This book review is in honor of my Mom, Leota M. Henderson. She always loved reading and always talked about how she remembered her first books were “The Bobbsey Twins” series. I hadn’t known anything about them and wasn’t interested in reading about children’s exciting adventures growing up. It wasn’t until after she passed (in 2006) that I began to wonder why she was so enthralled with the series and the kids. So, earlier this summer, I found some of the books were free in the Kindle ebook store because they were beyond their copyright. I downloaded about 10 or so of them and started reading one at random.
The author, Laura Lee Hope, was a child in the late 1800’s. That’s the 19th century, technically. Two centuries ago. Let that sink in for a second or two. Laura began writing the books in the early 20th century, 1920’s, perhaps. Keep in mind the era at the time was vastly different: horse and buggy was the normative transportation in nice weather, and horse and sleigh were the normative transportation in snow and icy weather.
It was still common to have house servants of color and the Bobbsey’s had two servants, Sam the caretaker and Dinah, the cook. Were Sam and Dinah treated like property? No. Were Sam and Dinah talked down to? No. Were Sam and Dinah whipped and thrown in cellars? No. They were loved members of an extended family, included in holidays and birthdays. They were cared for like any other member of the Bobbsey family.
Common to the time, Sam and Dinah were uneducated. That doesn’t mean they weren’t smart or their opinions weren’t taken into consideration. Everyone in the family has his or her job: Mr. Bobbsey owned and worked at a lumber mill; Mrs. Bobbsey cared for the house and children and as mentioned above, Sam and Dinah worked around the property and house. The kids were kids.
The books are short and written in an easy to read fashion, on a child’s level of understanding. The main thrust of the stories are ‘treat others as you would be treated’ and ‘don’t mistreat others”, as well as ‘there are bad people in the world but there are also people who care’. I can see why my Mom enjoyed them as a child of the late 1940’s/early 1950’s and throughout her life.
Would these be written and published in today’s world? Of course not, for many reasons, least of all the dictation of how Black people are portrayed, child abuse of secondary characters, bullies and so on. For what the stories are, I feel they are a great read about a pasttime in America’s history.