Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Ten Years Old Fifty Years Ago

Jean Bothwell's children's book, The Mystery Cargo features a ten year old boy named Micky Devlin, who lives a very interesting life. His mother is an Italian professional pianist, his father an Irish business man, and he lives with his two siblings and the housekeeper's family in a loft apartment over his dad's warehouse. The building overlooks the Hudson River, close to the docks where his father's goods arrive, and the time is the early 1960's, so the live-in housekeeper and chauffeur isn't quite as incredible.

The story itself was thin, but I enjoyed the sense of place and time. Micky could walk home from school, but if he were even a few minutes late, there was a panic. His older siblings were embarrassed at their uptown school about living over a warehouse, but took the full time servants for granted. The children could all speak Italian, like their mother, but didn't find that exceptional. Ten year old Micky seemed much more naive than my eight year old in terms of his understanding of adult problems and worries. The book stayed very true to itself without condescending or moralizing. It was a fun book to read, although it's a bit hard to picture modern children reading it. I'll offer it to the kids to see what happens.

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