Maida’s Little Website

“Maida’s Little Shop” and its many sequels told the story of the motherless daughter of a tycoon, and her unusual upbringing with a group of special friends. Many people assume that the Maida books, like Nancy Drew, the Bobbsey Twins and so many other popular series, were the collective work of various people writing under a single pseudonym. This seems especially likely when you consider that the series was written over a period of 45 years, from 1910 to 1955. During this time, America went through two World Wars, the Great Depression and many other changes, none of which are reflected in the series, in which Maida and her friends age only slightly.

But these books were written by one person, Inez Haynes Gillmore Irwin, who was a distinguished and influential writer, feminist leader and political activist. She was a co-founder of the National Collegiate Equal Suffrage League and a member of the National Advisory Council of the National Women’s Party. The Maida books reflect the author’s interests in feminism and social change, as Maida’s father uses his wealth and insight to provide Maida and her friends with a series of alternative environments for living and learning.

The series begins with Maida’s Little Shop, published in 1910. This is the tale of Maida Westabrook, the daughter of Jerome “Buffalo” Westabrook, Wall Street tycoon. Although Maida has had everything that money can buy and the devotion of her father, she has also known trouble and heartache. Poor health has given her much pain and for most of her life she was unable to walk, and her mother died when Maida was eight years old.

When the story begins, Maida has recovered from surgery performed by a renowned German specialist, and has regained the use of her legs. However, her father and her doctor are worried that she remains listless and want to help her find some interest in life to improve her health and happiness. On a chance visit to Charlestown, on the outskirts of Boston, they visit a little neighborhood shop, and Maida is enchanted and wishes that she, too, could keep a shop just like this one. Buffalo Westabrook, delighted to see Maida take an interest in something, buys the shop and arranges for Maida to live above the shop with elderly Irish housekeeper, Granny Flynn. The only two conditions are that she must make the shop pay, and she must not reveal her true identity.

Maida stocks her shop with school supplies and inexpensive toys, and soon meets all the neighborhood children. Her special friends are the rebellious, beautiful Rosie, with her scarlet cape and her penchant for skipping school, and the quiet, patient, lame Dickie, who make wonderful things from bits of colored paper, and stays home to take care of his baby sister while his widowed mother is at work. Eventually she even makes friends with Arthur, who is a little rough, and the snobbish Laura, whose disposition is much improved after a bout of diphtheria.

Keeping her true identity a secret is difficult. Maida is something of a puzzle to the other children. She talks of traveling in Europe, of birthday presents that include a motor car and of her father’s flock of peacocks, but there are many common, everyday things that she doesn’t know, and must be taught. Throughout the fall, Maida keeps her shop and makes it pay, learns about the ordinary games of childhood from her friends in Primrose Court, and becomes happy, healthy and strong. When Christmas comes, Maida’s father comes to visit and her true identity is revealed, and Granny Flynn, Dickie and Rosie all have wonderful surprises.

The adventures of Maida and her group of friends from Primrose Court continue through several more books, thanks to the generosity of Buffalo Westabrook, who makes all of the arrangements for the children to live together in various interesting settings. But it’s the first book in the series that is the favorite of most readers. There is a fairy tale charm about Maida, the poor little rich girl, who is restored to health and who finds happiness living in an ordinary neighborhood among ordinary children, tending her little shop. The story combines elements of such classics as The Little Princess, by Frances Hodgson Burnett, and Understood Betsy, by Dorothy Canfield Fisher, but has a charm all its own. Many young girls found Maida’s life as a shopkeeper rather than schoolgirl quite fascinating, and the element of being a princess in disguise is always appealing.

The Maida books were written over a period of many years, and the later ones have a different tone than the first, more like standard school stories, with fewer fairy tale elements. They were all popular, however, and are still sought by collectors and those who want to reread them.

The Maida Books | Fiction | Murder Mysteries | Nonfiction |

45 thoughts on “Maida’s Little Website

  1. I was given this series of books when I was a child. I am trying to replace these treasured books which have been lost over the years. The problem is that they are hard to find. At one time I had the complete 15 book set.
    Is there any way that you could help me to locate them?
    Thank you so very much for taking the time to read this note.
    Sincerely,
    Maida

    • Sorry, I’m not a book dealer and I don’t have a complete set myself. I see a lot of them being sold online, but they vary a lot in scarcity and price. Good luck in your search!

