Reading Diary: Meet Felicity: An American Girl
"Oh, I wish I could wear breeches," she said.
"What?" asked Ben.
"Breeches," said Felicity. "Gowns and petticoats are so bothersome. I'm forever stepping on my hem and tripping unless I take little baby steps. Small steps are supposed to look ladylike. But I can't get anywhere. 'Tis a terrible bother. In breeches your legs are free. You can straddle horses, jump over fences, run as fast as you wish. You can do anything."
. . . Felicity sighed. ". . . You're lucky to be a lad. You can do whatever you like."
A few months ago, I asked a friend of mine--a real history buff--whether he had heard of the American Girls books and movies. He said that he had, and had even watched a bit of the Felicity movie. But this isn't a franchise he's particularly happy about because it has--
"Too much female empowerment for me."
ROFL! And . . . BINGO!
I've read enough of both (high culture) Shakespeare and (pop culture) "Wallpaper Historical" Romance novels to have a high tolerance for girls in
. . . "Penny," whispered Felicity.
"What?" asked Ben.
"Penny," said Felicity. "That's what I'm going to call that horse. She's the colour of a new copper penny. It's a good name for her, isn't it?"
"Aye," said Ben. "Because an independent-minded horse, that's for certain. call her Penny for her independence, too."
And yet I like this story. I like it for the same reason I love the first five Baby-sitters Club books: its cleverness in arranging related elements in a small space. Just note that what binds these elements together is not necessarily a common time period, but a common theme. Hence the anachronistic breeches.
You see, Meet Felicity is set during the US Colonial period. If you want to be exact about time, the year is 1774. If you want to be precise about theme, the main idea is independence. And while Felicity's borrowed breeches are definitely closer to the symbolic "bra burning" of 20th century feminism than to any ideas the Revolutionists ever had (Correct me if I'm wrong,
And she wants Penny, an abused horse whose trust she has won, to be free as well. It's really Penny who is the lynchpin element of the novel. (And between the girl and the horse, it's clear which one is actually oppressed. =P) It's too bad that the better symbol of the strong, spirited horse is completely upstaged by the obvious point of the breeches.
This isn't an encouraging beginning to the Felicity collection, but I'm actually looking forward to finding the next book: Felicity Learns a Lesson. It's all about tea, you know, and I don't think there's much the Girl Power agenda can do to mess that up.
Image Sources: a) Meet Felicity: An American Girl by Valerie Tripp, b) Copper Horse