This has taken me far longer to put together than I expected but here is my paraphrased version of Valerie Tripp’s Kit Learns a Lesson. I loved every part of this project. The book is my favorite of Kit’s collection and I had such a hard time paraphrasing that sometimes I just couldn’t help taking some/(most) of the words straight from the book. Also, pretty much every time Kit is outside in her story the weather is rainy and blustery. Well, anytime I took Kit outside of my house, the weather was sunny and blustery. So please excuse the sunshine!
“Wake up Squirt!”Charlie sat on the edge of Kit’s bed trying to wake her up before he went out to deliver newspapers.
Kit moaned and put her pillow on top of her head. Charlie always woke her up before he left so she could help her mother get things ready before the boarders woke up.
“Come on Kit.”
Charlie lifted his head, listening. Plunk, Plunk, Plunk. “What’s that noise?”
Kit sat up, “The roof leaks.”
“Why haven’t you asked Dad about that?”
“It only leaks when it rains. And besides, I kind of like it. It’s like someone’s tapping me a message using plinks instead of dots and dashes.”
“Okay: Plink, plink, plink means ‘wake up Kit’!”
“Alright! I’m up!” Kit giggled as Charlie gave a wave and headed down the stairs.
Kit shivered as she got out of her nightgown and into her school clothes.
She started to reach to tie her shoes when she noticed her typewriter had been moved to the other side of her desk. Hmm, maybe Dad used it to type a letter to get a job she thought. Kit could not wait for Dad to get a job. She was sick of having to get up extra early and work hard doing chores. And it’s all because of those boarders! Boy I can’t wait to write a new headline, “Hooray for Dad and Bye Bye Boarders!”
Kit came down from the attic and entered the bathroom to begin her chores. First, she grabbed three of Dad’s socks from the laundry basket and teetered as she put two over her shoes and one she wore as a mitten on her hand. She tucked the laundry basket under her arm, took a running start and whoosh!
She skated down the hallway dusting the floor with her feet, and the hallway table with a swipe of her hand.
As she skated past some of the boarders rooms she could hear one of them blowing his nose: Honkhonk h-o-n-k! Honkhonk h-o-n-k! It sounded like a goose conking out Jingle Bells! Next door she could hear Mrs. Howard bleating and baaing over her son like a mother sheep over her lamb. A chirp, chirp here and a baa, baa there! It’s like living on Old MacDonald’s Farm, for Pete’s sake! Kit thought crossly. When she got to the top of the stairs leading to the first floor she sat down and took her socks off.
Then she climbed onto the banister and dusted it by sliding down.
She landed with a thump, right in front of Mother!
“Oh! Good morning, Mother!”
Mother crossed her arms over her chest, “Is this how you do your chores every morning? By skating and sliding?”
“Umm, well, yes.”
“No wonder the hall still looks dusty. Not to mention Dad’s socks,” Mother sighed, “Dear, we need to make our boarding house a success so our boarders stay happy.”
Humph! The boarders again! It’s all because of them that I have so much to do and get scolded for it!
But Mother interrupted her thoughts, “And not only do we need them happy, but we need more too.”
“More boarders! Why?”
“Because even with what we are taking in now, it’s still not enough to make ends meet. We could use at least two more.”
“But where would we put them? Anyway, I think it’s silly to ask for more. Dad is going to get a job any day now. Didn’t he say he’s having lunch with a business friend? He does that almost everyday.”
“Mmmhmm. Come put on a smile and help me serve breakfast, Kit.”
Kit carefully served the oatmeal and toast to everyone at the table.
As she put the plates down she couldn’t help but think how neat it might be to interview the two nurses, Miss Hart and Miss Finney. I bet they have loads of stories to tell about their patients at the hospital! But then Kit scolded herself. They must remain blank pages! Kit could not like them. They were only boarders and wouldn’t be around for very long.
Kit watched as her father put his piece of toast onto Stirling’s plate.
“Oh Mr.Kittredge” Mrs. Howard began to fuss, “Stirling’s digestion is so delicate.”
“Don’t worry Mrs. Howard, Stirling could use some starch and I don’t want anything to go to waste. I’m having lunch with a friend today and don’t want to ruin my appetite.”
Kit noticed Stirling wolf down Dad’s piece of toast. Delicate digestion, my eye, Kit thought.
Mother started passing out the mail and suddenly cried out, “Why Stirling, dear! It’s for you!”
Stirling’s ears turned pink as he tore the letter apart in his haste to read it.
“Who’s it from, lamby?” his mother asked.
Stirling smiled timidly, “It’s from Father”, he said shakily.
“My land! Read it out loud!”
“‘Dear Son, I haven’t got a permanent address yet. I’ll write to you when I do and send more money as soon as I can. Give my love to Mother. Love, Father.'”
