A girl’s time “in service” in a London house offers young readers a glimpse of life below-stairs in 1911.
Daisy Dobbs is very young when she leaves home to take the position as scullery maid her mother has found for her in a fine London town house. Elderly sisters, the Misses Simms, are her employers, but it is the cook and the parlor maid who tell Daisy what to do. Friendly Mabel Simms, a grown niece visiting from America just in time for the coronation of George V, becomes Daisy’s champion. Mabel intercedes to let Daisy borrow books from her aunts’ library. Mabel defends Daisy against the aunts’ outrage when, left alone on the coronation day, she constructs a tricolor decoration from the laundry pile—including the elderly sisters’ red-flannel bloomers—and hangs it from a window in a burst of celebratory feeling. And Mabel finds a way to salvage her aunts’ dignity and yet free Daisy to go back home and attend school after Daisy heroically saves the household from a kitchen fire. Daisy comes across as a determined little soul in her mob cap and sturdy shoes. Hughes’ ink, gouache, and watercolor art offers details both small and broad, perfectly pitched to young readers. Capturing Daisy’s experience, vignettes of the girl at work toting and scrubbing give way to a full-page illustration of Daisy at rest in her garret bedroom, reading.
An impressive and delightful combination of visual and verbal storytelling evokes empathy and identification with the young heroine. (Picture book. 4-8)