    • I also read the Maida books as a child. I only had the first 3 or 4 but I read them over and over. I never forgot them and as an adult set out to add the rest of the books to the set. Over the last few years I have managed to collect all but 3. Check Ebay and ABE. I found several there. Also, everytime I see an antique store I have to browse thru the books. I found 3 Maida books at an antique store in Redwing, Mn. Keep on looking. It takes patience but you will get all of them. Best Wishes and Good Luck!

    • I have collected these books on Ebay and have all of the set – I was very lucky to find the last two Treasure Hunt and House Party which are not easy to find – but if you keep looking, they will show up. You can find them all in dust jackets as well and should never pay more that 50.00 a book. I have spent anywhere from 13.00 for 3, to 65.00 for the Treasure Hunt. I only had 4 growing up – they were my aunt’s from the late 30’s, but I used to read them over and over in the 60’s and still do. I think this set is one of the best to tell a story – especially the mystery with Granny Flynn. These books are as dear today as in the beginning and bring a sense of true friendship. There is also a sense of peace in the days of play between children that I wish we could get back to.

    • I have five books in sight, probably more in storage. Would you like to buy them or at least keep in touch? The five I have at hand are:
      Maida’s Little Zoo
      Maida’s Little School
      Maida’s Little Village
      Maida’s Little Lighthouse
      Maida’s Little Camp
      I also have an additional 7 books, but they are not readily available. I will try to locate them in storage.

      Please contact me at purrplex@aol.com. Thank you for your consideration.

      Winnie Hunt

  2. Somehow, I knew early on that Inez Haynes Irwin was a real person, but I didn’t realize until now that she wrote the Maida books over 45 years! By 1955 I was a teenager and had outgrown the series, so the last one I read was Maida’s Little
    Lighthouse. I’m eager to see what the later ones were! In the meantime, like most readers, I definitely liked Maida’s little shop best. After all, it contains the greatest line in the series: “Oh, Misther Billy, ye HAVE found her!”

  3. My mom had a good portion of the series and I read them as a child. My best memory is the color she wanted her room to be “Sky Blue Pink”. I live in California and often see sunsets where the clouds turn pink while the sky is very blue (Saw one tonight). It always makes me think of the books. My mom passed this last year and my sister & I just went through the books and I brought home the Maida series. What great memories.

  4. I loved these books as a child..became a middle school math teacher,then nursery school president, then Veternarian tech, then realtor, than educator once again in my 60’s !
    Still working at 65+!

  5. The Maida series was a very important part of my childhood. The first 10 or 12 books were in our home library, and I read them all many times, from age four through pre-teen. During my early childhood, I was abused and terrorized by a sadistic father, who kept me away from other children as many abusive parents do, in order to avoid exposure. He was a teacher and pillar of our local church. The Maida books were the only means I had to know that all fathers were not cruel, and all families not hideously dysfunctional. When I read each book, I became Maida and lived in her world of fun, friendship, and parental love. To say that they helped me grow up sane would not be an exaggeration. I wish I still had the books, but alas! to punish me for speaking about abuse as an adult, my father instructed his executor (my sister) to withhold any household possessions from me when his will was executed. So these beloved books have been lost to me. I have “Maida’s Little Shop” and “Maida’s Little House” on my Kindle (the latter being a somewhat poor scan), and I continue to hope that more titles will become available this way.

    • I, too, come from a severely dysfunctional family. Emotional and physical abuse were practically the order of the day. My paternal grandmother, who lived across the U. S., sent me a new Maida book every Christmas and birthday for years. I treasured them. They were an escape into a loving world that I never experienced or knew about. I still think about them. They were so meaningful to me.

      I don’t think my granny, who I never got to meet, knew the effect they had on me. But she sure hit the nail on the head for the lost and lonely little girl I was.

      Thanks for your post; I’m saving it.

  6. Farewell, my native land! At age 62, I am finally on my way to the Adirondacks (from TN), a bucket list item before I heard of bucket lists, inspired by Maida. I unwittingly donated my Maida books to the church library when I was a teen.

  7. Thank you for this information about the Maida books. My Grandmother was called Maida after the main character! Her Grandmother was reading a book when she was born and asked if her new grandaughter could be named after the little girl in it. My Grandmother was born on 22nd November 1909 and, having checked other websites, it appears that Maida’s Little Shop was first published in 1909. I would love to find a copy produced in 1909, but no doubt they are rare and expensive!!

