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The Eleanor Series Review by Susan K. Marlow

Eleanor Clark
Honor Net
PO Box 685
Fairfield, TX 75840

Are you looking for a Christian "American Girls" series for your daughters? A series that uses real-life girls to tell true stories of character, history, and family? Look no further than The Eleanor Series. The author conceived the idea for her series while researching her own family's rich American heritage, which dates back to the early 1600s and stretches clear through Eleanor's own growing up years as the daughter of a Texas dairy farmer during World War Two.

Each of the six books in the Eleanor series (seven if you include the Christmas book), is about 180 pages, hardbound for a beautiful "classic" look, and packed full of not only an engaging story from a specific period of American history but also pages of extra activities at the back. In addition, each book is thoroughly biblically based and immersed with the importance of Christian character and living for Christ.

Here's a quick overview of each of the titles:

Book One, Mary Elizabeth: Welcome to America, takes readers from Wales to America aboard the ship Assurance, as Mary Elizabeth's family immigrates to Virginia in the New World. Godly perseverance is emphasized throughout the exciting story of the family's adventures.

Book Two, Victoria Grace: Courageous Patriot, follows the adventures of a young girl whose heart's desire is to help sick people. Caught up in the Revolutionary War, Victoria Grace learns to assist the doctor in caring for the wounded and learns courage along the way.

In Book Three, Katie Sue: Heading West, readers join a girl who is not excited about moving from her home (and best friend) in Tennessee all the way to Texas, a strange, unknown place. Traveling by covered wagon, Katie Sue must learn to trust her father (and her heavenly Father) to bring her safely to her new home.

Book Four, Sarah Jane: Liberty's Torch, touches on an unusual event that I've not come across in other historical fiction books. Sarah Jane belongs to a wealthy family in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. They travel by train to New York City to watch the unveiling of the Statue of Liberty in 1886. Along the way, Sarah Jane learns the importance of "letting her light shine" by being a good witness of Christ's love to others.

The author herself, Eleanor Jo, is the heroine of Book Five, Eleanor Jo: The Farmer's Daughter. Growing up on a farm during the tumultuous times of World War Two teaches Eleanor the value of hard work and of working together. Victory gardens, ration stamps, and collecting tin foil for the war effort are part of this close-up look at an uncertain time in our nation's history.

Book Six, Melanie Ann: A Legacy of Love, is the story of the author's real-life granddaughter, who becomes the Keeper of the Key to the treasure chest of collectibles from the family's past. A teapot from the 1600s, Katie Sue's locket, and other special items tie this modern girl to her distant ancestors. Love and putting others first is the theme that carries readers through this last book of the series.

Eleanor Jo: A Christmas to Remember is a companion book to the series. It tells of a very special Christmas on the farm during the Depression, when there was no money for presents.

The Eleanor Series is different from other "American Girl" books in that each past story is framed with a modern-day story of one of the author's granddaughters who is facing a similar character challenge. When "Grand Doll" (Grandmother's nickname) shares from the family history, even present-day girls can make the connection. Character never grows old or out of style.

As has already been mentioned, there are copious pages of fun facts, discussion questions, writing opportunities, character development, and hands-on activities included in each book. For example, in Katie Sue: Heading West, readers are encouraged (and shown how) to set up a camping night. Games and camp-out recipes are included to give readers an idea of what Katie Sue might have experienced when she camped out on her way west.

All in all, I highly recommend The Eleanor Series for girls ages 8-12 as an excellent supplement to any U.S. history curriculum. The books can also be used as an enjoyable read-aloud for the younger set. My daughter would have loved this series, and I intend to share these books with my granddaughters just as soon as they are old enough to appreciate them.

Product review by Susan K. Marlow, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, October 2009