miles to Sundown? Beeler Quimey and her pet longhorn, Travis, travel with brother Leo and another boy, Nate through Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona in the 1880’s.
By Crumbs It’s Mine. In 1882, thirteen year old Damaris and her family are traveling through Arizona territory in hopes of settling somewhere when her father catches gold fever and deserts the family for the gold fields of California. When Damaris accidentally becomes a hotel owner, the family calls on Aunt Willa to help.
Bonanza Girl. Ann Katie Scott and her mother move to a mining boom-town in Idaho Territory and begin to make a living by opening a restaurant.But how will they survive if the gold gives out?
The Nickel-Plated Beauty. In Washington state in 1886, the Kimballs order their mother a new, shiny, nickel-plated cookstove for Christmas. They keep their plan a secret and spend half the year working to try to pay for the beautiful new stove.
Hail Columbia! In 1893, Louisa’s Aunt Columbia bring her suffragette and other political ideas to the frontier in Astoria, Oregon.
O The Red Rose Tree. Also set in 1893, but back in Washington state, this novel features four thirteen year old girls trying to help an old woman complete her special quilt pattern.
Eight Mules from Monterey. In 1916, Fayette and her librarian mother try to bring library services by mule to the people living in and around Monterrey, California.

When Molly Was a Harvey Girl by Frances M. Wood. Molly pretends to be eighteen years old so that she can get a job as a Harvey girl at the famous Harvey House restaurant.

Hattie Big Sky by Kirby Larson. The orphaned sixteen year old Hattie Brooks decides to leave Iowa and move to Vida, Montana, to prove up on her late uncle’s homestead claim. In Montana in 1918, Hattie finds adventure, hardship, and family.
Hattie Ever After by Kirby Larson. In this sequel to Hattie Big Sky, Hattie wants to follow in the footsteps of Nellie Bly and become a real newspaper reporter.

If you’ve tried all of these and the ones in the previous Little House readalike post and you still want more, let me know in the comments. I can probably come up with a few more authors and books to sate your appetite for girls and families in historical frontier fiction.

Up Periscope by Robb White

According to Jan Bloom’s Who Should We Then Read, Volume 2, author Robb White’s books are “high action, well-written adventure yarns peopled with realistically drawn, likable characters in plausible yet exciting situations.” This particular yarn is a World War II submarine adventure that takes place in the South Pacific. Kenneth Braden, lieutenant (junior grade), U.S. Naval Reserve, volunteers for an unnamed job while he’s in Underwater Demolition School, and he soon finds himself in Hawaii, Pearl Harbor, talking to an admiral about doing something “hard, lonely, and dangerous” somewhere in the Pacific. Ken can take the job or back out. Of course, he decides to go for it.

I won’t spoil the story by telling what Ken’s job entails, but it does involve a great deal of time on a submarine. Both Ken and the readers of the novel learn a lot about submarines by the time the story is over. I knew almost nothing about submarines and submarine warfare when I started reading, and now I know . . . a little, not because there’s only a little information in the book, but mostly because I could only take in and assimilate so much. Readers who are really interested in submarine warfare will find the story absorbing and informative, and I assume the details are accurate since Mr. White served in the U.S. Navy himself during World War II. Suffice it to say I enjoyed this action tale, and World War II buffs or submarine aficionados will enjoy it even more than I did.

Apparently, the book was popular in its time, or else Robb White had connections in Hollywood. The novel was published in 1956, and it was made into a movie, starring James Garner, in 1959. White’s memoir, Our Virgin Island, about the Pacific island he and his wife bought for $60.00 and lived on before the war, was filmed as Virgin Island in 1958. The movie starred John Cassavetes, Sidney Poitier, and Ruby Dee. (White did write for Hollywood, so I guess he had connections.)

