The author, Eleanor Estes, has a way of revealing the inner workings of a
child's mind with affection and humor, and the family she portrays over
the course of several years is loving and united. The family suffers
hardships (they are poor and fatherless), but its members are generally
content, and often joyful. If I'm making the books sound sentimental or tragic,
I'm giving the wrong impression - they're really fun and upbeat.
My favorite is Rufus M. The story takes place during World War II. If you
would like your children to learn what life was like back then, they will
get a feel for it from this book. The children plant Victory Gardens, add
yellow coloring to the oleomargarine, and knit washcloths for the
Here's an excerpt about Rufus and his washcloth. It's probably too long,
but does give an idea of what the book is like:
All the children cast the same number of stitches onto their needles, but this did not mean that all the washcloths were going to be the same size. Not at all. Some were big and some were small, although they all started out with the same number of stitches cast on.
Rufus's washcloth was one of the kind that grew wider and wider as it grew longer. He knit the way he wrote, with large loose generous stitches. And maybe it was because he was left-handed that many of his stitches had a way of turning upside down. Every now and then Jane cast off some stitches at the side for him so the washcloth would not become too wide. Also she added some stitches in the middle to fill in some of the biggest holes.
"Try and knit closer together," she urged Rufus. "This looks more like a fish net."
Rufus's [washcloth] was very dirty, especially the beginning of it that he had knit the first. The end that he had just finished was not quite so dirty because the string inside the ball was still fairly clean. Mama said she hoped she would be able to boil the dirt out of it and make it good and white for some soldier. Rufus watched her wash it and wash it. Finally it did get fairly white except for the first rows that Rufus had had to undo so many times in the beginning. These remained slightly gray. "But it's pure," said Mama, "because I boiled it."