Some of Isabella Alden’s most beloved stories are about resourceful young people who, with God’s help, make a better life for themselves and others.
That was the premise at the heart of her novels about the Bryant family (in Miss Dee Dunmore Bryant and Twenty Minutes Late) and in The Man of the House.
Harriet Lothrop (writing under the pen name of Margaret Sidney) used the same premise for her novels. In her best-selling series of books about the Pepper children, the five siblings—Ben, Polly, Joel, Davie, and Phronsie—comprised a poor but stalwart family struggling to stay together. And at the heart of each story was the children’s desire to help their mother, whom they affectionately called “Mamsie.”
Harriet once explained in an interview why there was no father in any of the stories:
“My judgment told me that I must eliminate Mr. Pepper, because the whole motif “to help mother” would be lost if the man lived. It hurt me most dreadfully. He was a most estimable man, and I loved my own father so much, it seemed the most wicked thing to do. I went around for days quite droopy and guilty.
She used the same “fatherless family” device when she later wrote stories about the Brimmer children. In this two-book series, older brothers Jack and Cornelius are determined to earn money to help their widowed mother and younger siblings. In the process, they find their principles challenged at every turn, even as they learn valuable lessons.
Tired of seeing their mother struggle to support them, brothers Jack and Cornelius—with some help from little sister Rosalie—decide to go into business, and open a little shop in the old tool shed behind their house. At first business is slow, but just as the brothers begin to doubt they will ever make the shop a success, one of their town’s most influential citizens takes notice of the boys’ efforts. Soon the brothers have more business than they can handle, and an entirely new set of problems to solve.
The Little Red Shop is a charming story written with older children and teens in mind.
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