The Dutch Twins
*The Twins: Kit and Kat (short for Christopher and Katrina)
*Age: 5 years old
Kit and Kat, mischivious five year olds in turn of the century Holland, go through a series of adventures. They help Father in the garden, show us a traditional Dutch Christmas, and skate down the canals. Also in the story are a few traditional Dutch folktales.
NB: There are two other books about Kit and Kat: The Dutch Twins and Little Brother and Kit and Kat
The Japanese Twins
*The Twins: Taro and Take (pronounced "tah-kay")
*Age: 5 years old
Taro and Take are much more sedate than their predecessors Kit and Kat. The story begins with the birth of their younger brother Bot Chan. Their father makes Take kneel down on the floor so that he can place the baby's foot on her neck. Then he makes her promise to obey the baby always, for he is a male and Take is "only" a girl. This chapter ends with Mother sighing sadly and turning her face to the wall. More than any others, this book, with that one simple scene, displays the author's bitterness towards the fate of women at the time the book was written. This,however, is the only moment in the book when this occurs. Throughout the rest of the book, Perkins describes Japanese religious rituals, travel methods, and home life.
The Irish Twins
*The Twins: Larry and Eileen
Larry and Eileen live in a very poor village in Ireland, but they don't seem to mind. They roast potatoes in the ashes of Granny's fire, have a run-in with dangerous Gypsies, and seem to lead a very happy family life. Often they are seen playing with their friend Dennis, and through out the book are just happy little children. This is quite the contrast to some of the later ones.
The Eskimo Twins
*The Twins: Menie and Monnie
Menie(the boy) and Monnie(the girl) are two fun-loving, roly-poly little kids living in Northern Alaska. Their father is the greatest hunter in the village, and in fact at the beginning of the story proves his prowess by killing a polar bear. This bear was discovered by the Twins and their friend Koko while they were off coasting. However, as Monnie is a girl, the boys take all the credit for finding the bear and force Monnie to pull the sled with the bear's skin back to the village. The Twins have many adventures, such as fishing with their father, getting lost while hunting, and frolicing in the sun on "the summer day", but throughout the book is a subtle message of misogynism. However, this does not ruin the tale of two adorable little Eskimo children living at the edge of the world.
The Cave Twins
*The Twins: Fire-Top and Firefly
Fire-Top and Firefly, aside from being the only red-headed Twins in the series, are also the most mischievious. The basic story of the book is that the Twins sneak off after their parents when they leave to find a new home for their tribe. The Twins and their parents make many inventions, such as boats, and meet strange and far more neanderthal people on their journey before comming to a satisfactory conclusion which gives us hope as to the fate of humanity. This book is by far the most fantastical, as Limberleg, the Mother, is by far more impressive a figure than her husband. Also, Perkins now has the liberty to create customs, equality, and day-to-day life as she sees fit. This is by far one of the most exciting and fun books in the series.
The Mexican Twins
*The Twins: Tonio and Tita (short for Antonio and Margarita)
This book is almost entirly devoted to a cultural depiction of Mexico and has been designed to give American children an understanding of that neighboring way of life. Tonio and Tita are the children of a Mexican farmer. The story tells of their day-to-day activities, such as eating, going to school, and taking care of the animals. This is an interesting book, and although it is not perhaps as exciting as some of the others, it is fascinating and absorbing.
The Belgian Twins
*The Twins: Jan and Marie
This book,which you can read in an etext by clicking on the title, is one of the two war stories, The French Twins being the other. Jan and Marie live in World War One Belgium. All is well until the Germans march off their parents, leaving the children on their own. Now the Twins and their dog must go on a quest to find their parents and become a family once more. This is a fascinating and an inspiring story and well worth reading!
The French Twins
*The Twins: Pierre and Pierrette
The second of Perkins's war stories, this book follows the adventures of Paris-born Pierre and Pierrette. The begining of the story finds them attending school in one of the city's great cathedrals, and going home to their solitary mother each night. Things soon become a great deal more exciting, however, when the Germans bomb Paris and Papa returns to his family with a leg wound. After the hospital where he is recovering is bombed, the Twins and their parents leave Paris and embark on a journey to their grandparents's village. This book is definatly one of the most exciting in the series, and the adventures of the Twins so absorbing as to make you feel a part of the story, the mark of good fiction in my opinion! This book is also fairly free of gender issues, although it does much to make heroes of the Americans. However, I feel that this is more an era-inspired bias than a personal opinion of the author.
The Spartan Twins
*The Twins: Dion and Daphne
This book is another very gender focussed story. Dion and Daphne are physically almost identical, but Daphne is constantly being reminded of her "lesser" status, much like Take. Frequently she is mistakenly thought a boy and will say nothing to correct the statement. As far as plot, after the birth of a single-horned sheep on their small farm, the Twins's father must go to Athens so that the omen may be interpreted. At first only Dion is allowed to go, but Daphne soon is also brought along. In Athens the Twins have many adventures and meet the great Pericles. These events, however, play second fiddle to Daphne's disatisfaction with her lot in life. The book's conclusion is very thought-provoking in light of the gender issues it raises.
