E is for Engaging Enright

The Krush drawings are perfect for these books!
Elizabeth Enright was one of my favorite authors when I was growing up. I still consider her one of the best.

Enright wrote Newbery Award Winning Thimble Summer and Newbery runner-up Gone-Away Lake. Both are good (as is Return to Gone-Away). However, my favorite Enright books were and are The Melendy Series: The Saturdays, Four-Story Mistake, Then There Were Five, and Spiderweb for Two.

Enright created real, funny, normal, not extra good, not extra bad children in the days when children's writers were still producing sweet-faced kiddies who said, "Yes, sir!" and did their chores.

The Melendys do their chores--only, one never feels that they are doing them to be GOOD; they do them because doing chores is part of life. They also find secret hiding places, cut off all their hair, decide one summer morning to build a dam in the nearby stream, mistakenly allow a can of tomatoes to explode, get bitten by mosquitoes, make friends with an older lady despite thinking she is kind of strange, march off to a circus without permission (then get lost coming home), get lost on a mountain (the father's story), find an arrowhead, sleep in a cupola (something I always, always, always wanted to do after reading Four-Story Mistake), and so on and so forth.

In fact, more than any other books of my childhood, The Melendy Series captures the slice-of-life that Eugene describes on his blog with the same sense of nostalgia and loss (but not loss in a sad or horrific way). Although there are some dramatic moments, especially concerning Mark (Then There Were Five), the drama never descends into melodrama. Nobody is getting scarred-for-life (not even Mark, who could be), not because the characters lack depth but because getting scarred-for-life is less interesting (surprisingly enough) than organizing a fete, locating a glowing mushroom, and collecting scrap.

The Melendys were a constant of my childhood (I can't count how many times I reread the books). I never idolized them; I simply thought, "Oh, these people make sense." Which is a lovely feeling to have.

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