This week's review was inspired by a conversation I had with my mother-in-law about teen literature. She recalls seeing a movie adaptation of the book, A Girl of the Limberlost, as a young teen. A particularly dramatic scene in which someone was pulled down by quicksand stayed a vivid memory for her. With Nook in hand, I downloaded the free Google version of the book, and within minutes was able to remind her of the story of the character who had drowned. There have been numerous movie adaptations of the book and most recently, a made-for-television movie.
This timeless story, A Girl of the Limberlost, is fine entertainment for those weary of graphic reality often portrayed in books and movies today. Written in 1909, characters who aren't already morally sound and upright suffer for their sins, learn their lessons, and mend their ways. Although this may seem "pollyannish" or naive, the story is a good one for young teen or pre-teen girls.
The story begins with Elnora Comstock, the book's heroine, enrolling in secondary school. Elnora lives in a poor farmer's home on the edge of the Limberlost, a forest whose swampy pond claimed her father when she was an infant. Elnora's mother is a bitter, loveless woman, who denies Elnora her affection out of a misplaced notion that Elnora was somehow partially responsible for her husband's premature death. When Elnora begins secondary school, she learns that fees are required to attend and books need to be purchased and even more horrifying, she is woefully and inappropriately dressed to blend in with the other girls.
When confronted with the details of this dreadful first day of school, Elnora learns that her mother knew all along that fees were required (which she refused to pay) and felt that Elnora would likely not fit in with the more sophisticated crowd, even though Elnora proved herself to be the better student from the outset. Elnora was crushed, and thus began her efforts to collect and sell moths and arrowheads in order to finance her school fees in order to stay in school.
Eventually, a young man enters the scene, and a chaste romance is sparked. Katherine Comstock, Elnora's mother, as well as Elnora's beau and his ex-fiancee all learn lessons and grow over the years of Elnora's successful schooling. The story is a lovely one, light reading, and appropriate for all ages. Pre-teens can see by Elnora's example how a wise young woman stays true to her nature, despite the pressures of making a suitable match or blending in with a more glamorous crowd.
Even in 1909, themes of conservation and evolution are subtly addressed, and information about collecting and identifying moths add science to the story. A clever parent could easily weave in natural history lessons while their young student reads this story.
One of the other charming aspects of the book is the form of the chapter titles, which all begin with "Wherein . . . " such as "Wherein Elnora Goes to High School, and Learns Many Lessons Not Found in Her Books" and "Wherein a New Position is Tendered Elnora, and Philip Ammon is Shown Limberlost Violets."
A Girl of the Limberlost is available for free digital download, and is a delightful and charming story well worth the price.