Originally, I heard about this book in a homeschooling magazine. The focus of the article was on reading it aloud to one's children and then discussing the character qualities of the main characters and bringing elements of the book alive.
It ended up that by the time the local library was able to order it from another library in Minnesota, it was June. Sophia was heading into three weeks of back-to-back camp programs and Olivia was deep into preparing her 4-H projects for the fair.
So, I read the book myself. As I got into it, I realized that it would have been a delightful book to read to the girls when they were much younger. At 17 and 15 years old now, they are a bit too "old" for the book.
Olivia and Sophia at the Lions Community Breakfast.
(Taken in December 2017 when the girls were 14 and 16 year old.)
That being said, as I read the book and got deeper into the story, I found myself wishing to go back in time when things were much simpler and families were significantly more resourceful.
The book was published in 1904; and the author originally wrote it for her own children. The book focuses on four young girls who negotiate the use of a derelict cottage that belongs to a church for use as a playhouse. They are able to use the cottage because they pulled dandelions for the senior warden of the church, Mr. Black.
Sophia and Olivia with Gretel in a dandelion field.
(Taken on May 21, 2008 when the girls were 7 and 5 years old.)
They promise Mr. Black a home-cooked meal, and the girls find ways to earn money to pay for a proper meal. They sell lemonade made with a lemon, sugar, and water (not a powdered mix or frozen juice like nowadays); and take in a young female boarder who stays at the cottage for three weeks.
The girls, their siblings, and the border (Miss Blossom) all do things to improve the house and make it more sound and cozy. One of their brothers used tin from a can that was snipped and unrolled to make shingles and keep the rain out. The girls placed pictures all of the walls to hide damaged areas and holes.
This book made me happy in that for a period of time each day I treated myself to reading a story written more than 100 years ago. It was clear that - although things were financially challenging for families - there also were a lot of positive things about life back then.
As I read the book and thought about the playhouse the girls created from a shabby cottage that wasn't suitable to be rented, I thought of my sister and I playing as children in the nearby woods. We would make "houses" from sticks and limbs that had fallen to the ground. We created bedrooms and kitchens for our homes. There was so much imaginative play that we did...and we could lose track of time because we were having so much fun.
My sister and I sitting on the couch that
was covered with a sheet.
(Taken in 1969.)
Sophia and Olivia having a tea party with
Hungarian food we made.
(Taken on October 29, 2008.)
These are all things I did as a child, so as I read the book it brought back happy memories of my childhood.
After reading the book, I found out that Mr. Black is based on a real-life person: Peter White. The original Dandelion Cottage still exists and is at 440 East Arch in Marquette, Michigan. It makes me want to visit there some day to see what the story was based upon.