This post is long overdue as I read the Melendy Family Quartet and Thimble Summer immediately after I finished the All-of-a-Kind Family series. It was a nice way to round out my phase of marathon-reading through newly discovered children’s books.
I think of the three series (All-of-a-Kind, Betsy-Tacy and Melendy Family), I enjoyed Melendy the most for a couple of reasons. First, it was the most contemporary of the three (set in WWII) so the writing style and the scenarios were a tad bit more relateable. And second, I loved loved loved the Melendy children, especially Oliver. With two boys and two girls, each child was unique (tbh I had trouble distinguishing the AAKF girls for the first couple of books) but also equally interesting. I enjoyed their individual story lines and didn’t find myself feeling impatient to get back to a favorite character’s story (like I remember doing when reading Game of Thrones). The kids are clever and kind, and maybe too much so, but the author commented on this somewhere that the book is like a condensed version of the kids’ daily lives–of course there are days when they’re just lazing about saying nothing of importance–those bits are just not in the book. Third, the setting. I am a sucker for books about country life, and the three books set in the countryside captured a sort of dream life for me: living in the countryside but not being dependent on farming for a living.
I lost most of the highlights from the books, but here is one from The Four-Story Mistake that I had saved:
Yes, finding the diamond had been a miracle. But Randy couldn’t help feeling that there were many miracles in her life. Wasn’t it a miracle to live in the country in the 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? Anyway, that’s how I feel today, thought Randy. Tomorrow maybe I’ll feel some other way; cranky, or dull, or just natural. But that’s how I feel today.
I’d like to take a page out of Randy’s book and try to recognize the little miracles in my life as they pass by. For example, it’s officially spring now and the rain is falling and watering all the beautiful spring flowers. I don’t live in the countryside, but I can look for the miracles of urban life in the spring.
Thimble Summer was also really really lovely, and the descriptions of nature were great. Take this line from the opening scene of the book about the heat of the drought:
It was like being inside of a drum. The sky like a bright skin was stretched tight above the valley, and the earth too, was tight and hard with heat. Later, when it was dark, there would be a noise of thunder, as though a great hand beat upon the drum; there would be heavy clouds above the hills, and flashes of heat lightning, but no rain. After supper each night her father came out of the house and looked up at the sky, then down at his fields of corn and oats. “No,” he would say, shaking his head, “No rain tonight.”
There were so many other moments I loved from the books, I just don’t have my notes and highlights any more. I’m sure I’ll reread them again, and there’s still Gone-Away Lake and its sequel by the author to read.