In Grandma’s Attic by Arleta Richardson, 1974.
The books in the Grandma’s Attic Series are collections of short stories (although I think later books in the series are novel-length stories) told by a grandmother to her granddaughter about life when she was young. They typically begin with the young granddaughter (unnamed in the stories) asking her grandmother, Mabel, about an object in her house, and Mabel then tells the story about it. These are usually short, slice-of-life family stories with a humorous twist, often with a moral (the stories generally have Christian/Biblical themes). The inspiration for the stories was the author’s own grandmother, who grew up on a farm in Michigan in the 1800s. I’m kind of sentimental about them because the books I have were presents from my own grandmother, who also grew up on a farm.
This series is good for discussing aspects of life in the 1800s. They include little details about daily life like the types of chores children did, how they got to school and what lessons were like, and other little household details like warming clothes on a wood-burning stove and throwing water from washing dishes outside because they didn’t have a modern sink. They’re also good for talking about morals or making ethical decisions (it’s not just Christian themes, Mabel also talks about more general issues of growing up, like honesty, responsibility, and the awkward mistakes children make when they try to act more grown-up than they really are) or just for a good laugh because some of the stories are really funny (learn the perils of attempting to sit down in a hoop skirt without really knowing how)!
In Grandma’s Attic is the first book in the series and contains the following stories:
Pride Goes Before a Fall
Mabel and her best friend, Sarah Jane, badly want to wear hoop skirts like the fashionable young ladies and have everyone admire them, even though their mothers say they really too young. When they get the chance to wear them in front of everyone, they make a mistake and learn the lesson in the title of the story.
When God Knew Best
Mabel talks about a childhood disappointment that turned out well in the end because she was saved from disaster. Sometimes disappointments are blessings in disguise.
The Red Bonnet
A lost bonnet gives everyone the wrong impression, and a search begins for a not-so-missing child.
The other guys teased him when he asked Mabel to make him a work apron with pockets because aprons were supposed to be women’s clothing, but his comes in handy in some unusual ways.
Ma’s Busy Day
Being a mother is hard work, and when a hectic day leaves Mabel’s Ma no time to change her aprons when one after the other gets dirty, the layers of aprons she has on at the end of the day become a record of the day’s events.
Mabel misunderstands something her mother says, and it causes her problems at school.
The Button Basket
A strange Indian (Native American) comes to the farm and trades a beautiful basket for food. Unfortunately, they can’t speak the same language, so they never learn the reason why, and they marvel over the mystery of the basket’s origins.
The Little Gray Shoes
Mabel learns that vanity comes at a price when she insists that she wants a beautiful pair of gray shoes that don’t fit her properly.
Nellie and the Buttons
Why does their horse, Nellie, keep trying to bite the buttons on Mabel’s new coat? Nellie might be smarter than they think.
The Pearl Buttons
When Mabel has trouble fastening the buttons on her new dress, she finds a creative solution that causes her some embarrassment.
Nellie’s Trips to Town
When Mabel’s family makes a trip to town, their horse and buggy suddenly disappear. Then, as soon as they get a ride from a friend, they are suddenly returned. Why?
The New Pump
Young Mabel learns the hard way why it’s a bad idea to lick cold metal in the winter.
You Can’t Always Believe
When strange things start happening around the farm, Pa blames one of Mabel’s brothers but learns that it isn’t a good idea to be too quick to blame.
The Old Door
Mabel’s brother plays a trick that causes some embarrassment for their mother.
Pa and the Dishwater
Mabel’s fear of the dark makes it difficult for her to throw the dishwater outside after they wash the supper dishes. When she thinks she’s found a shortcut for getting rid of the dishwater, it gets her into trouble.
Mabel tries to put off her chores so that she can play with her friend, but the guilt she feels takes the fun out of it.
Ma’s Birthday Cake
Mabel is so pleased to be making a cake for her mother on her birthday, but has she gotten the recipe right?
Grandma’s Warm Clothes
Mabel and her brothers used to warm their clothes by the stove on cold winter mornings, but Mabel’s attempt to make it easier on herself and her forgetfulness have unintended consequences.
Mabel thinks that a selfish prayer she made may have brought bad luck to her family.
Molly Blue the cow always gives Mabel trouble. Her family thinks it’s funny until they see how much Mabel needs their help.
Grandma and the Gun
Gun safety is a big issue in modern times, and it was back then, too. Mabel is a curious child and makes a mistake that almost has very serious consequences, but she learns an important lesson.
What Grandma Lost
When Mabel’s brothers are sick and she gets to take the family’s horse and buggy to school by herself (a special privilege for a child of her time), she decides to show off a little. But, in her attempt to look more grown-up and responsible, she ends up proving that she’s not as grown-up and responsible as she thought.
What Did You Expect?
Not exactly a full story, but Mabel shows her granddaughter what a miracle looks like because she believes it can happen.