Then There Were Five – Vintage Kidlit Summer Week #7

by | Jul 15, 2023 | Books, Reading, Vintage Kidlit Summer | 3 comments

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!


  1. Marilyn

    I chose “Cheaper By The Dozen by Frank B. Gilbreth Jr. and Ernestine Gilbreth Carey. This is a family of twelve children. All of the children had red hair and freckles. Mr. and Mrs. Gilbreth were industrial engineers. To say the least the house was a chaotic scene most of the times. The times they traveled were circus like. Frank Sr. worked as an efficiency expert He raised the children with efficiency, they had to dress in a regular routine and have their meals that way ,too. All in all it is a fun book. There is a sequel “Bell On Their Toes, by the same authors[two of the children] The story picks up after the father dies.

  2. Marion

    My pick for week 7 “All of A kind Family Hanukkah” by Emily Jenkins based on the books by Sydney Taylor . The family consists of five daughters. Later sons were born to the family. Preparing for the Hanukkah dinner,each girl had a job. Ella 12 ,Henny 10, Sarah 8 and Charlotte 6 were busy working in the kitchen, Only Gertie 4 was not allowed to handle any of the knives or boiling water. Feeling left out Gertie has a tantrum. Mama put Gertie in the bedroom to learn to behave, When Papa comes home he asks Gertie are you old enough to help me light the Hanukkah candle. Gertie says yes. Papa and Gertie light the candle and the family sit down to their holiday dinner. All of the books in the series brings warmth and happiness to a family that is always together.

  3. Constance

    Isn’t it funny to think of Elizabeth Enright writing fondly of old houses, yet her uncle was Frank Lloyd Wright, creating fascinating but very modern houses? Certainly, her mother, an illustrator and artist was a big influence in her life, but I always wonder what she thought of modern architecture.


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