In Grandma’s Attic
post written by Esther Filbrun
Title: In Grandma’s Attic
Author: Arleta Richardson
Major Themes: 19th century (1800s), United States, Historical Fiction, Children’s Books
Synopsis: Mabel, along with her best friend Sarah Jane, gets into a lot of trouble and learns many valuable lessons in the late 1800s.
In Grandma’s Attic has always been a favorite for me. It was one of the first read-alouds Mom had for me when I started school, and I remember how excited I was for each new story as we read through it—and the sequels, too, of course. Arleta Richardson is a wonderful storyteller, and she brought the late 1800s to life. I could relate with Grandma—or as she was called then, Mabel—what with her forgetfulness, or her tom boyishness, or the time when she didn’t listen to advice and had a skinned tongue as a result. I loved these stories.
Mabel considers herself fairly bright, but her mother needs to keep reminding her that she has a few things to learn yet. Sadly, Mabel doesn’t listen well—and when it comes to having common sense, Mabel has only Sarah Jane, her best friend, to help her. Together, the two wear hoopskirts to church against their parent’s knowledge, believing they are well old enough to be able to wear them. When it comes time to sit down they embarrass everyone—their parents especially—after the hoops and their skirts fly into their face. They had forgotten to practice sitting down gracefully. Another time, we learn about the picnic Mabel missed because she was sick—and she ends up being thankful about it. If she had been with Sarah Jane, she would have fallen in the river along with a few other disobedient girls and soiled her new dress.
These—and many other stories—give both pieces of an almost-forgotten past, and a sense of the love and faith of a family in the late 1800s. Each story has a lesson with it, each simple, gentle, Biblical and at the same time interesting. I believe that even adults would enjoy In Grandma’s Attic, and it makes a wonderful family read-aloud. Mabel and Sarah Jane led colorful lives, and Arleta Richardson has written them down to share with us—so, in a way, we can live and learn along with them as well.
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