Friday, May 23, 2008

Book Review: The Moffats, by Eleanor Estes

"Jane clanked her feet against the hollow hitching post. For the hundredth time she was thinking that the yellow house was the best house to be living in in the whole block because it was the only house from which you could see all the way to both corners. You could see every inch of the way down New Dollar Street to Elm Street, where the trolley ran. ...In the other direction you could see every inch of the way to Wood Street, along which the railroad tracks ran like a river."

The Moffats was first published in 1941. It is a collection of stories about the Moffat family: Jane, Sylvie, Joe, Rufus, Mama and Catherine-the-Cat, who live in the beloved yellow house on New Dollar Street. Set in the fictional town of Cranbury, Connecticut, in the 1910's, the Moffats have many adventures, all while living under the uncertainty brought on by the sudden appearance of a "For Sale" sign nailed to the front of the yellow house. Pen and ink drawings throughout the book add an extra visual perspective to the story, giving an even clearer picture to draw the reader further into the action.

Readers will delight in being along for the ride as Jane and her siblings get into all manner of situations and shenanigans. There's the time Janey ran and hid inside the breadbox outside Mr. Brooney's store, fearful of being arrested for mimicking a most important citizen. Or, there's the time, on his very first day of school, that little Rufus hitched a ride on a freight train, all to convince a friend that school isn't such a bad place to be. Then there is the time all four Moffat children finally give neighborhood nemesis Peter Frost his well-deserved comeuppance, and Mama is none the wiser for their Halloween prank. And there's the time Rufus got Scarlet Fever, and the house was quarantined, and Mama regaled Rufus with stories from her childhood in New York City.

Times are difficult for the Moffats, as Mama is a widow raising four children, making ends meet as a seamstress. The author presents their situation honestly, and from the children's point of view, and always with a little smidgen of hope from Mama that things will turn out OK.

For Teachers and Librarians:
The Moffats offers children of today an intimate window into the life of kids in the early 1900's. A compare/contrast of life then and now could be easily done using things from the book like bicycle style, transportation, electricity use (the yellow house had no electricity), grocery shopping, clothing, school, or economic times, to name only a few. Activities surrounding what kids did for fun back then, how everyone in the household worked together, or how life then is also similar to life now for kids, too, would all be perfect things to spring to from reading this book. It is written to kids, from their point of view, so that even though their time periods are worlds apart from Janey, Sylvie, Joe and Rufus, your students will find much to relate to and enjoy reading about.

For Parents, Grandparents and Caregivers:
Have your kids ever asked you what it was like when you were a kid? If they haven't, they'll start after reading this either with you or on their own. They will love the stories, and comparing the Moffat children's lives to their own. If your charges are reluctant readers, each chapter is a story in itself, so it is easy to break down into manageable chunks. Perhaps reading this book will even inspire you to share your own childhood stories with your kids - tell them all about it or write it down for them to enjoy many times over. Either way, they will truly love hearing or reading all about you!

For the Kids:
This book is a perfect kind of chapter book. It's written just the way a kid talks and thinks, so you'll have no problem getting into the story. Each chapter is its own small story, so you can read it straight through, or jump around a bit, and it will still make sense. The Moffat kids have lots of adventures in the yellow house they love so much, and it is fun to see the kinds of things kids did back in the 1910's, and compare it to the kinds of things you do right now. You may be surprised at how much is just like your life, and just as surprised at the things they do that you've never thought of before. Ask your grandparents or great-grandparents about what their life was like as a kid. It will be fun to see: was their life like the Moffats' lives?

For Everyone Else:
Though the book is written specifically for kids, history buffs can gain an interesting perspective of life in the early 1900's. History books are full of what happened back then, and what life was like in general, but reading about the kids' lives day in and day out in narrative fashion can show you things you'd maybe never realized before. Or it may bring back childhood memories of your own. You never know...

Wrapping Up:
The Moffats is a snapshot in time, a window into the life of kids and families in the early 20th century. You won't want to miss it.

Title: The Moffats
Author: Eleanor Estes
Illustrator: Louis Slobodkin
Pages: 224
Reading Level: Ages 9-12
Publisher and Date: Odyssey Classics, April 2001
Edition: Paperback, Sixtieth Anniversary Edition
Language: English
Published In: United States
Price: $6.95
ISBN-10: 0152025413
ISBN-13: 978-0152025410


  1. Can you email me @ & tell me who bought the Moffats house before Monday in California?

  2. Hello Kim! I stumbled on your site while looking for The Moffats.. I hope you dont mind me mentioning your site in my blog You have a great and very inspiring blogspot...

  3. Hi, Reyn!

    I don't mind the mention at all. I'm glad you enjoyed the post, and thanks for visiting!

  4. are there any other books like the moffat series??


So, what's on your mind?