10 January 2006

E-Books Redux

Ah, I've been absent here for a bit while I celebrated over in Holiday Harbour. Tend to read Christmas books over Christmas, but have been digging into the e-books lately.

Last read were two of Edith Van Dyne's "Aunt Jane's Nieces" books. In Aunt Jane's Nieces on Vacation, the girls and Uncle John spend their vacation in the quaint country town of Millville and start and run a newspaper. The colorful country characters from Aunt Jane's Nieces in Millville reappear while we also meet the mysterious "Thursday Smith," a clever but dissipated artist named Hetty Hewitt, and the usual (for the early 1900s) foreign rabble-rousing and drunken workmen, this time workers at a nearby mill. Aunt Jane's Nieces Abroad takes place chiefly in Italy, where Uncle John runs afoul of a family of brigands who kidnap rich Americans and then demand they purchase some "antique" in order to be freed. Additionally, Louise is pursued by young Count Ferranti, who has a mysterious pass. The Italians in the story are all pretty stereotypical, but are also presented as having an odd sense of honor, which I find amusing rather than offensive. Young Tato, especially, is full of surprises.

The Meadow-Brook Girls Under Canvas is the first in a series about a group of four teenage girls and their older chaperone, a teacher, who travel about having adventures. Miss Elting is their guiding force, and the girls are Jane McCarthy ("Crazy Jane," the one with the car, whose widowed father has allowed her to run wild), Harriet Burrell (the pretty, talented, intelligent one), Grace Thompson (the childish and rich one who, hilariously—well, according to the book she's hilarious, anyway—lisps), Hazel Holland (pretty much of a cipher) and Margery Brown (nicknamed "Buster" because she is fat). In the initial offering, the girls attend camp with the "Camp Girls" who more than vaguely sound like Campfire Girls and must cope with two unfriendly campers who take a dislike to them. Of the girls, Grace "Tommy" Thompson is the most odd; I'm with Mary Crosson's "Plain Jane" Series List, on which Mary comments "When the reader first meets this series, one burning question leaps to mind: what the heck is wrong with Grace 'Tommy' Thompson? She is short schoolbus material if I've ever seen it—she makes Bobby Belden or Betty from Roy's 'Girl Scouts' series look normal. At 14, she lisps, babbles, frequently needs to 'cuddle,' hallucinates pink elephants when she eats too late at night, wants to sleep in her tentmate's cot because she's 'thcaired of bearth,' etc." The lisping thing gets old really fast, but the girls can be vaguely interesting.

The Meadow Brook girls also go hiking, strike out on a houseboat, visit the White Mountains and the ocean, and play tennis.

Annie Fellows Johnston is most famous for her "Little Colonel" series of books, but she wrote other novels about friends of Lloyd Sherman, "the little Colonel" (if you've only seen the Shirley Temple movie, you don't know the entire story of Lloyd Sherman, who grows up, finds love, and gets married in a series of novels). The Gate of the Giant Scissors is one such book, about Joyce Ware, an American girl who has been sent to France with an aunt to continue her education. She is homesick for her active family and country home and befriends the little nephew of the owner of the estate on which "the gate of the giant scissors" opens; the little boy is perpetually abused and starved by the cruel caretaker of the estate. The "giant scissors" really existed. My favorite Annie Johnston is still Georgina of the Rainbows, but I haven't read that many of them yet.