Stirling handed two ten-dollar bills to his mother. “He sent this.”
Mrs.Howard was overcome with happiness, “Margaret, you take this. You’ve been so kind to us and must share in our lucky day.”
“Thank you.” Mother said as she pocketed one of the ten dollar bills.
After breakfast, Kit helped her mother clean up the dishes while her father read the newspaper ads.
“Looks like Mr. Howard must be doing all right if he can send that kind of money to them. Maybe Chicago is the place to go.”
“Chicago is a bigger city than Cincinnati,”Mother replied.
“We’d move to Chicago?” Kit asked apprehensively.
“No, only I would go.”
“What!? Oh Dad, no! You can’t.”
“Kit, calm down. It’s just an idea. But if nothing turns up by Thanksgiving..”
“Dad, surely one of those people you have lunch with will offer you a job, right?”
“Kit honey,” Dad started to answer but then stopped, “Right. Any day now.”
He got up and turned to leave.
When I wished for Dad to get a job I didn’t mean Chicago! She rewrote her headline in her head: Now I hope Dad gets a job soon, and here in Cincinnati.
As they walked to school that morning Kit told her best friend Ruthie about her family troubles.
“I didn’t want Dad to leave. I wanted the boarders to leave!” Ruthie turned her head back to Stirling. Kit realized that she had spoken without thinking. Stirling had been trailing along like a pitiful puppy and Kit had forgotten he was even there.
She was pretty sure Stirling already knew that she wanted him to leave but it still wasn’t nice to say such a thing out loud. He was just so invisible.
“Thanksgiving’s only two weeks from now. I’m afraid if Dad doesn’t get a job soon he’ll go to Chicago.”
“Chicago,” repeated Ruthie. “He might as well go to the moon.”
Kit had a hard time focusing on schoolwork because worries from home kept creeping into her mind.
But she couldn’t help getting annoyed at Roger, a show-offy boy in her class who was answering a question Mrs. Fisher had asked.
“The first Thanksgiving was in 1621 when the Pilgrims invited the Indians to a feast to celebrate their successful harvest. We have turkey at Thanksgiving because the Pilgrims served 4 wild turkeys.”
Kit couldn’t stand it. She shot her hand in the air.
“Roger’s got the story backwards. It’s called Thanksgiving because the Pilgrims gave the feast to thank the Indians.”
Roger snorted but Kit wasn’t intimidated.
“The Pilgrims would’ve starved to death if it weren’t for the Indians. The Indians taught them how to work and plant in the new land. I think that was pretty nice of the Indians considering that the Pilgrims had barged into their land where they’d been living happily by themselves for a long time.” As Kit spoke, she realized she knew exactly how the Indians felt to have a bunch of strangers living with you and eating your food when you weren’t expecting them and didn’t want them there in the first place.
“Kit makes a good point,” said Mrs. Fisher, “It’s important to help friends who are in need when they fall on hard times. We see this all around us today because of the Depression. Who can give me examples about ways to help strangers?”
Ruthie raised her hand, “When hoboes come to our house, my mother gives them sandwiches and coffee.”
Kit was surprised to see Stirling raise his hand. He was usually always so quiet.
“Sometimes people get kicked out of their house because they can’t pay the rent and their friends are nice and invite them to live with them.”
“Oh, so that’s why you live with Kit,”brayed Roger. “I thought you two were married!”
The class snickered as Roger made kissing noises. Stirling slouched down and Kit raised her fist at Roger, but she was mad at Stirling too. Stirling should have kept his mouth shut! she thought.
“That will do, Roger” Mrs. Fisher scolded, “Now, as you know Thanksgiving is coming soon and I’d like our class to do its part in helping strangers out. I would like all of you to bring a food item to school. It doesn’t have to be big. I know most of us don’t have much to spare but if we all chip in we can make a Thanksgiving basket and donate it to the soup kitchen. Since it’s especially important to remember the example the Indians and Pilgrims taught to us, we will still have our annual Thanksgiving pageant.”
The class buzzed with excitement.
Our fourth grade class is responsible for the scenery. Here is a drawing of the backdrop we’ll paint.”
“That’s good!” cried one of the classmates.
“Who drew it?”
“Stirling,” said Mrs. Fisher.
Everyone twisted around to stare at Stirling who slouched down for the second time that day. But no one was snickering. Everyone, including Kit, was gaping at Stirling in astonishment.
At lunch Ruthie said, “Stirling is really good at drawing, isn’t he, Kit?”
Kit shrugged, she was still annoyed with him for embarrassing her in front of everyone, “I guess so.”
Just then Stirling walked over to pick up his lunch from Kit since the two of them shared the same lunchbox.
Roger spotted them and started whistling “Here Comes the Bride”.
Kit glowered but Ruthie spoke up to distract her, “Hey Kit! My father says he has some leftover wood we can use for our tree house.”
