Title: Meet Molly a.k.a. “You Know Who Else Played Pranks? HITLER!”
Author: Valerie Tripp
Illustrator: Nick Backes
Summary: FOR MOLLY MCINTIRE, life seems full of changes. It’s 1944 and the world is at war. Her father is far away caring for wounded soldiers. Her mother is busy working for the Red Cross. Mrs. Gilford, the strict housekeeper, makes her eat terrible things like turnips from the Victory garden. And everyone in America is so serious and practical that glamorous Halloween costumes are hard to get. Molly’s special hula skirt is a huge success – until Ricky, her pesty big brother, plays a mean trick. Molly and her friends are determined to get back at him. One mean trick leads to another until the fighting goes too far.
I am really thankful I didn’t give these books away like I had planned.
When I was a kid I was a big fan of historical fiction books, mainly the “Dear America” series and the “American Girl” books. My interest in the genre started thanks to the cartoon “Histeria” which sparked an interest in Henry VIII and his many wives. I still have a box full of my old “Dear America” and “Royal Diaries” editions in the attic closet.
With the “American Girl” series, my focus gravitated towards the Molly books because they took place during WWII. I’m not as much of a buff as I’d like to admit, but I do enjoy 40s era movies. One year for Christmas I got the (at the time) complete “Molly” set of books. I’ve offered to do bimonthly reviews of all six in the set this year, with a bonus Molly story for October and a different “American Girl” book I still own for December.
Y’know, there’s always been one thing about this sub-series that stuck with me for so many years. I only remember a few bits from the Molly movie they made. Mainly, the housekeeper, Mrs. Gilford, was made younger and given a son named Johnny who was fighting overseas. Mrs. Gilford started watching Molly and her siblings when Mrs. McIntire began working, but she wasn’t their official housekeeper before the war began. It took some time for Molly to get used to Mrs. Gilford’s presence, and she even expressed annoyance about how much Mrs. Gilford gushed about her son on her first day. Time passed and Molly became accustomed to the housekeeper’s presence, and then one day she came home and found her mom back from work early. Mrs. McIntire said she was baking a casserole. Earlier in the film, Molly’s sister Jill mentioned bringing a casserole to a neighbor who had a relative that died in the war. Molly immediately realized why Mrs. Gilford wasn’t there…
As cheesy as this will sound, I still tear up thinking about when Molly brought the food to Mrs. Gilford’s home, and the older woman broke down in tears and hugged the girl. The way Molly spoke “Not Johnny” when she realized what happened was sad on two levels: she was sad for Mrs. Gilford, and sad for Johnny separately instead of only feeling bad because he was Mrs. Gilford’s child.
[Wing: Ah, American Girls. I have such a nostalgia for them even though I never owned the books, much less the dolls. (In case you’re not familiar with them, the American Girl dolls are detailed and fancy and really fucking expensive; there’s no way we could have afforded them). I did pour over the catalog looking at all the fun little accessories that came with the dolls, and I skimmed some books at the library, though never any of the Molly books. I have concerns already over that hula skirt costume in the summary.]