Molly: An American Girl on the Home Front

Debuted on TV in 2006. Not rated.


Molly's birthday is coming up, and she's wondering what to do for her party. She wants to have a party styled after the fashions of the British princesses, Elizabeth and Margaret Rose, but rationing won't allow it. Her dad suggests a special day for the two them, and Molly thinks it's a good compromise. They have a fun day. Even without a big party, there are other exciting things in Molly's life. Her teacher is engaged to handsome lieutenant, providing Molly and her friends with ample fuel for discussion, and her tap-dance class will be holding auditions for its Miss Victory pageant in a few weeks.

Then her world turns upside-down. Her father is joining the Army, and will be sent to England to work in hospital, caring for wounded soldiers. Her brother and sister are proud of their father, but Molly is scared. What if he doesn't come back? He reassures her that he's not going to be on the front lines (but Molly knows about the Blitzkrieg bombing of civilian areas), and asks Molly to be his North Star, his guiding light. While she's still scared, Molly is able to be supportive of her father. After he leaves, she puts a picture of him in the locket her dad gave her for her birthday.

Her dad's leaving prompts more change. Her mother gets a job at an airplane assembly plant, so Molly's Aunt Eleanor will be coming to help with household but until she can make it, a neighbor, Mrs. Gilford, will act as housekeeper. Mrs. Gilford is strict, and has different rules, and goes on and on about her son Johnny, fighting overseas. Most importantly, she's not Molly's mother or father. After a talk with her mother about sacrifice, Molly resolves to have a better attitude about things. The next day she comes home ready with a cheerful greeting for Mrs. Gilford, but she's not there. She received word earlier that day that Johnny was killed in action. Molly soberly helps her mother make a casserole for the grieving mother.

Shortly after, Molly's mother surprises the family with Emily Bennett, an English girl Molly's age. She's been sent to the States by her parents because of the Blitzkrieg. Another worker at assembly plant was going to take her in, but her son was injured in the war and she needs to care for him. Emily's very quiet, but does mention that her family has had the English princesses over for tea at their manor. Because Emily talks so little, Molly assumes that she's stuck up, used to a grand life. Emily's standoffish with the McIntire family, but quickly wins everyone over at school. They're fascinated by her, and she makes it onto the class's spelling bee team with Molly. The competition comes down to Molly and Emily, but as they're facing off over the final words, Molly's teacher gets a telegram that her fiance was killed. Naturally, this ends the spelling bee.

At home, Molly meets the woman at whose house Emily was going to stay. As she talks with her, Molly learns that Emily isn't from the upper class. She lived with her parents in a little apartment until it was bombed. Her father was a bus driver before he enlisted in the service, and her mother was killed in the bombing. Molly doesn't understand why Emily lead on her and her friends, but she also doesn't out Emily. Now knowing what Emily's been through, Molly reaches out to her again, offering sympathy and encouragement instead of badgering her with questions. Emily eventually reveals the truth (Molly hadn't let on that she knew, to save her the embarrassment). She went along with the leading questions that Molly and her friends asked about England because she thought that was what they wanted to hear. Molly reassures her that no one hates her. The girls start to really bond.

The movie skips ahead from the end of the school year to the end of the summer. Aunt Eleanor is finally arriving, but to Molly's disappointment, she's not staying. She's joined the Women's Airforce Service Pilots and will be leaving soon for Texas. Molly's upset, but she's matured since her father left. She understands that everyone needs to help in the best ways they can. No one can wait around for someone else to do something. Molly hopes she can learn what she's best at soon. At least she and Mrs. Gilford get along well now.

She gets her chance with the start of the new school year. She's been practice tap dancing since the spring, and her hard work pays off: she gets the part of Miss Victory. But when she gets home with her good news, her mother has a telegram. Her father went out after a bombing to look for wounded and no one's heard from him. She wonders if she should quit her part in the play, but her teach from the previous year encourages her to keep doing what she loves, just as her late fiance would have wanted. Molly agrees, but it's hard to keep hope, especially when her father is officially classified as MIA (Missing In Action). Now it's Emily's turn to comfort the McIntires. She tells them about a classmate of hers who was missing for weeks before he was found safe.

As time marches on with no news about her father, Molly is inspired to volunteer to help with the war effort. She and her friends get involved with scrap drives and other activities mentioned in the books. Soon it's almost Christmas. Molly, Jill, Ricky, and Emily surprise their mother by decorating for Christmas while she's at work. As they're enjoying the cozy home, a telegram arrives from the Army: Molly's father is alive. It's not a perfect Christmas--it's Emily's first without her mother, and the Bennett and McIntire families are separated--but they can manage to be happy with what they have.

Molly's family and Emily go to the Christmas concert, where she gets to dance the part of Miss Victory (yay!). After the finale, which Molly dances sans glasses, she sees a familiar but blurry shape backstage. Unbelieving, she puts on her glasses. It's her father! He's walking with a cane, but he's safe and he's home. Molly and her family enjoy Christmas with Emily, now an honorary member of the family for as long as she needs and wants to be.


The movie starts in the spring of 1943. It ends that Christmas.

Molly only has one brother in the movie.

Molly, Susan, and Linda meet their teacher's fiance (who should be in the Army Air Corps, not the Air Force since that didn't exist separate from the Army until the 1950s) and he greets them with an almost-smarmy "Laaadies."

"The war against Germany"? What about Italy and Japan?

Molly's mother and sister knit in a few scenes, as does Mrs. Gilford, and the actors seems to know what they're doing.

The rank on Molly's dad's uniform is that of a captain (O-3). He leaves on a train with Army soldiers and Navy sailors.

I love the characterization of Ms. Lavonda, and the actor playing Ricky does a wonderful job portraying an annoying brother. The actor playing Molly is absolutely perfect in the scene where she finds out that Mrs. Gilford's son was killed in action.

Honestly, I'm surprised Emily would do so well in an American spelling bee. A lot of words are spelled differently, like theater and theatre, humor and humour, realize and realise. It comes up once, but in the second-to-last word (maneuver/manoeuvre) but I'm sure it would have come up before then.

Molly's classmate Alison Hargate is stuck-up in the movie, instead of just perfect without meaning to be annoying like in the books.

The North Star isn't very bright. It's important for navigation because it doesn't move in the night sky. It's certainly not bright enough to see through clouds!

If my kids ever read this: no matter how tired I am around Christmas time, don't surprise me by putting up the decorations. Get a tree and get the boxes out without me, but I want to help put the ornaments on. I don't need much sleep in general (unless I'm sick--rare--or pregnant--probably only once more), I'll stay up long enough to decorate with you.

Molly's dad brings back Christmas gifts: an RAF insignia for Ricky, a French silk scarf for Jill, a British doll for Molly, and a copy of A Christmas Carol for Emily (her favorite book, which had been lost in the bombing) that's signed by her father.


