The Five Little Peppers Go Too Far

The Five Little Peppers Midway

Margaret Sidney 189?

I loved the Five Little Peppers books as a kid. Several of us in the neighborhood each owned one or two, and we used to swap them around. So, when my own kids were old enough to be read to, The Five Little Peppers were among the books I chose to read aloud. And I discovered that -- you can't! Apparently when I had read to myself I had skipped over all the saccharine moralizing.

Recently I came into possession of The Five Little Peppers Midway, which I hadn't read in many, many years. I figured I could read it to myself -- just go back to skipping over the yucky stuff, as I had done in my childhood wisdom.

This is a very wierd book! Phronsie, for one, apparently has a mental problem. I always did find her rather irritating (I'm not fond of little golden-haired tykes who see the world through wide, innocent eyes) but now I begin to wonder if it doesn't go deeper than that. She accidentally gets locked into a closet for the better part of a day, and by the time she is found not only is she unconscious, but she is gravely ill, even delirious, for weeks. Isn't this a trifle excessive?

"Excessive" seems to characterize the whole family. They have this obsessive attachment to "the little brown house," for instance, and their idea of a wonderful holiday is to go back there and pretend they're still poor.

Polly is so sweet, lovable, and caring that she has trouble giving all her friends equal time. This kid is a born martyr. Ben, as befits the oldest son of a fatherless family, is convinced the family's welfare rests on his shoulders, and will probably have a heart attack from overwork before he's thirty. The two younger boys, Joel and David, are nearer normal than anyone else, but even they can't try a schoolboy stunt without it resulting in broken bones.

The mother of this neurotic group controls them through guilt. I don't think I like any of them.

© 1996 Jo Anne Fatherly

This review first appeared in The Whispered Watchword, the newsletter of The Phantom Friends