Thursday, February 12, 2015

What's For Lunch, Charley? (1961) by Margaret Hodges

Charley is an earnest little boy living with his parents in New York City.
the pencil line illustrations in this book make it hard to get a good picture
Every day Charley passes the elegant King Charles Hotel and the fancy shops that surround it. When Charley complains about the lunch his busy working mother packs for his school day, his father jokes that Charley should have lunch at the hotel.

When Charley gets to school he sees that a new student, Rosabelle Ruggles, has joined the class. Dazzled by Rosabelle's curly hair and pink nail polish, he forgets about the girl he used to like, friendly but plain Jane Lane, and immediately develops a crush on Rosabelle. There is no cafeteria in Charley's school, so the students either go home for lunch or eat at their desks. Rosabelle has an unusually delicious lunch - fried chicken, tomato soup, fruit salad and chocolate cake. Charley watches with wonder as she unwraps each item.

On his way home from school Charley stops to talk to the King Charles's affable doorman, Mr. Murphy. Inspired by Mr. Murphy's kindness, Charley decides to stop in at the King Charles candy shop to buy a valentine...for someone. The candy shop clerk allows Charley to buy one piece of candy for a quarter.

Because the candy shop lady was so nice, Charley has the confidence to go inside the men's shop next door and ask about the hatchet he saw in the window. The hatchet turns out to be the young employee's old Boy Scout hatchet. Charley and the young man bond over the fact that Charley is a Cub Scout. Feeling really bold now, Charley decides to visit the lady's shop next door...
"Excuse me," he said, very politely and very clearly. "I would like to look at your beaver."
Wait...WHAT? We were reading this sweet little story and now we're talking about looking at beavers? Sorry, couldn't resist. He's talking about a stuffed beaver in the window of the shop. The beaver is so old and worn out that it can't be used for show anymore and the shopkeepers agree to give him to Charley as soon as they change the window display for spring.
The next day starts off badly for Charley. He plays in the sink and makes himself late for school.
To add to his troubles, Charley has forgotten his lunch box. He sits in agony as his classmates take out their food and begin to eat. He notices that Rosabelle has the same large lunch she had the day before. Charley watches wistfully as Rosabelle eats, but Rosabelle doesn't look at him or offer him anything. Jane volunteers part of her lunch, but Charley refuses, having decided to eat at the King Charles Hotel.
Charley meets Mr. Murphy outside the hotel and tells him he will pay for his lunch with a silver dollar his father gave him. Mr. Murphy tells Mrs. Ruggles, the dining room hostess, to let him take care of the bill. Once again, the King Charles Hotel staff exhibits extraordinary hospitality as Mrs. Ruggles kindly takes Charley's order of chicken, tomato soup, fruit salad and chocolate cake. Charley isn't able to finish his lunch and is stunned when the waitress brings him the bill and he finds out the meal cost more than three dollars. Luckily, his father walks in just then on a business lunch and agrees to pay the bill. Before he leaves, Charley finds out that Mrs. Ruggles is Rosabelle's mother.
Charley catches up with his friend Wally, who saw him eating lunch at the hotel. They talk about Rosabelle and conclude that maybe she'll start talking to them when she's not so new. In the meantime, Charley is going to give his valentine to the more accessible Jane Lane because of all the nice things people did for him in this book, her offering to share her lunch was the nicest.