Molly McIntire - Maya Ritter
Jill McIntire - Genevieve Farrell
Ricky McIntire - Andrew Chalmers
Mrs. Helen McIntire - Molly Ringwald
Dr. James McIntire - David Aaron Baker
Gladys Gilford - Sarah Orenstein
Aunt Eleanor - Amy Stewart
Emily Bennett - Tory Green
Susan Shapiro - Hannah Fleming
Linda Rinaldi - Samantha Somer Wilson
Alison Hargate - Josette Halpert
Charlotte Campbell - Sarah Manninen
Ms. Lavonda - Eliza Jane Scott
Ms. Littlefield - Mary Francis Moore
Ms. Shaw - Elva Mai Hoover
Mrs. Taft - Geri Hall
Billy Morgan - Bradley Reid
Lt. Tom Davies - Joe Sacco
Principal Stevens - Keith Knight
Tim Rutledge - Landon Norris
Pageant Boy - Dana Gould
Delivery Boy - Luke Muirhead
Military Messenger - Steve Carey
Dwight Koloski - Cameron Lewis
Jimmy (Boy Speller) - Jason Spevack
Boy in Spelling Bee- Thomas Brodie-Sangster
Jane - Alex Steele
Conductor - Sean Wayne Doyle
Reporter - Kaleigh Howland
Newsreel Narrator - Bill Tomney (voice only)
Linda Darnell - herself (archival footage)
Background voice - Audrey Twitchell
Tap Girls - Hanna Cowie, Natasha Crombie, Amanda Finelli, Roxanne Hummel, Jordana Mirsky, Morgan Mitchell, Jerri-Lynne Smith, Chelsea Stowe, Stephanie Troyak


Clues in the Shadows

Written in 2009 by Kathleen Ernst, illustrated by Jean-Paul Tibbles


This book is complicated.

Molly's hard at work collecting for a paper drive. Any student who collects a thousand pounds (half a ton!) or more of paper will get a medal from General Eisenhower! Molly's annoying neighbor Ronnie thinks there's no way Molly can do it, which just motivates her all the more. One night, she someone lurking around the shed out back where her paper is stored. A thief? The figure is scared off before the police come, so there's no evidence to investigate. But Molly's paper stash is disturbed. She wonders if Ricky (who's also collecting for the paper drive) or Ronnie was sneaking around trying to steal from her.

Another thing on Molly's mind is how her dad doesn't seem himself. Molly knows that her dad was under great pressure and stress for two and a half years, but she doesn't understand why he won't at least talk to her about anything. Maybe Molly could help if he would open up. But he won't even tell her about the picture she found of him in England holding a girl Molly's age.

Suddenly, there's a massive distraction: VICTORY IN EUROPE! The Allies have won the European theater! During the impromptu celebration that follows a store clerk's announcing the news in the street, Molly spies Miss Delaney, the woman who leads the Junior Red Cross volunteers, looking scared, and a red-haired man she'd seen in a scuffle with the police a few days before (unrelated to the shed incident, as far as Molly knows).

Even with the victory in Europe, the war still continues in the Pacific theater. And the hospitals are still full of wounded troops. Molly and her friends make little gift bags for them and go to visit. Molly's sister Jill has also collected old jewelry for a jewelry drive, and Molly "borrows" a rose pin from it, intending to give it away at the next volunteer meeting. One soldier recognizes it as similar to one he sent from France to a woman back home. When she returns from the hospital, Molly asks Jill who donated the pin. After admonishing Molly for taking the pin, Jill says it was Miss Delaney. Furthermore, Miss Delaney has just resigned from her volunteer position with no explanation. PLUS other people have had their drive supplies gone through.

Clearly, someone is looking for something, and Miss Delaney is scared about something. Are the two facts connected? And what about that red-haired man, who Molly also sees starting a fist-fight?

The plot is getting pretty convoluted at this point. But it gets wrapped up pretty well. The soldier at the hospital HAD sent the rose pin to Miss Delaney, who was kind to him before he left for war, but is happy with his memory of her as it is, and doesn't want to possibly ruin it by bothering her. The red-haired man reveals himself as Ronnie's uncle, who is suffering from "battle fatigue" which we now know as PTSD. He also reveals that Ronnie's dad is MIA, and Ronnie has had to get a job to help pay bills.

With the help of Ronnie's uncle, Molly and her friends also discover who was gong through the papers: their kindly neighbor accidentally donated a letter from her much-younger brother, who is also a soldier...for Germany. The woman is from Germany but moved to the United States years ago. She was worried she'd be suspected of being a Nazi sympathizer. Molly and her friends and family agree to find the letter and return it, and keep her secret.

Molly's dad also opens up. He's still working through the difficult memories, one of which is treating an injury on the girl who looks like Molly (I figured the girl had died!). But he's getting better, and doesn't have full-blown battle fatigue, just very bad memories.

AND Molly organizes her class to secretly collect scrap paper in Ronnie's name, ensuring he wins one of the Eisenhower medals.

That's the best I could summarize this. It's pretty convoluted.

Looking Back

By May 1945, the United States was running low on supplies. Rations were cut further and further, and scrap drives were becoming more frequent. Families were stretched thin, with many men fighting across the oceans and women taking on jobs and volunteer duties outside the home that had previously been reserved for men. Children had to grow up fast to help take care of responsibilities at home. The news that the war was over in Europe gave great relief, and a few months later, the fighting ceased in the Pacific. Things didn't bounce right back, though. The troops returning home had physical and mental scars. To ensure that the men who had sacrificed so much had jobs, women were encouraged to quit or just outright laid off. Not every man could find work though; the lasting effects of battle made some unemployable. And of course, not everyone made it home. More than one hundred eighty thousand men died in World War II, not including civilian casualties.


This book is dedicated to "all those in my extended family who served, on the home front or overseas."

I wish that the books would refer to Nazi pilots instead of German pilots. Maybe because I'm part German (the German side of my family came to the US centuries ago). Plus, Italy was part of the Axis powers, too; the Nazi fighters in Germany weren't the only "bad guys."

Linda's mom works the night shift at an airplane factory, until she's laid off in this book.

Ronnie's dad should be in the Army Air Corps, not the Air Force. The Air Force was part of the Army until 1947.

A ream of standard printer paper is five pounds. So a thousand divided by five is 200 reams of paper, and there are 500 pieces of paper in a ream. Anyone wanting to earn a medal needs to find the equivalent of 100,000 pieces of paper, in scraps. The newspaper should help, but still!

There's a bit with Molly realizing the shed she's stored her papers in smells of cigarette smoke, and decides that both Ricky and Ronnie aren't dumb enough to have caused that. I don't know if she means smoking near dry papers and oil or smoking at all, because a couple paragraphs before her dad is getting tobacco for his pipe.

Hitler admitted that he couldn't win on April 22, 1945. Mussolini was overthrown and executed April 27. Hitler committed suicide April 30. Germany officially surrendered May 8, 1945: VE Day. Molly's birthday is April 22, but it's not mentioned at all in the book.

Also, the second-to-last chapter ends just before June. Then there's an epilogue that takes place two months later. I wish it would have been three, because the war would have been over then. (Japan officially surrendered in September, but after the atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in mid-August, things were essentially done.)


