Lenora Mattingly Weber Essay - Critical Essays

Weber, Lenora Mattingly

Introduction

Lenora Mattingly Weber 1895–1971

American young adult novelist and adult short story writer and journalist. Weber, author of the popular Beany Malone series, was for years one of the most widely read authors of books for teenage girls. She published her first book, Wind on the Prairie, in 1929. In her more than forty years as an author Weber wrote over thirty books, most of which are romances stressing old-fashioned values, the age-old boy/girl crises of adolescence, and the importance of family relationships. Many of her novels, particularly her earlier efforts, are set on a ranch, reflecting the fact that Weber spent most of her life in Colorado. Although Weber's fiction is frequently criticized today for its sentimentality, its restricted vision of a woman's role, and its failure to confront contemporary issues, it has without question been an important literary influence on several generations of American girls. (See also Contemporary Authors, Vols. 19-20; obituary, Vols. 29-32, rev. ed.; Contemporary Authors Permanent Series, Vol. 1, and Something about the Author, Vol. 2.)

Edwin L. Sabin

As with Mrs. Weber's preceding books, "Wish in the Dark" revolves around ranch life in Colorado. With its cast of striking characters bent upon making good or destined to be made good, and its element of mystery, it is again a tale capitally told…. In a rickety car Hope and the twelve-year-old twins, Becky and Baird, come from Iowa to Colorado, consigned, as orphans, to their Aunt Sarah who is assumed to be living in the town of Trail's End…. Their dramatic arrival in Trail's End, their rapidly growing list of new acquaintances, with lively ensuing adventures, brim a story that can be recommended to any family endowed with the spirit of the 'teens. (p. 356)

Edwin L. Sabin, in The Saturday Review of Literature (copyright, 1931, by The Saturday Review Co., Inc.; reprinted with permission), December 5, 1931.

The scene of this mystery story for girls ["Wish in the Dark"] is laid on a ranch in a Colorado valley…. The plot has plenty of thrills from the stolen telegram and the disappearance of the green shirt to cattle rustling on a large scale. In the end the threads are all tied up neatly—a heart of gold is found under each forbidding exterior in true Western style. In spite of the author's tendency to sentimentalize and to use stock character types "Wish in the Dark" is lively and amusing and much less stereotyped than the average mystery story for girls. (p. 8)

New York Herald Tribune Book Review (© I.H.T. Corporation: reprinted by permission), March 6, 1932.

Ellen Lewis Buell

The Malones [in "Meet the Malones"] are certainly worth meeting. They are individuals in their own right, but you will see in them something of the family next door or down the street, for these four motherless youngsters and their companionable father are very much alive and of this day. And of our time and our country is their unspoken knowledge that democracy really begins at home, around the family council table….

When Martie Malone [the father] went off to Hawaii he left his household running fairly smoothly….

Nonna [the glamorous, efficient step-grandmother] fixed everything beautifully—at first—and the Malones reveled in ease and comfort. But somehow the old, generous, helpful way of life was managed out of existence, the debts and plans were half forgotten, until the arrival of three small refugees made them realize painfully that you can't have things for nothing, that independence and integrity are dearly bought but worth the price.

As the Malones sift their values of living, older girls will find their family crises full of humor and revealing bits of characterization; and if the story occasionally verges on the sentimental, this is more than offset by the tonic tone of the whole.

Ellen Lewis Buell, "Family Crises," in The New York Times Book Review (© 1943 by The New York Times Company; reprinted by permission), October 17, 1943, p. 8.

May Lamberton Becker

"Meet the Malones" is a story in which the world of an American high school appears as it does in many an American city today….

[The Malone children are settling their family problems] very well in their own way when their step-grandmother, a high-pressure career woman, comes for a visit. She settles everything for them; all they need pay, for what they don't want, is self-respect. Nonna goes, but meanwhile there has been a series of demonstrations that Emerson was right when he said the highest price you could pay for anything was to get it for nothing. This is not a second "Little Women": we don't need one, having the first. But we do need good contemporary high school stories, and this is one. (p. 40)

May Lamberton Becker, in New York Herald Tribune Book Review (© I.H.T. Corporation; reprinted by permission), November 14, 1943.

May Lamberton Becker

Ever since I read "Sing for Your Supper" I have kept an eye out for anything by its author … because she writes about the West, old or contemporary, with a juicy vitality needed in stories about it. For "Westerns" tend to become stereotyped: her stories, for young people growing up, stay within the frame of this fiction, but make it seem as if it really happened.

Thus the bookful of short stories ["Riding High" has] basic elements one expects from ranches in fiction [a sweet young girl, a devoted foster-parent, a bow-legged cowboy confidant, and a young hero].

There is, incidentally, a good deal about habits and education of ranch horses…. If grown-up Westerns had as much in them, I might be able to read the things. (p. 7)

May Lamberton Becker, in New York Herald Tribune Book Review (© I.H.T. Corporation; reprinted by permission), July 21, 1946.

Ruth Hill Viguers

In spite of her name, Beany Malone is a character one is likely to remember. The most reliable, although the youngest of her delightful but not always accountable family, Beany takes over the responsibility of the welfare of her brothers and sisters when their father, the overworked editor of the local paper, goes to Arizona to recuperate.

