The Independence of Nan by Nina Rhoades
Published, August 1916
"I must just try to make the best of things."
That is 15-year-old orphan Nan Howard's motto when her grandfather dies leaving all his money to her step-grandmother, Mrs. Barnes. Soon after, Nan is shipped off to stay with her Uncle James and Aunt Maud, whom she's never met; they are kind, but they have four children of their own and no real room for Nan in their cramped house. Still, Nan tries to stay cheerful and help out her cousins. "I will try to be just as little trouble as I can." Needing money, Nan becomes a companion to the sad little crippled girl next door whom she teaches to play 'the glad game' (from Eleanor Porter's popular Pollyanna, which was published in 1913). But change is on the horizon for this plucky heroine. There's a mystery to solve, a new adventure to be had, a near-drowning, something sad and something glad.
This novel, with its optimism and its old-fashioned values, is sweetly predictable, but I think that's why I liked it so much. I like that Nan is not only "a brick", but "kind-hearted" and "as true as steel", too. (Although I did roll my eyes when she was described as having a "housewifely soul".) And I like that no matter how many hardships come her way, she perseveres and ultimately triumphs. Her old-fashioned values still ring true with me. Maybe that's why I love so many of these classic children's novels. (And why I can't resist buying them when I find them.) So, here's to Nan Howard and all plucky heroines everywhere!
P.S. Not only is The Independence of Nan another book from off my TBR shelf that I've now read, but it also fills a category for me in this year's Back to the Classics Challenge ... a double bookish bonus!