Sunday, January 18, 2015

Emily's Fortune (Emily #1) by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor

I got hooked into this story like a fish to a bait. Luella, the wealthy owner that Emily's mom works for loves order and quiet, except when she picks up the carriage reigns. Then she's "Looney Luella" that drives like Mario Andretti. My father is like that wanting things done in a particular way and when he gets behind the wheel of a car he's yapping about engine sizes and flinging the car around asphalt at high speeds. I'd purposefully not wear a seat belt on the leather surface in the back seat because I thought it so much fun playing pinball with the side doors. Dad never killed anyone, but Looney Luella did. She killed herself and Emily's mom in a carriage accident. Shucks, this should be tragic, except when Emily sees Mrs Ready, Mrs. Aim, and Mrs. Fire, you know things are going to get silly and they do when the threesome can't understand a word Emily says when she explains she has an "Aunt Hilda in Redbud" to which they respond, "What?" You have an "anthill in bedbug?" Add to that the large billboard type western letters in large font at the end of the chapters with cliffhangers where Emily is "flippin' flapjacks" or "tumblin' tarnation," or "blinkin' bloomers" surprised by what she sees and you know you have a rippin' adventure that will make you laugh.

The social services show up to take Emily to the orphanage just as Mrs Ready, Aim, and Fire decide Emily should take the train and stagecoach to Redbud. Emily's explains that she doesn't want to live with her uncle that doesn't like children and has only taken money from her mother. The social services woman who drives around in a carriage with the name, "Child Catching Services," on the side wants to send Emily to her uncle because it is the only way she can get a bonus. With the help of the three straight shooters, Emily sneaks off and catches the train.

When Emily boards the stagecoach she is befriended by another orphan, Jackson, who helps her with the newness of everything and teaches her to climb trees. He spots a flyer saying Emily has inherited (Looney) Luella's 10 million dollar estate. Soon people both good and bad are looking for Emily and she disguises herself as a boy trying to get to Redbud. When her Uncle Victor shows up on the stagecoach, she overhears him telling someone else that he has come into money and she knows for sure that all he wants is her money. While in disguise it becomes apparent that the villainous Uncle Victor thinks only of himself and is afraid of woman. He tries to hide from the two women in the stagecoach that find him attractive making for some humorous scenes. This balances his nasty side and shows he's human not pure evil. An exciting climax will have you yelling "hokie smokies" instead of "holy smokes."

Emily's character arc shows how she gains confidence through her adventures and has grown enough to stand up to her frightening Uncle Victor. When Emily is first at Luella's she is forced to be quiet and is not allowed to go to school or play outside. Luella wants Emily to be a mouse, "seen-and-not-heard" and she complies. While Luella means well she overprotects Emily and doesn't expose her to the world. Emily is so shy that when Mrs. Ready, Mrs. Aim, and Mrs. Fire ask her questions they misunderstand her whispering responses.

The balance between danger and humor makes this good for grades 2-5. It's a quick read at 150 pages. If you want to introduce the Wild West and the uncomfortableness of riding in a stagecoach then this would be a good read aloud. I particularly like the humor in this story. I do like a good laugh. It lightens my day and helps me not take myself to seriously. I know my students love it too. Don't miss this "super-duper-dinger-zinger" of a tale. And don't drive your carriages too fast.

4 Smileys

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