Monday, November 24, 2014

Book Review: Peggy's Wish

Book Review: Peggy’s Wish
       
Author: Alletta Jones
       
Date: 1949
       
Publisher: Abingdon-Cokesbury
       
ISBN: none, but click here to find it on Amazon
       
Length: 168 pages of text
       
Illustrations: drawings by Mary Stevens
       
Quote: “I didn’t suppose I’d ever be any place but the Home until I die.”
       
Peggy is an orphan. Her wish is to be adopted. Luckily, since she’s a character in a book published for children by a church-sponsored press, we know her wish will come true.
       
How it comes true is a nice, nostalgic story, full of the good things about traditional American farms. Every cow and chicken could easily be made a pet. Children’s summer chores are done outdoors and are as much fun as games. Games aren’t supervised; the kids catch polliwogs and look for birds’ nests in the pasture. There’s excitement, though, when a bull choses a child up a tree, or children who think it’s fun to explore the empty schoolhouse get locked in and have to slide down a scary oldfashioned fire escape. Going into town is a special treat, with banana splits and penny candy. In Kansas, where this story is set, Gypsies camp in the neighborhood and tell fortunes, and occasionally a “real honest-to-goodness Indian” comes to collect turkey feathers.
       
The less pleasant things about early twentieth century farm life are here too, but they’re pushed into the background. Peggy’s parents have died; her adoption is a foregone conclusion because the family who invite her to spend the summer on their farm had a daughter about her age (ten) who also died recently. Peggy’s adoptive brother claims to hate all girls; at this historical period hating the opposite sex was considered innocent and cute. Peggy’s foster mother doesn’t seem to mind canning vegetables, or expect the children to work in the steamy kitchen until their faces are flushed too; this was possible, but not typical. The hired man is a nice, kind, cheerful fellow, not one of those whose frustration with low wages and poor marriage prospects led them to drink, steal, and abuse the boss’s animals—or children. And of course, when the bull chases the children, a tree is right where the children need it to be...and even the tornado passes by without doing the characters any harm.
       
If you’re one of the dedicated few who don’t think that “developing” your family farm into condominiums or a federal facility would be “progress,” you’ll appreciate Peggy’s Wish as a chance to share what you’re trying to do with children. This is one of those short, easy chapter books that encourage fast learners to read and sound out words, even in the first grade. If not ready to read this book before age ten, kids are likely to pass it up in favor of books about the teen scene or the grown-up world. 

However, the book may recover a little respect when you find out that it's become a collector's item. Currently Amazon is listing the "best price" for this book as $79. And was I ever stupid to sell the copy I physically owned, back at the time when the first draft of this review was written, for fifty cents! To buy Peggy's Wish online from me will now cost $80 for the book + $5 shipping...and it's not even a Fair Trade Book, because I can't imagine Alletta Jones having any use for $8.50 by now.