Ms. Rapscott’s Girls

by Elise Primavera
First sentence: “Attention, Busy Parents!”
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Release date: March 10, 2015
Review copy handed to me by the publisher rep.
Content: It’s a good mix of illustrations and print; while it’s out of the beginning chapter book phase, it’s a good one for reluctant readers. It will be in the middle grade (grades 3-5) section of the bookstore.

Ms. Rapscott likes things rough. An orphan at an early age, she figured out how to make her Way in Life. And this is a skill she wants to give to young girls. Especially young, neglected girls of Extremely Busy parents. At the start of this summer school term (though you wouldn’t know it by the weather at the lighthouse that serves as the school; it’s always storming), five girls are on their way — arriving by pre-paid post (yes, in boxes) — for Ms. Rapscott to mold. There’s angry Beatrice, lazy Mildred, timid Fay, and competent Annabelle as well. And, of course, Dalhlia, who was so tiny (and her parents so absent-minded) that she fell out of the box and went missing.

At first glance, it’s easy to call this one a modern-day Mary Poppins. Ms. Rapscott serves as a kind, but firm nanny (or boarding school mistress) who gives the girls cake and ice cream for dinner and pie for breakfast, and yet demands tidiness and hard work. There’s a slight magical element — flying boxes, for one, but also her assistants, two dogs who handle the day-to day operations. It definitely feels like one of those books. (I felt chastised, reading it as a busy parent, for not being more attentive to my kids. And I’m pretty attentive. Maybe I was just having a down day when I read this.)

But it’s more than that: Ms. Rapscott doesn’t just straighten up these unruly daughters of busy parents; she helps them learn to be parents. I’m not quite sure what kids will think of this — I need to get K to read it — but as a parent, I saw that Primavera was advocating for the need for variety in a kid’s life: too much pie is bad, but some pie is good. Too much TV and staying in PJs all day is bad, but sometimes, it’s what is needed. Adventure, exploring is good, and can be Learned From. But, mostly, being helpful, cheerful, and optimistic is the best. And, perhaps, that’s something we all need to be reminded of.

It’s a delightful little read.

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