Middle Grade: "Aunt Claire Presents" Two Series Reissues | December 2017 Xpress Reviews

Two books from the early 20th–century depict friendship and life among the elite in this month's Xpress.

Crane, Laura Dent. The Automobile Girls at Newport. Bk. 1. ISBN 9781946053008.

Flower, Jessie Graham. Grace Harlowe’s Freshman Year at High School. Bk. 2. ISBN 9781946053015.

ea vol: 240p. (Aunt Claire Presents). Laboratory. Sept. 2017. Tr. $16.95.

Gr 5-7 –The series reissues titles originally published in the early 20th century. Each title is prefaced with “A Note from Aunt Claire” that puts the book into historical context, points out the racism and sexism inherent in the stories and provides informative photos (a typical high school classroom in 1911) and relevant artifacts (like an advertisement for Pond’s Vanishing Cream). Unfortunately, the style of the notes feels contrived and old-fashioned. Should readers get through the eight- to 12-page notes, they will likely still be unprepared for some of the antiquated language (‘ “Goodness!,’ ejaculated Tom.”). The Automobile Girls at Newport (1910) tells the story of four friends and their chaperone, Aunt Sallie, who take a road trip to Newport where they spend a month among the elite. Grace Harlowe’s Freshman Year at High School (1910) is about four friends who have an adventure-filled school year as their archenemy, Miriam Nesbit, continuously tries to thwart their plans. While the comfortingly predictable plots and loyal friendships will appeal to some readers, both books glamorize a wealthy white America that many young library patrons will not identify with. Both books were originally published as the first in a series. This reissued series may work in a collection where the original Nancy Drew books circulate well or where older adults are looking for a nostalgic read. VERDICT The warning about the historical racism and sexism embedded in these titles begs the questions: Why were these selected for reissue, and who are they for?–Hillary Perelyubskiy, Los Angeles Public Library

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