Rosemary Wells Jane Langton - Essay

Jane Langton

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

[The Fog Comes on Little Pig Feet] is the secret journal of Rachel Sasakian, scribbled after lights out while she crouches in a bathtub at boarding school….

Driven into a corner by the dumb rules of the school, she becomes crafty. Her father, she brags, is Norman Mailer. To escape compulsory chapel she declares herself a convert to Judaism. But the totalitarian pressure of the school mounts until Rachel's resistance is an act of heroism. The book says something true about life: Evil is not diabolical and nasty, but bland and blind. (p. 5)

Jane Langton, in Book World—Chicago Tribune (© 1972 Postrib Corp.), May 7, 1972.

To start with, Rachel's snobbish working-class mother, who saves and borrows to send Rachel to a $4,000-a-year high school with "nice girls from nice families," is just unreal. She's a type rather than an individual but she isn't true to any type, and Ms. Wells' unsympathetic treatment of her [in The Fog Comes on Little Pig Feet] indicates a little snobbery on her own part…. The initial picture of the rigid, repressive school gives a similar impression of garbled sociology, even to the expensive, out-of-season asparagus served at dinner. Once we're into the story, though, certain recognizable absurdities are given properly incidental notice …, and the quirky humor that has always been evident in Ms. Wells' pictures assumes some happy verbal manifestations here. And Rachel herself, a reluctant nonconformist who hates the school because it allows her no time to practice piano or just be alone, is quietly convincing all along. When she accidentally becomes involved with a disturbed older girl who runs away to the Village, the plot focuses on a real dilemma: should Rachel tell where Carlisle has gone, as authorities tell her the girl is self-destructive and needs help, or keep her vow of silence because Carlisle has a right to lead her own life and neither the school nor her parents are likely to do her any good if they do find her? In the end Rachel is not sure she has made the right choice but fortunately the trouble has brought her parents to their senses and they withdraw her from the school. The story too grows up as it goes along. (p. 581)

Kirkus Reviews (copyright © 1972 The Kirkus Service, Inc.), May 15, 1972.