I am writing today about an overlooked gem of children’s literature: Magical Melons: More Stories About Caddie Woodlawn, which is now published as Caddie Woodlawn’s Family. This is a collection of short stories that were related to Carol Ryrie Brink by her grandmother but didn’t find a place in Caddie Woodlawn, the beloved and Newbery Award winning novel published in 1935. Brink says this in the author’s note:
My grandmother, who was the original Caddie Woodlawn, died in January, 1940. In a few more weeks she would have been eighty-six years of age. On the day she died she had made dougnuts in the morning, and repaired a lock on one of the house doors which nobody else in the house knew how to mend. This was typical of her full and useful life.
How could such a person fit in one book, anyway?
My girls came to love Caddie and all the Woodlawns via audiobook, and they’ve listened to it so many times that they really know the family. I love this, but aside from that, it’s helpful when there are many characters to remember, as there are in these books. Magical Melons gets its original title from the first story in the book in which Caddie and the boys find watermelons hidden in the haymow and believe they’ve been put there by fairies or some such magic. As is typical at the Woodlawn home, there’s a price to pay and a lesson to be learned, but not before the children have quite a bit of fun. Every one of the stories in this book is enjoyable, if one or two of them are dated in a non-PC way (which bothers me not in the least, but I offer as a caveat). My favorite story is the one about Hetty, the next-to-youngest Woodlawn sister, who is sent to spend the night with a rather mysterious and childless neighbor, Mrs. Nightingale, and her elderly father while her doctor husband is away from home. Instead of being bored, or worse, frightened, Hetty discovers a lovely friend who makes her feel grown-up and special, an important thing for a girl with so many older siblings. Mrs. Nightingale and her senile-but-loving father let Hetty take their treasures out of their “wonderful glass mahogany cabinet” and even hold them, and she is enthralled. While the stories might be considered by some to be overly sentimental, I think they stop short of being saccharine. I consider them wholesome and inspiring–just what I like for my girls to read and listen to. Our library copy of Magical Melons is illustrated by Margeurite Davis, and I think her illustrations capture the essence of the stories very well.
I’ve never seen a copy of the new edition of this book, so I can’t speak for the illustrations; in fact, the only new copy I could find at Amazon is a Kindle edition. If I ever run across a copy of this short story collection, I am definitely snatching it up! (Maybe it is time to buy a Kindle, afterall! 😉 ) We all loved it, so it gets a Highly Recommended from me and my girls. (MacMillan, original copyright 1939)
What are you reading with your families these days? Link up your RAT posts in the comments!
It has been brought to my attention that the html scrollbox for the RAT button over in my sidebar doesn’t work; you can copy the html for the button on this post. How I wish I were more technologically savvy! 🙂