Recently, I’ve been sharing one of my childhood favorites with my 7 and 9 year olds at read-aloud time. I love everything I’ve ever read by Elizabeth Enright, but The Melendy Quartet holds a special place in my heart. In a truly unique way, these books capture the magic and wonder of a childhood lived with reasonable freedom and endless imagination.
Meet the Melendy Quartet
In The Satudays, you meet the four Melendy children: Mona, who can’t wait to grow up; Rush, who plays the piano remarkably well; dreamy and creative Randy; and young Oliver, full of curiosity and determination. You see the streets of mid-nineteenth century New York City through their eyes as they venture forth singly and together in a series of magnificent adventures. You’ll love how these children have the capacity to listen and learn from the adults they meet, whether it’s an old French aristocrat or a Bronx hairdresser with a big personality.
But it’s in The Four Story Mistake that the Melendy adventures really come to life with the family’s move to an eccentrically constructed old house in the country. In this book and its sequel And Then There Five, the Melendy kids enjoy the freedom of country life and make new friends young and old. Building their own swimming pool, trying to surprise the adults by doing all the canning alone, helping an orphan, and building tree houses are just a smattering of their excitements.
Spiderweb for Two is my absolute favorite and, sadly, the end of the series. With the older Melendy kids away at boarding school, Randy and Oliver look forward to a dismal year alone. But then a mysterious blue letter comes with a riddle that starts them on a rollicking book-long treasure hunt from clue to clue and adventure to adventure.
Why We Love Them
My kids immediately fell in love with these books and the characters. Elizabeth Enright creates real kids, kids you could see meeting at your local park, in the four Melendys. They’re quirky and creative and fun.
The Melendy kids show us that having a curious mind and an imagination can make everyday life intriguing whether you live in the city or country. They teach today’s kids that you don’t need video games or cell phones to have heaps of fun. Adventure isn’t in a screen; it’s outside your doorstep.
These books also celebrate sibling relationships without glossing over the inevitable squabbles that come with living in close proximity. Despite their occasional quarrels, the Meledy kids find genuine joy in being together and go out of their way, as in Spiderweb for Two, to show each other they care.
They’re beautifully clean and content-free. The only violence is that in And Then There Were Five, the kids befriend Mark Herron, a boy who lives with a mean relative. Said mean relative dies in a fire eventually; no graphic description.
I recommend them as a read aloud for 7-9 year old or for independent reading at 8-12 years old.
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