Some months ago, my wife and I were reading Eleanor Estes’ charming book Rufus M. We were amazed at one story where Rufus (the youngest of the Moffats and the title character) found some money frozen in the ice. While the rest of his family were busy trying to manage a frozen pipe under the house, Rufus managed to chisel two quarters, three dimes, and a couple nickels out of the ice. He used this money (quite a bit it seems for the time) to pay for a plumber to fix the troublesome pipe, then he went to the store and ” … laid all his money on the counter. He bought two packages of kindling wood … He bought a small sackful of good, hard nut coal … He bought some apples, some oranges, some eggs, and some potatoes, and he went home feeling like Santa Claus.”
Rufus sensed his place in the family unit and desired to contribute. After reading this, my wife and I felt so proud for Rufus and had such pleasure at our feelings of admiration that we wondered, “Why aren’t there a million stories like this?”
I don’t know the answer. Perhaps it has something to do with the rockstar status of the misfit/outcast archetype in children’s literature. There is a strong trend in fiction for young people that consists of jettisoning of one’s God-given family and cobbling together a new one on a road trip. Also, there’s no better way for an author to make friends with their reader than to say, ‘parents are dumb because they don’t understand you.’
Anyway, there ought to be a million stories like Rufus’ but I can’t seem to find them. However, I did find a poem where a kid takes delight in providing the food for a meal. I found it pleasing. Perhaps you will too.
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Emily Kiser says
I also love Estes’ books! I think you’ve hit upon a distinctive of what makes the books we collect in our library (livingbookslibrary.com) different from many others. I love Ralph Moody’s stories of his growing up years (beginning with Little Britches)–he exemplifies this selfless attitude that looks out for his family and those around him above all others. Perhaps you’d like to read of his adventures too?
Yes! I wonder if this isn’t a great reason why I was so drawn to Laura Ingalls Wilder’s books at a young age. Just yesterday I was thinking how strange it seems today for a young girl to find work she dislikes (dressmaking, teaching, etc.) out of love for her family and a desire to help her older sister attend school.
I’m off to get acquainted with the Moffats now. Thank you!
The Penderwicks are such a family? Do you know them? By Jeanne Birdsall
Zach Franzen says
I have only read the first Penderwicks book. I am not a great enthusiast for the book which seems to me to treat masculinity as a malevolent force. However, the books do seem to be widely admired by folks I respect. What did you like most about the books?
Allison Burr says
Hey Zach, We’re not big fans of the Penderwick books either. In fact, I bought the audio book of the first book in the series, based upon multiple recommendations, and my big girls immediately came to me and said — “why did you buy this? This isn’t the kind of books we like.” And so, the Penderwicks found their way into the trash, a sad fate indeed.
But I love the poem you shared, and we are big fans of the Moffats (we have the whole series on our shelf).
– Allison Burr