Tuesday, February 13, 2007

A Good Book and a Cup of Tea

Today's book is a fun one--more of a young adult book, although definitely enjoyable on an adult level, as well: Winter Cottage, by Carol Ryrie Brink. I have never owned this book, but my sister and I used to get it out of the library a lot when we were kids. Sadly, it is now out of print, but I have seen used copies on Ebay and elsewhere, so I may get one someday.

Winter Cottage is the story of the Sparkes family--the father, fondly known as "Pop" and his two daughters, Minty (short for Araminta) and Eggs (short for Eglantine--yikes!)--and it is set during the Great Depression. One fall, Pop (a widower) and the girls are traveling by car from one state to another, going to live with a relative, when the car breaks down. Pop, who isn't much good as a mechanic, is unable to get the car running, and comes up with the plan of "borrowing" an unoccupied summer cottage near where they are stranded. With misgivings from Minty (the worrier of the family) and excitement from Eggs (the happy-go-lucky one), they move in and take up residence.

It's been a long time since I read the book, so I can't give a full synopsis (and you wouldn't want that, anyway--it would spoil the fun of reading it for yourself!), but as I remember, it covers most of the winter while the Sparkes live in the borrowed cottage, undiscovered by the cottage's rightful owners. Along the way, a boy named Joe joins them in the cottage . . . there is a trip across the lake in a canoe to visit an Indian village . . . and contests that Pop enters by mail (poetry contests, if I remember right) as he dreams of winning a fortune. A spring blizzard brings an unexpected surprise, and a great ending to a memorable story.

Two things about the book have stuck with me through the years, and both have to do with Pop Sparkes. First, he was always quoting poetry. He was very well-versed in poetry, and would quote whole passages over and over again to his girls. Some of those lines of poetry still come into my head from time to time, even though it's been years since I read this book! Second, he was an amazing pancake maker. Pancakes were his specialty, and he would make them in 3 sizes--"sockdollagers, gollwholickers, and WHALES." Just reading about those pancakes was a sure way to make yourself hungry. :) Pop was a very neat character--though down on his luck (like so many during those years), and a bit questionable in his ideas (such as that of "borrowing" a cottage for a few months :)), you still can't help loving him and enjoying this story.

In my opinion, another 5 star book--and one that I hope to add to my collection one of these days! Check your local library!


mindee said...

I wrote that down and I'm definitely going to check it out! I just finished reading a book about a family during the Great Depression. Unbelievable what they went through. It seems that that's what it would take (another financial crisis in America) to spark a revival in this country though...

TwoMuths said...

Sounds like a great book. Aren't the best ones always out of print?! I wonder why that happens. Have you ever read the "All of a Kind Family" series? Your synopsis of this one made me wonder if you'd like those. The books are about a Jewish family of all girls, living in NYC I want to say in the 40's but it's been awhile. Those were some of my favorites back in upper elementary, but I learned so much about Jewish tradition that I'm sure they'd be good for any age! (oh, I did go on...)

Carrie said...

Mindee--I hope you'll be able to find it somewhere. Some of Brink's books are still in print (Caddie Woodlawn, etc.); it's a shame that this one isn't among them. I think you're right--America needs something like another financial crisis to turn people to God. We're so affluent nowadays; people think they have everything they need with money and things.

Jenny--I loved the All of a Kind Family books as a kid! I think my sister has most of them, but I've picked up a couple here and there at yard sales. I'll have to get the whole set eventually; they are so good. One thing I remember was that the girls bought hot chick peas from a street vendor. They sounded so good, that I was dying to try chick peas! So my mom humored me and made some . . . but they were not anything like what I pictured!