Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Big Susan

Big Susan, written by Elizabeth Orton Jones and originally published in 1947, is hands down my favorite chapter book length read aloud pick for little girls.  It is beyond me why more people don't know about this book.  I didn't until about six months ago.  And after reading Big Susan, I'm wondering what other gems were overlooked in my childhood.

Big Susan is about a collection of doll house people who belong to a girl whom they call Big Susan.  But unlike many doll house stories, these dolls are not alive in the sense that they can move or speak anytime they wish.  They are sentinent.  They think and feal.  But sadness does not tug the corners of their mouths downward.  Nor does levity brighten their faces. 

Only when they are in Big Susan's hands can they experience movement.  Only through Susan's mouth can they speak.

But there is one exception.

On Christmas Eve, a bit of nursery magic is enacted and they come alive.  They can move and speak of their own volition. 

And every year on Christmas Eve, they awake to find their home decked with all the yuletide charm of the season. 

But one year, their magical hour arrives and no tree, nor gifts, nor feast await them.  At first they are dejected.  Where can Big Susan be, they wonder.  She's forgotten us, they believe.

But they decide that instead of bemoaning their supposed abandonment, they will prepare a surprise for their beloved Susan. 

In the ensuing hustle and bustle about the house, they discover a true gift.  A new porcelain babe asleep in the cook's bed above the kitchen.  This babe, they decide, is a gift greater than a tree with trimmings and red foil wrapped gifts.  Finding no crib, they place the babe, whom they have named Little Susan, in the childrens' bed and cover her with their little white quilt, "rather a stiff little quilt, the kind that sometimes comes in a big box of chocolate candy."

Why does Big Susan not appear on Christmas?  Why is there no tree, or gifts?  What is the surprise that the dolls prepare for their patroness?

Why, to find that out, you must read the story. 

And incidentally, Big Susan was republished in 2002 by a small publishing house called Purple House Press, a press devoted to bringing back into print "forgotten" classics of children's literature.  You really must click over and peruse their inventory.  Each book is a delight.  We've purchased several and not a one has disappointed.


  1. It looks beautiful. I want it!! Going to that site and adding it to the wish list. Thanks for sharing you great finds! You children are so blessed for having you as a mommy.

  2. Pam, you are so encouraging. It always makes my day when you visit my blog. Thank you!

  3. I love this book too after checking it out from the library. It's part of my Mother's Day book wishlist :)

  4. I love this book it is my fav. Heavy tekul book. Love it. Love this book. Peace.

  5. Big Susan is a henkpot

  6. Pam and Kim you are both the worst case oh the wrang case like