“That’s great!” She had always dreamed of being just like Robin Hood with her very own tree house.
“I was thinking, you know how our sketches aren’t really very good?”
“Yes,” Kit admitted.
“Well, how about asking Stirling to draw for us?”
“No! Gosh, Ruthie! If we let him plan it then we’ll have to invite him in when it’s built. He’s already invaded my real house. I don’t want him in our tree house too!”
“Okay, okay, don’t get all hot and bothered. The tree house doesn’t even exist yet!”
A few days later, Kit’s class was busy working on the scenery for the pageant. Mrs. Fisher was far away working with the spotlights and Roger was taking advantage of her absence by being a general pain. He came over to Stirling who was cutting out turkey feathers and jabbed him.
“So, Stirling, when’s the wedding for you and Kit?”
Stirling completely ignored him and continued cutting the feathers.
Roger turned to Kit, “Hey, Kit, what’s the matter with your boyfriend? He’s awful quiet.”
“Stirling is not my boyfriend. He and his mother pay to live with us. They’re boarders.”
“Oh yeah! That’s right! I heard your family is so hard up you’re running a boarding house and you’re the maid.”
“I am not!”Kit denied although she had certainly been feeling like a maid lately.
“Here’s you!”Roger began walking around imitating a maid by dusting the walls. That’s when Kit spotted something.
Kit touched Ruthie’s arm and pointed. Ruth chortled and cried, “Hey, look everybody! Look at Roger – Mr.Turkeypants!”
Everyone looked and screamed with laughter.
“Hey Turkeypants! Gobble, gobble!” Ruthie hooted.
Kit realized that Stirling must have sneaked the feathers onto Roger when he wasn’t looking. Roger realized the same thing and turned back to Stirling. “You think you’re pretty smart don’t you Stirling?” he said as he pulled the off the feathers furiously “Well at least my father hasn’t flown the coop an disappeared like yours has!”
By now everyone had gathered around the pair and waited for Stirling to say something. When he didn’t, Kit exasperatedly took over. “For your information, birdbrain, Stirling’s father sent him a letter from Chicago just a few days ago and it had $20 in it! His mother gave $10 to my mother!”
“Well,” sneered Roger, “That’s good news for your family then, Kit, since your father doesn’t have a job or any money. My father says your dad spent all his savings to pay the people who worked for him which is stupid. No wonder no one will offer him a job.”
“That’s not true!” said Kit, outraged, “My father has job interviews all the time. Almost every day he has big lunches with business friends. He’ll get one any day. He said so.”
“No he won’t. Nobody wants your father.”
With that, Roger shoved Kit who shoved him right back.
Kit was so angry, she shoved him really hard.
He fell back into the table, knocking feathers into the air and tipping the can of orange paint over.
Everyone shrieked in horror as the paint splattered all over Roger’s head and clothes! Orange puddles ran down his shirt and onto the floor.
“Aaargh!” Roger roared.
But just then, Mrs.Fisher came back.
“Stop! Who’s responsible for this?”She demanded.
“Not me!” said Roger, “Stirling started it and Ruthie called me a name and Kit shoved me and -”
“Quiet! Roger, go clean yourself up. Kit, Ruthie and Stirling come with me.”
The three found out that they would have to miss the pageant to deliver the food goods to the soup kitchen as their punishment. Kit didn’t think it was very bad except nothing happened to Roger. Kit also knew that Stirling would keep the incident a secret because if his mother found out what had happened at school she would go into fits.
The day of the pageant came and Mrs.Fisher helped the three of them load Kit’s wagon with canned goods, a basket of fruit, bread, and Ruthie’s family who still had money had bought a turkey. Ruthie used her umbrella to shield the food from the drizzle and gusty winds.
Kit’s shoes were wet through and she was very cold in her thin sweater.
“I’ll take a turn pulling the wagon,” Ruthie offered.
“Thanks. This whole thing is like an adventure isn’t it?”
“Sure, we’re like the bedraggled princess in the Princess and the Pea.”
Kit grinned. Good old Ruthie, she has a princess for every occasion.
They stopped grinning when they came around the corner and saw the long line of people from the door of the soup kitchen down to the end of the block. Many of them were slumped with their hats down as though ashamed to be there and be recognized.
“Oh my,”said Ruthie quietly.
Kit tried to be brave but even she was daunted by the dreary scene before her.
“Come on, let’s go around the back way.”
When they entered the building they could see it was very busy and when a woman saw them and put them right to work handing out food.
Most of them kept their eyes down as they murmured their thanks and Kit felt so sorry for them. How humiliating this must be for them!
“Thank you.” Kit recognized that voice and she suddenly looked up bewildered.
It was Dad.
“Kit!” Dad gasped.
