To Leander Elliot Stratton: "The Way to Be Happy Is to Be Good"
This is a delightful book for readers of all ages, especially girls and women; however, an adult more easily understands the limitations of the young narrator's point of view, and therefore more fully enjoys the plentiful humor in this story of a large farming family in post-Civil War Indiana. Little Sister, the narrator, is the youngest of the family, and the special pet of Laddie, one of her older brothers. Laddie is almost too virtuous, handsome, wise, and manly to be true, but the other major characters are not quite so perfect--brother Leon is a lovable scamp, and Little Sister herself is no goody-goody but a nature-loving tomboy who always tells the truth, even at the worst possible moment. Much of the plot has to do with Laddie's romance with the Princess, a forthright and winning young lady whose family hides a sad secret. Female readers (and this book is written for them) will enjoy the intelligent, independent-minded girls and women; Ms. Stratton-Porter was clearly a feminist in her thinking. There is more "preachiness" and overt religious talk than modern readers may like, but for the era and the setting, it rings true. As a side light, this book is very informative about the birds, insects, and wild life of rural Indiana--if, in fact, any of it survives into the 21st century. The story is fun to read, the plot moves smoothly along, and all the mysteries are unraveled at the end in a most satisfactory manner. --Submitted by Meg Mitchell Rosenfeld
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