HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW
Book: Meggy MacIntosh: A Highland Girl in the Carolina Colony
Author: Elizabeth Janet Gray
Illustrator: Marguerite De Angeli
Publisher: Viking, republished in 1966
Language level: 2
(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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Gray, Elizabeth Janet. Meggy MacIntosh: A Highland Girl in the Carolina Colony (published in 1930 by Doubleday Doran and Company Junior Books, Garden City, NY; republished in 1944 by The Viking Press, New York City, NY). It is 1775, and fifteen year old Meggy MacIntosh is an orphan whose mother died when she was young and whose father, who had fought with Bonny Prince Charlie, died four years ago. His estate was given to a distant cousin, so Meggy has to live in Edinburgh with her uncle and aunt, Sir Douglas and Lady Keith, where she feels lonely and unwanted in the shadow of her glamorous and popular cousin Veronica. Meggy’s heroine is Flora MacDonald, who helped Bonny Prince Charlie escape and then herself fled to the Carolina colonies in America. One of Veronica’s suitors, Ewan McNeil, secretly entices Veronica to run away with him to North Carolina and get married. When Veronica backs out, Meggy decides to go in her place, though not to marry Ewan but to find Flora, although Ewan eventually does declare his love for her.
Of course, when Meggy arrives in Wilmington, war is starting to break out. She is surprised to hear that Flora MacDonald is rallying the Scottish immigrants to fight with the Tories for King George, but many of the Highlanders are casting their lot with the Whigs, including the family of young David Malcolm, who guides her into the backwoods where the MacDonalds have gone and seems smitten with her. The Malcoms care for her when she is very sick. Does Meggy ever find Flora? Will she choose life with either Ewan or David? And that all important question that everyone, even Meggy herself, would like to know the answer to—which side will she take, the Loyalists or the Patriots? This children’s historical novel by Elizabeth Janet Gray Vining, who also wrote 1943 Newbery Medal winner Adam of the Road, was a Newbery Honor recipient in 1931. The plot does tend to meander a bit, but it is an interesting story with plenty of adventure and action.
A few references to drinking alcohol, smoking tobacco, and social dancing, occur; Ewan says “Dod” a lot, which I suppose is a way of using the name of God as an interjection without actually uttering the word, and Toney, a Negro slave, exclaims “Lawdee.” Otherwise, there is little objectionable material. One criticism is that the book contains an element of racism in the way Gray portrays blacks, such as calling a slave “a little black monkey.” However, reasonable people understand that in days past people commonly thought and spoke like this with no intention to be hurtful and so are not offended by it when reading about life in former times, realizing that such language is historically accurate and not deliberately unkind. Unlike many books written for children about the Revolution, this one pictures both sides of the conflict as having genuine and good people. I especially found noteworthy Meggy’s experience when her fantasies about a hero are confronted with reality and the pathos of the Scots’ historic inability to win key battles.