The Scotch Twins
*The Twins: Jean and Jock
This novel is far and away my favorite in the series, largely because both Jean and Jock have equal roles in the story. Its an adventurous tale too - Jean, Jock, their father, and the dog all live in a "wee housie" in rural Scotland. As Mother has been dead for some time, so it is up to Jean to take care of the house and everyone in it. However, she still has plenty of time left to play, and since she is "as good as a boy" (as Jock says), play she does. The main story is the tale of how the Twins, together with their friends Cam and Roger, work to foil the theivery of a corrupt game keeper by use of their splendid imaginations. A satisfying story and loveable people make this one of the best of the series. Definatly the one to read if you were to read only one.
The Italian Twins
*The Twins: Beppo and Beppina
More than any of the other books in the series, this story focusses on the language and social anthropology of the culture about which it is written. The book includes a large Italian glossery, with definitions and pronounciation guides. The basic storyline is that Beppo and Beppina, who, like Daphne and Dion, are very nearly identical, go against the orders of their mother by wandering off during the Spring Festival. This act of disobediance, as in all good moral tales, has the result of the Twins's capture by the Gypsies, who are fascinated by their appearance. This is undoubtedly a moral tale, designed to scare children into obeying their parents. As far as I know, this is the only strait moral tale in the series, which makes me wonder why Perkins included it. The most plausible reason seems to me to be a demand by her publisher for the kind of children's book more commonly acceptable at the time. If anyone has a different opinion of the matter, please let me know.
The Puritan Twins
*The Twins: Nancy and Daniel
If The Scotch Twins is my favorite book in the series, The Puritan Twins has to be my least favorite. It never fails to enrage me. While many of the other books may feature mysogynist persons, there is almost always one who will stand up for the put upon girl, usually her twin. Not so in this book. Poor Nancy, who is an imaginative, active girl, is consistantly put down by her parents and her annoying brother. Daniel more than anyone else talks down to Nancy with disgusting regularity, reprimanding her for this and that, primarily her behavior in Church. Perkins in this book seems to show a disgust of the Puritan beliefs, and its unfair strictures. Most of the book describes either Daniel's adventures or the homelife of the Pepprell family. The book drags more than any of the others, and consistantly raises my ire. Not a high point in the series.
The Swiss Twins
*The Twins: Leneli and Seppi
This book centers on the shepardic style of life followed by the Twins's family. At the start of the tale we are introduced to that family, which consists of the Twins, a baby sister,an older brother, Mother, Father, a cat, and a dog. This is the most complete family unit to appear in any of the books, as well as the only one to feature a baby sister, not brother. The main story is the adventures of Leneli and Seppi when they and the dog are sent to care for the sheep in the pastures. One of the most remarkable features of this book is its treatment of Leneli. She is in almost every way equal to her brother, but at the same time happily domestic. We see her help Mother and take care of the baby with the same good cheer she brings to the pastures. In my opinion, this is one of the most "modern" book in the series.
The Filipino Twins
*The Twins: Ramon and Rita
*Age: not mentioned
This installment in the series is remarkable in many ways, the first and most noticable being the introduction. While many of the other books also feature an introduction, none focus so much more on the parents of the Twins rather than the Twins themselves. The parents of Ramon and Rita, Petra and Felix, are much more the central figures of the story, so much so that the age of the Twins is never even mentioned. Another way in which the story is remarkable is the portrayal of Ramon. We see him as a foolish, headstrong boy, while Rita is calm and cool and seen in a far more flattering light. As far as plot goes, the main story of the book are the struggles of the Santos family to overcome the poverty that threatens them. Who is the ultimate savior of the family is both surprising and interesting.
The Colonial Twins of Viginia
*The Twins: Tom and Trix (short for Thomas and Beatrix)
Tom and Trix are much closer to one another than many of the other twins in the series. Indeed, Trix is never left out of any adventure that Tom and his friends go on, usually because of Tom's emphatic statement that Trix is as good as any boy. Very similar to The Scotch Twins, this is another one of my favorites. The storyline is about the infestation of Pirates along the Virginia coast. The Twins, along with their cousin (I don't remember his name), team up with Captain Daniel Pepprell, one of the Twins from The Puritan Twins, to defeat them. The story is full of excitment and fairly accurate historical detail. Well worth a read.
The American Twins of the Revolution
*The Twins: Sally and Roger
In the second of the American history books, Perkins retells a true Revolutionary War story. The tale found its way to her through a great-great grand-daughter of Sally's, so that is who the story is centered around. The tale tells of the courageous Twins and their valient mother's struggles to keep the family gold hidden when the British take over their farm for a headquarters. The Twins's father is a soldier with Washington and thus rarely seen in the book. Primarily shown is the courage of Mother as she continualy out-wits the British. The story is historically accurate and thrilling, with some great costume description. All in all a high point of the series.