  8. I’m 24 and received the first five books in the series as a gift from my mother in middle school. She’d seen them in a shop and bought them for me because of the covers and the subject. I’m still trying to make up the rest of the set (still missing four or five), but those first few volumes sparked a lifelong collection of young ladies’ fiction from the ’20s through the ’60s.

  9. I have never read these books but would love to. I too look for them in all the dusty second hand bookstores around Boston. Inez Haynes Gillmore Irwin, was my grandmother’s aunt and her inspiration to become a writer at a very young age. Phyllis Duganne, my grandmother published her first novel at age 22 and then became a writer for the Saturday Evening Post.

    I loved reading your your piece about her. My father has told me many stories.
    Thank you,
    Saskia

  10. I teach teachers and my primary research is into when learning is fun (engaging, interesting, motivating, and more!). I’ve surveyed hundreds of people over the past two decades and have identified six themes of fun. What does this have to do with Maida? My grandmother had a set of these books and I read all of them many times, although I hadn’t thought of them in years. A month ago, I found a copy of Maida’s Little House at a thrift store and now I’m using a quotation from it in a paper I’ll soon be presenting at a conference. Perhaps the little girl who wondered why school was so boring filed this away until she was old enough to do something about it!

    “So you don’t think schools are very interesting?” Buffalo Westabrook went on, bending his eagle glance on Arthur.
    “Not any I have ever been to,” Arthur answered promptly.
    “Do you think they could be made interesting?” Mr. Westabrook went on.
    “I’m not sure they could,” Arthur answered.
    But Rosie broke in with an impulsive, “Of course they could.”
    “How?” Mr. Westabrook asked with his disturbing brevity.
    “By letting you study the things you want in the way you want to study them,” Rosie answered immediately.
    “I guess that’s as good an answer as I could get,” Mr. Westabrook admitted. “What would you say,” he went on very slowly after a pause, “if we tried to have such a school as that here?” He continued, apparently unconscious of the excitement which was developing in his hearers. “A school where, as Rosie says, you could study the things you want to study, in the way you want to study them” (pp. 262-263).
    • from Inez Haynes Irwin (1921). Maida’s Little House. New York: Grosset & Dunlap.

  11. I recently aquired a tote filled with old books and Maida’s Little Shop was one of the books I received. I have gently read this book to my daughter who enjoyed it greatly as her nightly chapter book. It is a great book!

    • I;ve been a compulsive rdeear since age 4, and Little Maida and her friends were part of my childhood. I read each book over and over. A favorite was when Maida and friends were on an island and decided to put on a play! Midsummer’s Night Dream was suchfun and remember Bunnie and Robin (I think those were the names of their adult companions ). My heart was broken when my mother passed the books on to some cousins I was a senior in college and still, and always will love Little Maida!

  12. My mother received several of the series as a child and passed them down to me. Most of her books were lost along the way but I am happy to say I have the complete series now. It took several years of searching Abebooks, Amazon and ebay and quite a bit of money.

  13. I loved these books as a child, and never met anyone else who had ever even heard of them. I’m glad to discover this website and reminisce on the fine stories that were more wonderfully subversive than I realized back then.

  14. I read the first 4 of these books over and over when I was a kid, and was always disappointed at the end not to own the next one in the series. This is the first time I’ve encountered any one else who had ever heard of them as well! The books I owned originally belonged to my grandmother, and now my daughter is reading them, too. I’m so excited to find out that there are actually 15 in the series, and looking forward to hunting for more for my library.

    Thanks for the website!

  15. Thank you for writing so well about my favorite books! I may have read the Maida books as a child, but among all the many books I read, I can’t remember them specifically. However, as soon as I read them as an adult, I loved them. I’ve written articles about the books, discussing their educational theory and tolerance for everyone (like the Gypsy children who become part of the group.) This sounds as if they mainly appealed to me intellectually — but that’s not really the case! I love the books, the stories, and the children. I’d like to say a couple of things in response to your introduction — for me, the later stories don’t become “formula” series books, as I don’t know any other series that have such varied settings and stories. Each of the children retains his or her individuality without becoming a stereotype, as so often happens in other series. Also, in response to your comment about the later books’ losing their magic quality — well, remember the Christmas presents that Buffalo Westabrook gave the children — pure fairy tale material! And the gym that he had constructed on the property — from a child’s dream! And I’d like to ask one question — I have heard or read somewhere, that the later books were not written by Irwin, but by anonymous authors assigned by the publishers, like the Nancy Drew or Hardy Boy books. I always hoped this wasn’t true, and your article seemed to imply that Irwin wrote every one of the books. Do you have any further information on this subject?