Changes for Molly

Published in 1988; author Valerie Tripp; illustrators Nick Backes and Keith Skeen


Molly, Linda, and Susan have been taking tap lessons, and the big recital is coming up. Molly and her friends hope she can get the part of Miss Victory, since she dances the best. But they worry that she might not look the part; Miss Victory should have curly hair. The solution? Susan will use a home perm kit on Molly. Molly's unsure at first. What if it looks terrible? But then a letter from her dad arrives announcing that he's coming home! Molly wants to prove to him that she's not a little kid anymore, like she was when she left, and figures a perm and playing the part of Miss Victory will do just that. Fortunately, Jill talks Molly out of destroying her hair (Molly and her friends don't really know how to do a perm) and tries a few strategies to help Molly's hair curl. During their "beauty sessions" they bond nicely, and confide in each other a lot about their father missing some of their growing-up time.

Molly and Jill find a way to get beautiful curls in Molly's hair and Molly's audition wins her the part of Miss Victory. But going around with wet hair in pin curls in the cold March weather gets Molly sick with a 103 degree fever, and she has to stay home from the recital. She's heart-broken, because her dad was scheduled to arrive in time to see her perform or see how much she's grown up since he left. She's a little less down when a telegram arrives from her dad that he won't be home for the performance, but then she's upset again right after because that means she won't be able to see her father for that much longer. As her siblings and mother also have parts in the recital (tap dancing is just one segment), Molly is left alone while they go to the show (Mrs. Gilford is on her way).

Then the front door opens. For the first time in years, Molly hears her dad call out "I'm home!" She rushes into his arms and they hug for a long time, Finally he pulls back to look at Molly, and says that she's just as he remembers her: "Perfect."

Looking Back

1945 was a tumultuous year for the US and much of the world. After being at war for so long, there was finally relief. Rationing was lifted and people could finally relax a bit. The "baby boom" was a product of this new mindset, with families having more children on average than they had during the war years (it also helped to have more men home to father the children). But it wasn't all easy; millions of people had died or been displaced and the countries that saw combat faced an up-hill struggle to rebuild. The US, having escaped most of the devastation on its land (Pearl Harbor was bombed, and some fire bombs were dropped on the Olympic Peninsula, but that's a rain forest so they didn't do much damage), was able to help with the rebuilding. In response to the crippling losses, the United Nations formed shortly after World War II ended. Was it successful? Well, the Korean War started just half a decade later, but didn't spread nearly as far...so maybe?


This book is dedicated to Katherine Helen Petty.

When remembering a teacher whose fiance had been killed in action during the war, Molly's friend Linda says the teacher is just as much a hero as the man who died, because she has to keep living with the grief. I think that's a wonderful point.

One of my uncles has the best coming-home story. He left on Thanksgiving Day in 1970, to be a helicopter evac pilot in Vietnam. Things were so tense that day that my great-grandfather fainted at the table, having suffered a minor stroke. For the next year, my mom and her parents would watch the news reels with the reports of downed helicopters and dead or missing soldiers, sick with worry. They had Thanksgiving with my great-grandparents again in 1971, and just as they were sitting down to eat, a taxi pulled up. The whole family watched in disbelief as my uncle stepped out of the cab and waved to them all, home in time for Thanksgiving dinner.


Molly's A+ Partner

Short story collection published in 2006; author Valerie Tripp; illustrator Susan McAliley, Nick Backes, Philip Hood, or Keith Skeen


Molly and Susan are partnered for a report on George Washington. They work well together for the written portion, splitting the responsibility evenly and coming up with a lot of good information for a well-written paper. But they disagree about the presentation. Molly wants to play it safe: make a timeline and read highlights from the paper. Susan thinks they could improve on Molly's idea by putting on costumes and acting out key scenes from the first president's life. Molly thinks that would be too embarrassing, even when Susan suggests that she alone dress up to act the scenes. They have a fight the night before the presentation, but in the morning are calmed down and ready to go ahead.

Despite exchanging apologies with Susan, Molly is very nervous that they'll both end up looking like fools. But when Susan dons her impressive costume and acts out the scenes expertly, Molly gains a lot more confidence, and together they give a presentation that engages and teaches the class. Molly sees that because Susan has faith in herself, she's more willing to take risks. The teacher is very impressed with their work, and gives them both an A+.

Looking Back

Throughout American history, George Washington has been revered as a Founding Father. During World War II, his story gained special prominence as an example of the underdog struggling against the odds to win a long war. The turning point of the Revolutionary War, the Christmas morning attack on the Hessian fort in 1776, was an especially inspiring story. Until then, the opposing forces didn't really take the Colonists seriously, but Washington and his army caught them off guard and won a strategic victory.


The first couple pages of this story are basically a how-to guide for writing a biographical report.

The Looking Back section describes the Hessian soldiers as "recovering" from the Christmas party. Delicate way to put hung-over, I assume.

Apparently it's customary for people to celebrate Washington's birthday with a cherry pie. I don't like cherry pie and neither does my husband...but I do have a good recipe for a maraschino cherry cake. Washington's birthday seems as good an excuse as any to bake it. Recipe, from the Better Homes and Gardens cookbook:

1/2 cup shortening
2 1/4 cup sifted cake flour
1 1/3 cup sugar
1 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 maraschino juice
16 maraschino cherries, finely chopped
1/2 cup milk
4 egg whites

Stir shortening to soften. Sift in dry ingredients. Add juice, cherries, milk; stir until dampened. Beat vigorously for two minutes. Add egg whites; beat another two minutes. Bake in two 8 1/2 inch round cake pans for 30-35 minutes. Let cool, and frost.


Molly and the Movie Star

Short story collection published in 2006; author Valerie Tripp; illustrator Susan McAliley, Nick Backes, Philip Hood, or Keith Skeen


Molly's class is collecting money to buy a war bond (similar to a savings bond but the money goes specifically toward the war effort). There's going to be a big rally to encourage more people to buy bonds. The star attraction is movie star Melody Moore, Molly's favorite actress. And Molly gets to hand the money to her, on stage! She's so distracted by the excitement that the chores she's assigned to earn her share of the money are harder than they should be. Molly internally gripes about how the housekeeper Mrs. Gilford doesn't care about fun at all. But she slogs through her chores and earns her share of the money. Inspired by Moore's most recent movie, Molly puts the class money in a sock and practices a special salute from the film.

But the next morning, the sock is gone. Molly and her siblings search the house top to bottom, but can't find it. Finally Molly writes a note explaining that the money is lost and that she'll pay it back. She'll have to give that to Moore in the afternoon instead of the actual money. As her turn draws near, Molly grows more and more miserable. But just in time, Mrs. Gilford pulls up in a car. Molly's mother had accidentally put the sock with the mending, so Mrs. Gilford had taken it home. With a new-found appreciation for Mrs. Gilford, Molly delivers the money in the sock and performs the special salute with Moore.

Looking Back

During war time, movies offered children a welcome escape from the stress of day-to-day life. Some movies were fantastical sci-fi adventures, or exciting movies like Lassie Come Home. Others were about the War from the perspective of troops overseas, or families on the homefront. Movie stars took their jobs seriously, knowing that people relied on the escapism and that they could use their star power to encourage their fans.


Why does Molly use one of her brother's socks instead of her own?

I can never read the word "matinee" without initially thinking it's "manatee."


