Dandelion Cottage is a delightful little book about four young girls who spend their summer playing in a rundown little house. It was published in 1904 and has some of the same flavor as the Betsy-Tacy books.
Each girl offers her unique contribution to the group. Bettie (12 years old) is the rector's daughter and the only girl in a family of ten. She's motherly and resourceful. Jean (14) is quiet and gentle. Parents consider her a good influence on their children but the author is quick to interject, It doesn't always follow that children like the persons it is considered best for them to like, but in Jean's case both parents and daughters agreed that Jean was not only safe but delightful. Marjory (13) is being raised by a maiden aunt and is polite and grown up for her age. Mabel (11), Dr. Bennett's daughter, is clumsy and loveable. Rankin describes her as, warm-hearted, generous, heedless, hot-tempered, and always blundering, she was something of a trial at home and abroad; yet no one could help loving her, for everybody realized that she would grow up some day into a really fine woman, and that all that was needed in the meantime was considerable patience. Rearing Mabel was not unlike the task of bringing up a St. Bernard puppy.
Within the first few pages you are drawn into the lives of this charming quartet. They have been brought up to be polite and kind, but they are not disgustingly sweet. They have been trained to value babies, hospitality, and homemaking, which may be a deterrent to modern readers (but that was what made the book such a winner for me.)
In addition to the good writing and interesting characters, the book is full of gentle humor: After Mabel makes up a taunt about an obnoxious neighbor she queries, Do you suppose the Milligans are going to get us arrested for just two apples and a little poetry? Later we read that, Mabel did her crying on the excellent principle that, if a thing were worth doing at all, it was worth doing well.
This would be a lovely read-aloud for young girls whose female role models are not from the Disney channel.
I look forward to reading more stories by this author. This title is free on Kindle, and there's an audioversion at Librivox.org.