Compared to the other two Rollo books I’ve read, Rollo’s Experiments has little in the way of an overarching narrative. Some of the experiments span multiple chapters, a few kind of lead into the next experiment, but for the most part, the book is very episodic.
Rollo in On the Atlantic and In London is ten years old, but I get the impression he’s younger here. He’s full of questions, some of which the adults around him answer, but they mostly prefer to offer advice on how Rollo might go about figuring them out on his own. And sometimes the adults don’t know. Father demonstrates some properties of magnets, like their poles that either attract or repel, or how you can see their field with iron filings, but he freely admits he doesn’t understand what magnetism is on a technical level.
I would assume this is the next in the series after Rollo on the Atlantic, but I honestly don’t know. The order isn’t marked, and of the twelve I’ve got in my library, London seemed the most likely.
Rollo and Jane have arrived in England. Their father is still in poor health and unable to do much sightseeing, so uncle George takes Rollo on a tour of London. The book’s educational component comes from George’s explanations to Rollo about the places they visit, some of which are better woven into the narrative than others. At the docks, for example, George launches into a long digression on the shipping industry and commodities and brokers and African trading, which is interesting in its way, but what child could possibly care? To be fair, while Rollo listens politely, he does seem to be more intrigued by the big crane and the cool drawbridge.
Inscription: on the inside front cover, “China Lefrary, from Edith Frost Stevens”. I can’t find anything about China online, but Mrs. Stevens seems to have been a teacher at the Woods school in Unity, Maine in 1912.
The preface says that the book exists both to educate and entertain, but for a Victorian kids book, it’s thankfully pretty light on the moralizing. For the entertainment side of things, we follow twelve year old Rollo and his seven year old cousin/adopted sister Jane as they journey across the Atlantic to join their parents, who — owing to their father’s illness — have been obliged to remain in Europe longer than expected and don’t wish to be so long separated from their children. Rollo and Jane were to be entrusted to some friends on board the ship, but after a series of accidents, the children find themselves on their own. For the education side, we learn about how a steamer operates and what a transatlantic crossing is like for the passengers.
Abbott actually lived right here in my hometown. His house, Fewacres, has been gone for several years — it was demolished to make way for the new education center at the college — but the grounds are now Abbott Park. I read most of this book there on the banks of Rollo Pond. It seemed appropriate.
Inscription: on the flyleaf, “Fred from Grand Ma, Xmas 1900”. Granny also seems to have written to the publisher, W.B. Conkey, for a catalogue, since it’s folded up and tucked in at the front. “Books to entertain all ages … for the boys and girls … best in the world at moderate cost”. Rollo on the Atlantic sold for 25 cents.