The Middle Moffat by Eleanor Estes

The Middle Moffat
The Middle Moffat by Eleanor Estes
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

As usual, Estes does not disappoint.

The Middle Moffat passed the most important test: My kids loved it. Both the 8yo and the 4yo said several times a day, “Read more Moffats, Mommy!” I found myself wondering what my 21st-century children see in these World War I-era books.

I think what makes the Moffat books timeless is the way Estes portrays the children. The books seem very true to the way a child thinks. I really love Jane’s perspective, and I enjoyed being in her head. Reading Jane’s internal conflict when trying to make decisions really endeared her to me. It’s lovely to read a character who is imperfect but trying so hard to do the right thing while receiving conflicting messages (like whether or not to take the last pork chop in a home with a maid).

Estes also incorporates some cultural critiques (and gentle ribbing) that help adult readers look at themselves less seriously. I especially loved the chapter where the women of the town hear a talk about Henry David Thoreau and then go through and declutter their homes. That really hit close to home. I had no idea people were decluttering in the early 20th century. And the means by which the organ—but not the piano bench—comes into the Moffat’s home really highlights the way that some people feel compelled to declutter without really internalizing the reasons for doing so.

The relationship between Jane and the oldest inhabitant of Cranbury was incredibly sweet, the way she cared for him, and he treated her as an equal. I found myself wishing our town would have a parade for every inhabitant who reached the century mark.

There are so many golden moments in this book. The only trouble I had with it is that the chapters are a tad long for a read-aloud. That didn’t stop us, though.

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