A Spy on the Homefront

Written in 2005 by Alison Hart, illustrated by Jean-Paul Tibbles


Molly is at her grandparents' farm, enjoying summer vacation. She has fun playing with Anna, the neighbor girl. Anna's parents are from Germany. This isn't an issue until one day the FBI comes looking around. Anna's family is being watched because, being German, they're guilty-by-association. Molly is appalled that anyone would seriously consider Anna's family to be a threat. Her older brother's job at the airfield is even at stake, despite the fact that her American-born brother has never even been to Germany.

Things get even more serious when Molly's aunt Eleanor is arrested after FBI agents find anti-American propaganda in the airplane she's flying down to Texas. When Molly tells Anna about this latest development, Anna says the FBI found the same sort of thing in her house, and that the same thing happened to some friends of her parents, who are now in an internment camp. Someone must be planting the evidence.

Eleanor comes home the next day, and tells Molly and her grandparents that the FBI is trying to find out which member or members of the Silver Legion, a real-life Nazi sympathizer group, is planting the propaganda. They've arrested Anna's brother. Determined to clear his name, Anna goes with Molly to the airfield to look at Eleanor's plane. The FBI was so focused on the German family that they missed the oily fingerprints around the cargo area where the propaganda leaflets were found. Later, Molly sneaks into the locker room at the airfield, and finds a stack of propaganda leaflets in the locker of one of the maintenance workers. She takes a leaflet to the airfield manager, who promises to bring it to the attention of the FBI.

But the next day, Anna's brother is still under arrest. Molly and Anna go back to the airfield to find the manager and ask what the FBI thought of the leaflet. He's not in his office, but Molly sees the leaflet is still in his jacket pocket. Following clues, Molly and Anna end up in an unused storage shelter, where they find some Silver Legion outfits. And then someone locks them in...and it's the manager! Fortunately, Molly's aunt Eleanor arrives soon after, with an FBI agent and the maintenance worker in whose locker Molly found the leaflets. Quickly, Molly and Anna show the FBI agent the Silver Legion clothing, and all of them rush back to the manager's office. They're just in time to catch him, complete with a briefcase full of evidence against him, exonerating Anna's brother.

The next day Molly has to go back home. First, she wants to hurry over to Anna's house to say goodbye. When she gets there, everything's boarded up and the family is gone. Molly panics, thinking Anna and her family have been taken to an internment camp. But she finds a letter from Anna, explaining that despite what happened, the FBI is still suspicious of her family, and they've gone to stay with friends far away from the allegations. She gives Molly an address so they can still write. In the end, for all the outrage Molly feels, that's all she do: write a letter so Anna knows that Molly is still her friend.

Looking Back

Most of us who grew up in the United States learned about the Japanese internment camps, where Japanese immigrants were forced to live during parts of World War II. The government thought they could be spies, and rounded them up with no due process. What I didn't know until I read this section was the German immigrants received the same treatment, accused of secretly working with the Nazis. Then this section randomly adds some paragraphs about the Women's Airforce Service Pilot (WASP) program, which trained women to fly military planes in non-combat roles. It's jarring and comes out of nowhere, as if someone suddenly remembered that the book was supposed to be inspiring young girls to grow up to be whatever they want.


This book is dedicated to "my father, Karl Leonhardt, and his family." The author's last name is Hart...seems like there's a story there. Could be something as simple as her father's family being German like the family in the story, and the author wanting to use a pen name instead of her given last name.

Molly reads Nancy Drew books.

I'm glad this book makes the good point that not all Germans supported Hitler. Hitler himself wasn't even German; he was Austrian (and of course there were and are plenty of Austrians who weren't fond of him). My grandparents' neighbor was in the Hitler Youth, but not because he supported Hitler. He was just a child then, who probably didn't understand all the atrocities the higher-ups in the Nazi army were committing. He just knew that if he didn't join, his parents would likely be murdered.


Molly Takes Flight

Short story collection published in 2006; author Valerie Tripp; illustrator Susan McAliley, Nick Backes, Philip Hood, or Keith Skeen


With all the upheaval the war has brought to Molly's life, she's relieved to be able to go visit her grandparents on their farm like she's done in past Augusts. It will be nice to do something normal for a change. But things are different even there. None of the rest of her family can come, and her aunt Eleanor, who used to spend a lot of time with Molly, is joining the Women's Airforce Service Pilots (WASP). Molly's angry about that; it means that yet another person she loves is being kept away from her because of the war, and that another person is doing something risky that could get her hurt...or worse.

Then Eleanor takes Molly up in her plane and shows her how much Eleanor loves flying. Spending some quality time with her aunt and in such an exciting way helps Molly understand why Eleanor is so dedicated to joining the WASPs. It's a way she can use her passion for flying to help the Allies win the war. Molly is even able to help her grandparents understand their daughter's decision. She explains how her dad told her, her mom, Jill, Ricky, and Brad that they need to be his North Star, to guide him home. Eleanor uses her parents and the farm the same way. Seeing how their daughter still loves them deeply helps them let her go enough for Eleanor to be in the WASP program.

Looking Back

The WASP program started in 1942, the brainchild of Jacqueline Cochran. While the women never saw combat--instead they ferried planes from one area to another or assisted in training--it was still risky. One job was to tow targets behind planes for infantry to practice their shooting. With real guns. They also tested new planes that sometimes had flaws. Thirty-eight women died in the two years the program ran. Thousands of women applied to be WASPs, and 1, 074 were accepted and passed training. One big success was their flying of the P-39 aircraft, which male pilots had dubbed a flying coffin. But the WASP pilots were determined to prove themselves and paid strict attention in their training. They showed that the P-39 was a perfectly fine plane to fly for men or women. The P-39 became one of the most wide-spread planes in use during the 1940s.


It wasn't the Air Force in World War II, like Eleanor calls it. It was the Army Air Corps until 1947, when the services separated. It should be written out as one word (Airforce) or Air Corps.


Molly Saves the Day

Published in 1988; author Valerie Tripp; illustrators Nick Backes and Keith Skeen


Summer camp is almost over now, but there's still the Color War to enjoy. Except that Molly and Susan are on the Blue Team while Linda is on the Red Team. Still, the three girls think the Color War could be fun, if no one takes it too seriously. Too bad Molly and Susan's team is led by Dorinda, who acts like an Army general. No way they're going to be able to have fun with her in charge. She's also one of those people who are often wrong but never in doubt. Her plan for capturing the other team's flag (thus winning the Color War) isn't a very good one. Molly tries to tactfully point out that the Red Team will be able to overcome them quickly, but Dorinda shuts her down by bringing up how Molly is afraid of swimming with her head underwater. Sure enough, the entire Blue Team is quickly "captured" by the Red Team...with the exception of Molly and Susan. Their canoe tipped over, and in uprighting it they accidentally evaded capture. But can they still win the Color War?

Molly has a plan: while Susan paddles her canoe erratically around the Red Team's camp, Molly sneaks up to the "prison" and dumps a can of worms all over the guard (she also overcomes her fear of swimming underwater during this) and frees her team. Unfortunately, the Red Team guard is Linda, and Molly feels terrible for what she's done to her friend. But the Blue Team wants to press on, and convenes back at their base to plan. Since Dorinda is still in a special "captain's prison" they elect Molly the new leader. Inspired by the newsreels she's seen of the D-Day invasion and armed with the knowledge of the inlet she and Susan found when their canoe overturned, Molly is able to lead the Blue Team to victory.