Kit couldn’t breathe. All the air had been knocked out of her lungs as a sick, shocking feeling of terrible shame shot through her as she stared at Dad. Kit couldn’t stand it any more.
She bolted through the door and leaned against the brick wall, sagging sightly as she tried to stand with wobbly legs. In a moment, Ruthie and Stirling were beside her. “Kit?” Ruthie said gently, “Are you okay?”
“Your dad left. He said he’d talk to you at home. Listen, everything’s going to be all right.”
“All right?” Kit repeated and shivered, “No, Ruthie, everything’s not going to be all right. My father hasn’t been getting job interviews with business friends. He’s been going to a soup kitchen just to get something to eat. Dad’s not going to get a job in Cincinnati. Maybe he should go to Chicago.”
“No,” said Stirling, “You don’t want him to go.”
“What do you know about what I think? You’re father is in Chicago sending you letters with money inside them!”
“No he isn’t,” his brown eyes looked straight at Kit, “that was my twenty dollars. My father gave it to me before he left. I’ve always wanted my mother to use it but she kept saying no and to save it for an emergency. She told me a few weeks ago that we were going to have to leave your house because she felt too badly that she couldn’t pay the rent. She wouldn’t feel so bad if your mother would let her do housework but your mom won’t let her. So I figured I could trick her into taking it by writing that letter pretending to be my father. I used your typewriter to type it so she wouldn’t recognize my handwriting. The truth is, I don’t know where my father is. I’m pretty sure he’s never coming home. He flew the coop like Roger said.”
Kit sat down in the wagon feeling defeated.
“Stirling, you’d better tell your mom what you did,” said Ruthie. Stirling nodded.
Kit realized that if Stirling told his mom about the letter they would leave. And even though she had wanted them to leave ever since they arrived she felt different now. She did not feel glad.
The three walked the rest of the way home in silence. Just as Kit walked into the house, Stirling turned back and gave her a small smile then walked upstairs to his mother. Kit walked into the kitchen where her father waited.
“Kit,” Dad said, “I owe all of you an apology. I’ve led you to believe I’ve been getting job interviews but I haven’t even had one. I’ve been going to soup kitchens for weeks just to put food on the table. It’s time for all of us to face the truth. And the truth is there’s no point in studying ads in the paper because there isn’t going to be any. So your mother and I have decided. I’m going to Chicago.”
“Oh Dad! If you’re going because of Stirling’s letter..”
“I’m going because there’s really no alternative. You can send me newspapers so I won’t feel so far away. I need you to be my reporter during the good times and the hard times too.”
Hard times thought Kit dully as she walked up to her attic and put her head on her desk. She had been wrong about so many things! Instead of resenting the boarders she should have been grateful for them. Oh I wish we had room for more boarders! Then Dad could stay.
Kit sat up suddenly with an idea. She got up and ran down to her mother. “Mother I’ve been thinking. Ruthie’s father has a stack of lumber for us to build our tree house but I bet he wouldn’t mind it if we used it to fix up Charlie’s sleeping porch instead. If we made it nice enough I bet one of our boarders would move in with Charlie. Then we could put two new boarders in Charlie’s room.”
“We could certainly use the money but I don’t know if I could handle all the extra work two more boarders could be. Especially after your father leaves.”
“How about asking Mrs. Howard to help you with the housework instead of paying rent? I’d help too of course.”
“Kit, that’s really ingenious but there’s one more problem, we can’t hire a carpenter to fix up the porch. Who’d do the work?”
Suddenly they both had the same idea.
“Dad’s great at building things!”
“I think it will be hard to change his mind.”
“You leave that to me!” Cried Kit as she raced back up to her typewriter and got busy typing.
With Stirling’s help, the next day a newspaper arrived at breakfast time in Dad’s place.
Dad read out loud.
“My Land!” Cried Mrs. Howard, “I’d love to help you Margaret! I’ve noticed the hallway needs a good dusting.”
Kit’s toes curled. Then she turned to her father, “So, you’ll stay then?”
“Yes, I’ll talk to Ruthie’s father today.”
Kit stood near the table as her article was passed around. People were beaming and brimming over with stories when she suddenly heard a quiet voice next to her.
“Happy Thanksgiving, Kit.”
It was Stirling.
Happy Thanksgiving Stirling.”
Kit and Ruthie played themselves
Note from Sara: Why did I have to play a boy, Lindsey, I’m not in your boy club and you could have been Roger!
Mrs. Fisher………………Ana Ming
Note from Lindsey to Sara: Because I’m Charlie and if people saw Charlie sitting in Kit’s classroom they’d be really confused.
Jack (Kit’s dad)…………Katelynne Claire
Margaret (Kit’s mother)…………..Katie Gotz
Mrs. Howard………………..Carlie Cullen
Kit Learns a Lesson by Valerie Tripp. Copy right American Girl 2001.