Diane Gersoni Stavn

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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 629

[Joseph Krumgold] uses … state-of-the-sexes observations to "explain" the sad state of modern society. His … And Now Miguel, a capably written book, concerns a farmdwelling family and particularly the next to the youngest son. Miguel's mother and sisters seem to exist only because the author assumed the men of the family would have to come into contact with women sometimes. They're alluded to primarily in terms of their familial roles: e.g., Miguel wonders "'… what there could be for supper.'"… Given the farm setting, such role delineation is realistic enough. Krumgold begins to slide with Onion John, a dull book that touts the glories of rugged individualism by focusing on the antics of a superstitious old man who is befriended by 12-year-old Andy. Andy's housewife mother is an innocuous, really irrelevant character, visible a little more often than Miguel's mother but just barely….

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In Henry 3, a book set in wealthy suburbia, Krumgold through his characters laments the fact of commuting fathers and tortuously and speciously indicts the presumably eviscerating "matriarchal" suburban values. Henry Lovering is a kid with an embarrassingly high I. Q. His dad during the day is a fawning corporate climber; his mom likes life in suburban Crestview. When the Loverings are ostracized because of the bomb shelter they have installed in their home (Mr. Lovering's in the shelter biz), it seems likely that the family will have to leave Crestview. Henry's upset about this, but the old sage of the book, his friend Fletcher's ruggedly individualistic grandfather, tells him to shed no tears; that Crestview's no place for a boy to grow to manhood in because it's "'… a woman's world around here. Crestview is her idea … these women have to be safe. They have their children to protect. Their first big idea is to get enough security to bring up a family. And the second, they have to be in fashion. Because in a place like this a woman can't grow old … the ideas it (Crestview) lives by. They're about thirty-five hundred years old. That's how far back you'd have to go to find a world anything like Crestview, a matriarchy…. A society that's ruled by women. And there you have it, why Crestview's wrong … Fashion's fine and so is security, but they're not enough to control a lot of machinery. If we can't find anything better to live by than those two things, we might as well give this particular planet back to the ants.'"

Now, even so general a source as the Encyclopaedia Britannica states: "No peoples on earth are known to be organized matriarchically, nor are there reliable historical records of such societies. If there ever were matriarchates in the very earliest times, there is no trustworthy evidence for their existence … the society as a whole has never been found in which women in general have authority over men in general." Given that any intelligent discussion of matriarchy must involve uncertainty, it is revealing that Mr. Krumgold has a sympathetic character impart a rigid theory—the basis of which is emphatically in disfavor—in ringing, pontifical tones to young readers. Even if one were to accept his patently absurd generalizations regarding all women in suburbia, it's difficult to follow Krumgold's logic. Is Crestview the woman's idea? Isn't it just as valid to postulate that suburbia is the status symbol of the rising young executive? If women can't grow old in Crestview, is that a situation of their own choosing? Do they enjoy the fashion treadmill? Or must they maintain their youthful, fashionable looks in order to be acceptable assets to their husbands? (p. 284)

Diane Gersoni Stavn, in School Library Journal (reprinted from the January, 1971 issue of School Library Journal, published by R. R. Bowker Co. A Xerox Corporation; copyright © 1971), January, 1971.

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