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Volume II, Issue 3, October 20, 2003
Wells, S. A. (2003). The Mullers from Missouri; Father, Ford, $5 A Day Series. Ferndale, MI: Lawells Publishing. 122 p. $14.00. [ISBN 0934981116]
Father, Ford, $5 A Day is a series based on actual accounts of families who migrated to the Detroit area to work in the automobile industry. Mullers from Missouri is the first of this series. Author Sherry Wells purports this series to be like Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House on the Prairie and follows her trademark of chronicling family life in new environments. The Muller Family of Oronogo, Missouri moves to Michigan after the father loses his job as train station manager. With the assistance of a relative settled in Detroit, the Mullers are lured with the promise of earning $5.00 a day in an automobile plant and owning a Model T automobile.
The book begins on ambiguous notes. While one of the world wars is mentioned in the beginning of the story, it leaves the reader confused about what year the story begins. Is it after the first or second world war, and how long after? The beginning also starts with confusing narration. The reader is given the impression that one of the Muller children is telling the story, but eventually surmises it is omniscient narration. The story progresses more clearly after the Mullers settle in the growing village of Ferndale, a present-day northern suburb of Detroit.
As in the Little House series, this story depicts hardships along with happier times of a transplanted family. A cross burning, an unwelcome sign for Southerners who moved to the area, takes place close to the Muller’s home soon after they arrive. The father becomes dispirited from his long layoff, and the family loses their home. The Muller children do not have the hills, woods, and familiar faces from their native Missouri, but find fun through radios, sand lots, and friends in the neighborhood. The family also enjoys an active community life through their jobs, associations, and friendships.
A point of interest in the Mullers’ story is the technological advances they experience. They have a toilet instead of an outhouse in their new home, along with a bathtub and indoor plumbing. The mother gets an icebox as a present. Herb Muller, one of the children, becomes proficient at the complexity in starting and driving a Model T Ford. The story also shows imperfections in some of these cutting-edge devices, though with a little humor. Tires routinely became flat or fell off Model Ts, while the steering wheel fell off one woman’s car while she was driving! However, the less-technologically savvy may stumble and need assistance through some of these descriptions.
The epilogue, once again, shifts into confusing narration. Eventually, the reader sees the voice belongs to the author. Wells, who is a neighbor to the Muller family, briefly explains where she was inspired to begin The Mullers and Father, Ford, $5 A Day. Herb Muller wrote a few pages in the Ferndale historical book, Old Timers Tell It Like It Was, so Wells expanded and fictionalized his family’s experiences in her book.
Aside from some ambiguities, Mullers from Missouri is good for readers, preteen to mature, who are curious about local history, especially of Ferndale or the northern Detroit suburbs. It would also be of interest to anyone who may want to publish local history projects.
Reviewed by Kristy Padron, Substitute Librarian, Adamany Undergraduate Library, Wayne State University, firstname.lastname@example.org