Sunday, August 27, 2017

Revisiting a Childhood Favorite: Patricia's Secret

A couple of months ago, I reread an elementary school favorite, Patricia's Secret by Ruth Daggett Leinhauser, originally published in 1956. This book was one of the first "chapter books" I read. I was eight.

I found my copy again while cleaning out my mother's garage. I had to reread it to see why I loved it then and what it might mean to me now.

Easy to see why eight-year-old me loved Patricia's Secret. the story of a ten-year-old motherless girl whose Air Force officer father has finally come to pluck her from her helicopter maiden aunts in a small town in Iowa to live with him on a military base in California. Patricia hasn't seen her father since she was three, so she is, in effect, going off with a stranger. The secret of the title refers to her plan to be so naughty that her father will banish her back to Iowa.

The father is perfect. Handsome, patient, kind, nice. He reminded me so much of my own father, also a military man (non-comissioned). The military base setting was familiar and attractive. I thought Patricia was definitely wrong-headed, and when her father gave her the puppy for her birthday...oh my! Stop calling him "Father"! Call him "Daddy"! Can't you see that wistful look, you dimwit? I wanted to jump into the book and give Pat some much-needed counsel. It was pleasing to be smarter than a ten-year-old (she turns eleven during the course of the novel). The last chapter scared the crap out of me. I thought Patricia's father might be in peril. Imagine my relief when he comes up the walk. Sorry about the spoiler.

I'm still crushing on the father, but for different reasons. He is a little bit too good to be true, and his perfect grammar makes for somewhat stilted conversational prose. I still love the military base setting, and all the adults on Officer's Row that do their best to make Patricia feel at home. Patricia's "naughtiness" seems funny now as well as her efforts to adjust and it's obvious that her father fully sees her homesickness and confusion about the startling change. The aunts in Iowa hover so much, they seem almost like modern parents. Now, like then, I couldn't imagine why Patricia would prefer life with them to her new adventure. As for the last chapter, I could see clearly as an adult that it was set up to showcase Patricia's dramatic change of heart.

This double-vision exercise was fun. I'll have to find a copy of my very first novel, Ginnie and the New Girl and try it again.

My brother and me, about the time I read Patricia's Secret


raidergirl3 said...

I ordered this one from the Scholastic book order, with my own money. I know it is still in a box downstairs somewhere. Thanks for the trip down memory lane!

Unruly Reader said...

Oh my land. This is the best stuff EVER. And I love the photo. Thanks for taking us with you on the ride. Completely charming!

Unknown said...

This was my favorite as an 8 year old also. My daughter just asked me about the first book that made me love reading, and I immediately thought of this book. And I read your thoughts on rereading it. I'm going to do that also. Thank you for reminding me. We are probably around the same It was fun seeing this!