Saturday, February 11, 2017

The Four-Story Mistake

The Four-Story Mistake
by Elizabeth Enright
Recommended Ages: 10+

The Melendy siblings Mona, Rush, Randy, and Oliver are sad to leave their old house in New York City, but they soon fall in love with their new home, an eccentric-looking three-story house in the country with mansard roofs and a cupola on top. Whimsically known as the Four-Story Mistake, the house and its grounds are loaded with secrets for each of the children to discover, from the trove of forgotten treasures in the basement to the hidden room in the attic. Then there's the stream flowing nearby, available for swimming in the summer, skating in the winter, and other brotherly and sisterly activities.

Meantime, the kids are up to their usual blend of just-imperfect-enough-to-be-believed achievements, such as Mona getting a starring role on a radio program, and too-nice-to-be-blamed mistakes, such as Randy crashing her bicycle into the back of a bus, and Rush getting stranded in his tree-house during a winter storm. They put on a theatrical performance, Mona finds a lost jewel, Rush punches his piano student on the nose, and the kids survive a few potentially serious mishaps, and mostly triumph over their troubles by dint of good sense and hearts of gold.

Their personalities are just quirky enough, their interplay is just entertaining enough, and the author's style is just graceful enough to excuse the story for its rather thin plot, raising it a step or two above the usual nostalgic tale about what slightly-more-privileged-than-average children did for fun, or sometimes for a better cause, outside of school in a time now past. It's a story that gently touches the heart and leaves an afterglow of pleasure.

This is the second book in the "Melendy Family" quartet, which began with The Saturdays and continues with Then There Were Five and Spiderweb for Two. Enright (1909-1968) was the Newbery Medal-winning author of Thimble Summer and Gone-Away Lake.

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