Back To School
Been a while since I’ve done one of these. For some reason I thought I had at least started book 3, but I guess not, cuz I can’t find it.
Chapter 1 starts with Heather and Laura staring the school year in a brand new building.
Mr. Douglas and his workers had finished building a new school on the Avondale campus. It was named College Hall, but inside there were two classrooms for the primary school students.
Here, again, is where I wish like heck the author had included a little section in the back of the book where she talked more about the time period and history. Want to know what would have been even more cool? To show us a picture of what College Hall looked like in the 1890s/1900s. Cameras existed at this point, surely someone must have taken one of a brand new building?
I can’t even find pictures online, or even more than a basic overview of the history of the college that really doesn’t tell me much.
We are told that this classroom has real desks that have room for 2 students each. Heather and Laura are bummed that they don’t get to sit together. In fact, Heather has to sit with…. Ethel Reynolds!
Mrs. Hughes, the teacher, has the older students do the most popular first day of school assignment ever– write an essay about what you did over the summer.
Heather begins her essay, and here the author sees an opportunity to give us the date: March 6, 1899. This is dropped easily within the text and fits.
We are also told that in 9 days, Heather will turn 10. Then she starts writing her essay, which begins, “this summer, I made a new friend. Her name is Addie Hart.” This would have been a good place to recap the events of the last book. It wouldn’t have needed to take more than a paragraph to tell us who Addie Hart is, and that she and Laura have recently been baptized. But that’s where the scene ends.
When we pick up, Heather and Laura are leaving school. Godsdammit author, I wanted a proper school story. Half the fun of reading the American Girl books was learning what school would have been like. If you’re not going to give me a compelling storyline, at least give me more than a snapshot of what school is like for these children.
Emma, Laura’s little sister, comes up to Laura in tears, crying because she tripped. How old is Emma supposed to be? If she’s not badly hurt, she’s way too old to be running around in tears.
Laura takes Emma home, and Heather finds Nathan, who is playing with his friend, James, in Dora creek. Nathan tells Heather he’s going over to James’ house. We get a bit of angst from Heather about having to walk home by herself. Yawn.
It was a bright, sunny afternoon, and Heather walked past the girls’ dormitory, following the path that crisscrossed the campus.
Heather turned at the sound of a stick breaking under foot. A scruffy-looking man with a long, scraggly beard stepped out of the woods.
On second thought, maybe I’ve been too hard on Heather. If she had someone else with her, she might feel a little safer.
Heather turned back around quickly and walked a little faster….The man was walking along the path behind her!
Heather….walked as fast as she could, but the footsteps got closer and closer. She….was just about to break into a sudden run when the man caught up to her.
This bit is decently done. For a moment I actually wondered if the author was going to put Heather in some actual danger.
The man politely asks her if she knows where Mr. Gibson lives. He’s been lost, you see. Ok, but he should still know better than to pop out of the forest like that and scare little girls. For lo, little girls know that thou shalt not trust every single strange man you meet.
Aunt Rachel is weeding the flower bed when Heather comes running up. She tells Aunt Rachel that the man is looking for her father. When Mr. Gibson comes out, he recognizes the stranger as Mr. O’Leary. Apparently Mr. O has been reading a book Mr. Gibson gave him. Which book? Well, we don’t get to know. And it’s probably not important…. probably.
Mr. O’Leary apologizes for frightening Heather, saying he didn’t mean to. Heather forgives him, and Mr. O’Leary and Mr. Gibson wander off to discuss books.
Aunt Rachel tells Heather that Mrs. Gibson is feeling much better. So much better, in fact, that she’s making lunch. Mrs. Gibson, if you recall, has a Mystery Illness. Ellen White gave her the advice to get more sunshine. Which…. probably isn’t going to hurt, but it’s also probably not the miracle cure this book is making it out to be.
Heather is happy her mom is feeling better, and so is Aunt Rachel.
“Because it gives me more time to do fun things with you.”
Heather’s eyes lit up. “Like what?” She asked.
“Embroidery,” Aunt Rachel said, a mischievous grin on her face.
Heather frowned. “That’s not fun!” Heather answered. “In fact, I don’t like it at all.”
Aunt Rachel is That Person. You know the type, that one lady at church who thinks she’s good with the children, but isn’t. Aunt Rachel already knows Heather hates embroidery, but when she says she and Heather are going to do something fun, she pulls up the very thing she knows Heather hates.
That sort of person is extremely annoying to children.
At this point, Heather is probably wishing her mom was a helluva lot sicker.
Aunt Rachel pinched Heather’s nose playfully.
Most kids over the age of 4 HATE it when you do that.
Aunt Rachel says she knows Heather hates embroidery, but that Heather is a woman and embroidery is a thing women do.
Honest question: Even in 1899, wasn’t it becoming kinda unnecessary for women to do complicated embroidery? Weren’t women, by this time, also doing things besides embroidery?
Instead of arguing, Heather acts like no child ever. Unless said child is being sarcastic.
“Alright,” she answered. “But only because you are the best aunt in the whole world.”
She just told you you were gonna do something fun, then did the exact opposite. Best. Aunt. Ever.
Aunt Rachel tickled her ankles
How is that even possible I don’t–nevermind. Let me just say I hated it when grownups tickled me. Anyone vying for the title of Best Aunt Ever knew better than to tickle me. Ever.
“I’m the only aunt you have who isn’t on the other side of the Pacific Ocean,” she said laughing.
Still wouldn’t make you the favorite aunt by default.
“Now, run inside and get that stitching.”
Heather laughed. “Yes, bestest aunt.”
That’s where the chapter ends, and I’m not really sure what the point of the exchange was? Probably to show the bond that exists between Aunt Rachel and Heather? That could have worked–if the section weren’t cringe worthy and didn’t make Aunt Rachel look like a big dick.