Sunday, May 15, 2016
Reading Through History: The Mitchells by Hilda van Stockum (1945)
The writing in this book is breezy and entertaining, making it easy to read in just one sitting. I devoured the story, falling instantly in love with each character, and enjoying their "free-range" lifestyle and typical family story problems. Though this is partly a book about banding together during a time of war, it is also just as much a story about kids being kids that could take place at any time in history. The fact that the characters are based on real-life counterparts makes everything about the book feel true in a way that entirely invented fiction does not. As the mother of an independent-minded two-year-old, I could especially relate to Mother's very true-to-life difficulties in dealing with Angela, the second youngest child with a habit of making a fuss. By the end of the first chapter, I already felt a strong kinship with Mother, which stuck with me throughout the book.
As I read The Mitchells, I kept thinking back to a childhood favorite, Ten Kids No Pets by Ann M. Martin. The books are not really that similar except for the fact that they both involve parents who specifically disallow pets, but knowing how much I loved Ten Kids makes me certain that I would have loved The Mitchells just as much had I discovered it in childhood. I wish authors still wrote family stories like this one, which avoids discussions of mature themes like dating and kissing and instead allow kids to be kids. So many middle grade books are about trying to reach adulthood as soon as possible, instead of reveling in childhood, and that is just too bad. I am pleased, therefore, that I still have two Mitchells titles to read: Canadian Summer and Friendly Gables.