A Recap of My #SummerofVintageKidLit!

by | Sep 13, 2019 | Books, Reading | 0 comments

This summer, I challenged myself to read twelve vintage kidlit books for twelve weeks. (Okay, perhaps “challenged” is the wrong word. I didn’t think it was challenging at all!)

It was tremendously fun.

Each week I wrote a quick recap after I’d finished each book, and I’ve included all of my recaps here, along with some fun facts and recommendations!

Week 1/June 21, The Four Story Mistake by Elizabeth Enright:

I *so* enjoyed rereading this one. There’s something infinitely comforting about the Melendy family and their delightful adventures. 🙂 The realism and authenticity of the characters and their thoughts is one of the things I love most about Enright’s novels, and you can especially appreciate that in “The Four-Story Mistake.”

I’m an enormous fan of fascinating old houses, so that’s another element I love about this book. Oliver’s exploration of the cellar (those old books!!), the cupola, and – of course – the secret room with the painting of Clarinda; all such delicious facets to a house with a “confused architectural history,” as the back of the book phrases it.

I also particularly like the details about Mona’s radio program. This aspect of the story greatly reminds me of my favorite theatrical tidbits in Noel Streatfeild’s books – especially Sorrel’s program in “Theater Shoes.”

Week 2/June 28, Betsy and Tacy Go Over the Big Hill by Maud Hart Lovelace: 

I breezed through this one over the weekend, captivated all over again by the sweet, familiar story. There are so many humorous subtleties in this book that I don’t think I fully appreciated as a child reading it 🙂 I love the drama of their determination to collect the most votes for queen, and the delightful resolution – especially the discovery of Naifi’s royal heritage!

Structurally, this is one of Maud Hart Lovelace’s strongest books. Each element of the book is woven carefully together, and the characters are just as beautifully rendered as ever.

Week 3/July 5, Canadian Summer by Hilda van Stockum:

Loved revisiting this one, it’s an absolute gem…I first read it two years ago, and what stood out most in my mind from that read was a stunning description of a scenic vista on the Mitchells’ picnic. It is still one of my favorite scenes in the book! The writing reminds me of Elizabeth Enright mixed with L.M. Montgomery and Noel Streatfeild… A+!

I also appreciate the shifting POVs…I always like it in middle grade books when there are scenes from the parents’ perspective. It just adds an extra layer of characterization and dimension.

Week 4/July 12, Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren:

As with “Betsy and Tacy Go Over the Big Hill,” I was able to breeze through “Pippi Longstocking” in just a couple of days. I enjoyed it even more than I did when I was nine and reading it for the first time! Pippi’s outlandish tales, impressive strength, and irrepressible charm make for a simply delightful book.

It’s also interesting how Pippi’s personality and characterization are so well-done and well-drawn, but her friends Tommy and Annika remain rather flat, one-dimensional characters. I wonder if Astrid Lindgren wrote them this way to show a greater contrast.

Week 5/July 19, Trixie Belden and the Secret of the Mansion by Julie Campbell:

I really enjoyed reading this one, even more than the first time I read it. As I said in my original post, it is a perfect read for summer, and all of Trixie’s adventures are delightful. The characterizations are very well done, and I definitely prefer the original Trixie books by Julie Campbell to the later ones, which were penned by ghostwriters. I love the setting, and that’s probably due to the fact that Trixie’s home (Crabapple Farm) is based on a real place. 🙂 I always gravitate toward stories that are based on some sort of reality.

In fact, I enjoyed it so much that I went ahead and read the second volume of the series as well. The first book leads so naturally into the next!

Week 6/July 26, Return to Gone-Away by Elizabeth Enright:

Love this book! I think that on reading it a second time, I don’t find it quite as compelling as the first book because there isn’t the same sense of mystery and discovery as in book one. But that’s not to say that this book isn’t full of delightfully intriguing sections as well!

The storyline of this one – fixing up the abandoned house – is a favorite of mine, as is the humor and the oral tradition of the Gone-Away stories. Portia’s mother’s ecstatic reaction to finding the antique furniture is also a lovely moment!

Week 7/August 2, Dancing Shoes by Noel Streatfeild:

I just read this book last year, and it still felt completely rereadable and engaging. The characters, the fascinating dynamics, the slow blossoming of Rachel’s confidence, and the theater/dance tidbits are among my very favorite aspects of this book, and in all of Streatfeild’s work.

Reading this has simply made me want to read all the others. Party Shoes! White Boots! The Gemma books! Apple Bough! The Painted Garden! I could go on. (Note: I just read The Painted Garden this week [September 13] and it was quite as good as I’d remembered! Perhaps even better.)