  16. How exciting to find a group of people who have the same reading history. I thought the Maida books were written for me and read only by me. I have never met anyone before who ever heard of them. Being one of nine children I suppose some of my siblings may also have read them without my knowledge or permission.Today I went in search of my dogeared set of four. (Did not realize there were 15) and discovered that they were missing. What a treat to find them available online.We should have a Maida Society because I also became a teacher and at 65 still hope to open and run a little school just like Maida’s. If you have not read Pat Conroy’s, “My Reading Life”, I recommend it for a walk down memory lane.

  17. I;ve been a compulsive reader since age 4, and Little Maida and her friends were part of my childhood. I read each book over and over. A favorite was when Maida and friends were on an island and decided to put on a play! Midsummer’s Night Dream was such
    fun – and remember Bunnie and Robin (I think those were the names of their adult companions…). My heart was broken when my mother passed the books on to some cousins – I was a senior in college and still, and always will love Little Maida!

  18. I read Maida’s little House in Jr. High, and thought it was a wonderful story. I came across it after many years in a box, and decided to find more in the series. I now have all but 2. I bought several in antique stores and several on ebay. Good looking.

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  20. I also received these books as a child due to the name. Coincidentally I became Maida Webster (pretty close to Maida Westerbrook) when I married! I now have the entire series which I was able to purchase book by book on http://www.Ebay.com. Was so difficult to find prior to Ebay, but with a bit of time you should be able to fill in and find whichever ones you are looking for. I’m delighted that one of my granddaughters has taken an interest as well in reading the series!

  21. OMG, I did a search on Maida’s Little House just out of the blue and found this lovely chain of comments!
    As a child I read 3 of the books (Shop, House, and School) but never met anyone else who’d ever heard of them. I had found them on my parents’ bookshelves; I was born in 1945 so maybe they had been my Mom’s. I LOVED the books! As I started to read the comments above I realized I could still recall each character’s full name, except maybe the Gypsys’. The stories taught me a lot about a bygone era – I still remember the phrase “Harold dropped an egg on his coat” and I thought “Coat??? Who wears a suit when they are fixing breakfast???” I didn’t know there were more volumes but then in those days we did not have Amazon! ;-)

    • well i was born 1995 never heard of this till today n would love to get the books because i hae the same name as the book lol

  22. I have never met anyone (until now) who knows about these books, which I read avidly as a child. I never understood this. To my way of thinking the Maida books were up there with all the childhood classics and series books, yet people I’ve asked have never heard of them.

    I’ve always remembered a phrase from one of the books, and for some reason I just Googled that phrase … and found this forum!

    The phrase is “the bosky dell” – I think it was a descripton of where Maida and her friends were having a picnic. I have no idea which book it was from, I just know I’ve always remembered that phrase, and the scene and even some of the food descriptions … like sandwiches made on thick bread. It’s funny what we remember, isn’t it?

    Well, it was fun finding this – and it makes me want to try and track down a few of the books – or at least the one with “the bosky dell” in the story!

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  24. The Maida books were my *favorites.* I loaned “Maida’s Little Theater” to someone, and was sad for years to have lost it… but finally found it through a booksearch company. So now I have the full set again.
    It’s nice to encounter others who also loved the Maida books!

  25. How sweet to find this site and learn of how important the Maida books were to so many of you. My grandfather gave me several in the series as Christmas gifts. Like a number of you, I was from a disfunctional family. The plots and characters let me enter a world of friendship and family love.

  26. I was given the first 6 Maida books (in various colored jacket covers with white polkadots) by my godparents (also aunt and uncle) all at once. It was not my birthday nor Christmas so it was a gift out of the blue! I was delighted and had never been given more than one book at a time by anyone. The remainder of the series I eventually bought for myself, haunting a bookshop in a nearby town (Lynn, MA) and spending my money earned from babysitting or given for birthdays. In the first book, Billy and Mr. Westerbrook were driving from Marblehead to Boston and I lived in Marblehead. Thus I thought Maida and her friends were living right near me. I used to daydream about having a school like Maida’s and a barn with swings, etc.
    I was born in 1936 and also never met anyone who read and loved Maida books although they were among my favorites. My older sister and I shared the usual series books (Nancy Drew, Judy Bolton, Kay Tracey, etc.) but the Maida series belonged to me and was very special. How lovely to find this site of others who loved Maida.