The Pioneer Twins
*The Twins: Jim and Josie
*The Story: This book is prefaced with a note from Perkins saying how the book presents a highly sanitized version of the actual pioneers's travels. This is very true, and I highly commend her for her honesty. The story is about Jim and Josie's travels from Illinois to California. Their father has been gone for some time and they have not heard from him in months. Now that their mother has died, the Twins and their older brother plan to go West in search of him. Along the way they team up with their friend Billy and his family, who are off to search for their fortunes. Lots of adventure and an abscense of major gender issues make this a highly enjoyable read.
The Farm Twins
*The Twins: Tommy and Nancy
This is the only book in the series really geared towards younger readers. The Twins are discovered by the childless Mrs. Tilly in her wash basket and have sweet little adventures on a sweet little farm. As children's books go, this one is pretty insipid. The Twins themselves don't figure into the story very much, it is more about Mr. and Mrs. Tilly's efforts at child-rearing. This is probably the only book in the series to take place in "modern" times.
The Norweigian Twins
*The Twins: Eric and Elsa
Once again this tale is prefaced with an introduction to the family and their way of life. In this case, not only are Mother, Father, and the Twins introduced, but also Grendle the dog, Mouser the cat, and the Tomt. The Tomt is a mythical monster thought to inhabit Norweigian homes. Perkins also makes derisive mention of other Norweigian beliefs, with horrifying regularity. She does her best to make the Twins seem foolish whenever they are frightend by one of these creatures. Indeed, courage seems to be the main theme of the story. Father is constantly reminding Eric to be courageous, which the poor little boy tries desperatly to be. Elsa, however is the more contented of the two, and generally seems a happier child. The main plot of the book is when Grendle bites the legs off of Elsa's doll, the Twins must journey through the dark and snowy woods alone to have her repaired. Along the way they must face all their imaginary terrors. This is a fun little book, not the est, but by no means the worst in the series.
The Spanish Twins
*The Twins: Carlos and Felipe
This book is remarkably different from the others in many ways, the most obvious being that the Twins are both male. Another difference is that the boys are supposed orphans: their mother died in childbirth and no one knows what has happened to their father. They live with Tia Maria at an inn she runs outside of Granada. They are horribly behaved, in fact the opening of the book finds them with a dead rooster that they had entered in a cock fight. Needless to say, they were not supposed to have taken the rooster in the first place. They consistantly concoct scemes, usually with Carlos as the brains of the operation. Felipe is more sensitive and sensible, but he is easily persuaded. Perkins implies many scrapes that they get into, and almost seems inclined to turn this book into a trilogy, as with The Dutch Twins. However, to my knowlege, this did not happen.
The Chinese Twins
*The Twins: Golden Boy and Moon Flower
Another of my favorites, this book deals with the restrictions placed on girls in old China. Moon Flower, an intelligent and active girl, longs to go to school like her cousin Great Scholar. However her Grandmother does not approve, and only her brother Golden Boy is to go. So Moon Flower, showing spunk and spirit, runs away to follow him. This book makes many jabs at traditional Chinese society, but does paint a fairly accurate picture. The outcome of Moon Flower's story (for hers it is) is enough to win anyone over.
The Indian Twins
*The Twins: Pigeon and Beaver Boy
The last completed Twins book, The Indian Twins contains some of Perkins' best writing. The prologue to this book sends shivers down one's spine. It describes the ousting of the Native Americans from their homeland, and speaks sadly of the destruction of the environment, something not often seen in a book of this time period. There is also something of Native American mystiscim to be found, which makes it all the more impressive. As for the story itself, it mainly deals with the conceited Beaver Boy's quest to become a man, largely leading to him snubbing his sister. Pigeon herself is far superior to Beaver Boy as far as physical prowess is concerned, to the exclusion of hunting. She is also the braver of the two, so that one gets the impression that Beaver Boy takes to ignoring her out of sheer humiliation. The story revolves around the tribal customs of the unidentified tribe of which the Twins' father is chief. If I were to hazard a guess, I would say that they were Sioux, but I cannot be certain. All in all, this second to last Twins Book is at once enjoyable and frustrating, but overall a pleasant, light, read.
The Dutch Twins and Little Brother
*The Twins: Kit and Kat
This is the last book in the Twins series, and was not entirely written by Lucy Fitch Perkins. It was completed by Eleanor Perkins, with the drawings done by Lawrence Perkins. I assume that these were her children, and that she died before the book could be completed, but I am not certain. The story is once again about the loveable Kit and Kat, who are left alone to tend to the house when Mother has to go help Grandfather with his dogs. Kit, as ever, messes everything up while Kat tries desperatly to put them to rights. While the book is enjoyable, it is also obvious that Lucy Fitch Perkins did not complete it, and for the reader who is accustomed to her excellant drawings, the illustrations are a disapointment. But saddest of all is that this book marks the end of the long-running Twins series.
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