Then There Were Five – Vintage Kidlit Summer Week #7
My friend Faith Elizabeth Hough (who blogs HERE) and I decided to create a fun reading challenge called Vintage Kidlit Summer. If you missed any of the details on how this challenge works, just go here and you can catch up! Basically, we’re doing 12 categories over 12 weeks, and each week has its own theme. All you have to do is choose a vintage/classic book that fits that week’s theme, read it, and share about it! You can write about it on your blog, or you can post your thoughts on Instagram (or Twitter) as well, by using the hashtag #vintagekidlitsummer. And if you’re in need of recommendations for each week’s theme, check out this blog post!
Our seventh week’s theme was Big Family Story, and for this theme I chose to re-read Then There Were Five by Elizabeth Enright. It’s the third installment of the Melendy series (one of my all-time favorites!), and here’s what I’ve written about it previously on my blog:
Here’s a quintessential portrait of a five children enjoying an old-fashioned summer—including stargazing, fruit canning, and all the glories of August—depicted with Enright’s usual stunning imagery.
… a celebration of summer, adventure, and family. Without a doubt, Enright is the best writer of description I’ve ever read.
I always come away from this book with two major takeaways: this is one of the most summery books I’ve read, and Enright’s descriptions are second to none. The funny thing is that this book is supposed to be set in either rural New York or Connecticut or somewhere like that … I can’t recall if it’s ever stated where the Four-Story Mistake is. All I know is that it’s not terribly far from their old home in New York City. It’s certainly not in Wisconsin. But that’s exactly what this setting feels like!
Thimble Summer, which I read in Week 1, was set in Wisconsin and drawn from Enright’s own visits there. But there is no question in my mind that a lot of her Wisconsin experiences informed the glorious countryside the Melendy children find themselves in. I was just admiring the wild mullein that had bloomed in the garden when I read this sentence in Then There Were Five: “The mullein had finished blooming, and stood up out of the pastures like dusty candelabra.” And then … “the bee balm was covered with little crown-shaped pods.” “The lazy monarch butterflies were everywhere.” And earlier, “The monarch caterpillar, for instance, contrived a waxy chrysalis of pale green, flecked with tiny arabesques of gilt.” All the nature descriptions bring to mind so vividly these things I’ve seen here in the north, and that’s what makes this book come to life for me. (And yes, I have shined a flashlight in my window at night to watch the moths, just like Oliver! I can confirm it’s a truly magical experience.)
And of course there are other amazing scenes and lines. I think so many of us can identify with Mona here: “She loved all old things: old books, old legends, old wrecks of houses such as this.” I am Mona! I love the family’s drive to help the war effort with patriotic things like a scrap metal hunt and a bazaar. And Mona and Randy trying to think of good meals to throw together during their canning is hilarious (speaking of which, Mr. Titus is a fabulous character)!
What did you read for the Vintage Kidlit Summer this week? Let me know in the comments!