18 Aug 2009

Their last chance

Hey, has anybody read Five Little Peppers And How They Grew by Margaret Stanley? Apparently it's an American classic.

We're ploughing through it as our family read-aloud at the moment, and when I say ploughing, I mean we're finding it really heavy going. Which is surprising rather, because it is one of the Ambleside Online Free Reads for Year 2 and generally I am totally cool with their choices. Not Five Little Peppers. I'm finding Margaret Stanley's writing style stilted and her grammar questionable at best. Take for example this sentence (if it actually constitutes a sentence...) which is found in the very first paragraph of the book:
All the "breathing spell" they could remember however, poor things; for times were always hard with them nowadays; and since the father died, when Phronsie was a baby, Mrs. Pepper had had hard work to scrape together money enough to put bread into her children's mouths, and to pay the rent of the little brown house.
Doesn't make sense. Which is a bad way to start a book - in my humble opinion.

Then there is Miss Polly Perfect. Well, you know what I think about perfect children, and this one is sickeningly so...so far. (We're up to Chapter 6...of 25.)

So my question to those of you who know is:

Does it improve? Is it worth persevering? Do I keep on keeping on with Five Little Peppers? Are we going to love it and rate it as one of our all time favourites along with a generation or ten of American boys and girls?

If not, I'm going to ditch it and read Mistress Masham's Repose by T H White. Which is a classic as well. An English classic. A loved by me classic. And which isn't on the AO list. Which it should be, but it's not. So I'm going to have to fit it in somewhere, and right now as a substitute for Five Little Peppers is looking pretty attractive.

Oh, my version is not the beautiful Victorian version pictured above, which is a shame, because that cover alone would make me want to persevere. My version is the hardcover one in the Amazon link up above by Applewood books. It feels like a video cassette. Hard and shiny and new. I don't like it. The words are too small too. Doesn't help much.

So girls, the fate of the Pepper family is in your capable hands.

Yes or No?

Stay or Go?

You decide for me.



  1. Hi Jeanne
    We recently found an older copy of this book at a book sale. the passage is worded slightly differently -it's probably an abridged version.
    Several months ago we listened to this on audio from librivox. I didn't notice having trouble with the wording. AND we all did enjoy it!

  2. Hmmm, maybe it's like Mark Twain's definition - "Classic: A book which people praise and don't read."

    I had never heard of it before AO though I see it's hefty price tag at the used book stores. We have a 1948 copy and the punctuation does seem to be cleaned up a bit from your edition (my middle-school English teacher would have called yours "comma happy."

    SCM has it listed for literature in Grade 7 - go figure! We have not read it yet.

    What are your goals? Ours are a bit different for Reading than from Literature. With Charlotte's help...
    Enjoy reading.
    Read with attention and concentration.
    Comprehend what is read.
    Appreciate the style of the writer.
    Exercise discernment in reading choice.

    Read or listen with attention and concentration.
    Exercise the power of recollection.
    Receive a sense of the spaciousness of the time written of.
    Secure wide spaces for the imagination to explore.


  3. I'd like to offer some hope, (I don't like starting a book and not finishing it) but Five little peppers bored the living daylights out of me. Just couldn't finish it, couldn't like any of the characters, and have too many other good things waiting to be read to bother persevering with it!

    Sometimes I find that I like a book better if I wait a year or two and have another go, as I may have been needing some instant gratification when starting the book the first time.

  4. Never read the book but in our home school, if I start a book and the children are not enjoying it or if I am finding it hard to plow through, it gets the flick.

  5. We started Five Little Peppers about 6 or 7 months ago. My 2 youngest girls especially have enjoyed this story, and often bring it to me begging me to read the next chapter.

    BUT, I have found it hard going to read aloud. I have found the sentences very long, and so very full of words that it is difficult to get my mouth around. Which is why we haven't yet finished it. But I am hoping we will finish it by the end of the year - in little bits.

  6. I never liked it, personally. Polly stays perfect the whole way through the book. And her siblings would never survive in my house, either. My kids love each other, but, ummmm, there ARE days on end when you would never notice.
    If you want a good read about a wholesome family of American siblings, try The Saturdays by Elizabeth Enright. Actually, anything you read by her is enjoyable!

  7. Hi Jeanne,

    We did persevere with it, and it is a lovely story in the end. It was probable an abridged version though I think.
    "Perfect children" can have the ability to inspire...possibly?? I guess Polly was kind of like Beth in Little Women. Totally up to you though if you want to ditch it - we've done it before, I think with The Railway Children. Sometimes trying the book again a few years later helps.

  8. Bethany HATED this book!! It's insipid. A friend of mine claimed this book of part of why he "turned out gay..." [He was kidding about the book]. There are much better choices than that! "Lad" or "Little Women" come to mind or the Little House books, or ....or....

  9. I asked my 'Miss', (who is a Book Connoisseur!) She liked it...not loved it. She liked
    Five Children and It by Edith Nesbit more...that is on Ambleside year 2 list, also.

  10. Read it, can't remember it so it obviously left no impression. Ditch it for something you'll enjoy & remember. Life's too short to read bad literature! ☺

  11. So - to my decision?

    We will persevere for another two or three weeks and if none of us are excited about it then it gets the chop.

    It is worth knowing that some girls have really enjoyed it.

    Thanks all for you help. I really appreciated it.


I'd love you to leave me a message. Tell me what you like - and what you don't. Just remember that this is what we do in our family - it doesn't have to be what you do in yours...