There is one problem, though: the inlet was in a part of the map labelled Poison Point. It was covered with poison ivy! So instead of getting their victory ice cream, the Blue Team must celebrate with showers and calamine lotion. Molly and her team still get to feel proud of their hard work though, and Linda meets Molly and Susan on their way back from the showers with ice cream for them. She understands that the worms were just part of the war/game, and doesn't hold a grudge.

Looking Back

During World War II, it was difficult for most Americans to go on vacation as a family. Often the men were in other countries fighting the war. The men who were in the States worked long hours, and so did many of the women and some teenagers too, to support both the war effort and their families. The few families who had the time for a vacation together couldn't really go anywhere; gas was rationed and public transportation like trains were primarily for soldiers. But younger children, like Molly, could get away for a couple weeks to summer camp, where they would live in tents and enjoy roughing it in the great outdoors.


This book is dedicated to "Pleasant."

The way Molly talks about D-Day sounds like it's very recent, like it happened the month before instead of the year before. Is it 1944 again?


Molly Marches On

Short story collection published in 2006; author Valerie Tripp; illustrator Susan McAliley, Nick Backes, Philip Hood, or Keith Skeen


Molly, Linda, and Susan have just arrived at summer camp. It's the first time they've ever gone, and they're really enjoying it so far. Now it's time for the new camper hike, which culminates in some sort of wonderful surprise. All the "old" campers talk about the surprise wistfully. Molly and her friends can hardly wait to see what it is.

But the morning of the hike, Molly quickly finds herself in a sour mood. She recently read a book about Sacagawea, and idolizes the heroine. She wants to move swiftly and silently through the woods, relying on her wits to guide her. But the other campers, and the counselor leading them, crash loudly through the trail and following the marked signs along the way. Hardly an adventure. So when the counselor splits the group into to teams so they can race to the surprise, Molly goes off on her own. Susan follows her, intent on keeping her from danger. After an hour, the girls are lost. And thirsty. Susan's finished her water, and the leather pouch Molly kept hers in (because Sacagawea would never have used a metal canteen) leaked. Molly uses some of the tricks she read about to find water, and the girls find a stream that empties in a beautiful calm pool. The girls rest for a bit in the serene setting.

Soon they decide they need to get back to camp. Just as they're deciding the best way to get un-lost, the other hikers find them. The counselor scolds them for wandering off, but also tells no one else has ever seen the pond before, and lets them name it (naturally, after Sacagawea). While all the hikers swim in the pond, Molly and Susan ask Linda about the surprise. Linda confirms that the hikers found it, but now of course they're sworn to secrecy and she can't reveal what the surprise was!

Looking Back

Here we get a summary of Lewis and Clark's journey across the newly-acquired Louisiana Purchase in the early 1800s. The Corps of Discovery set off in May 1804. They hired a French fur trapper to help guide them and to aid in translating with the native tribes they would encounter. But more valuable to their success was his wife, Sacagawea. She was actually from the area that would later become Idaho (she'd been kidnapped years before), and knew a lot about traveling the area. The fact that the exploration party had a woman--and her baby son--with it helped alleviate any concerns that the peoples the group encounter might have had. Even better, when the group reached her native land, it just so happened that the chief of the tribe was her brother! Soon after, the Corps found themselves near the Pacific, but with winter coming on strong they were undecided whether to camp and wait or strike out for the coast. Everyone except the year-old baby voted, including Sacagawea and York, a slave. This was before either African-Americans or women had the right to vote.

Without Sacagawea's help, it's doubtful that the Lewis and Clark expedition would have reach the Pacific. They arrived safely in January 1806, and made it back to St. Louis, MO that September. The only person to die on the trip succumbed to appendicitis in 1804.


It's a good idea to make noise as you wander through the woods: scares off bears and other predators.

There are more monuments in the US dedicated to Sacagawea than any other woman in American history (at least, as of 2006).


Molly's Puppy Tale

Short story collection published in 2006; author Valerie Tripp; illustrator Susan McAliley, Nick Backes, Philip Hood, or Keith Skeen


Molly has been enjoying caring for her new puppy, Bennett. But as the dog gets older, he seems to enjoy Ricky's rough-and-tumble play more and more, and maybe even Ricky himself more. One night Molly evens awakes to find that Bennett is gone, and asleep on Ricky's bed! Determined to make Bennett like her best again, Molly forbids Ricky from playing with Bennett. She alone will take care of him.

But a growing puppy is a lot of work. Molly can't really spend her free time relaxing or hanging out with friends anymore, because Bennett needs attention. The times she lets down her guard, he ends up running away...or tracking mud in the kitchen...or destroying her room...or, worst of all, digging up the Victory Garden, where the housekeeper, Mrs. Gilford, grows vegetables to stretch the rations further.

That last bit is what finally helps Molly see that she should share her dog. Ricky happens upon the scene as Molly is despairing, and offers to help Molly put the garden back together IF he can play with Bennett again. Molly agrees, knowing that Bennett will have enough energy give affection to everyone.

Looking Back

While many dogs like Bennett provided comfort and a needed distraction from the war, others were in the midst of the fighting themselves. Just the same way that women might volunteer for duty (and some men; my grandfather volunteered for the Marines, but there was also a draft), some people offered their dogs as volunteers. Any dog between the ages of one and five and weighing at least fifty pounds could apply. The dogs were trained to support combat roles, deliver messages, and aid the wounded. Some dogs, like some people, were killed in action. The dogs that lived were gone for months or even years, but by 1947 all the surviving dogs were re-trained for civilian life and reunited with their families.


Molly's in Girl Scouts.

I can't help but imagine how insanely jealous Molly's siblings might have been that she got a pet but they didn't.


The Light in the Cellar

Written in 2007 by Sarah Masters Buckley, illustrated by Jean-Paul Tibbles


Molly and her friends are excited when their teacher offers them an opportunity to volunteer with one of several organizations to help the war effort. Susan and Linda join a Junior First Aid club, while Molly agrees to join Emily in riding their bikes to deliver things to a convalescent home. Emily's aunt is recovering there, and this will allow her to see her aunt more often.

Molly and Emily also help Mrs. McIntire get ready to prepare refreshments for a gathering at a nearby train station. It's where troops pass through on their to or from the war, and different towns take turns hosting a gathering. Molly's town always bakes dozens and dozens of cookies, but the bags of sugar are mysteriously missing. Three were used legitimately by other volunteers, but what about the rest? Some cooking oil and coffee has also disappeared. Aside from the cost issue, sugar is heavily rationed (as are other things) and it will be difficult to get enough for the cookies without finding the missing bag.Tthey'll have to ask private citizens of the town to donate cookies. Molly and Emily wonder if someone stole it to sell on the black market.

The convalescent home is also running out of sugar faster than it should be. While delivering donated magazines so that patients can have something new to read, Molly also gets a cup of tea for an elderly woman, but isn't allowed to have the sugar in it the woman asked for. The stern director is watching like a hawk and won't allow extras. But the woman, Mrs. Currier, and Molly have a nice visit anyway. Mrs. Currier happens to live in a house near Molly which is said to be haunted. Yet Mrs. Currier is able to talk Molly into going inside to get her reading glasses. Emily has no question about going with Molly as she figures she owes Molly for having her join the "boring" volunteer activity, which is sweet of her.

