Form and Content

(Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction)

Milton Meltzer’s biography of Lydia Maria Child, Tongue of Flame: The Life of Lydia Maria Child, is a chronological overview of the life of an extraordinary nineteenth century woman, culled mainly from her voluminous correspondence and published writings.

The book quickly covers Child’s early years and early teaching career as well as her marriage, at the age of twenty-six, to David Lee Child, a committed reformer and abolitionist. Child’s marriage was troubled, however, by her husband’s tendency to philosophize and dream rather than to make money, a situation that often left the couple penniless.

Throughout the biography, Meltzer stresses Child’s dedication to the written word, the means by which she espoused various social causes. (The bibliography of her writings listed at the end of the text includes almost forty entries.) Child’s first book, Hobomok: A Tale of Early Times (1824), was one of the earliest American novels to be concerned with Native Americans, and it shocked her fellow Bostonians by including an interracial marriage. Before her marriage, Child began to edit the first children’s magazine in the United States, The Juvenile Miscellany (18261828). An outcome of her marriage was several books of recipes and housekeeping hints, the most famous of which, The Frugal Housewife (1829), was a best-seller in the United States for many years. Child also wrote several books for children;...

(The entire section is 485 words.)