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November/December 2011
 
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Curiosities

Peter and Prue, by Mary Dickerson Donahey (1924)

PETER AND Prue are eight-year-old neighbor kids who love exploring new places, but have been made to promise they will no longer run off. They are moping about it when the Home Fairy, a matronly Mary Poppins-type, floats down to chastise them over not appreciating home and grants them dispensation to travel wherever they would—on the Earth or above it.

They choose "above" and, through the rest of the book, are transported by various mythical creatures to adventures on the moon and several planets (the Home Fairy has somehow magically arranged for them to survive the conditions). They encounter not only the various gods for which each planet is named (the gods having moved out when Earth people stopped believing in them), but experience the planets themselves as the state of astronomy at that time pictured them, leaping high on Mercury and Ceres but being weighed down on Jupiter.

By now, the kids are searching desperately for the Home Fairy, having learned, like Dorothy, there is no place like home. Before they succeed, they have ridden through space on Apollo's chariot, been studied by Martians, visited the court of the Greek gods on Jupiter (as well as their rival Norse gods) and rescued moon goddess Diana from an evil Man in the Moon.

Mary Dickerson Donahey (1876-1962) wrote 23 books and her husband, William, wrote comic strips, at their summer home, the Pickle Barrel House in Grand Marais, Michigan (now a tourist attraction). But no other offered such fun courses in mythology and astronomy as this one.

—Paul Dellinger

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