About twenty years ago, William Bennett, a right-wing politician, published a collection of stories titled The Book of Virtues. It made quite a splash, especially in the liberal literary world. Outspoken pundits on the left couldn’t believe they would ever endorse such an author or introduce his work to their children. However, they prided themselves on being openminded, and they (reluctantly) voiced their approval. All but the most strident still believed in the traditional virtues of loyalty, honesty, and family.
Over a century ago, Gene Stratton-Porter filled her novels to overflowing with virtues. The public loved her work. How sad that our society has taken such giant steps backward.
Hers are books that stir the soul and make a child say, “I want to be good. Like Elnora. Like Freckles.” Even as an adult fast moving toward old age, I say the same. The characters in Porter’s books are to be admired for their goodness. How they handle adversity. How love heaps burning coals on an enemy’s head until he or she is so ashamed, repentance and love returned are the final results.
For those of you who homeschool, I can’t recommend Porter’s books highly enough. Not only do you read uplifting stories, you receive lessons in botany and ecology. Porter creates characters who are passionate naturalists as she herself was. In fact, much of what she wrote is somewhat autobiographical.
Geneva Stratton was born in 1863 and grew up in northeastern Indiana near a swamp called the Limberlost. She and her husband even built a home there. Once a treasure trove of rare flora and fauna, the Limberlost could not survive civilization. People wanted to build more houses so engineers drained the swamp. The author’s heart broke as she watched various species disappear, but she continued to write about her beloved Limberlost.
Stratton-Porter wrote thirteen novels and several nonfiction books between 1903 and 1924. I had read Keeper of the Bees years ago, and the old-fashioned language took some getting used to. However, I recently read Girl of the Limberlost, and the language didn’t snag me at all – the story is that good! Read the books aloud together. If your little ones get lost in the descriptions, skip over some of it. But please! Not all of it. The prose is too good to ignore.
As my grandchildren grow, I fully intend to add Gene Stratton-Porter’s novels to their home libraries. Teaching our children virtue has to be right behind teaching them faith in Christ. One lesson complements the other.
Thank you, Gene Stratton-Porter for providing wonderful, edifying reads, and thank you, Bill Bennett, for renewing our education in virtue.