They find the glasses just where Mrs. Currier described, but then a truck pulls into the driveway. Two men get out and the girls can hear them talking in hushed tones about something being almost done. They're suspicious, and hide until the coast is clear. Molly's brother Ricky thinks they're being ridiculous; the men were probably just doing some repairs. But when Molly talks to Mrs. Currier, she learns that no one else lives in the house (Mr. Currier is deceased), and that no repairs are scheduled.

The next day, when Molly has to return to Mrs. Currier's (she forgot to lock the door and re-hide the spare key), she, Linda, and Susan take a moment to peer into a window they'd seen a light coming from the week before. It's full of all sorts of rationed goods, too much to have been bought with ration stamps. Molly briefly suspects a foreign woman who works at the convalescent home, but upon hearing that she and her young daughter escaped Nazi concentration camps in Poland--and her husband didn't--she dismisses the thought. Molly comes up with a plan to catch the real crooks, and she, Ricky, Ricky's friend David, Jill, Susan, Linda, and Emily stake out the place Saturday night, when the men indicated whatever they were doing would be finished. Sure enough, they see the man who owns a laundry delivery service (which also serves the convalescent home and other places) load up his truck and drive off with his brother. Tipped off by Ricky and David, the police stop the truck and on the urging of the children, search the back and arrest the man.

As the plot lines wrap up, the troops get their cookies (neighbors brought over more than enough), the thieves are brought up on charges, Mrs. Currier hires the refugee woman to be a caretaker at her house just before she and her daughter would have become homeless, and Emily's aunt is declared recovered enough to move back home. Molly and Emily are torn by the last piece of news. Of course it's good that Emily's aunt is well, but it means that she won't live with Molly's family anymore, and she'll be busy helping her aunt, who is still a bit weak. Both girls have started thinking of each other as family. Molly has a plan in mind, though: they will continue their twice-weekly volunteering, and Molly will go with Emily to her aunt's house those days to help fix dinner.

Looking Back

The United States entered World War II after Japan bombed Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. By May 1942, the US was feeling the impact of not being able to import or produce as many goods, due to the war. Different items began to be rationed, starting with sugar. Eventually, there were limits on rubber (i.e., in car tires or elastic), gasoline, butter, meat, toothpaste, clothing, and more. Everyone, even children, received ration stamps that allowed them to purchase various goods. Once the stamps were gone, they were gone until the next time they were issued. Most people were eager to make do so that the troops abroad could have what they needed, and learned to make things last longer or use things differently. But others stole goods or forged ration cards, creating a black market. But again, most people wanted to help. Even children could volunteer to put together first aid kits for hospitals or overseas, or be plane spotters watching for enemy planes, or collect scrap metal.


This book is dedicated to Jessica.

A nurse mentions in passing that her baby is feeling better. "It was only a cold, thank heavens." In the 1940s, I wouldn't be surprised if she was worried her baby had something like whooping cough, which can kill an infant. I've said it before and I'll say it again: Vaccines and antibiotics are probably the best things invented in modern medicine. Go look up your immunization records or call your healthcare provider and see if you need a TDaP booster (Tetanus, Diphtheria, and Pertussis, AKA whooping cough). Pertussis is at epidemic levels in several US states, including mine, and in other countries as well.

Back in Meet Molly, Molly tells her friends that lying doesn't count if you cross your fingers. In this book, written twenty-one years later, she crosses her fingers behind her back when lying to her mother.


Brave Emily

Written in 2006 by Valerie Tripp, illustrated by Nick Backes, Renee Graef, Susan McAliley, and Keith Skeen


This book takes place in the middle of Happy Birthday, Molly, but from Emily's perspective. We get to see a bit more of how vastly different life was for Emily, so much closer to the Axis powers and under constant threat of being killed by bombs. Emily struggles some with the culture shock, which is compounded by seeing how relatively carefree the Americans are. While she knows that Molly and family and friends worry about relatives fighting overseas and endure their own hardships, it's simply not the same as having bombs being dropped from right overhead. As Emily learns more American customs, she starts to relax and fit in more, although she's still searching for a way to follow her grandfather's instruction: to be brave for England.

One day in school, all the students are given flutophones, sort like the recorders that elementary school kids will often play today, a very simple wind instrument. Emily seems to have a natural talent for it...at least when playing a tune she already knows, "Hot Cross Buns." Molly and her friends think Emily is a musical prodigy, but when Emily practices "America the Beautiful" privately, she knows that it was just dumb luck. She practices whenever she can, but has real difficulty with the tune. She also feels guilty that she only seems to eke out fifteen minutes a day for practice, when the other students are practicing more. So before turning in her practice sheet, Emily changes the ones to fours, making it look like she practiced for 45 minutes a day instead of 15. But the students were just exaggerating and using hyperbole when they said they practiced for hours; they meant it felt like hours. So the teacher announces her dedication in front of the class because she appears to have practiced the most! Furthermore, because of that, Emily is going to play the solo at the class recital in two days!

That night, Emily confesses to Molly what she did. Molly comes up with a plan: first, Emily tells the truth to the teacher, who assigns her to make up the extra practice time she claimed, and says she still must play the solo the next day. But Molly, Susan, and Linda ask to stand behind her during the solo to help. Emily spends all the time she can manage practicing before the recital the next day. She gets the song down pretty well, but not perfectly. When it's time for her solo, Molly, Susan, and Linda tap-dance behind her with a triangle, a tambourine, and cymbals, playing louder over the parts Emily struggles with. The song goes wonderfully, and audience is none the wiser to the mistakes.

Then Emily enacts the final bit of the plan, the part that lets her be brave for England: she tells the crowd that she is from England, where food is in short supply, and asks for canned food donations to be brought to the Red Cross, which will ship the food to her home. Leaving the concert, she overhears someone commenting on how brave Emily must be.

Looking Back

Emily was far from the only child to have to leave home during World War II. Many children were sent away from London, where Nazi bombing and strict rationing made life very dangerous. Some went to the English countryside (like the Penvensie children in the Narnia books). Some were sent to other countries, to the United States, Canada, and even Australia. At first it was common for convoys of ships to travel across the ocean, but after one was sunk and 77 children died, only individual families sent their children overseas. Some children were away for as long as four years, and had to re-meet their parents all over again when the war ended. But at least they were safe.


This book is dedicated to "Helen Natalie Frances Heuer, with love."

Emily uses the trick my nanny charge taught me for remembering that 8 x 7 = 56 (56 = 7 x 8, five-six-seven-eight).

Eight times seven was a tricky question for Molly in Molly Learns a Lesson, too.

So, Emily's grandparents are hosting some evacuated children in the English countryside...but not Emily? I guess her parents were worried the Nazis might start bombing the rest of England.

Emily's father is also a doctor.

Emily's letters give Molly's address as 467 Oak Street, Jefferson, Illinois.

Probably a coincidence, but there's a student with the last name of Halsey in Molly and Emily's class. Admiral Halsey was, to put it lightly, important in the Pacific Theater of World War II.

