Are you an Anne fan? From the moment I discovered her in my teens, that little red headed character has seemed more like a best friend than a character in a book. Like Anne, I write and often misuse big words. And my oldest friend (we’ve been friends since we were six) call each other bosom friends.
Although I’ve always loved Anne, I haven’t ventured to read L.M. Montgomery’s other work until recently. A few years ago, I read The Blue Castle, and while it isn’t as sparklingly perfect as Anne, it was a delightful read with all of the stock Montgomery characters: well-meaning, but strict (without imagination) relatives and a sweet love story.
More recently, I heard of Pat of Silver Bush on Faith E. Hough’s blog. It was the first I’d heard of this book, and I had to check it out. What a pleasant surprise. Pat is so different from Anne—or from Emily, Montgomery’s other well-known protagonist, but interesting in her own way.
Synopsis (from Amazon):
There's no place like home
Do fairies really come for the dish of milk we leave them? Is Mrs. McClenahan really a witch? How is it possible to find a new baby in a bed of parsley? These are all questions Pat Gardiner wants to know. And it seems her Irish housekeeper, the incomparable Judy Plum, always has an answer...
For Pat, there is no place more magical on earth than her home of Silver Bush, with its majestic birch trees and enchanting gardens. If it were up to her, nothing there would ever change. But of course if nothing changed, she'd never get a new baby sister, see her Aunt Hazel's wedding, or meet the only boy who truly understands her. Yes, there is change coming for Pat―some of it joyous and some of it heartbreaking. But no matter what, her favorite house in the world will always be waiting for her...
What to love about Pat:
1. A homebody child character: This is one of the things I most enjoyed about the series. Pat, unlike practically any other character in children’s literature, just wants to stay home. She never wants anything to change, sometimes to a rather extreme degree. Though I was adventurous as a teen and young adult, I was much more like Pat as a child. I think a lot of kids would relate to her as well.
2. An irascible, storytelling adult character: Most of the story centers on Pat’s relationship with Judy, the housekeeper. In fact, every other adult, including her parents, are mists in the background. I loved how Judy took center stage. Her exaggerated stories and her fervent love for her pet, Pat, really shines.
3. Childhood friendships: Like Anne, Pat has a bosom girlfriend, and a boy, Jingle, for a friend. I loved how memorable events brought these people into Pat’s life and the lovely job Montgomery always does with friendships. Both Bets and Jingle have more heartache than Gilbert or Diana, but I loved them all the more for being real.
4. An interesting time period: It took me a long time (till the end of the book) to place the time period, because it wasn’t clearly stated till then. I loved reading about the 20s in a place where most of the people still had their feet firmly in the Victorian era and were debating whether bobs and pajamas were immoral. :)
5. Montgomery is a master at In media res. One of the things I liked about this book is how right from page one, you are thrown into this wonderful family with little explanation. It gave the book an eavesdropping feel and helped me bond with the characters right away. Although this book was published in 1933, this made it feel modern.
Caveat: I had a couple bones to pick about this series:
1. There is heavy use of dialect by Judy. While it did make it clear that she was Irish, it also made for hard reading at time. This doesn’t appeal to the modern ear.
2. I didn’t enjoy book 2 as much as book 1. In the second book, Pat’s desire to keep her home at all costs, even as a young adult, got to be annoying (and unbelievable) at times. Although I’m glad I preserved through book 2 to the wonderful ending of the series.
I think this book would appeal to fans of Anne of Green Gables and Emily of New Moon. Readers who love character-driven books centered on family, like The Penderwicks, would enjoy this as well.
Have you came across any undiscovered gems by favorite authors? Would you relate to a character who was adverse to change?
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To check out more Marvelous Middle Grade suggestions, check out Shannon Messenger's blog.