I’ve always been partial to slice-of-life stories; they resonate so much more with me than other great works of literature because the authors have found a way to make the ordinary extra-ordinary. I credit this to the books my mom read to me when I was a little girl, as well as the books she encouraged me to read - Little House in the Big Woods, The Five Little Peppers and How They Grew, Anne Of Green Gables, and so on.
I was about eight or nine when my mom gave me use of her copy of Still More Stories From Grandma’s Attic, the third book in Richardson’s series. It was one of her favorite books when she was around that age, as is easy to see when you look at her well-worn copy. Still More Stories From Grandma’s Attic was one of the books I re-read the most when I was little, and as I got older, it surprised me to see how unpopular the series was compared to other classics. I simply assumed that everyone knew about it. Therefore, I feel it’s crucial that the literary world is made more aware of this adorable book series so that my fellow bookworms can jump on this delightfully niche bandwagon.
The premise and my personal connection
Grandma’s Attic follows the real-life childhood stories of Mabel O’Dell, grandmother to the author Arleta Richardson. The books take place in the mid-late 19th Century and crossover into a spin-off series about Mabel’s young adult life.
One of the things that drew both myself and my mother to this book series was the character’s name and position later in life. Mabel O’Dell became a school teacher in her early teens, just like my great grandmother Mabel Golightly, who graduated from teacher’s college in 1914 (and is also the inspiration for a certain heroine of mine).
Mabel’s life being similar to my grandmother’s gave this book a feeling of familiarity for me, even before I began reading it. I never met my great-grandma, so reading about a girl so like her from personality to passion made me feel closer to her than I ever could be. These details endeared this series to me even more so, and it grew within my heart even more as I picked them up again this past October.
The best parts
I’ve never enjoyed reading about characters who are perfect and well behaved all the time, especially when it comes to children. And one of my favorite things about this series is Mabel’s dry, sarcastic, and irritable nature. She ends up getting herself into some pretty complicated and entertaining situations, and her reactions are priceless. Her best friend is somewhat of a bad influence on her throughout the books, and Mabel’s retaliation is usually comically justified.
The most interesting children are the ones who frequently get in over their heads, as they have the most creative minds. And in reading this series, it’s easy to see which category Mabel falls into!
Another thing I love about this book is how each chapter is its own separate story - you can pick any chapter from these books, and it has its own individual beginning, setting, and lesson. Each story begins with Arleta as a little girl visiting her grandma, and something is occurring in the scene that reminds Mabel of one of her childhood stories, taking us back into the glorious Victorian era.
I love this story structure, because it feels like a much more authentic look into Mabel and Arleta’s lives, almost like flipping through a family album. It also contributes to the ease of reading, enabling you to finish the book in just a couple of hours!
I can’t get into much more detail without totally spoiling these books, but suffice it to say, In Grandma’s Attic is a children’s classic that deserves more credit. The writing style is very similar to that of Laura Ingalls Wilder and contains heartily entertaining stories that will remind you of the scrapes of Anne Shirley. This series holds the best parts of all classics brought together in one series, and it would be a shame not to experience it for yourself. You’ll walk away with words of wisdom, a feeling of childhood relived, and a cozy familial atmosphere that will ensure an imprint of these books upon your mind.
J.E. Stanway lives and writes in Fort St. John, and is Editor of The Postmodern Journal. Read more works by visiting thepostmodernjournal.com.