Saturday, July 23, 2016

Summer Adventure by Karen Andreola

Summer Adventure

I do think that families are the most beautiful things in all the world. Jo Marsh in Little Women

During our home-educating years my children gobbled-down books --- each at their own rate but I would still call it gobbling.

One of the stories was E. Nesbit's, The Railway Children, gobbled silently.

"Did you like it," I would ask when the story was finished.

"Yes," would be the reply, coexisting with a smile and a sparkle of an eye. That was that.

Years later we rented the Masterpiece Theatre version of the story. The film is a beautiful adaptation staring Jenny Agutter and Jemima Rooper.  I own the CD (for myself) and so I can share it with my grandchildren, next visit. "Trains" are my eldest grandson's hobby.

The film was my only exposure to The Railway Children, until I read it for the first time, just recently. Had I read it in my youth I would have chosen it as a read-aloud. And chosen it for narration, too. The Railway Children nourished my soul.

The courage and kindness of the characters is what I found so nourishing.

We meet Father in the beginning. He too-soon mysteriously disappears. Mother (a character I quickly became fond of) keeps the secret from her children that Father is falsely accused and imprisoned. She is shaken (secretly.) I could feel her tremble. But Mother musters up courage for the sake of her family.

To cope with living with reduced means, she and her children, Roberta (12), Peter (10), and Phyllis (7), "play at being poor for a bit." They move out of the well-off working-class suburbs of London to live in a little white cottage in the countryside.

The children really don't mind fixing breakfast or tea, doing chores they hadn't done before, because they love and admire their mother.

My fireside kettle like the one above. 
Over Roberta's head, however, during quiet moments, hangs a dark cloud of apprehension concerning Father.

In a bare upstairs room with a candle, Mother strives to write fiction for their bread-n-butter (bread that is now rarely bakery-bought.)

What makes the summer of these Edwardian railway-children so enjoyable? It is a summer of childhood innocence. The children meander around their village unsupervised. This is what children were free to do in the summers of yesteryear, when mothers worked at home, when neighborhoods were safe, entertainment scarce, and a child's activity wasn't rigidly scheduled.

Finding-things-to-do for the railway-children, becomes getting to know the adults who work for the railway. They poke their noses in other people's business, with a sincere desire to be friendly and helpful - and a wish not to be annoying - although this combination isn't always possible. The village station is just down a hill and across the meadow from their cottage - an easy traipse.

Hollyhocks on the sunny side of the house.
Roberta, Peter and Phyllis are very much like real siblings. At times they fret, get scared, disagree, and rub sharp corners off one another. They candidly say just what they're thinking and stick-together with loving team-work when illness or accident arise in the village.

Dean's photo of a dragonfly in our back garden.
Both Mother and children are generous-of-heart. They do what is uncommon today. They look outside themselves. The feelings and needs of others are important to them - so important they take risks for it. Evidently, they've been brought up with a Christian-sense-of-duty. We can call this kindness - and going out-of-one's-way to be kind at that.

I liked seeing our tall hollyhocks through a first floor window.
Involved in some exciting scrapes and daring rescues, they cross the bounds of class without a second thought. Mother might "give pause" but she is prompt to assesses a situation and steps-forward with a confident decisiveness.

Although published in the Edwardian era (1906) E. Nesbit's writing is not overly sentimental - or, as Mark Twain said of women novelists, "sadful." I already knew the ending, but I'll admit the last chapter produced one tiny tear to my eye. That's all. Just one. I wiped it away, closed the book, turned off the light, and fell asleep soundly - glad there exists a story in the world, such as The Railway Children. But would there be if E. Nesbit's husband didn't suffer a similar tragedy and suddenly loose the means of supporting his family? Good can come out of adversity in real life as well as stories.

For both girls and boys, grades 3-7. For your convenience these links take you to Amazon.
Note: The short commentary before and after the film is unnecessary and unwholesome. I would skip it. Young children do not need to know that E. Nesbit was an active socialist and didn't live the morality she penned.

The Railway Children 

The Masterpiece Theatre Film 

A Writing Exercise
Inside the pages of my creative writing curriculum, Story Starters is Exercise #55 - At the Railway Station. What episodes could your student add to the story?

A doll quilt for my granddaughter pieced from scraps from the toddler quilt.
I extend my gratitude to those of you who purchased of Parents' Review for your summer reading. May it stimulate your interests in many directions. I'm always glad to hear from my readers.

