HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW
Book: The Windy Hill
Author: Cornelia Meigs
Illustrator: Berta and Elmer Hader
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, republished 2016
Language level: 1
(1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing and/or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing and/or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity)
Recommended reading level: Ages 12-16
Rating: ***** 5 stars (EXCELLENT)
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
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Meigs, Cornelia. The Windy Hill (originally published in 1921 by The Macmillan Company, New York City, NY). It is June, and fifteen year old Oliver Peyton and his younger sister Janet, thirteen, are going to spend the summer visiting with their cousin Jasper Peyton at his large estate on “the Windy Hill” in Medford Valley. Cousin Jasper has always been a jolly fellow, but now he seems quite morose. Jasper wants Oliver to meet another cousin, Eleanor who is about his own age, but Oliver is afraid that she will be too prim and proper and thus boring, so he heads for the train station to go back home. However, on the way he meets a bee keeper and his daughter Polly. The Beeman tells him the first of a fascinating series of “flashback” stories which he later learns are related to Oliver’s own family’s history. Oliver also meets still another cousin, Anthony Crawford, who seems very sullen and unsociable. In fact, every time Anthony visits Jasper, the latter seems even more upset.
Why is Cousin Jasper so unhappy? What kind of hold does Crawford hold over him? Who is the Beeman? How does he know so much about the Peyton family and their history? And can Oliver and Janet help to unravel the family mystery and correct mistakes that were over a hundred years in the making? The novel was a Newbery Honor recipient in 1922. There is much to like about this book, and I enjoyed reading it. It is a beautiful story of how honor and integrity overcome pride, greed, and jealousy to lead to peace and redemption between members of a family torn by the decisions from the past. A few of the objections that some have expressed are that the book isn’t politically correct by today’s standards because it illustrates stereotypes and the history of racism and misogyny with the example its use of the highly-offensive word squaw to describe Native American women, that the Beeman’s stories are so tenuous as to be a little distracting, and that the ending is ridiculously pat.
Here are my responses. Those who subscribe to political correctness are just too sensitive. The Beeman’s wonderful stories are adventure-packed, and the connection between them and the present-day action does eventually become clear with a definite bearing on the relationship between Jasper and his troublesome cousin. And while the ending may seem pat to some, it is not sugar-coated, but shows plainly the sometimes painful consequences of hurtful actions. Though told through the eyes of a young boy, the tale will appeal to both girls and boys alike. The plot does move a little slowly at times and the Gameboy generation might find it a bit boring, but I agree with the reviewer who said, “It is a beautifully written book full of the children’s adventures and a great mystery which unfolds chapter by chapter.” Author Cornelia Meigs also wrote three other Newbery Award Books, Invincible Louisa: The Story of the Author of Little Women (1934 Medal Winner), Swift River (1933 Honor Book), and Clearing Weather (1929 Honor Book).