Week 8/August 9, Happy Little Family by Rebecca Caudill:

This is *such* a delightful story. It’s so sweet and simple, and full of the most realistic nuances. I enjoyed it so much that I ended up reading the next book in the series as well 🙂

My favorite chapter in this book is definitely the one where they search for arrowheads and try to win a particularly special arrowhead!

Week 9/August 16, The Borrowers by Mary Norton:

I so enjoyed discovering this book for the very first time! It was a lovely fast-paced read, full of humor and adventure and fun dialogue. A definite five-star book! I was hoping to find a few more favorite vintage kid’s books this summer, and I’m glad I added this to my list.

My favorite elements, I think, were the mysteriousness of Mrs. May’s story, the different families of Borrowers who lived in various nooks and crannies in the old Victorian house, and the ambiguous ending. I also appreciated the fact that the book was British, which I never knew before!

Week 10/August 23, Henry and the Paper Route by Beverly Cleary:

Beverly Cleary’s stories never disappoint, and this one was a joy to read. With her usual simplicity and humor, she once again captures childhood with vivid accuracy. Henry’s various plans and schemes to garner a paper route were so much fun. And of course, Ramona is memorable in any role!

I should really read the other Henry books I haven’t read yet, and reread the ones I have!

Week 11/August 30, Baby Island by Carol Ryrie Brink:

What a sweet story! I am so glad I added this to the reading challenge. Carol Ryrie Brink has such a masterful storytelling style, and her characters and plots are always a treat.

I also loved that the plot of this book mirrored the story that Chrys and Cordy write in Brink’s “Two Are Better Than One.” Since that book is somewhat autobiographical, it makes it even more fun!

Week 12/September 6, The Time Garden by Edward Eager:

This book is just so very, very funny, and I love the glimpses into history. In this one, the four children spend a summer at an old house in Boston that dates from the 1700s. One of the aspects I like best about this book is when their time (or “thyme”) travel takes them to eras in the old house’s past (Revolutionary-era, Civil War…)

A splendid conclusion to my #SummerofVintageKidLit!

Favorite Books of the Challenge!

It’s always hard for me to choose favorites, but I decided to pick two books that were my favorite from this challenge! 

One re-read, and one first-time-read.

Of the twelve books on the list, only three were new reads for me, and The Borrowers was my favorite of these three!

Of the my nine re-reads in this challenge, Betsy and Tacy Go Over the Big Hill was my favorite! It had been a long time since I read it, and I greatly enjoyed revisiting it. (Dancing Shoes is one of my very favorites, but I had reread it last year and so I had more fun re-reading Betsy this time around.) Trixie Belden #1 was also super fun.


All the Places We Visited in These Books!

I love visiting a variety of locations in my reading! This summer’s books were set in:

New York (The Four-Story Mistake and Trixie Belden)

Minnesota (Betsy and Tacy Go Over the Big Hill)

Canada (Canadian Summer)

Sweden (Pippi Longstocking)

England (Dancing Shoes and The Borrowers)

Kentucky (Happy Little Family)

Oregon (Henry and the Paper Route)

A tropical island (Baby Island)

Massachusetts (The Time Garden)

I believe the location of Return to Gone-Away is unspecified, but I think Elizabeth Enright drew inspiration from Wisconsin. 🙂

Fun Facts!

The oldest book in this challenge was… Baby Island, published in 1937!

The newest book in this challenge was… Return to Gone-Away, published in 1961!

The longest book in this challenge was… Trixie Belden and the Secret of the Mansion, at 282 pages!

The shortest book in this challenge was… Happy Little Family, at 107 pages!


If you enjoyed…                                     then I recommend:

The Four-Story Mistake                      Katie John by Mary Calhoun

Betsy and Tacy Go Over the…           Maggie Rose: Her Birthday Christmas by Ruth Sawyer

Canadian Summer                              From Anna by Jean Little

Pippi Longstocking                            Half Magic by Edward Eager

Trixie Belden #1                                  Meg and the Secret of the Witch’s Stairway by Holly Beth Walker

Return to Gone-Away                         Winter Cottage by Carol Ryrie Brink

Dancing Shoes                                    Jill’s Story by Jean Fiedler

Happy Little Family                             All-of-a-Kind Family by Sydney Taylor

The Borrowers                                     Magic Elizabeth by Norma Kassirer

Henry and the Paper Route                Rufus M. by Eleanor Estes

Baby Island                                          Dandelion Cottage by Carroll Watson Rankin

The Time Garden                                 Time at the Top by Edward Ormondroyd


If you read along with me this summer, I hope you enjoyed all of the books as much as I did! What better way to spend a summer than revisiting (or discovering) such pleasurable classic children’s novels?


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Pin It on Pinterest