06 August 2010


Character Connection 12

Read about Dashti and other cool characters
in this week's Character Connection.

It is thanks only to memes like this one and my own Locus Focus that I still blog about books these days. Yet I read all the time--and more than usual these days, as I also read whatever my brothers and my tutees have been assigned for school. Doctor Decimator, for instance, has to finish The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman and The Watsons Go to Birmingham--1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis. I am beside myself with glee (although I try not to show it too much).

But for today's Character Connection, I present a character from a book I read on my own . . .

Jane Moffat
The Moffats
by Eleanor Estes

Today was a warm day in late summer. The sky was a rich blue and a slight breeze stirred in the lilac bushes at the side of the house. Jane had that feeling of something good about to happen.

"Come," she said suddenly to her doll. "We'll look at things the upside-down way." She jumped off the post, stooped down and looked at the yellow house from between her legs, upside down. It was wonderful to look at things from between her legs, upside down. Everything had a different look altogether, a much cleaner, brighter look . . .

. . . Jane looked at the houses across the street from this upside-down position. She made the doll Hildegarde do the same. Peter Frost's house looked spruce and neat and the lawn well tended. Right-side up the house was shabby and needed paint.

Eight-year-old Jane Moffat is the eyes of this novel--the kind of eyes which try their best to see the good in every situation. As you can read in the excerpt and see on the book cover, she'll even turn upside down and give a special second look to something that might not seem right the first time around. There is a deep moral element in that. (And now I wonder if Estes ever read any Chesterton . . .)

She kind of reminds me of L.M. Montgomery's Anne Shirley, except that Jane is much less pixilated. =P

The first time we see her, she is already watching and admiring someone:

The way Mama could peel apples! A few turns of the knife and there the apple was, all skinned! Jane could not take her eyes off her mother's hands. They had a way of doing things, peeling apples, sprinkling salt, counting pennies, that fascinated her. Jane sighed. Her mother's peelings fell off in lovely, long curls, while, for the life of her, Jane couldn't do any better than these thick little chunks which she popped into her mouth. Moreover it took her as long to peel one apple as for Mama to do five or six . . .

I guess that if Jane is the family's "eyes," then Mrs. Moffat is its "hands"? Since Mrs. Moffat makes her living as a seamstress, that actually works! =) And now I'll stop before I indulge in some "hand-eye coordination" puns!

It is significant that the above passage is also the book's opening. Jane's vision becomes our portal into the Moffat's home and neighbourhood--and we believe her when she calls their yellow house "the best house to be living in in the whole block because it was the only house from which you could see all the way to both corners." (Look! More seeing!) Although there are whole episodes spotlighting other family members and in which she plays very minor roles, everything comes to us with that "cleaner, brighter look" with which it must go to Jane.

There are more examples I could cite of Jane's unique way of seeing things, but these are best encountered in one's own reading of Estes' novel and its sequels. (Well, okay, there is one I've already written about . . . See last week's Locus Focus: The New House.)

Image Source: The Moffats by Eleanor Estes


Sullivan McPig said...

I'm tempted to go read the book I must confess. She sounds like a nice and original character

Enbrethiliel said...


If you're in the mood for something from a more innocent time--and something that we'd now classify as MG rather than YA--then do give Eleanor Estes a try! =)

IntrovertedJen said...

I don't think I've even heard of this before, but Jane sounds delightful! I'm always hooked when someone describes a character as being "like Anne Shirley," but even without that, I would be adding this one to my list.

Enjoy The Graveyard Book! I loved it!

Enbrethiliel said...


Eleanor Estes is kind of a "buried treasure" in the sense that few readers have heard of her but those who are familiar with her books all seem to love her. She also wrote The Hundred Dresses, if I have the title right.

When you do sit down to read one of her books, I hope you enjoy the experience as much as I have! =)

PS--I'm already enjoying The Graveyard Book!