Adventures of a Dwergish Girl by Daniel M. Pinkwater is absolutely delightful. Dwegish Girl is at once straightforward and blissfully surreal–a winning combination. Even though it is aimed at kids, like all good children’s literature is perfectly appropriate for adults, as well. So while this is not my usual dark fare, I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Molly O’Malley is the titular Dwergish girl (like dwarves, but not), who grows bored of the uneventful life in her Catskill Mountains village and moves to the comparative metropolis of Kingston, New York, to see what there is to see. Pragmatic, curious, confident, and self-sufficient, Molly makes a wide variety of new friends, explores some fine cuisine, and finds herself drawn into a mystery that may stretch back to the American Revolution.
Along the way she goes on a side quest to New York City. The Big Apple is laid out in broad, instantly recognizable strokes, and sweetened with inside jokes. And there is also the tantalizing possibility Molly will have another adventure in the future–this time to Poughkeepsie.
Adventures of a Dwergish Girl is seriously, matter-of-factly odd, yet filled with the sly, deadpan humor Pinkwater does so well. Besides our Dwergish girl, Pinkwater introduces us to ghosts and meat robots, a witch and a grown-up boy genius, pizza aficionados and gangsters and historical reenactors. Every character, no matter how outlandish, is accepted for who they are by all the others. No one is judged. No one is bullied. It is quite a wonderful society to be immersed in.
However, I think there are some weak points. A silly and oversimplified description of the conflict between indigenous people and Europeans during colonization seems like too much of a gloss. And the not dead, not alive Redcoats strike me as somehow ‘off’. But these are just my personal quibbles.
It has been a long, long time since I’ve enjoyed a Pinkwater novel, and it was good to get back to him. Adventures of a Dwergish Girl is as joyfully odd as the other Pinkwater books I loved in my youth, and just as memorable. It’s wonderful to find the weirdness and refreshing directness continues unabated. So if you need something light and absurdist for a change, Adventures of a Dwergish Girl absolutely hits the spot.