Tuesday, May 25, 2010

A Little Maid of Old Philadelphia

Today was a beautiful day to take the train into the city and walk around Independence Hall (with a class of 4th graders). I love imagining what Philadelphia must have looked like 300 years ago and the people who lived and worked and raised their families there. Sadly the city is littered with trash and car exhausts and tall gray buildings, but sometimes, down a cobblestone side street, between neat brick houses you can get the slightest whiff of history.

Madeleine, who loves historical fiction (good historical fiction, she is very discerning) read this around 3rd grade. It was originally published in 1919 and the story is sweet, if a little bit slow for modern tastes.

A Little Maid of Old Philadelphia 
Alice Turner Curtis 1919

Ruth Pennell lives in Philadelphia during the British troops occupation. Her Quaker aunt is minding her while her father is with Washington’s army and her mother is away in Germantown. Her best friend Winifred is her partner in adventures around the city and in admiration for Lafayette and the Patriot cause. It’s a small chapter book with a few illustrations and a nice introduction to colonial period life, especially from a child’s perspective. It was also fun to read names of places we recognized and consider what they were like then.

For all the children of Philadelphia knew the story of the brave young Frenchman hardly more than a boy himself, who had left all the comforts of his Paris home to share the danger and privations of the American soldiers. He had visited Philadelphia the previous summer, 1777, soon after his arrival in America. Gilbert had seen the handsome young officer, and ever since then he had pleaded that he might be called “Lafayette” instead of Gilbert.

“If I were a boy I should wish my name ‘Lafayette,’” declared Ruth. “I wish we could do something for him, don’t you, Winifred?”

“Yes; but what could two little girls do for him? Why, he is a hero, and a friend of Washington’s,” Winifred responded. Neither Ruth nor Winifred imagined that it would be only a few months before one of them would do a great service for the gallant young Frenchman.

Two English soldiers were on guard at the entrance of the fine mansion that the English General had taken from its rightful owner for his own use; and as Ruth, now half afraid to go up the steps, stood looking up at them a little fearfully, one of them noticed the queer little figure, and, quite forgetting his dignity, chuckled with amusement.

There’s still a chance to win a free copy of "A Visit to William Blake's Inn"! Leave a comment on any post until Friday and a name will be picked randomly.

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