  27. So happy to have found others who read and loved the Mida books. I read them in the 1950’s as a child, especially remember the school and Midsummer Night’s Dream, Maida and her friends. No one else I know has read them or heard of them! We were sharing memories of Nancy Drew and Trixie Beldon and The Bobbsy Twins, and I loved Cherry Ames, a nurse series, I believe, but Maida books were just wonderful. I am glad to learn the author had an agenda, so to speak. The stories were different from all the others. I am a teacher now, and I would like to find these books again. My mother gave all of mine to my cousins, and they later were sold. Going to start searching for them again.

  28. I am working on an article and book project regarding Children’s Literature Set in the Adirondacks – and so that includes Maida’s Little Camp. I am always looking for author’s connections to the places where they set their books. Would love to hear from anyone with any information/clues regarding Inez Haynes Irwin and her interaction, if any, with the Adirondacks.

  29. I loved the books as a child and still have several of them. Years ago I wrote a follow-up, showing the characters as adults. Maida married Arthur, and while she helped her father in business, Arthur explored, until WWII when he parachuted into occupied France. Harold became an Army officer and was stationed at Pearl Harbor when the attack happend. Rosie became a veterinarian…. I’ve forgotten the rest of my stories, I may have my scribbles somewhere.

  30. I’m so glad that others still enjoy the Maida books. My mother loved them as a child in the 30s and 40s and passed them on to me, and I read them many times, especially the early ones (Shop, House, Island, School). I thought the later titles were less successful, but it was still good to keep up with the characters. I hoped my daughters would take pleasure in them as I had, but they were never interested. I wonder how many are in the series. The titles I have are: Shop, House, Island, Camp, Lighthouse, Houseboat, School, Cabins, Village, Hospital, and Theater.

  31. Actually it was a 1909 publishing date for the first one. The Gutenberg has an ebook of the first one available for free. I too tried to get my daughter interested, had to go through an interstate library loan as none were available locally. She didn’t connect or need them as I had. Maybe I’ll try again with my granddaughter as I do feel they are valuable to some. I have realized that I mispronounced her name when I was a 4th grade reluctant reader. No matter, it was the character development and realistic fantasy that held me captive. When responding to FB’s challenge of top 10 books, it reminded me of this series. So glad to find all of you and share the love.

  32. My grandfather gave the first four books of this set when she was a child home sick with the chicken pox. He eventually gave her the first eight books which she read and reread for many years.
    The books were lost over the years, but when my sister and I were children she found the first four and began reading them to us.
    Over time, we were able to find all but the last two books… and even began collecting duplicate copies so my sister and I would each have a set.
    I named my first daughter Maida and she too has a set of books for HER three children, but I am the only one who found the last two books to the set.
    I’ll say now that nearly twenty years ago I spent an outrageous sum of money for those last two books with their dust jacket’s! I also spent many hundreds of hours trying to find Maida’s Little Treehouse which I finally realized was probably planned, but never written.
    These books held some of my favorite memories, as I too would spend many happy hours reading them over and over.
    They have made four generations of my family love them, and even though they are dated strongly in the last century, I find the books have lost none of their magic. I can always pick one up, and immerse myself in the adventures of the Big Eight!
    These books can be found much more easily now, and if you just want to read them they can be fairly inexpensive.

  33. I picked up some of the set at a second hand shop here in New Zealand, hoping our youngest daughter would read them. She didn’t :-(

    The books are in blue hard cover, varying condition, mostly good. Happy to post from NZ. Does anyone want to offer to buy? Would love to see these go to someone who will love them.

    Warmly, Christine, Auckland, New Zealand
    I have Maida’s Little Shop, House, School, Theatre, Camp, Village and House Boat. If you’d like me to send photo, please ask.

  34. I loved these books and read them over and over. One of the things that I always wondered about was when the children in the “little shop” made “dulce”. What in the world is that? I have searched several times, but never could find out what it was. It is described as being salty if I remember correctly.

    • As far as I’ve been able to find out, dulce is a kind of edible seaweed. I’d love to have some, also a pickled lime. Love those books.

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