Molly’s Short Story Collection
Illustrations by Nick Backes
Mini Hardback 2006
Illustrations by Nick Backes
The Light In The Cellar (A Molly Mystery)
Sara Masters Buckey
So, recently, Pleasant Company – the people who do American Girl – announced that they were retiring the Molly doll. For a lot of the people my age, this was the doll that our grandparents related to. My grandmother, for instance, was born either the same year or the year before Molly would have been. Thus, we decided to go back and revisit some of Molly’s books.
I chose to go through the books that have come out since I was so into the dolls for a couple reasons. One, Molly isn’t my favorite and two, because of that I wanted to pick books that I hadn’t read, no matter how long ago. They’re not that different than the main set, and all feature the same “story then history lesson” format that the company is known for.
The first one I read was Molly’s Short Story Collection. This book is about the length of an index card, but a little fatter. I can actually picture it sitting in the lap of the doll herself. Anyway, there are five short stories in this book, and they range from camp to airplanes to puppies, all with that WWII flavor that Molly is good for.
The second one I read is called Brave Emily. For those who are familiar with the books, you’ll remember that Molly’s family took in a British girl who had been sent to America to escape the war. A few years back, they started letting the main character’s friends get a slightly more prominent role, and thus Emily got main billing on this book. In it, Emily tries to fit in in a new country, and tries to figure out how somebody as seemingly insignificant as she is can do something major to help the war effort.
Then I read The Light in the Cellar, Molly’s mystery story. Molly and Emily end up volunteering as Magazine Girls at the local hospital, and as such have to take magazines to each of the patients. Except that weird stuff starts happening both at the hospital, the Red Cross, and at home – Molly’s and the home of one of the patients. The girls end up in a world of black market sugar.
I don’t really have that much to say about these books. The short stories were a great length for when you’re too busy to read a long book, and as a kid I would have totally loved the small, portable size of it because I could have easily thrown it in my backpack, brought it in the car, and carried it around. Had I had it then, I would definitely have set my Molly doll up with it on her lap and let her read to me. Alas, those days are a couple decades behind me. Still, I wouldn’t mind stumbling upon a copy second-hand at some point.
Brave Emily is a little different. Little known side note about me. My aunt is British. As in, sixty years later she still sounds like she just fell off the boat – I’ve told her this before, in fact – and her story is a bit similar to Emily’s. She was separated from her family and grew up quite a distance away from anyone she knew. So when I read this book, I couldn’t help compare Emily to my Aunt. And because of that, I sort of teared up a little. i may have brought this baggage with me, but I think that this book is a little better than Molly’s set because Emily brings a rawness to her that the girls of privilege that American Girl likes so much just don’t have.
The mystery was a simple, cozy mystery. I suspected the guilty party and pretty much knew what was going to happen before the big reveal, but I was okay with that. I mean, this is a children’s cozy mystery, not a hardened who-dunnit for adults.
I really liked these stories. Yes, we get the ongoing theme of a stubborn ten-year-old girl, but really, who wasn’t stubborn at that age? Follow that up with the combination of both headstrong and afraid, and you get a girl who takes the lead and then takes it upon herself to deal with the consequences, even though finding an adult would have made the whole thing go quicker or easier or whatever else. I’ve been told that the mark of a good children’s book is that the kids figure stuff out without parental intervention, but I gotta say that in a couple of these stories, without an adult doing something or if they had just talked to Mom, the story wouldn’t have either happened or had substance. Still, that’s to be expected from the genre.
I’m giving them all 4 page ratings, but with the following note. If you have the other books, you of course want these, and even if you don’t have the rest of the books but have the doll, you’ll want the short story collection, if only to give it to the doll because it’d be so freakin’ cute. Also, there’s another mystery, but my local library didn’t have it. I’m guessing that I’d feel the same way that I’ve felt about the rest of these books, so if you stumble on it, go ahead and give that one a read as well.