Two of Emily's letters home are very, very short; just a couple paragraphs. If I were sending a letter to my parents that wouldn't arrive for weeks, I'd write a bit more.One of the letters is dated Sunday, April 16, 1944, which is accurate, and also works with Molly's birthday being Saturday, April 22 in Happy Birthday, Molly.

It's kinda rotten that Mrs. Gilford won't allow Molly and Emily to practice their flutophones in the house. Yeah, it's annoying, but it's also homework.

Molly, Linda, and Susan take a tap-dancing class.


Happy Birthday, Molly!

Written in 1987 by Valerie Tripp, illustrated by Nick Backes and Keith Skeen


Molly's birthday is coming up in a few weeks, and her mother has more exciting news to add: an English girl is going to stay with them! Emily Bennett was supposed to escape the blitzkrieg bombing by coming to live with her aunt. But her aunt is very ill and while she's expected to recover, she's not well enough to care for Emily. So Emily will stay with the McIntires until her aunt is better.

Molly, Linda, and Susan imagine that maybe Emily will be like a princess, and can't wait to play with a new friend. But Emily is very shy (and, Molly notices, very thin, possibly malnourished) and doesn't seem to want to let anyone get to know her. The most she says is when she politely refuses to play "bomb shelter" with the other girls. Thankfully Molly's mother points out that bomb shelters aren't a fun, exciting thing in England so that the girls won't make that mistake again. They try to include Emily in their play at home and at school (Emily is their age and in their class), but she's so shy and reserved that most people end up ignoring her.

It's not until a blackout drill that Emily opens up. The McIntires view it as more of an interesting diversion and maybe a bit of a hassle, but for Emily it's like being back in the middle of the blitzkrieg. She tells Molly how awful it is to know that at any moment, a plane could fly over with a bomb to drop, leaving death and destruction in its wake. She feels guilty and cowardly for leaving London while her parents are still there. Molly reassures her that she is brave, and that even the English princesses have left England to stay safe. As the drill ends, the girls bond over their shared interest in British royalty (they're even Molly and Emily, and the princesses are Margaret and Elizabeth). They start to become friends, and plan a princess tea themed party for Molly's birthday. Since Emily has had to miss out on birthdays with the war right in her front yard, Molly offers to share her birthday with Molly.

They hit some snags with the planning. The differences in their upbringing show more and more as they each want vastly different things that they value for the party. Their national pride also causes a riff. Both girls are rightly very proud of what their countries are doing to stop the Nazis, but instead of appreciating what both allies bring, they argue over which is doing a better job. The night before the party they go to bed angry, Molly silently vowing to do her own thing and not invite Emily.

In the morning, both girls have calmed down. They're just about to apologize when Molly's mother and siblings burst in with a puppy for each girl! The girls have a moment alone with their new pets, and Emily reveals that she had a dog that was killed in a bombing. Molly knew that the war was more real to Emily, but not how real until that revelation. Emily also remembers that while she misses her parents terribly after being away from them for a few weeks, Molly's dad has been gone for two years. The girls see that they each have difficult things in their life to deal with, and there's no point in arguing who has it harder. Like the Allied soldiers, they should work together to make life better. Molly names her dog Bennett, after Emily, and Emily names her dog Yank in honor of the American soldiers. With their friendship that much stronger, they get ready for their birthday party.

Looking Back

Raising a child in the 1940s was easier in some ways than it had been in the past. While the war and rationing was hard, new technology (like my favorite household appliance, the washing machine) and new medical science (yay vaccines!) were improving the length and quality of life. Not every advancement was good, like the notion that formula was more scientifically balanced and therefore better than breast milk. Formula is a good alternative if breast milk is unavailable, but breast milk is the ideal infant food. The 1940s and 1950s also saw the rise of the idea of teenagers as distinct from either children or adults. Molly would have enjoyed very exciting teenage years, especially relative to the war years.


This book is dedicated to Emily Stuart Matthewson.

The book places the day of the party, April 22, as a Saturday. It was in 1944, so Molly's repeating a year. Christmas in the last book was 1944 as well. It's too bad she wasn't moved into 1945: April 22, 1945 was the day Hitler admitted defeat.

I hope Molly's mom asked Emily's aunt if it was okay for Emily to get a dog. And I hope she checked that Emily would be able to bring it back to England.

The new teenage culture of the 1950s was a big reason the producers of Back to the Future set the movie in 1955.


Molly's Surprise

Written in 1986 by Valerie Tripp, illustrated by Nick Backes, Keith Skeen, and Renee Graef


As Christmas draws nearer, Molly is concerned. Her dad hasn't been able to send any presents, and his presents have always been a big part of their Christmas tradition. Plus, what if he never sent presents because he...can't send presents? She also can't expect any big or non-practical presents, what with the war and all. Molly's able to sadly give up on her dream of a doll--mostly--but worries that Brad, being only five, is going to be very disappointed Christmas morning.

There are some more snags, too. Molly's sister wants to have things be different from the previous years, because seeing everything else the same when their dad isn't around makes her miss him more (she relents when she sees that she can still enjoy the memories and look forward to his return). Molly's older brother, on the other hand, gets ready to do stuff like put up the Christmas lights, which was normally a job for their dad. While Molly wants the lights up like they always are, she feels uncomfortable that it's not her dad putting them up. Molly's grandparents were going to bring a Christmas tree, but they get a flat and can't. It happens while Molly's mom and younger brother are out, so Molly and her older siblings pool their money (including the fifty pennies Molly was going to give Brad for Christmas) to buy a small tree from a nearby lot.

Once the tree is up, things don't seem quite so bad. Plus, the next morning, it snows. Almost hidden by the snow is a package. Molly's dad was able to send presents after all! Molly and Jill find it, and recognize their dad's handwriting instructing them to keep it a secret. They hide the box quickly, not even telling their mom. Fortunately, they only have to keep the secret two days. They sneak the box under the tree just after midnight, and it's waiting for the family Christmas morning. It's filled with the fun presents they wanted: a real silk paratrooper scarf for Ricky, a canteen and helmet for Brad, a beautiful hat for Jill, a doll of a Red Cross nurse for Molly, and some nice leather gloves for their mom. There's a note inside the gloves, and Molly's mom suddenly turns on the radio...just in time to hear their dad wishing them a merry Christmas from across the ocean.

Looking Back

Like Molly's family, people all over the United States had to be frugal and practical during Christmas 1944. Most factories were being used to make supplies for the war effort, rather than toys. The Looking Back section indicates this as a cause for fewer Christmas ornaments being made. That's true in part, but another big factor is that most Christmas ornaments in the first half of the twentieth century had been made in Germany. Three guesses why those were unpopular, and the first two don't count.


This book is dedicated to Michael.

Molly's family doesn't get their Christmas tree until December 22! We usually get ours the first weekend of December. And it's still up...I should probably take the ornaments off later today...

They don't put up ANY decorations until December 22. I guess it makes sense to save energy and not do lights, but nothing?

The illustrations of a hat Jill is knitting are off a bit; she's clearly knitting in the round but has regular needles. They should be double-pointed needles or cable needles. But both drawings are far better drawn than I could ever hope to do, so there's that.

