Mentoring is a critical theme woven throughout the first half of the Little Britches series. Despite the incredible hardships that his family endures, Ralph Moody is very clear that God always looked out for them and rewarded their faithfulness in interesting ways. In new places and new circumstances, God not only provided the work requisite to support the family but also generous friends and excellent mentors.
In Mary Emma and Company, the Moody family has returned to Boston after being forced to leave Colorado. Their eastern flight was made so secretly and so quickly, that they had precious little opportunity to make arrangements for their return to Mary Emma’s Boston family. Generously, Mary Emma’s brother and sister-in-law pour out incredible kindness and support on the young family when they arrive.
The Moody family strictly believes in hard work, integrity, and faithful adherence to God’s principles. The moral character of their family is awesome to behold, especially in true adversity. While Mary Emma struggles to find meaningful employment, the family is perplexed. They do not want to slip into dependence on generous family members. Instead, they struggle to find work and housing as quickly as possible. Everything in Massachusetts, however, is different from Colorado. And, in many ways, harder.
Since his father’s death, Ralph has helped to provide for the family’s needs in substantial ways. Once they are settled in his uncle’s apartment, it is Ralph’s first priority to find employment. Sadly, however, Ralph learns that Massachusetts state law requires boys to attend school. Ambitious, creative, tenacious, and persistent, Ralph finds a job at the grocery store that he can do before and after school. While the store has no horse, Ralph’s western experiences have trained him well in how to earn the respect of his employers and give his best effort. And ultimately, the men Ralph works for become good mentors for Ralph, and valuable friends to have.
Families who have loved the western themes in the earlier books may be worried that this story won’t be as satisfying. Ralph, however, is still very much the Ralph we have come to love, and he readily employs that western spirit in incredibly creative ways in this new environment. His western experiences have trained him to see things from an entirely different point of view than that of his new neighbors. This different vantage point provides some exciting experiences and makes for a really good story.
Also consistent with the first three books, Ralph makes friends, good friends, very easily. He is naturally likable, quite honest, clever, and broad-minded. The Moody family is blessed more than once because of the men who respect Ralph and the boys who are loyal to him.
In the western books, Ralph knew many good honest men. Nearly all of them, however, were a bit rough around the edges. In this new environment, Ralph is blessed with strong male family members who help him develop a more cultured approach. Additionally, Ralph is befriended by men of the world who understand law and business. These mentors will provide Ralph with a solid orientation in citizenry and commerce that will come back to Ralph as an advantage in the later books. The kind of education that Ralph acquires in Boston is far less technical than his western experiences but far more social and cultural.
For young families, this may be the last book in the series that you will read until your children are older. This book marks the end of Ralph’s childhood. The next book, The Fields of Home, takes a harder and more mature tone.
The first four of the eight Little Britches books could easily be shared by families over a long winter in the evenings. This interesting and elegant book ends on a very sweet and optimistic note. I think that all of the tears I shed in this one were tears of joy and tenderness.
Goodbye, young Ralph. Yours was a boyhood that makes my mama’s heart full and proud.
We will be reviewing all of the Little Britches books. Find all that we have posted here.