Friday, March 3, 2017

Then There Were Five

Then There Were Five
by Elizabeth Enright
Recommended Ages: 10+

The third book of the "Melendy Family" quartet tells how the exuberant foursome of Mona, Rush, Randy, and Oliver Melendy came by a fifth sibling without anyone having a baby. They're enjoying their first summer at the Four Story Mistake, the country house that became their home in the previous installment, but not all their adventures are lighthearted. Some of them involve a boy named Mark Herron, an orphan who is mistreated and overworked by the mean, stingy farmer who has custody of him. Old Oren Meeker is his name, and he only puts up with Mark because of his late wife, who was a relative of the boy and had a soft heart.

Becoming friends with Mark exposes the Melendy kids, especially Rush, to some real danger, such as when the two boys spy on the hideout where Meeker and his well-armed accomplices brew illegal moonshine and gossip about their dastardly plans for Mark's future. But the friendship also has its perks, as Mark has a lot to teach his new neighbors about country life - such as where to find a cave hideout, or how to identify many insects and plants in the woods, or even how to walk on one's hands. Then tragedy strikes, while both the Melendys' father and their faithful housekeeper Cuffy are out of the way, and the four siblings take it on themselves to make houseroom for their interesting friend. Before Mark can finally, officially, become a Melendy, there are more adventures to be had - including a carnival crossed with a cattle auction, where a last little bit of drama plays out for a perfect finish.

The Melendy family has always been full of fun, but their goodness, happiness, and openness to adventure - in spite of imperfections - becomes downright poignant in this book by the Newbery Medal-winning author of Thimble Summer and Gone-Away Lake. It's a book laced with intelligence and humor, characters who seem to have been observed from life in crisp detail, stories-within-stories that captivate the imagination, and light, ordinary, every-day adventures that nevertheless seem worthwhile even to a reader with ordinary, every-day adventures of his own.

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