“The Five Little Peppers” are Ben, Polly, Joel, Davie, and Phronsie. Their father died when Phronsie was a baby and Mrs. Pepper struggles to earn enough money to support the family. Despite their poverty, they are a loving family, full of spirit and adventure. Ben and Polly do what they can to support the family, but a bout with measles threatens the well being of the entire Pepper clan, especially Joel and Polly. The family has other adventures and befriend Jasper King during one of them. This friendship will enrich their lives in ways they never thought would be possible.
It’s always interesting as an adult to reread a book that I loved as a child. When I was young I thought how much fun the Peppers had and longed to belong to a large family. As an adult, I realize how poor the family really was and how quickly the children had to grow up. As a child I thought how terrible it was that Polly couldn’t read for days on end because of the measles; as an adult I realize the Peppers couldn’t even afford to buy books.
First published in 1881, “The Five Little Peppers and How They Grew” is old-fashioned (the doctor even makes house calls!), but still enjoyable. The Peppers are all delightful children, with Joel being the most honest of the bunch as he complains about having to eat the same food every day.
Margaret Sidney was a talented author, who could make even inanimate objects, such as the stove, seem alive. The children’s adventures may seem simple to today’s young readers, who are used to Harry Potter and the like, but it’s a refreshing change.