The Children On The Top Floor (1904)⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ by Nina Rhoades.
Information is not so readily available on Nina Rhoades, this children’s author who wrote a good amount of juveniles in the early 1900s. Delving into newspaper archives, I found a very interesting article from the Cambridge Tribune, November 7th, 1908, which states that Nina’s real name is Cornelia, and that she is totally blind from an attack of scarlet fever as a child. She was good friends with Helen Keller, too! They were friends for many years, wrote letters to each other, and it’s interesting to know that our Nina was such close friends with Ms. Keller.
The Children On The Top Floor is one of a series, which was called the Brick House Books, as all the covers had the brick background, just like our book. It was illustrated by Bertha G. Davidson and was published by Lothrop, Lee & Shepard Co. There are 8 beautiful full page black and white illustrations.
This was a very charming little story about two siblings, Betty and Jack, who live with their mother on the top floor of a boarding house. They are not very well-to-do, though not desperately poor, and the mother works hard as a piano teacher, while Jack, being dropped by a nurse as a baby, was left paralyzed so that there is no hope that he would ever be able to walk. Their father had died years before.
Their mother, Mrs. Randall, is from England, and the children were raised in America. She has been very private to a fault, resulting in no friends or acquaintances outside of her pupils, and even then, that section of her life has stayed business-like. She has a brother in England that she hasn’t seen or corresponded with for many years due to her unapproved marriage, and whom the children have consequently never met. Their mother is a very proud lady, and is intent on not taking any hand-outs, working hard for anything they might have.
Because of this, there is no one to call when she becomes gravely ill, and she tells her daughter that she is not to call for the doctor, as they’d never be able to afford it. Luckily the little girl from the floor below (Winifred), likes the children of the top floor very much, and runs for help.
Pushing through her illness, the mother recovers, and learns from the doctor that there may be something to be done for her crippled son. The operation is a success, and while he is healing, they go out to the seaside with their new friends they have acquired throughout these times. While at the seaside, there is a lord who comes to visit the friend’s family, who coincidentally turns out to be the mother’s long-estranged brother, Jack.
The Children On The Top Floor is a very sweet, well-flowing story about letting go of pride and letting people into your world. I think this deserves 5 stars, because it was a page turner, and I very much enjoyed it, though I did sometimes get Betty, and Winifred, mixed up. This is because there really isn’t a huge amount of character development, but sometimes that can be overlooked for a good story. I liked this book so much that I read it all in one sitting.
Going back to the pictures, this book is filled with lots of beautiful illustrations. They’re notable to me, because every drawing of the children features very intense eyes. Their faces are blank in expression, but their eyes are intense in a kind of creepy sort of way. I almost expected their heads to turn and look straight at me!
In all, I’d definitely recommend this book for a nice summer or spring read.