Sunday, April 28, 2013

Book Review: Eddie and Gardenia by Carolyn Haywood (1951)

Eddie loves his goat, Gardenia, but when she chews the roof off of Father's new car, there's no way she can keep living with the family in their suburban neighborhood. Eddie writes to his uncle Ed to ask him to take Gardenia to live on his Texas ranch. Uncle Ed happily agrees- and he invites Eddie to the ranch for a few weeks to learn how to be a cowboy.  In Texas, Eddie receives lessons from his aunt, pals around with his cousin, learns some Spanish from a Mexican ranch hand, and even proves himself to be a true cowboy worthy of his very own spurs.

I have always loved Carolyn Haywood, but the characters I knew best as a child were Betsy and her sister, Star. In my continuing efforts to explore more books published in the 1950s, I decided to give this one a try, and I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed Eddie and his ranch adventure. Eddie is an upbeat, well-behaved character, whose heart is always in the right place, and whose attitude is one of hopeful excitement. He is just daring enough to capture the attention of small boys who long for adventure, but he is never mischievous or disrespectful, which is something many parents who visit my library specifically look for in children's book protagonists. His adventures are exciting, especially to kids who have never visited a ranch, but they are also totally plausible. Nothing happens to Eddie that couldn't conceivably happen to any child in his same situation.

Carolyn Haywood's writing style also does not disappoint. The details she uses to describe Eddie's train trip to Texas, the ranch itself, and Eddie's experiences driving, feeding "dogies" and riding ponies are extremely vivid. Even without the book in front of me, I can envision much of what happened to Eddie, almost as though I were there.

Kids who love gentle realistic stories with adventures that are exciting but stick close to home, will adore Eddie. This book is reminiscent of other contemporary chapter books with male protagonists, including the Martin Bridge, Alvin Ho, and  Justin Case series. Eddie also reminds me quite a bit of Beverly Cleary's Henry Huggins, and Johanna Hurwitz's Russell.  Eddie and Gardenia is the third of sixteen titles about Eddie. The others include Little Eddie, Eddie and the Fire Engine, Eddie's Menagerie, and Eddie's Friend Boodles. 

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