HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW
Book: The Moffats
Author: Eleanor Estes
Illustrator: Louis Slobodkin
Publisher: Harcourt, republished 2001
Related website(s): http://www.HarcourtBooks.com (publisher)
Language level: 2 (the euphemism “gee” appears several times)
(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 10 – 12
Rating: ***** 5 stars
(5 stars=EXCELLENT; 4 stars=GOOD; 3 stars=FAIR; 2 stars=POOR; 1 star=VERY POOR; no stars=NOT RECOMMENDED)
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
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Estes, Eleanor. The Moffats (published in 1941 by Harcourt Inc., now Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company, 6277 Sea Harbor Dr., Orlando, FL 32887). Nine year old Jane Moffat lives with her widowed Mama, sister and brothers Sylvie, fifteen, Joey, twelve, and Rufus, five and a half, her doll Hildegarde, and Catharine-the-cat in a yellow house at 27 New Dollar St. in the town of Cranbury, CT. The children’s father had died when Rufus was just a baby, and Mrs. Moffat ekes out a subsistence living as a dressmaker. Times are tough, and the owner of their house, Dr. Witty, needs money, so he puts it up for sale. The Moffats experience several hilarious adventures involving Police Chief Mulligan, the first day of school, a Salvation Army wagon, a ghost on Halloween, Miss Chichester’s dance recital, a scarlet fever quarantine, the coal barge, Tilly Cadwalader’s upcoming wedding, and the new Second Avenue trolly.
A family named Murdock wants to buy the yellow house, but they don’t have the money. Does the house ever sell? If so, who ends up purchasing it? And where will the Moffats go? These adventures are based on the author’s memories of her childhood in the early 1900s and focus on a working-class, single-parent American family during World War I. The Moffats, which won the Lewis Carroll Shelf Award in 1961, is a leisurely stroll down the sentimental lane of a gentler time. Oh, all is not fun and games. There are challenges. The family is fatherless, and they are poor. However, rather than emphasizing the “gloom, despair, and agony on me,” the Moffats learn to get along with what they have and to make the best of their difficult circumstances with a can-do attitude while also having a good time in the process.
Author Eleanor Estes (1906-1988), a children’s librarian, grew up in West Haven, Connecticut, which she renamed Cranbury for her classic stories about the Moffat and Pye families. Two of her other outstanding books about the Moffats—The Middle Moffat (1942) and Rufus M. (1943)—were awarded Newbery Honors. The fourth book of the series, The Moffat Museum, was written in 1983. Her book Ginger Pye (1951), for which she also created illustrations, won the Newbery Medal. It is about the Pye family, who are also residents of Cranbury, Connecticut, in 1919, and their dog. The sequel, Pinky Pye about the Pyes’ cat, was written in 1958. Estes’s 1944 book The Hundred Dresses, also received a Newbery Honor Award.