Thursday, January 12, 2012

Family Stories: The Moffat Books by Eleanor Estes

We had a delightful time reading The Moffats aloud last year, and the girls are eager for more Moffat adventures. So I caved to their begging and pleading and am reading the second book in the Moffat series, The Middle Moffat.
If you are not familiar with The Moffats, the stories -written in the early 1940's- revolve around an American family living in Cranbury, Connecticut before and during the first World War, that includes Mama, Sylvie, Joey, Jane, and Rufus. Their father died before we meet them in the first book. Their mama supports the family with her sewing and tailoring, but it's not an easy living. There's a lot of scrimping and making do, and the children have a lot of freedom to come and go, in a manner unfamiliar to children in our day.

The first book's overarching theme is that Moffat family house, which all the young Moffats have grown up in, is only a rental, and the landlord has put a "For Sale" sign on the house. With this looming over their heads, the Moffats proceed with life.
In these somewhat autobiographical books, based on Eleanor Estes' childhood memories, each chapter of the books is a complete story about some episode in the children's lives. My girls' favorites from The Moffats were the Halloween chapter, where they make a ghost in their attic to try to scare the obnoxious neighbor boy, and the chapter about Jane losing their coal money.

The second book, The Middle Moffat (winner of the Newbery Honor), finds the family adjusting to life in a new house, neighborhood, new friends, and for Jane, a new school.

The appeal that Eleanor Estes' books have is that she is able to capture the mind set of young people, their impishness, their curiosity, how they see the world, etc., in a way that transcends the passage of time. And Louis Slobodkin's whimsical sketches helpfully highlight the story. (These books are also an interesting look at American children's lives during this time in history.)

We've enjoyed getting to know the Moffats and we're looking forward to more of their adventures.

Here are the books, in order:
The Moffats
The Middle Moffat
Rufus M.
The Moffat Museum


  1. We *love* this series! N. rereads sections of the latter couple books just about weekly. We also really love Estes' other books, especially Ginger Pye, Pinky Pye, and The Witch Family. Glad to hear you've been enjoying the Moffats!

  2. We are big fans of Ginger and Pinky Pye, but we've never read The Moffats. I think I need to change that!

  3. Thanks for sharing these books. They look like the kind of stories that my boys would enjoy. Adding them to my ever growing list. :)

  4. FH and Amy - Olivia picked up Ginger Pye to read on her own this week after discovering that Eleanor Estes wrote it. She came tearing down the stairs a day later beside herself with excitement to discover that the Moffats were mentioned in the book several times, and that Rachel (of Ginger Pye) was friends with Jane Moffat.

    Serena, I'd highly recommend it for boys. Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting.

  5. I remember N. had that reaction too to discovering characters from one book tangentially mentioned in another. Estes does the same thing with The Alley and The Witch Family. It's adorable how much kids love running into those beloved characters again in an unexpected place!

  6. We have dabbled in The Moffetts and thoroughly enjoyed them (although I think my daughter has read them more me at this point) I might add those to MY summer reading list.

  7. Stephanie, they're fun, and a pretty quick read for adults. Thanks for stopping by and commenting.