I long to live in an Elizabeth Enright book. The childhoods are innocent and filled with games, long sunny summer evenings, a little bit of excitement, and simple pleasures. It’s all very idyllic. Though I like many of her books, the Melendy Family books are my favorites. I have so many fond memories of these books, starting with the fact that all three of them were published in one big fat pink book called the Melendy Family, which I checked out of my school library many many times. I felt like I was getting quite a deal since we were allowed two books per week and by choosing that as one I was really getting to take home four.
The Saturdays is the first book which introduces the characters while they all live in New York City. There’s Rush–a gifted pianist and the second oldest, Mona–the oldest who longs to be an actress and as such is prone to dramatics, Miranda–the tomboy artist, and Oliver–the baby of the family. They live with their adoring father and stern but loving housekeeper, Cuffy. One boring day they come up with a plan to pool their allowances and let each person have the combined total for a special Saturday of his or her own. In this way they can each do something they really want. These Saturdays change their lives.
I first read these books when I was in 4th grade. Since them I have carried with me several vivid images from them that come to me over and over again:
- Mona getting her nails painted and shocking her family. They don’t know how to remove nail polish! (these books are set in the early 40s.)
- Mona in the summer looking beautiful wearing an entire strawberry plant in her hair (I thought of this the other day as I looked at one of my strawberry plants which looked very pretty with its white and yellow flowers and new strawberries.)
- When I weed I think of Oliver, who has the task of weeding the garden and categorizes the weeds by which he hates the most.
- When I contemplate (but never seem to do) canning my vegetables, I think of Mona and Miranda hot and sweaty and proud as they look at all the tomatoes they just canned, looking like rubies in glass in the sunlight.
- On a hot summer night Mona, Miranda, and Rush dangling their feet in a cool brook which has bottles of root beer chilling in it. (This corresponds with a picture of said activity. Speaking of pictures, I was thrilled that these books were recently reissued, but the covers are weird. Enright herself illustrates the books and yet, the cover illustration is by someone else and really has nothing to do with the story. Stupid reissue. Note: I tried to find an image online of the original cover to post alongside here, but was unsuccessful. I did see that almost every review of the reissue mentions the “irresistible new cover art”. Irresistible to whom??)
- Coal Gas. The old fashioned equivalent of carbon monoxide poisoning. Whenever I think of carbon monoxide I think of the whole family almost dying from “coal gas” when the furnace was improperly closed up one night.
The other books in the Melendy Family are The Four-Story Mistake and Then There Were Five. (There’s another book that comes after, but I never counted it as part of those magical first three.)
Note: This is the first of “The Bookshelf” books. For more about the Bookshelf, look at picture above and click on The Bookshelf!