We finished The Four-Story Mistake by Elizabeth Enright on this morning at snack time. This was the perfect follow-up to The High King, the consummate fantasy. I find that after I read a book of a certain genre, I almost always need something totally different to “clear the air,” so to speak. The High King is extremely exciting, and almost every chapter ends in a cliffhanger. The Four-Story Mistake, on the other hand, isn’t exciting, really; instead, its strength is in its characterization and description of ordinary events in a family’s life. Each chapter stands on its own, which I particularly appreciate. (The downside to this is that each chapter is pretty long, so be prepared to read for a while at a time!) This is the second book in The Melendy Quartet, a follow up to The Saturdays. In this story, the Melendys move out to the country to a new-to-them house appropriately called The Four-Story Mistake. (It was built years before by a large and wealthy family and was supposed to be four stories. When they returned from their Grand Tour, lo and behold, their home was only three stories tall!) The book is all about their adventures in and about the town of Carthage. They learn to ride bicycles (and Randy crashes headlong into a bus!) Rush spends one stormy night in his treehouse. Mona is chosen to be an actress in a radio drama. The family is given an alligator! Randy finds a diamond in the brook! Really, it’s a cozy and genial family story of the highest order. We all love it and can’t wait to read the next installment. Elizabeth Enright is a master, and I can’t help but laugh or sigh as I read her descriptions:
Randy swooped expertly around the driveway circle, brought her bike to a slow and graceful stop and dismounted. As she gathered up her presents from the wire carrier, the [war] bond crackled against her chest. Yes, finding the diamond had been a miracle. But Randy couldn’t help feeling there were many miracles in her life. Wasn’t it a miracle to live in the country in spring? And to have a wonderful family that she was crazy about, and a house with a secret room and a cupola, and to be eleven and a half years old, and very good at riding a bicycle? (175)
(I shared another lovely quote–possibly my favorite from the book–in this post.)
I think I like this sort of book best of all–the kind that isn’t really about anything in particular, but all kinds of interesting things happen, and life is affirmed over and over again. Here are some other books and series similar in style, message, or tone to The Melendy Quartet:
- Ginger Pye and Pinky Pye by Eleanor Estes
- The Moffats by Eleanor Estes
- The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall
What most of these books have in common is that they’re about a family of children that are mostly left to their own devices and have all sorts of scrapes and adventures and experience childhood to its fullest. Can you think of any to add to the list? I’m all ears!
We love, love, love, love the Melendys and give them a Highly Recommended (Henry Holt, 1942).