K.'s Reviews > Emily of New Moon

Emily of New Moon by L.M. Montgomery
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's review
Nov 21, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: girls-bookshelf, kids-tween-age
Recommended for: teachers, homeschoolers, anyone
Read in November, 2011

Great book! I really like Emily. If what I read is correct, this series is semi-autobiographical.

2 parts I particularly loved were the chapters regarding Father Cassidy and Mr. Carpenter. I liked Mr. Cassidy because it was just a beautifully crafted vignette. Mr. Carpenter was Emily's 2nd school teacher, and his chapter needs to be written out here for anyone involved in teaching their children. The book is worth reading for itself, but especially for the parts about how Mr. Carpenter mentored his students. It's really quite exceptional.I'll put the main bulk of Chapter 28 here "Weaver of Dreams" but there are other places in the book that are important in this way as well.


It took Emily several weeks to make up her mind whether she liked
Mr Carpenter or not. She knew she did not DIS-like him, not even
though his first greeting, shot at her on the opening day of school
in a gruff voice, accompanied by a startling lift of his spiky grey
brows was, "So you're the girl that writes poetry, eh? Better
stick to your needle and duster. Too many fools in the world
trying to write poetry and failing. I tried it myself once. Got
better sense now."

"You don't keep your nails clean," thought Emily.

But he upset every kind of school tradition so speedily and
thoroughly that Ilse, who gloried in upsetting things and hated
routine, was the only scholar that liked him from the start. Some
never liked him--the Rhoda Stuart type for example--but most of
them came to it after they got used to never being used to
anything. And Emily finally decided that she liked him

Mr Carpenter was somewhere between forty and fifty--a tall man,
with an upstanding shock of bushy grey hair, bristling grey
moustache and eyebrows, a truculent beard, bright blue eyes out of
which all his wild life had not yet burned the fire, and a long,
lean, greyish face, deeply lined. He lived in a little two-roomed
house below the school with a shy mouse of a wife. He never talked
of his past or offered any explanation of the fact that at his age
he had no better profession than teaching a district school for a
pittance of salary, but the truth leaked out after a while; for
Prince Edward Island is a small province and everybody in it knows
something about everybody else. So eventually Blair Water people,
and even the school children, understood that Mr Carpenter had been
a brilliant student in his youth and had had his eye on the
ministry. But at college he had got in with a "fast set"--Blair
Water people nodded heads slowly and whispered the dreadful phrase
portentously--and the fast set had ruined him. He "took to drink"
and went to the dogs generally. And the upshot of it all was that
Francis Carpenter, who had led his class in his first and second
years at McGill, and for whom his teachers had predicted a great
career, was a country school-teacher at forty-five with no prospect
of ever being anything else. Perhaps he was resigned to it--
perhaps not. Nobody ever knew, not even the brown mouse of a wife.
Nobody in Blair Water cared--he was a good teacher, and that was
all that mattered. Even if he did go on occasional "sprees" he
always took Saturday for them and was sober enough by Monday.
Sober, and especially dignified, wearing a rusty black frock-coat
which he never put on any other day of the week. He did not invite
pity and he did not pose as a tragedy. But sometimes, when Emily
looked at his face, bent over the arithmetic problems of Blair
Water School, she felt horribly sorry for him without in the least
understanding why.

He had an explosive temper which generally burst into flame at
least once a day, and then he would storm about wildly for a few
minutes, tugging at his beard, imploring heaven to grant him
patience, abusing everybody in general and the luckless object of
his wrath in particular. But these tempers never lasted long. In
a few minutes Mr Carpenter would be smiling as graciously as a sun
bursting through a storm-cloud on the very pupil he had been
rating. Nobody seemed to cherish any grudge because of his
scoldings. He never said any of the biting things Miss Brownell
was wont to say, which rankled and festered for weeks; his hail of
words fell alike on just and unjust and rolled off harmlessly.

He could take a joke on himself in perfect good nature. "Do you
hear me? Do you hear me, sirrah?" he bellowed to Perry Miller one
day. "Of course I hear you," retorted Perry coolly, "they could
hear you in Charlottetown." Mr Carpenter stared for a moment, then
broke into a great, jolly laugh.

His methods of teaching were so different from Miss Brownell's that
the Blair Water pupils at first felt as if he had stood them on
their heads. Miss Brownell had been a martinet for order. Mr
Carpenter never tried to keep order apparently. But somehow he
kept the children so busy that they had no time to do mischief. He
taught history tempestuously for a month, making his pupils play
the different characters and enact the incidents. He never
bothered any one to learn dates--but the dates stuck in the memory
just the same. If, as Mary Queen of Scots, you were beheaded by
the school axe, kneeling blindfolded at the doorstep, with Perry
Miller, wearing a mask made out of a piece of Aunt Laura's old
black silk, for executioner, wondering what would happen if he
brought the axe down TOO hard, you did not forget the year it
happened; and if you fought the battle of Waterloo all over the
school playground, and heard Teddy Kent shouting, "Up, Guards and
at 'em!" as he led the last furious charge you remembered 1815
without half trying to.

Next month history would be thrust aside altogether and geography
would take its place, when school and playground were mapped out
into countries and you dressed up as the animals inhabiting them or
traded in various commodities over their rivers and cities. When
Rhoda Stuart had cheated you in a bargain in hides, you remembered
that she had bought the cargo from the Argentine Republic, and when
Perry Miller would not drink any water for a whole hot summer day
because he was crossing the Arabian Desert with a caravan of camels
and could not find an oasis, and then drank so much that he took
terrible cramps and Aunt Laura had to be up all night with him--you
did not forget where the said desert was. The trustees were quite
scandalized over some of the goings on and felt sure that the
children were having too good a time to be really learning

If you wanted to learn Latin and French you had to do it by talking
your exercises, not writing them, and on Friday afternoons all
lessons were put aside and Mr Carpenter made the children recite
poems, make speeches and declaim passages from Shakespeare and the
Bible. This was the day Ilse loved. Mr Carpenter pounced on her
gift like a starving dog on a bone and drilled her without mercy.
They had endless fights and Ilse stamped her foot and called him
names while the other pupils wondered why she was not punished for
it but at last had to give in and do as he willed. Ilse went to
school regularly--something she had never done before. Mr
Carpenter had told her that if she were absent for a day without
good excuse she could take no part in the Friday "exercises" and
this would have killed her.

One day Mr Carpenter had picked up Teddy's slate and found a sketch
of himself on it, in one of his favourite if not exactly beautiful
attitudes. Teddy had labelled it "The Black Death"--half of the
pupils of the school having died that day of the Great Plague, and
having been carried out on stretchers to the Potter's Field by the
terrified survivors.

Teddy expected a roar of denunciation, for the day before Garrett
Marshall had been ground into figurative pulp on being discovered
with the picture of a harmless cow on his slate--at least, Garrett
said he meant it for a cow. But now this amazing Mr Carpenter only
drew his beetling brows together, looked earnestly at Teddy's
slate, put it down on the desk, looked at Teddy, and said,

"I don't know anything about drawing--I can't help you, but, by
gad, I think hereafter you'd better give up those extra arithmetic
problems in the afternoon and draw pictures."

Whereupon Garrett Marshall went home and told his father that "old
Carpenter" wasn't fair and "made favourites" over Teddy Kent.

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