Title: Patricia’s SecretPatricia's Secret
Author: Ruth Daggett Leinhauser
Pages: 120
Recommended Ages: 9-13
Star Rating: ★★★★★

Published in the 1950s.

The Story.

Patricia Lowell barely remembers her father. She was just three years old when he left to fight in World War II, and now, seven years later, the idea of seeing him is strange. The thought of moving halfway across the country to live with him is outright scary.

But that’s the plan he proposes – he wants Patricia to come live with him in California. The worst of it is that Aunt Mary and Aunt Sue, who took Patricia in when her mother died, agree that she should make the move. Patricia is scared – and a little bit angry. She decides that the only way to get her life back to normal is to misbehave until her father sends her back to live with her aunts.

But will she have the gumption to go through with her plans?

Discussion.

My readers will be happy to hear that she is not able to execute her plans. It’s really quite cute. A well-behaved child, Patricia likes pleasing people, especially those she loves. And she does come to love her father. Because of this, although she is occasionally naughty (like all children), she cannot make herself live in a pattern of rebellious behavior. The few times she does work up the nerve to “misbehave” – like eating without washing her hands, or not practicing piano – her father doesn’t even notice what she’s done, and she winds up driving herself crazy rather than him. Here is an example of her plans to misbehave.

Patricia has always wanted to cut her hair short, because she thinks her curls would be cuter that way rather than bound up in double braids. But whenever she mentioned this desire to her aunts, they refused to let her cut her hair because in all of his letters home, her father asks whether she still wears braids.

Here was a naughtiness made to order, but just thinking about it made Patricia feel guilty and unhappy and quivery inside. Being naughty isn’t much fun, she thought, but I’m going to do it – I’m going to cut my hair! If father wants me to have braids, maybe he won’t like me at all without them. Maybe he will send me home right away.

“Why don’t you have those braids cut off?” Major Lowell asked, still looking at her in the mirror.

His words were such an echo of her thoughts that they made Patricia jump. She turned around to stare at her father in amazement.

“You – you don’t want me to,” she stammered.

“I think it’s a fine idea,” her father said, smiling at her.

“But in your letters you always asked if I still wore my hair in braids – that’s why I had to do it, because you wanted me to –”

“Oh, not at all,” her father said, looking surprised. “I just asked, because if you were changed in any way I wanted to know about it. I should like to see your hair all fluffy around your face.”

Well, that naughtiness has certainly fizzled, Patricia thought dolefully. [pgs. 25-26]

And that’s how it goes. Either her father doesn’t think Patricia’s “naughtiness” is actually naughty, or Patricia just can’t work herself up to hurting her father. Throughout the summer, she enjoys her time with her father more and more, but she remains fixated on the idea of returning “home” before the school year begins. Her father, though saddened, agrees to let her return to her aunts. But once the path is free, Patricia realizes that her desire to leave was mere willfulness and that she actually wants to stay with her father. In the end, they are happily settled together.

Patrica and her friend, Todd, say ‘gosh’ several times.

Conclusion. Superb. I really enjoyed this story, which featured positive relationships.

Review © 2014 Laura Verret

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