I was an insatiable bookworm growing up (like that’s a surprise!). I’m actually quite glad to see that my oldest, while she loves to read, has much more balanced interests than I did. I wish I’d diversified a bit, but I know quite well that when my parents did drag me out to, say, play softball in our neighbors’ meadow with the rest of the family, I was kicking and screaming all the way. All I ever wanted to do was read.
Which is why I’m always so surprised to find classic children’s books that I missed, somehow. And a single book is one thing, but how did whole series of book escape my notice? I recently discovered a couple of these courtesy of online ‘lists of classic children’s books,’ and while the All-of-a-Kind Family books were enjoyable (especially the first three), I’m enjoying Elizabeth Enright’s Melendy Quartet even more.
I’m familiar with Elizabeth Enright, at least. She’s got a Newbery Medal winner and a Newbery Honor book, both of which I’ve read and enjoyed. I’d never heard of the Melendy Quartet, however, which begins with The Saturdays (which I read in January) and continues with The Four-Story Mistake, which I just finished.
(By the way, don’t assume that the gap between when I read the first and when I read the second is a reflection on the series. I’ve had a bunch of books due and not renewable lately, and then of course, there were the new Newberys to read.)
The first book in the series was absolutely fun–it introduces the four Melendy children, as well as their housekeeper/nanny figure and their widowed father. They live in the city (as in, New York City) and have adventures, one after another. The second book sees them moving to a house in the country; times are harder, WWII is raging, and life as they know it is changing. It’s a big old house they move into, however, with a goodly amount of land around it, and they enjoy the setting to the fullest. And this, of course, is where being homesick comes in.
The descriptions of playing in the woods and exploring the outdoors, of losing power during storms and being surrounded by trees and wildlife–this was my childhood. I grew up in a small town in RI, with three acres of land. We cut down trees in order to build our house. My parents recently sold that house and moved to Idaho, and while I am grateful every day that they now live close enough to have real relationships with my children, I still miss my childhood home (and hometown) with an almost physical sort of ache. There’s more to it than that, though. Reading about the Melendy children’s childhood brought home the contrast between mine and my children’s. And there’s nothing wrong with the experiences my children are having–I love, love, LOVE that they get to spend quality time playing with and enjoying their cousins and having sleepovers at both grandmas’ houses. It just makes me sad that they can’t experience all of what they DO experience as WELL as what I experienced as a child. I remember–when I was teaching at Sylvan–trying to describe a fern to a teenager, and being blown away that something I took for granted growing up was not at all a part of that child’s life. Living in the woods is not part of my children’s lives either, and while I believe I’m living the life I’m meant to live, and I wouldn’t trade it in, there will always be some sadness that I cannot share my (very different) childhood with my children.
Just so you know, though, I really am enjoying the series. You should try it!
(FYI: the second book contains a brief reference about “wishing she believed in Santa Claus again.” My oldest is 7, so I was glad I read it before she did, just so I could think about how to respond to possible questions!)