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.


Anonymous said...

I think this was one of my favorite Molly books (along with the first one, her Christmas one and birthday one)! And I was always tempted to try those bobby-pin curls, but never did.

SJSiff said...

The ending is so sweet!