With so many excellent new additions to the world of middle grade literature, it's sometimes hard to take a step back and look around my own shelves at the books that have been there for ages and ages. It's quite unfair, really--these neglected titles were the books that made me fall in love with middle grade fiction in the first place, back when I was actually the age of their target audience.
Last year I came across quote from C. S. Lewis: “It is a good rule after reading a new book, never to allow yourself another new one till you have read an old one in between.”
I had to stop and think. When was the last time I had re-read a book for my own pleasure, and not to read it to or with my children? It had been a long time. And as much as I adore sharing books with my kids, a little something had been lost in my own reading life. So I started reading a lot more old books--classics and old favorites. Today's pick for Marvelous Middle Grade Monday is the latest: a very old favorite, from my beloved (and small) favorite category in the middle grade genre: big family stories.
Originally published in 1945, Hilda Van Stockum based The Mitchells: Five for Victory off her family's own experiences during the Second World War. In the book, Mr. Mitchell leaves to serve in the military, and the five Mitchell children left at home jump in to do their part by starting a "Five for Victory" club at home--helping their mother, primarily, but also collecting scrap metal, helping their neighbors, and tending a victory garden. The usual big family chaos and heart ensues, and I found myself smiling even more at all the antics as a mother of a large family than I did as a kid in one.
Having read a lot more modern books lately, however, meant I had a shock or two remembering how parents in the 40's were fine with giving their children a lot of freedom (oh, how convenient for authors wanting their characters to have adventures). I was also surprised to see how Hilda Van Stockum didn't shy away from showing that Mrs. Mitchell was often very stressed and worn out. No perpetually cheery and affectionate Mrs. Cleaver here. Mrs. Mitchell's husband is, after all, risking his life in an actual war, which is a pretty fair cause for lots of stress--so I was kind of relieved to see that her toddler's whining frustrates her, or that she's exasperated when the baby eats the fake cherries off her hat. She's not perfect, by any measure, but she's very loving and very real.
And the Mitchell children really are just delightful. They're a true to life, trouble-making, affectionate, crazy, quarreling, forgiving big family. They take care of each other, and it's beautiful to see.
Have you re-read any old favorites lately? How did your perception of the books change if you'd read them originally as a child and then as an adult?
For more Marvelous Middle Grade Monday recommendations, check out Always in the Middle!
1/8/2023 05:43:32 pm
Oh, I love this series so much! I've blogged about them too. Friendly Gables, the finale of the trilogy, is the book I read first. It's also my very favorite, and I have fond memories of reading it the Christmas I was eight years old. I, too, appreciate how the mother in this series is realistic, not perfect but very loving. Also, isn't it nice that we get to see her POV sometimes? I adore that in middle grade.
1/9/2023 10:27:10 am
This explains so much about why I liked YOUR book. I could spend my entire life reading vintage books.
1/17/2023 02:33:35 pm
Aww, thank you so much!! <3 Vintage books are the best!
1/10/2023 04:57:59 pm
I know I read the whole series as a kid, but for the LIFE of me, I can't remember anything about Friendly Gables. And I only own the first (because I've been hunting down hardcovers)... I definitely need to search a little harder, now!
1/17/2023 02:34:10 pm
You'll have to track it down! It's such a lovely story :)
1/9/2023 05:37:06 am
You're right that it's important to read for pleasure, which can include re-reading books you've enjoyed. There are always so many new books I really want to read that it's hard for me to do that. Thanks for sharing a favorite of yours.
1/10/2023 05:00:23 pm
It IS hard, isn't it? But it's been really worthwhile for me.
1/9/2023 10:16:41 am
What a beautiful escape book! I love that period. I was born in the early 50s, and never saw this title. But, your comments really resonate with me -- I do remember how much freedom we had as children. We had so much more responsibility and freedom to explore, creeks, play all-day games of cops and robbers and all the mom's in our neighborhood were our moms and would feed us lunch. Different time and a great sense of community. My husband would have been 10 in 1946. Yes, I loved Snow Treasures, another WWII book, and have re-read because it is still published. Will have to look this book up.
1/10/2023 05:01:41 pm
I haven't read that one--but I'm going to hunt it down! Thanks, Patricia!
1/9/2023 10:31:55 am
Are you a Beany Malone fan? (Lenora Mattingly Weber.) They are my very favorite, and there are four children. They do have a lot of freedom as well! There's not much point to read vintage books for my job, but I do love them. I have a small collection, and I can't bring myself to part with any of them. Thank you for a fun review!
1/10/2023 05:04:08 pm
Well, that was strange! I thought I'd never heard of that series, until I just looked it up, saw the cover, and was flooded with a memory of reading it as a kid. I guess it's time for a re-read. :)
1/10/2023 06:17:02 am
I'm also from a large family (one of 10) and absolutely loved reading about large families. The Little White Horse (1946) by Elizabeth Goudge is one of my childhood favourites, for its magical story, but I also loved the fact that Maria and Robin (the two MCs) get married when they grow up and have 10 children. Linnets and Valerians, by the same author, is another one I loved (1964 - not as old as I thought but set in times gone past). The Mitchells sounds a classic and charming story too!
1/10/2023 05:07:16 pm
Did I know that about you before? I'm one of "only" five, but I've become increasingly obsessed with finding books about large families the more children I have. :) I'll have to send you a copy of mine to review when it finds a publisher someday!
1/11/2023 09:52:54 pm
I love the C. S. Lewis quote. Good advice. I haven't ever heard of this book, but it sounds lovely. I hardly can keep up with new books, so reading old favorites doesn't happen, but maybe I should make more of an effort. Thanks for your review.
1/12/2023 09:14:34 am
That was good advice from CS Lewis! I'm not familiar with this series but yes, parents DID give kids freedom back in the days. Kinda makes you miss that time. Thanks for the review.
1/13/2023 08:48:51 pm
Faith, what wonderful advice from Lewis and I'm so glad you were able to read for your own pleasure. I'm a reader of old favorites and the last one I picked up was the first adult book I ever read at age 12 and also my most favorite book of all: Adventures in Two Worlds by AJ Cronin. I've not heard of the Mitchells and they sound lovely. Here's another oldie for you: Mrs. Mike
1/18/2023 10:22:17 am
I LOVE Mrs. Mike! But it's so hard to re-read as a mother. Also, I just handed it off to my oldest daughter, and I think she may never forgive me, she cried so hard. We had a good long talk about catharis and empathy. :)
Leave a Reply.
Hi! I'm Faith. I blog about books and creativity, family and faith. Welcome!