The author is just about as fascinating as his novel. He was born in the Philippines, a missionary kid. He learned to sail at an early age, graduated from the Naval Academy, and loved the sea. But he also wanted to be a writer, and he wrote magazine articles, screenplays, three memoirs, and more than twenty novels. His novels were mostly marketed to what we would now call the young adult market, but Up Periscope at least is not about teens, but rather adult men, fighting in an adult war. The only reason it might be considered a “children’s” or “young adult” novel as far as I can see is that there is a distinct lack of bad language and sexual content, a welcome relief from modern young adult novels. I counted only one “damn”, and on the flip side, several instances in which the men pray in a very natural, fox-hole way for God to save them from impending death. There is some war nastiness and violence, but that’s to be expected in a war novel. I think anyone over the age of twelve or thirteen could appreciate this thrilling story of espionage and submarine derring-do.

Only a couple of Robb White’s books remain in print; the rest are available at wildly varying prices from Amazon or other used book sellers. On the basis of just having read this one (and Jan Bloom’s recommendation) I would recommend his novels for your World War II-obsessed readers, and I would be quite interested in reading Mr. White’s three memoirs: Privateer’s Bay, Our Virgin Island, and Two on the Isle.

Devil’s Cub by Georgette Heyer

Set in the late eighteenth century and originally published in 1932, this book has a lot of conflicting cultural mores and values to balance, and I’m just not sure it works in the feminist-imbued twenty-first century. A virtuous young lady, Mary Challoner, disguises herself as her sister who has a date to run away with the rakish and self indulgent Dominic Alistair, Marquis of Vidal (Vidal for short). In the first chapter Vidal very casually murders a would-be highway robber and leaves the body lying in the middle of the road because he’s too lazy to dispose of it. Then he wounds his opponent in a duel, leaves him for dead, and rushes off to arrange his assignation with Mary’s feckless and gullible sister, Sophia. So, Mary, to save her sister, runs away with Vidal, reveals herself after a while, and hopes that Vidal will lose interest in ruining Sophia. Instead, Vidal decides to abduct Mary out of spite, and he comes close to attempted rape until Mary shoots him in the arm with a pistol.

After all of that set-up, we’re supposed to believe that Vidal is just a misunderstood “bad boy”, kind of a Rhett Butler character, and Mary is just the girl to take him in hand and tame him. Oh, and we know that he’s really a good guy deep down inside because when Mary gets seasick while crossing the Channel with her abductor, Vidal fetches a basin for her to throw up into. By the time they get to France, they are in love with each other although neither one is aware of the other’s regard, and all that remains is for them to discover their mutual admiration, soothe and get the approval of the parents on both sides of the match, assuage Sophia’s wounded pride, and save Mary’s reputation and honor.

I’m just not buying. Vidal never does come across as a good character, although Mary thinks he is. If she marries him, Mary Challoner is in for a rude awakening when he murders a servant someday for polishing his boots the wrong way or tells her that he didn’t know that she would mind his having a mistress on the side. Vidal is not shown to be misunderstood or misjudged, but rather he is absolved of all responsibility and guilt for no discernible reason. He’s actually a cad and a murderer. And if there is such a thing as slut-shaming, Sophia is a victim; it’s said to be justifiable to abduct her because she’s a naive but willing runaway. However, Mary is supposed to be honorable and a cut above her sister because she would never really run away to Paris with Vidal; it’s all a horrible misunderstanding, an adventure, and an accident.

What with the male-female double standard for marital and sexual behavior in the 1930’s and the class distinctions for what is honorable and moral behavior in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, this romance is a hot mess. Honorable, decent girls shouldn’t fall in love with their would-be abductors and rapists, and if they do they can expect trouble in the subsequent marriage. As for Vidal, he doesn’t deserve a wife or a mistress, and I don’t believe his protestations of innocence and undying affection for Mary.

The spectacle of the various characters in the novel chasing one another all over France is somewhat entertaining, but othe wise this novel is both infuriating and forgettable. I’ve liked some other Heyer Regency romances, but I’d recommend giving this one a pass.