Charlotte Mason's The Saviour of the World
If you relish reading about the fine points of Charlotte Mason's philosophy, Art Middlekauff's articles will satisfy. I esteem the height and depth of his contribution. I've recently discovered his blog. Here you will have access to the volumes of Miss Charlotte Mason's impressive poetic work: The Saviour of the World.

A four-patch, hand-quilted with comfortable stitches.
Happy for your visit.
Karen Andreola


  1. I love the book The Railway Children, too, Karen. It was a favorite family read aloud. The movie version you mention is great, too. What a lovely blog post! Thank you!

  2. We are all great fans of the book and movie from Nesbit! It was a Christmas gift a few years ago. I love your kettle!!!! Hollyhock is one of my absolute FAVORITE flowers. I'm determined to grow some at our "new" to us home next summer. :) Many blessings to you, Karen! :)

  3. Thanks for sharing, Karen. My daughter and I used The Railway Children as a read aloud last year and loved it. I had never read it before. One of my great delights in reading with my daughter is getting to read so much wonderful literature that I somehow missed in my own childhood. We watched the movie after we read the book, which was a real treat! We loved them both.

    Hope you summer is going well. Your quilt is beautiful! Nice, neat stitches.

    Denise S.

  4. Read-alouds with our children were a great source of pleasure for our family. Every now and then we'd be "unable" to stop reading. When this happened at night, a quick break allowed for changing into jommies and grabbing pillows. Then, we'd read to the end.

    Out-loud reading muscles have to be exercised. Hot tea helps to soothe a tiring throat and gives the reader strength for the journey.

    I didn't discover The Railway Children until my own children were grown. Horray for great-nieces!


  5. I will definitely check on the DVD as I like to have good movies at home.

    We are enjoying our new granddaughter, Piper Claire. I don't know how long my son and daughter-in-law will live so close to us but it is wonderful getting plenty of newborn cuddles.

  6. I have never read "The Railway Children", but remember my mom purchasing us a copy when we were children. My one sister really enjoyed "The Railway Children" when she read it. Maybe I will have to read it now! Or at least watch the movie. : ) I always enjoyed watching the Mobile Masterpiece movies made for children.

    Your new quilt is lovely! Your hand quilting is so tiny and neat. The turquoise and pink calico are just stunning.

  7. I never read the "Railway Children" but I have the book. My sister enjoyed it. Your latest quilt is gorgeous. You are a beautiful crafter. Thank You for sharing. Your blog posts are always so enjoyable.

  8. How are you Karen? I knew I must leave a comment and let you know how much I enjoy your posts. I agree this book is so very good, and the DVD does an excellent job telling the story. As for the extras, hollyhocks and four square quilts are marvelous.

  9. I have The Railway Children Movie. I love it. It is a favorite in this house. I didn't realize there was also a book. But the acting in the movie was so well done, I would rather just enjoy it is as a movie. Thank you for your gentle writing. Always nice to visit here.

  10. My children are very fond of Edith Nesbit's stories. Her 'Book of Dragons' has been worn to rags and we are on a second copy of 'Five Children and It'. The younger bunch have never read 'The Railway Children' and I know they would enjoy it, too. Thank you for the reminder. :-)

  11. Karen,

    As always, your posts are nourishment for my soul. As we are beginning our new term next week, we find our first daughter beginning her senior year. The years have passed too quickly. The Railway Children makes we want to start homeschooling all over again. There are so many books that we didn't get to enjoy. Isn't that the way of life? I hope, if the Lord wills, I will be able to share many of them with grandchildren. Until then, I am enjoying them for myself.

    Your doll quilt is beautiful. When my girls were young, I sat them on my lap at the sewing machine and we made doll quilts together. They are in their little cradles still. Happy memories.

    I hope this finds you well. I am hibernating indoors as the temperatures are above 100 degrees. I hope the weathermen are accurate in their predictions of 80's for next week. I still have many flowers blooming through the heat, although my lavender looks like I feel. I have neglected my nature journal because I haven't had the will power to venture out of doors, but I had a surprise of some lovely Prismacolor pencils in the mail this week from an anonymous sender, so I am inspired to begin again. The Lord sends little blessings just when we need them. I am keeping you and Nigel in my prayers.


  12. What a surprise to read your post! I have never seen this version of 'The Railyway Children'. The one that I know, stars Jenny Agutter a a *child*, and was made in the 1970s. I never knew that she revisited that story to play the mother.

  13. We loved The Railway Children! And even though my boys are older, they won't mind watching the film in the middle of the day in lieu of other, more book-ish work! Thank you, also, karen, for recommending Art's blog. I will check it out!
    Your Kansas friend,
    Claudia :)