Eleanor Estes once said that, as a writer, she hoped to reflect “the true image of childhood.” And she did just that in the nearly twenty books she authored over a period of forty-six years, including the much-loved series about the charming Moffat family.
The Moffat family consists of four children (Sylvie, Joe, Jane, and Rufus), their widowed mother, and Catherine-the-Cat. They rent a little yellow house in the village of Cranbury, where Mama works from home as a dressmaker.
Although written in the 1940s, the series is set during Estes’s childhood (circa 1915) and is said to be semi-autobiographical. Old-fashioned details like horse-drawn carriages, kerosene oil lamps, and hitching posts give readers a peek into history.
The Moffats are a kind and loving family who work hard to make ends meet. The children have good intentions, but they usually end up in some kind of trouble along the way—and their shenanigans will make for lots of fun during your family read-aloud time!
Take our free Moffats Series Checklist to your local library!
Eleanor Estes was born in 1906 and, like Jane Moffat, was the third of four children. Estes worked as a children’s librarian, and began writing children’s books in the 1930s while recovering from tuberculosis. Her first book, The Moffats, was published in 1941. During her career, Eleanor Estes wrote twenty books, including three more books about the indomitable Moffats.
In 1952, Eleanor Estes received the Newbery Medal for Ginger Pye. She also received Newbery Honor Book awards for The Middle Moffat, Rufus M., and The Hundred Dresses.
In the first book in the series, The Moffats, we’re introduced to the Moffat children. Concerns arise when a man tacks a “For Sale” sign to the front of their beloved yellow house. Although the children attempt to intervene, the threat of the home’s possible sale continues throughout the book. The children’s other escapades include an impromptu freight train ride for Rufus, the creation of a “ghost” in the attic (to scare a troublesome neighbor), and the devastating loss of a $5 bill.
Jane is the star of The Middle Moffat, a Newbery Honor book. As the title suggests, the story follows Jane’s adventures as she navigates life as “the Middle Moffat.” Despite the children’s best efforts, the yellow house has been sold. The entire Moffat family must adjust to life in a new house on a new street, where Jane makes a new best friend and takes it upon herself to be in the middle of everything.
Seven-year-old Rufus takes center stage in Rufus M. In this Newbery Honor Book, Rufus faces many personal challenges, such as learning to write his name so he can get a library card, impatiently trying to grow beans, and attempting to knit a washcloth to help the war effort.
The final book in the series is The Moffat Museum. The book opens with a new idea from Jane: “The Moffats should have a museum!” Jane envisions the museum as a place for the Moffats to house their favorite things and celebrate their memories—an especially important project because the children are growing up and life is changing for the Moffat family. This heartwarming series finale was written in 1983, forty years after Estes wrote the first three books.
Author: Eleanor Estes
Genre: children’s fiction, humor
Interests: family life, friendship, childhood, growing up
Suggested age range: 7 to 12
Gender preference: boys and girls
In the series: 4 books, 210 to 256 pages each
Do your kids need extra encouragement to read?
Take The Moffats Series checklist to your local library and have your child check off books as he reads them.
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