There is a story and a problem behind each member of the family [in "Beany Malone"]….

There is warmth, quiet humor, and excellent suspense in this story of a young girl's growing up. The Malones are charming, loveable people with a strong sense of values and a fine social outlook, whose problems are real enough to become the problems of the reader.

This is a fine novel, well written, convincing and alive. (p. 36)

Ruth Hill Viguers, in The Saturday Review of Literature (copyright, 1948, by The Saturday Review Co., Inc.; reprinted with permission), August 14, 1948.

[Leave It to Beany!] is another story of the charming Malones. Sixteen-year-old Beany, in the midst of a high school romance and diverse energetic family projects, finds that her desire to help people in unorthodox ways leads her into several ridiculous and difficult situations…. The cousin Sheila episodes, concerning the attempts of the Malones to stuff the lonely, glum girl into a pattern of the American Girl, present an amusing and often perceptive study of the iron defense mechanism which may be built up by a girl outside the magic circle of a high school clique. A warm-hearted, very human story. (p. 63)

Virginia Kirkus' Bookshop Service, February 1, 1950.

Louise S. Bechtel

["Leave It to Beany!" the fifth] book about the Malones will please all their fans in Junior High. Beany, the youngest, now sixteen, is shown in a humorous portrait, over-doing her role of helping every one and managing everything…. It is all fairly improbable, even for the high air of Denver, but it is at the same time warm-hearted and a good family portrait. It is rather a relief to find, in a children's book, a family going to mass together.

Motherless Beany rings true, so does the cooking by young and old, and the newspaper background. John's struggles with his history of Denver make a clever sub-plot, and the glimpses of several teachers are well done. The romance is played down, in a...

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Louise S. Bechtel

["Beany and the Beckoning Road"] begins with Beany having a sad tiff with her beau Norbett. It sends her from Denver to San Diego to cure her troubled heart. On this wild jaunt by auto Beany and her absent-minded older brother take turns at the wheel. Their adventures are told with the mixture of humor, sentiment, and realism that have given the Malone books their wide appeal to junior-high-age girls. The horse in the trailer, the mysterious old lady, the trunk full of gold, all are utterly preposterous, yet cleverly related to Beany's love affair. That the lovable three-year-old could live through such a trip is the most miraculous touch of all. Those who already like the sensible, warm-hearted, direct Beany will...

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Jennie D. Lindquist

Already well known for her lively Beany Malone stories, Mrs. Weber has here written [My True Love Waits,] a book no less lively but of more permanent value…. The larger part of the book—and the best of it—is devoted to the hardships and adventures that Mary and the five people who go with her meet on their covered-wagon journey to Denver City. It is a realistic story that does not soft-pedal the grim side of such an undertaking, though the book has a happy and satisfactory ending. (pp. 128-29)

Jennie D. Lindquist, in The Horn Book Magazine (copyrighted, 1953, by The Horn Book, Inc., Boston), April, 1953.

[Beany Has a...

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Alberta Eiseman

At 16, Beany, youngest of the Malones—a family well known to teen-age girls—was happy with the status quo. Then suddenly everything began to change [in "Beany Has a Secret Life"]…. For over 200 pages the author puts every possible obstacle in the way of a reconciliation between Beany and her stepmother, but finally our freckle-faced heroine sees the light.

The Malones are a nice family and, as always, fun to read about. One wishes, however, that the author had not thrown so many contrived misunderstandings their way and had not tied everything up quite so neatly at the end. (p. 24)

Alberta Eiseman, in The New York Times Book Review (© 1955 by The...

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Barbara Joyce Duree

While more hackneyed and contrived than some of its author's earlier books, [The More the Merrier] will be welcomed by Beany's many fans. Left with her brother Johnny while their parents are in Mexico, Beany decides to turn the big Malone home into a boardinghouse, thereby earning enough to make a rumpus room in the basement. Although her boarders … bring the kindhearted Beany more problems than profits, the summer ends happily for everyone concerned. (p. 160)

Barbara Joyce Duree, in The Booklist and Subscription Books Bulletin (reprinted by permission of the American Library Association; copyright 1958 by the American Library Association), November 15,...

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Barbara Joyce Duree

[A Bright Star Falls] finds its popular heroine [Beany Malone] now a senior at Harkness High and editor of the school paper…. The seriousness of … new situations and problems makes the book seem somewhat more significant than many of the earlier titles in a growing series. (p. 124)

Barbara Joyce Duree, in The Booklist and Subscription Books Bulletin (reprinted by permission of the American Library Association; copyright 1959 by the American Library Association), October 15, 1959.

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Helen Oakley

In [The Winds of March, a] sequel to Don't Call Me Katie Rose, the heroine, a sophomore at Adams High, has the smugness blown out of her by "the winds of March." In this month she has two chastening experiences. First, she must learn to stand by while the irresistible Bruce Seerie overlooks her intellect in favor of her sister's exuberance. The other crisis, a horrifying kidnapping, well handled by both Katie Rose and the author, helps her revise some of her lofty attitudes. Mrs. Weber's teenage dialogue and school setting are authentic, and there is enough action to satisfy girls who can easily identify with this "delightsome" heroine. (p. 2039)

Helen Oakley,...

