Friday, March 01, 2019

The Automobile Girls in Newport

Crane, Laura Dent. The Automobile Girls at Newport: Or, Watching the Summer Parade (The Automobile Girls #1)
September 5th 2017 by Laboratory Books (first published 1910)
E Book from Project Gutenberg

Barbara and Mollie are minding their own business at their little cottage in Kingsbridge, New Jersey where they live with their struggling but hard working mother, when an out-of-control horse carriage careens down their road! Since "Babs" is fearless, she easily manages not only to control the carriage, but to take it back to town to the hotel where her cousin Gladys and her two friends Ruth and Grace are staying. Her plan is to come back with the driver of an automobile. Ruth's father, a well-to-do businessman who is summering near Kingsbridge, is so impressed with Barbara's skill that he asks Barbara and Mollie to accompany Ruth, Grace, and his sister Sallie to their summer resort in Newport, Rhode Island. Even though this means an incredible outlay in funds for summer clothing at the resort, the girls' mother agrees, and even agrees to feed Ruth's father so he doesn't have to eat hotel food during his stay. Soon, the girls are off, but traveling around 200 miles at that point in time was fraught with peril! There are all sorts of problems with finding food, even if they do end up staying in the Waldorf once they hit New York City. Once settled in Newport, the girls make the acquaintance of many young me, but there are jewel thieves abounding! Barbara and Mollie are taken under the wing of a lovely young woman after one of them points out a lost piece of jewelry to her, but they are clearly not quite the same class as Ruth and Grace. Still, their spunky, can-do attitude makes them many friends, and they manage to solve the mystery of the jewel thief. Their adventures continue in The Automobile Girls In The Berkshires; or, The Ghost of Lost Man's Trail.
Strengths: For a book that was written 119 years ago, this holds up decently well. Mollie is 14, which would make hera few years younger than my grandmother, who was born in 1893! This has recently been reissued in a hardcover with an attractive new cover that also has the original cover underneath it, much like the Ruth Chew titles! We have a 7th grade class that does a unit on historical fiction, and this is just brilliant for that. The small details of travel, daily life, clothing, and social mores abound; my favorite part was when Aunt Sallie (who, with her white hair and violet colored wardrobe is probably all of about 45!) admonishes the girls "I beg of you, don't vote in my lifetime! Girls, in my day, would never have dreamed of such a thing!" Ruth replies "I wouldn't worry about it now. Who knows when I may have the chance to vote?" (But really, Aunt Sallie: Pish. If Babs can stop a runaway horse carriage, Babs will most certainly vote when she gets the chance!)
Weaknesses: There are a lot of dated phrases and a bit of a hackneyed plot, and readers who are not interested or dedicated might find this hard going.
What I really think: I will purchase this title for my library, since it was written before women got the right to vote and is a great companion to Sue Macy's 2017 Motor Girls. I will not purchase other titles, since they are available through Project Gutenberg, even though I personally want to read the next book. Plus every single Grace Harlowe book ever written by Jessie Graham Flower. I also really would like to investigate the Dick Prescott series by H. Irving Hancock. As much as I try to keep very current books in my school library, I have a real weak spot for vintage literature!

1 comment:

  1. I love the Automobile Girls series, so glad to hear they are coming back. I keep hoping they will bring back the Blythe Girls, too.