Ahhh. Introducing this book to you all feels like introducing you to my (secretly favorite) child. It’s one that I reread every year or so, when I want something light and relaxing and hilarious, and every time, it is just as fun as I remembered.
Daddy-Long-Legs, by Jean Webster, is the story of Jerusha, a girl who had spent all eighteen years of her life in an orphanage, until one day, she was called into Mrs. Lippet’s office for an ominous meeting. Jerusha had written an article about the horrors of “Blue Wednesday”, the day the trustees came to visit the orphanage, and one of the trustees had gotten his hands on it. Fortunately for her, he had a sense of humor, and he told Mrs Lippett that he wanted to send Jerusha to college for a degree in writing. The only recompense he required was that he stay anonymous, and that she write him a letter every month, without expecting any correspondence in return.
So Jerusha is trundled off to college, to a life she is totally unfamiliar with after eighteen years in the orphanage. Again, fortunately for her, she has a bushels of spunk and humor, and plenty of wonder and appreciation for all the little things the other girls take for granted. She picks a nickname for herself, and does her best to hide her ignorance and orphanage upbringing from the other girls.
Aside from the first chapter, the whole book is comprised of Jerusha’s letters to her anonymous patron, whom she dubs Daddy-Long-Legs.
“Before leaving yesterday morning, Mrs. Lippett and I had a very serious talk. She told me how to behave all the rest of my life, and especially how to behave toward the kind gentleman who is doing so much for me. I must take care to be Very Respectful.
But how can one be very respectful to a person who wishes to be called John Smith? Why couldn’t you have picked out a name with a little personality? I might as well write letters to Dear Hitching-Post or Dear Clothes-Pole.”
She illustrates her letters with hilarious and terrible drawings, which just add to the charm, so be sure to read the book in a format that includes the pictures.
You can find the paperback here for a few dollars. I don’t recommend the eBook though because the illustrations it has are not great. If you’re planning on a summer vacation any time this year, this book is the perfect thing to tuck into your carry on bag. Or if you have your head stuck in about four Very-Thick-And-Very-Dull books, and want something different to break up the drudge, this will do the trick.
Judy is just the kind of person I wish was real so I could befriend her. But since she isn’t, I just reread her story every now and then and hang out with her that way. Give it a shot, I think you’ll find her charming too, and the plot twist at the end is just delightful.
“It isn’t the big troubles in life that require character. Anybody can rise to a crisis and face a crushing tragedy with courage, but to meet the petty hazards of the day with a laugh—I really think that requires spirit.” -Judy Abbott