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Who's Responsible For This?
on 23 December 2015
In this third Naughtiest Girl book Elizabeth Allen is starting the school year as a monitor - elected by her classmates and expected to be responsible and mature. Well, yes, good luck with that. This time around we learn about responsibility, false and careless accusations, and how to make, lose, and remake friends and enemies. It's a pure dose of naughty girl, with a side of good intentions.
I've come around on the appeal of these "Naughtiest Girl" books, and here's why. My first reaction was sort of negative. Naughty Elizabeth is a bit over the top, the situations she gets into seem too antic and manufactured, and the resolutions are rather pat. There are lots of kids characters and they are quicksilver in their "like you - hate you - we're best friends - we're enemies" snap judgments. There's a lot of "I like the cut of your jib" and "she's O.K. 'cause she's made of the right stuff" judging going on. It all seems rather brisk and snappish and rather shallow.
But, when weighing all of this I began to see the appeal of the Naughtiest Girl and of other more old fashioned girl heroine books. (Pollyhanna, Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm, Heidi, and any girl from any size House on thePrairie would eat these modern girls up and spit them out.) In the Naughtiest Girl books Elizabeth makes mistakes and howlingly bad decisions. She then recognizes her errors or has them pointed out to her by supportive friends or patient, understanding adults. She tries to do better - as a friend, as a classmate, and as a person. She does actually have the "right stuff" and she soldiers on determined to be a worthy friend and person. It may be a little pat and there is a lot of judging going on, but there is gentle instruction and guidance on offer here along with the school daze silliness.
So, I don't think I'd read all ten Naughtiest Girl books in a row, but I'm not a nine or ten year old girl dying to find out what kind of scrape Elizabeth will get into next. Many of these books came out in weekly serial form, and that explains the ebb and flow of the chapters, and the ups and downs of the plots once they were turned into books. There is energy here, and good humor, and common sense, and a lot more girrrlll power than their 1940's origins would suggest. I'm a convert.