Fans of Harriet the Spy will probably remember that Harriet played the onion in her class's Thanksgiving play. That's her practicing, up above. I never realized before what a perfect costume choice the striped pajamas are.
Anyway, I was reading Evan S. Connell's Mrs. Bridge the other day and came across this:
Some Saturdays they (ed note: Mrs. Bridge's daughter Carolyn and the gardener's daughter Alice, who happens to be black) would stage extremely dramatic plays which went on for hours--with time out for other games--the leading part always being taken by Alice Jones because, at her grade school in the north end of the city, she was invariably the Snow Queen or the Good Fairy or some other personage of equal distinction. Carolyn, whose stage experience had been limited to a Thanksgiving skit in which she had been an onion, seldom objected and in fact had some difficulty keeping up with the plot.
Weird, eh? Mrs. Bridge was written in 1959 so maybe Louise Fitzhugh read it before she wrote Harriet. Actually, there is something very Mrs. Bridge about Harriet's mom, Mrs. Welsch. She's wealthy and shallow and remote and completely uninvolved with her child, although to be fair to Mrs. Bridge, she seems to take a bit more interest in her own children. In fact, they may be her only interest.
Or maybe there was a school play going around in the 50s and 60s that featured an onion?
Anne Tyler mentioned Mrs. Bridge in the New York Times the other day, which is the first time I'd heard of it -- there is a companion volume called Mr. Bridge , published ten years later, which tells the story of their marriage from his perspective. They both have a similar, intriguingly modern structure -- very short chapters devoted to various anecdotes and episodes from their lives, almost like flashes. Very little happens. Good books.