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Emma Kirby

Despite the predictable plot and characters and the story's pat resolution, [A New and Different Summer] is highly readable and has great appeal in its evocation of a happy, loving family. Not challenging fiction, but lighthearted and fun to read. One unnecessary scene gives the story an ugly flaw. At a baby shower, Katie asks a Negro girl if she is married.

"'I was' came the casual answer. 'I got me two little kids, but right now I ain't got no man'."… The scene and comment are extraneous to the plot and needlessly perpetuate the stereotype of the shiftless Negro. (p. 174)

Emma Kirby, in School Library Journal (reprinted from the May, 1966...

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Zena Sutherland

The writing [of A New and Different Summer] has an easy flow, but the story moves slowly; it has the appeals of familiar characters, a modest home setting, and realistic events, but the main theme (Katie Rose's menus and shopping extravaganzas) is somewhat belabored. (p. 172)

Zena Sutherland, in Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books (copyright 1966 by the University of Chicago; all rights reserved), June, 1966.

Katie Rose Belford, who seemed, in earlier installments, to have some sense and spirit as well as brains … submits to the appeal of Gil(martin) Ames [in I Met a Boy I Used to Know]…. Gil is clearly a...

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Zena Sutherland

As in all the Beany Malone stories, [Come Back, Wherever You Are] is a smooth pastiche of family life and the problems of Beany's circle of friends and acquaintances. Here the crucial situation is that of a small, disturbed child whose mother, Beany's old friend, dies of leukemia. Beany's efforts to make little Jodey feel secure are partially successful…. Although the story has a burden of subplots and minor characters, it is realistic, warm, and capably written. (p. 135)

Zena Sutherland, in Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books (© 1969 by the University of Chicago; all rights reserved), April, 1969.

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Pilar Schmidt

[Angel in Heavy Shoes] is above the level of the ordinary because it attempts to treat relations among people from various socio-economic levels of society. In spite of some weaknesses, Angel in Heavy Shoes generally warrants consideration because it deals with the struggles of a middle-class teen-ager who tries to overcome distaste for a family of a lower socio-economic class and because it touches on the seamier side of life: alcoholism, juvenile delinquency, and crime. Even though the background details of the unfortunate Flood family are revealed rather awkwardly through Rita and Lennie Flood's mouths, the gradual change that occurs in Katie Rose Belford's attitude towards the Floods is well done and...

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Zena Sutherland

A protagonist familiar to Katie Rose fans, younger sister Stacy Belford takes a summer job as driver-helper to an elderly man [in How Long Is Always?]…. Stacy has the usual problems of adapting to a new situation, falling in love with an older man, trying to thaw her employer's wife. The events are natural and realistic, although the book lacks the warmth of the Belford family stories; the characterization and story line are adequate, the writing marred by a trick that is overdone: Stacy has trouble with long words … and this becomes a bit cute. Stacy also exhibits occasional gaps in knowledge or intelligence that don't quite ring true. (p. 186)

Zena Sutherland,...

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Rebecca Ricky Friesem

Lenora Mattingly Weber's latest teen romance [Sometimes a Stranger] again pits stereotyped wholesomeness against stereotyped evil. Spirited Stacy Belford breaks off her romance with Bruce Seerie because he has not yet asserted his independence from his meddling, snobbish mother. While Stacy plunges into a whirl of activity to forget him, Bruce belatedly cuts the umbilical cord and consequently plunges into a deep depression…. Will these two finally get together? Of course, with the help of some new types for a Weber novel—hippies with hearts of gold. A further nod in the direction of the new age is Stacy's plan to embark on a career with no mention of marriage and "working 'til the baby comes."…...

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John W. Conner

Sometimes a Stranger is a fitting finale for the talents of Lenora Weber. She had an ever-present finger on the reading pulse of younger adolescent girls.

In Sometimes a Stranger, Stacy Belford's on-again-off-again-then-on-again love affair with wealthy Bruce Seerie is traced through Stacy's senior year at St. Jude High School and into the summer following her graduation. (pp. 1385-86)

Hours of heartache and moments of happiness alternate in Sometimes a Stranger, much as they do in an adolescent reader's own life. This element, of course, is what makes Lenora Weber's stories meaningful for her many readers. Stacy and Bruce both begin to face the future more...

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Rebecca Radner

[The Beany Malone series is mentioned in Rebecca Radner's essay discussing the limiting effect on girls of some of the teenage literature written during the nineteen-forties and fifties.]

Recently I became curious about just what in these books exerted such a strong pull on our young imaginations. (p. 789)

The basic elements of this sort of story are simple. The sixteen or seventeen year old heroine meets the right boy and the wrong boy. We can tell them apart instantly, but she can't until the end of the book. While her mother is cooking and cleaning for the family, our heroine goes through an identity crisis, usually brought on by a desire to impress the wrong boy. This leads to a...

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