Wednesday, March 14, 2007

The Story Hour

Well, obviously this book feature hasn't become an every-week thing, as I'd planned it to be! But I still want to keep working on it, and making it as regular as possible.

Today I'd like to share one of my favorite children's authors, Elizabeth Enright. Her books are more for older children, I would say probably in the age bracket of 9 to 14 years or so. Although, as with so many of my childhood favorites, I'll freely admit that I still enjoy reading these. :) I don't think I've read all of Enright's books, but I'll give a brief synopsis of two of my favorite series.

The Melendy Family series:

The first book in this series is The Saturdays.
In it, we meet the Melendy family, which consists of Father (a widower) and his four children: Mona, Rush, Randy (Miranda), and Oliver. The Melendys live in the city (NYC, I believe). The children decide to pool their allowance money every week, and every Saturday they will take turns doing something they've always wanted to do (something that only costs the amount of money that they have from the combined allowances). For example, one Saturday Mona goes and gets her hair cut and her nails manicured and painted (which her father isn't too happy about). Another time, Rush (the musical one) goes to a concert. On Oliver's Saturday, they all do something together, because Oliver is too young to go out in the city by himself. But the Saturday fun comes to an end when Oliver decides to go out by himself anyway, to the circus, and ends up getting lost on his way home. At the end of the book, the family takes a vacation trip to the ocean, where they stay in the lighthouse home of an elderly friend named Mrs. Oliphant (I think that's her name--I remember it was similar to "elephant" anyway!). I don't have a copy of this book handy to check the details, but it's an excellent book and very enjoyable.

Book two in the series, The Four-Story Mistake, continues the adventures of the Melendy family. Father decides it is time to get them out of their old house in the city, so they move to an old house in the country, which is known as the "Four-Story Mistake" to the locals. (If I remember right, it was supposed to have four stories, but only ended up with three, plus a cupola on top--thus the "mistake.") Anyway, this book tells about the first year or two in their new home, and all the new things they must get used to about living in the country.

The third book is called Then There Were Five. A new member is added to the Melendy family--Mark, an orphaned boy who has had a hard life with an abusive uncle. I really can't remember a whole lot more about the plot of this book! I'll try to add some details later if I can--I think I have a copy of it down in storage.

The final book in the series is Spiderweb for Two. Randy and Oliver, the two youngest children, are extremely lonely when their three older siblings, Mona, Rush, and Mark, are away at boarding school. They begin receiving some interesting letters--riddles in the form of rhymes. Deciphering the clues leads them in turn to more riddles, and keeps them busy for the entire year!

Gone-Away Lake series:

There are two books in this series. The first is Gone-Away Lake. Portia Blake and her younger brother Foster leave their home in the city for a summer visit with their uncle, aunt, and cousin Julian, in the country. Portia and Julian (both around the age of 12 or 13) enjoy hanging out together but prefer to leave Foster behind when they go off exploring in the nearby woods. On one of their exploring trips, they happen upon a large marsh, with a group of delapidated summer homes at its edge. Much to their surprise, they discover two elderly people--a brother and sister--still live in two of the houses. The children get to know them, and are fascinated to learn that the marsh used to be a lake (50+ years before) and was a summer community for a number of wealthy families. "Uncle Pin" and "Aunt Minnehaha" as they come to be known to the children, spent many happy summers there in their youth, and returned years later to spend the last years of their lives there. To start with, Portia and Julian keep the marsh and their new friends a secret, but in the end, through an near-tragedy involving little Foster, Julian's family finds out about Gone-Away Lake and the lovely people who live there.

In the second book, Return to Gone-Away, Portia and Foster's parents have made a "crazy" decision to buy the grandest house that still stands near Gone-Away Lake. Known as the Villa Caprice, the house is still in fairly good condition, though in great need of some updating and repairs. This book chronicles the adventures of the Blakes and Jarmons (Julian's family) over the summer as they work on the house. At first, the Blakes plan to live in the Villa Caprice only in the summer, but by the end of the book they have changed their minds and decided to live there permanently, much to their children's delight! This is another wonderful story, which makes you wish there was a third book in the series.:)

To the best of my recollection, the Melendy series takes place in the 1940s or 1950s, and I think the Gone-Away series is set in the 50s, as well. Thankfully, all of these books are still in print, and you can find them here at Amazon!

Happy reading!!


Mrs.T said...

These are indeed wonderful, wonderful books! I'm so glad they are still in print. My only regret is that I didn't discover them until I was an adult. They are the kind of books I would have loved as a child. Still, better late than never!

Carrie said...

And I'm sure even though you discovered them late, that you had lots of fun getting to enjoy them with us as you read them aloud. :) Such good memories of all the books we read, so many of them in the car!!