Several years ago this book started popping up in my Amazon recommendations because I was buying Caddie Woodlawn, Understood Betsy, What Katy Did, and Betsy-Tacy for my little girl. The cover art, however, was so off-putting to me that I resisted any inclination to even consider the book. I thought, for sure, that this book was going to be some modern twaddle with cotton candy sentimentality.
Fortunately for me, the first book, In Grandma’s Attic, was featured as a kindle daily deal, for free, one wintery day, so I decided that it was worth sampling. I am grateful for that Kindle daily deal! What I discovered was a deeply moral, fascinating, and charming record of Midwest pioneer family life. In fact, it really is not that dissimilar to Little House on the Prairie in content.
I think that it is important that I confess upfront that the charms of the Little House books are more or less lost on me. I understand that that series of books defined a genre, provided a heartfelt and exciting look into pioneer life, and is beloved by millions for excellent reasons. I don’t dislike them, I just like other books better. And, reading them aloud is torture for me. I just cannot find the rhythm, and feel like I am constantly stepping on my dance partner’s toes when forced to read them aloud. Even though I am a Little House on the Prairie failure, I love the genre and the style.
While the content of these Arleta Richardson books is comparable to Little House on the Prairie, the style is different. Also based on true stories, Arleta recalls a childhood in Chicago where she lived with her grandparents in the 1930s. As they go about their everyday lives, Arleta’s grandmother regales her granddaughter with stories of her Midwest pioneer childhood. A little bit like Louisa May Alcott, Grandmother Mable inserts a moral into every story she tells Arleta. These sweet little sermons gently give the reader a lesson in both history and character.
Grandmother has an inspired way of teaching Arleta valuable life lessons by exploring her own childhood follies. One of my favorite stories is that of the pair of shoes. Children of the late 19th century typically had only one new pair of shoes per year. Grandmother recalls the time when she foolishly insisted on style over substance. When the pretty shoes were outgrown before Christmas, grandmother was forced to wear a pair of her brother’s boots for the rest of the year.
Like the Little House books, the Little Britches books, and the Betsy-Tacy books, this series spans much of Grandmother Mable’s childhood and early adult life. So, like those other series, the first few books are delightful for young readers and the balance of the series is best reserved for tween and teen readers who are ready for “coming of age” stories. In the case of the Grandma’s Attic books, I recommend reading through the four book treasury with younger readers and reserving the rest for later.
The treasury which is suitable for the young readers includes: In Grandma’s Attic, More Stories From Grandma’s Attic, Still More Stories From Grandma’s Attic, and Treasures from Grandma’s Attic. I don’t love the cover art of this printing, but I do appreciate the matching set with good quality materials. The audible recordings are lovely for my son’s naptime.