Mother Carey’s Chickens by Kate Douglas Wiggin

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Sweet and endearing historic story, a good one for fans of Anne of Green Gables and similar.

Mother Carey’s Chickens is the book that the musical Summer Magic (1963) starring Hayley Mills was based on. (There’s also a 1938 version starring Anne Shirley). I love Summer Magic, so checked out the book which you can find free on Gutenberg. I was surprised to find out how faithful the film is to the book, particularly the early sections. Entire lines of dialogue are taken from the book which is rather charming.

There are of course some character differences, including an extra child, and some ages swapped around, but on the whole if you like the movie you’ll like the book, and vice versa. It’s a lovely, gentle read – you know that a host of happy endings are on the way – with many beautiful pieces of verse and song woven in that I really enjoyed. I also found the food descriptions interesting, and am dying to know what “gold cake” and “silver cake” are.

As lovely as the book is, it’s possible that the film is even better (which is a rare phenomenon: usually Hollywood ruins books). If you were going to edit the book, you might well make some of the changes that the film made: fewer characters, more humour, and so on. A few more loose ends wrapped up.

But either way, this is a lovely read, and I highly recommend it to anyone that enjoys reading older fiction.

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