HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW
Book: Ready-Made Family
Author: Frances Salomon Murphy
Illustrator: Moneta Barnett
Publisher: Scholastic Book Services, republished 1963
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 8-12
Rating: ***** 5 stars
(5 stars=EXCELLENT; 4 stars=GOOD; 3 stars=FAIR; 2 stars=POOR; 1 star=VERY POOR; no stars=NOT RECOMMENDED)
Category: General youth fiction
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
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Murphy, Frances Salomon. Ready-Made Family (Published in 1953 by Thomas Y. Crowell Company; republished in 1966 by Scholastic Book Services, a division of Scholastic Magazines Inc., New York City, NY). Twelve year old Hedwig (Hedy) Kowalski, her ten year old brother Peter, and their six year old sister Mary Rose are orphans. Their mother had died six years before, and then their father just disappeared. After being divided up and passed around among several different, uncaring and resentful relatives and then spending a year at the State Home and School in the city, the three are taken by social worker Miss Marian Cannon to stay as foster children at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Kennedy, a childless couple who seem thrilled to have a “ready-made family,” in the small town of Goodrich, about ten miles away. John Kennedy runs a drug store, and his wife Nan is a homemaker.
The children start Goodrich school, make friends in the neighborhood, and seem to be doing well. Then some money comes up missing. Hedy’s foster mother doesn’t know where it is. But Hedy thinks that she does and even knows who took it. Her relatives have always said that her brother Pete is a “natural-born thief.” What will happen now? Will Pete be sent to a reform school? Will little Mary Rose have to live in an orphanage? Will Hedy have to go back to her horrible cousin Hattie and leave the best home she’s ever known? This story highlights the needs of children from broken homes and families in crisis. There are a few common euphemisms (e.g., “gee”), but saying prayers and going to church are mentioned as matters of course. It is an engaging story with a very likable heroine with whom it is easy to identify.
Although this book was originally published in 1953 and set in the 50s, there’s nothing outdated about the general themes. Just like back then, today’s foster children also experience similar feelings and situations while trying to adjust to the idea that someone finally wants to give them a home. Hedy’s cousin Hattie seems to be the only irredeemable character. Other apparent antagonists turn out to be at least to some degree misunderstood, thus presenting young readers with a generally positive if somewhat flawed world. Such balance provides a better life lesson than some syrupy nonsense or a mortal enemy behind every tree type of tale. The Ready-Made Family is fictional, as is Miss Cannon, but author Frances Solomen Murphy has inspired many individuals to want to care for children and families in need. The book really shows the need of all children to be accepted for who they are and loved unconditionally.