Tuesday, November 8, 2016

The Saturdays

The Saturdays
by Elizabeth Enright
Recommended Ages: 10+

The four Melendy children - stage-struck Mona, 13; piano prodigy Rush, 12; aspiring artist Miranda ("Randy"), 10 and a half; and easy-going Oliver, 6 - are New York city-dwellers circa 1939. One boring Saturday, they decide to form a club called I.S.A.A.C. (read the book to learn what that stands for), based on pooling their allowances every Saturday - a total of $1.60 - and letting one of them spend it all on him- or herself, turn and turn about. During a succession of Saturdays, each of the children has an adventure that results, sometimes, in a touch of trouble for one and all. Randy goes to a museum to look at pictures, and ends up learning about the fascinating childhood of a deceptively crusty old lady. Rush goes to an opera, and brings home a new member of the family. Mona and Oliver have outings that give the family fits. Together and separately, the kids find new friends, experience wonderful sights and sounds, hear unforgettable stories, and brave perils that threaten their rickety old house.

The Saturdays is a book full of period charm, gentle humor, and friendly characters who seem to take you quickly into their confidence. A richly textured snapshot of early 20th-century urban culture, it has dashes of domestic lyricism and an occasional splash of striking description. It is a pleasant piece of nostalgia that does not get too lost in historical obscurities to speak appealingly to the young readers of today. And it advertises experiences children from places other than New York might like to imagine having even now. The world has changed a lot since the time in which this book is set, but the story has a winsome timelessness, with enough danger and emotional turmoil to avoid coming across as too light and easy. Basically, it's the perfect book for a kid spending a dull, rainy Saturday alone.

The is the first book in the Melendy Quartet, written between 1941 and 1951 by Elizabeth Enright (1909-1968), the author of the Newbery Medal winner Thimble Summer, the Newbery Honor book Gone-Away Lake, and its sequel Return to Gone-Away. Besides this book's sequels The Four-Story Mistake, And Then There Were Five, and Spiderweb for Two: A Melendy Maze, she was also celebrated as a writer of short stories.

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