The Moffats by Eleanor Estes (J)

The Moffats  

Eleanor Estes (Juvenile Fiction)

The yellow house on New Dollar Street was the best house on the whole block. Because it stood exactly half-way down the street, you could see all the way to both corners: all the way down to Elm Street where the trolley ran and all the way down Wood Street where the railroad tracks ran. Perhaps what made it even more special was the fact that it was home to the Moffats: Mama, Sylvie, Joe, Jane, Rufus, and Catherine-the-cat. Yes, everything was as perfect as perfect can be on that fine late summer day until Mr. Baxter, Cranbury’s off-jobs man, nailed that horrible “For Sale” sign on their wonderful yellow house. But times were hard and there seemed to be little interest in the yellow house. Perhaps Jane and her family still had loads of time to do what Moffats do best—turn an ordinary day into an adventure!

In 1941, Eleanor Estes introduced readers to the Moffat family. Over a span of forty-two years and four books, the Moffats have captured the hearts and imaginations of multiple generations with their charm, humor, and abiding optimism. Rather than a seamless story, The Moffats is presented in delightful vignettes that see our four siblings encounter an attic ghost, a dancing dog, a trolley stand-off, a box of kittens, mean ole Peter Frost, and those nosey Murdocks. Each story touches upon some memorable life lesson centered around such topics as pride, indulgence, selfishness, generosity, courage, and honesty and is long enough to fully immerse the reader in a well-developed escapade while short enough to keep even the smallest attention span fully engaged. Although the family is fatherless, Estes doesn’t belabor the point and avoids portraying the family as victims or outsiders.  Instead, they are a strong and tight family unit with their own unique set of quirks and talents.

So much is said about the Moffat’s yellow house, that I looked upon it as the seventh family member. It served as the stabilizing foundation for this wonderful brood and gave them a tangible link to a father taken from them too soon. But as author M. K. Soni once wrote, “A house is made of brick and mortar, but home is made by the people who live there.” It’s those people, the Moffats, who remind us that no matter what life throws your way or where life might take you, you’re never far from home as long as you’re with family.

Rating: 4/5

*Book cover image attributed to www.amazon.com

**Want more?  Visit our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/thedustyjacket

The Hundred Dresses by Eleanor Estes (J)

The Hundred Dresses

The Hundred Dresses

Eleanor Estes (Juvenile Fiction)

How did it all start?  Maddie wasn’t quite sure, but then she remembers.  It started with a girl, Wanda Petronski, who lives on Boggins Heights with her dad and brother.  Wanda comes to school every day in the same faded blue dress that doesn’t seem to hang right.  She’s quiet and sits in the far corner of the classroom.  Nobody seems to pay her much mind, except that her last name is silly and hard to pronounce.  She’s practically invisible until that one day when Wanda wanted so desperately to be a part of the group.  So hungry for companionship and inclusion.  That one day when the other girls were talking about dresses and Wanda said, “I got a hundred dresses home.”  Who knew that that one single sentence would have such an effect…not just on Wanda, but on so many more.

Oftentimes, a book or story acts as a balm—more for the author than the reader.  It is a last-ditch effort of making things right…of righting a wrong.  R.J. Palacio accomplished this through her wonderful and poignant book The Wonder, a novel about a boy with Treacher Collins Syndrome (TCS) where bones and facial tissues develop abnormally.  She says that the inspiration for her book came after a chance encounter with a little girl in an ice cream store.  In “A Letter to Readers”, Estes’s daughter, Helena, says that her mother’s inspiration came from a classmate who was much like Wanda.  An immigrant shunned by her peers and longing to fit in and be liked.  Her mother, like Maddie, realized too late that complacency is just as bad as participation and that popularity should never be achieved at the expense of another.

The Hundred Dresses won a Newberry Honor in 1945 and has never been out of print since.  There is a very good reason for this.  Although it is a mere 80 pages, Eleanor Estes makes every sentence reverberate within our very heart and soul and Louis Slobodkin’s beautiful illustrations give this heartfelt story a vibrant beauty and grace.  This is a story that should be shared and discussed with readers of all ages.  It reminds us of the power of words and the heart’s amazing capacity to find and offer forgiveness.  Children find it difficult to remove the target from someone else’s back for they know all too well that there is a very good chance that the target will find a new home upon their own.  It takes a tremendous amount of courage to stand up for what is right.  Only later in life do we realize that sometimes the only thing worse than living with shame, is living with regret.  In this age of bullying and intolerance, the lessons learned from The Hundred Dresses are still as relevant and important today as they were in 1944.  Gratefully, we have Wanda and Maddie who remind us that it is never too late to say, “I’m sorry” and more importantly, “I forgive you.”

Rating: 5/5

*Book cover image attributed to www.amazon.com

**Want more?  Visit our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/thedustyjacket