I think my theory about dolls is getting stronger. Kirsten, Samantha, and Molly all really want their doll (Kirsten's in storage) or a new one for Christmas. And there were dolls of the girls. I think it's a marketing ploy.


Molly Learns a Lesson

Written in 1986 by Valerie Tripp, illustrated by Nick Backes, Keith Skeen, and Renee Graef


Molly's school is having a contest to see which group of students can do the most to support the war effort. The boys in Molly's class decide to collect foil to use for scrap metal, and one of Molly's classmates, Alison, suggests the girls knit "hundreds and hundreds" of socks for the troops. Molly is dismayed by the idea: she's convinced there's no way that such a project is feasible or could win the contest. But the rest of the girls go along with Alison's idea and plan to have a sock-knitting party that weekend. Molly enlists Susan and Linda to help collect bottle tops instead (for scrap metal), so that the girls will have at least something to bring to the contest. Susan wonders if Molly only dislikes the idea because it's Alison's. Alison is nice, but privileged and very smart. It seems things come too easily to her, and it's hard for Molly to not feel resentful sometimes. She's still able to convince Susan and Linda to go along with her idea.

The next day, they go out collecting bottle tops, but have little success. While in Alison's neighborhood, cold and wet from the rain, they see their classmates enjoying refreshments and hot chocolate. Just as they're about to go to more houses to ask for bottle tops, Alison's mother sees them, and they pretend they were just about to join the knitting party. Molly soon realizes that she was right: the girls don't know how to knit socks well enough to have made any yet. But when one girl throws down her work in frustration, Molly comes up with an idea: they can take the squares that all the girls have knitted and sew them into a blanket! Working together, the ten girls quickly make a large, beautiful, warm blanket that can keep a wounded soldier warm while he recovers in a hospital. Molly, Linda, and Susan laughingly tell the other girls how they tried to collect a hundred bottle tops but only got sixteen. However, the others girls like that idea too, and together come up with the remaining eighty-four.

The third-grade girls win the contest with the blanket and scrap metal, and even get a write-up in the town's paper. Molly is mentioned by name, as the blanket will be sent to the hospital where her father works.

Looking Back

In 1944, it was common for schools to have many volunteer opportunities to help the war effort. They ranged from scrap metal collection to being penpals with displaced children in England to rolling bandages to making clothes and blankets for the troops. Even students felt it was their patriotic duty to do whatever they could think of to help.


This book is dedicated to "all my teachers."

The first chapter is titled "Eight Times Seven," which is a multiplication problem that trips up Molly during a class competition. I used to have trouble remembering whether 8 x 7 was 54 or 56, until two years ago when my nanny charge pointed out that 56 = 7 x 8: five, six, seven, eight.

Alison's mom is pretty awesome in her scene. She finds the Molly, Susan, and Linda spying on the sock knitting party, and is all "Oh, Alison was worried you weren't going to come, but I told her you would never be so rude! And look, here you are, ready to join us! I'll go tell her you're here."

Once you know how to knit, basic socks aren't terribly complicated, although turning the heel can be a bit tricky the first few times. But I absolutely DETEST knitting them. I've made one pair (a gift for one of my midwives when I was pregnant with my older daughter), but aside from some tiny ones as Christmas decorations, I intend to never knit a sock ever again.

Hmm, maybe the reason Molly thinks sock knitting is so complicated is that she describes knitting them flat then seaming them. It would be tricky to get a seam straight. That's why sock knitting is best done "in the round," using either cable needles or three to five double-pointed needles to make the socks in tube shapes right from the start.

Molly's books have some really goofy illustrations in them. There's one of an anthropomorphic glass of tomato juice threatening to spill.


Meet Molly

Written in 1986 by Valerie Tripp, illustrated by Nick Backes, Keith Skeen, and Renee Graef


Here we are introduced to Molly McIntire, the third of four children living with their mother in Illinois. Their father has been gone in England seven months, using his skills as a doctor to treat soldiers wounded in World War II's European theater. Missing her father makes Molly resent the strict housekeeper, Mrs. Gilford, even more. She wants things back the way they used to be, when they didn't have to ration things like sugar or other things, her fourteen-year-old sister Jill wasn't so concerned with growing up, her twelve-year-old and five-year-old brothers Ricky and Brad weren't so bothersome, her mom didn't have to gone at work all day, and her dad was safe at home.

Still, she's able to distract herself with the day-to-day concerns of a typical nine-year-old, like what she and her best friends Susan and Linda will be for Halloween. Molly's mother suggests hula dancers, and the girls have a great time showing off their costumes. But when they come back to Molly's house for a sleepover, and before Molly's mother can take a picture to send their father, Ricky blasts them with a hose, ruining their treats and their newspaper and crepe paper costume. Mrs. McIntire comes up with a pretty good punishment, I think: Ricky has to give the girls the treats he got (he can keep one piece) and clean up the mess he made. But the girls think it's not punishment enough, and the next morning they embarrass Ricky in front of Jill's friend, Dolores. Ricky has a crush on Dolores, and Molly and her friends get her to come outside where Ricky is and dump out the contents of his underwear drawer from a second-story window.

Mrs. McIntire comes home just in time to see the revenge. She chastises all four of them: this sort of one-up-mans-ship and petty revenge is what starts wars in the first place. She sets the girls to work washing Ricky's clothes, and makes sure Ricky finishes cleaning up the costume bits. While working, Ricky and Molly apologize sincerely to each other, and remember the importance of sticking together as a family.

Looking Back

This time, the section gives a brief overview of World War II and how it affected life in the United States. There was a lot of rationing: factories made planes and tanks instead of planes or tents instead of clothes, and people were encouraged to grow their own food in backyard "victory gardens." With many men away at war (and some women, especially as nurses), women began working outside the home more. People were generally proud to "do their part" to help the war effort.


This book is dedicated to the author's family.

I've been that kid who was told to stay at the table until I'd eaten my food. I don't remember it going well, and I'm still picky. I do think it's important for kids (and adults) to try new foods, maybe even more than once, and to be polite, but it's unreasonable to expect them to like absolutely everything. Even my older brother who likes everything else doesn't like the taste of mushrooms.

Halloween 1944 was a Tuesday, but the next day is clearly pointed out to be Saturday. Some areas hold trick-or-treating on the nearest weekend, so it could make sense. Maybe.

June 6, 1944 was also a Tuesday. D-Day. Molly's dad would have been in England then. I wonder if he treated a lot of wounded, or if too many of them died first. (I remember blood banks turning people away after the September 11 attacks and asking them to come back in a few weeks, because there just weren't that many survivors.)

Speaking of blood donations, the Looking Back section reveals that Molly's mom works for the American Red Cross blood bank. There's a picture of some African-American giving blood. It think the section is remiss in not mentioning Dr. Charles Drew, an African-American doctor who was instrumental in the creation of the AMC blood bank and in striking down the misguided notion that people could only receive blood transfusion from donors of the same race. The only concerns are compatible blood type--e.g.; I'm O+ and so can give to any Rh+ type--and blood-borne illness. (Contrary to the urban legend, Dr. Drew did not die because his race preventing his receiving medical treatment, by the way.)