Arthur, for the Very First Time Critical Context - Essay

Patricia MacLachlan

Critical Context

Patricia MacLachlan is an award-winning author particularly identifiable by the warm, eccentric families that populate her novels. Born in Wyoming and reared in Minnesota, she bases many stories on her life and on tales about her ancestors. Aunt Mag was based on a distant relative, a mail-order bride from the East Coast. The character was more fully developed in Sarah, Plain and Tall (1985), which won the Newbery Medal. MacLachlan frequently redevelops characters; for example Moira’s background is used in Journey (1991).

Arthur, for the Very First Time won the Gold Kite Award from the Society of Children’s Book Writers in 1980. MacLachlan describes it as one of her favorite stories. It is typical of her books, filled with articulate and thoughtful young people and adults who defy the established norms. She clearly shows that it may be difficult to be different. Characters such as Arthur, children who must learn to live with eccentric people, frequently grow themselves as they learn to experience the world in a new way. MacLachlan’s characters are warm and loving. Although many of her details verge on the fantastic, such as animals that seem almost human, she never strays too far from realism. Instead, she leaves the reader with a picture of a world where both adults and children learn to follow their dreams.