Saturday, April 13, 2013

Boarding School (Book Review)

Title: Boarding School
Author: Regina Woody  Illustrator: Janet Kimball
Publication Information: Houghton Mifflin Company, hardcover, 1949
Genre: Juvenile Fiction/School Story
Plot: Having grown up in Europe, Abby Hawes is now ready for high school and has enrolled in the boarding school her mother once attended, Waban Hall Academy in Maine. Her year is full of academic challenge, basketball, ballet, new friends, and boarding school traditions that sometimes mystify Abby. She longs for a best friend she can trust but instead has an untrustworthy roommate and teachers who never seem to be looking out for her interests.
What I liked: As everyone knows, I love boarding school stories and had been curious about this one for some time. It seemed more realistic than many in the genre because of the emphasis on Abby’s academic struggles (unsurprising as she has not attended school before). Mrs. Woody also made sure the reader got a taste of all the traditions that make the school story genre so appealing: new girls, midnight feasts, girls going out of bounds, tricks (nice and not), teachers that see right through the students, trips to the infirmary, drama (not just the kind on stage), friendships, and finally a comeuppance for Abby’s rotten roommate. I’ve never come across this illustrator before but enjoyed her drawings.
What I disliked: Abby is so immature that it is hard to warm to her as a heroine. She’s always feeling sorry for herself, has little self-confidence due to a controlling mother, and for most of the book she is a victim to her nasty roommate (either too clueless or too honorable to tattle, even when accused of going to meet a strange boy in her nightgown). And she is so slow getting ready every morning! Oddly, the book had the feel of a sequel: the author referred to Abby’s family and friends as if the reader should know them. I wondered if there was yet another book by Woody I had missed. However, this one was not really worth the trouble I had gone to obtain it; it was pleasant but not incredibly memorable.
Source: Although I’d read Woody’s novels about aspiring dancers (including Ballet in the Barn, which Peter Sieruta once wrote about), I had never come across this book. Given my love of boarding school stories, I’d been interested for a while and was delighted when my library was able to obtain it via InterLibrary Loan. Thanks to the Boonslick Regional Library in Missouri for lending it halfway across the country.


Julie Askins said...

I have that same feeling of being dropped in the middle of a sequel when reading Woody's dance stories, Even when reading the supposedly first book in a series.
You're the first person I know who has read "Boarding School". Its still on my to-read list - I'll have to decide if I want to do inter-library loan as well.

CLM said...

I thought about scanning it because of its scarcity but decided it just wasn't inherently worth reading. I did like Woody's books growing up but she wasn't as memorable as some of the other ballet authors you and I like (Lorna Hill, Mabel Esther Allan, Lee Wyndham, etc.).