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Have you ever been away from home for a year? In the book Phebe Fairchild, set in the 1830's, a girl named Phebe travels from her New Haven home to spend a year with her Aunts in the Connecticut Countryside while her parents are at sea. During the year Phebe is with them, she struggles to meet the strict Puritanical expectations of her relations, but her greatest trial is protecting her jewels and cherished book of nursery rhymes. Will she make it through with her things, or will she discover that the greatest treasure lies in her heart? Phebe Fairchild is a great book for kids ages 8-12, especially those interested in nineteenth-century cultural history. It is emotionally balanced, historically rich, and full of fun rhymes and songs that readers will enjoy.

This book is a heartwarming tale of trial, culture, and character development, and it's full of humor. It has interesting historical content, showing the strict traditional upbringing practices of the time. Phebe has parents who believe in loosening the restrictive bonds of the breeding of children in that period, as well as allowing “worldly things” in their home. Thus, Phebe has been brought up on an easier basis, increasing her struggles with her strict Aunts.

Though the book talks about hard things like the harshness of Phebe’s relations, it tells of them in a soft, gentle way. It also keeps the hard parts spread throughout the book by alternating them with many interesting and fun sections. This is a good example of how the book is emotionally balanced.

While her older relatives scorn the nursery rhymes Phebe loves, some of the cousins like them. Lois Lenski uses the children’s poems as a symbol of the changing attitudes of adults on the subject of child rearing. Readers who are interested in nineteenth-century traditions will definitely like this story because it has rhymes from Phebe’s book, is emotionally balanced, and is culturally interesting.

It is true, the book is more of an emotional experience, not an adventure story. As it does not have as much action as some, some readers will like it more than others. For instance, there is more talking in the book than some may prefer. However, the talk of the characters articulates the cultural and historical essence, even if it is less exciting than action.

Phebe Fairchild is a good book for kids 8-12 because of all these reasons. It is historically rich, is emotionally balanced, and also has fun and funny rhymes. The emotional story really shows what growing up in nineteenth-century America was like. This is such a fun and cool historical novel and a very good book. Happy reading!

Phebe Fairchild by Lois Lenski. Purple House Press, 2020; orig. 1936. Buy the book here and help support Stone Soup in the process!

Reader Interactions


  1. Excellent review! This sounds like it would make a great addition to our family library. We have loved the Mr. Small series by Lois Lenski, so this will be a most welcome addition to our shelves.

  2. My dear friend Mary,
    Bravo! Well done!! I am proud of you!!!
    You have piqued my interest in Lois Lensky’s “Phebe Fairchild Her Book”.
    You are an avid reader. I love when you borrow from my little library. You have
    done a wonderful review of this book.
    Looking forward to more of your works!

  3. What a balanced and insightful review of the book! I’ve read many freshman college essays that are not as well written as yours.

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