Recently, I’ve been corresponding with a reader (hi Allison!), talking about our recent life transitions (we’ve both made cross-country moves in the last year) and our love for children’s/young adult books. She inspired me to pick up a series I hadn’t read in years but remembered enjoying: the Melendy books by Elizabeth Enright, starting with The Saturdays. Not surprisingly, I’m loving them the second time around. (They’ve been recently reissued, but I found old editions of the first three, with the cheesy cover art and the same font I remember from childhood.)
The main reason I love these books is the warmhearted dynamic between the four children – Mona, Rush, Randy (really Miranda, but nobody calls her that) and Oliver, who are smart and kind and funny and endlessly creative. But this time around, I’m also marveling at the writing. Much of it is quite simple, but occasional sentences just take my breath away – some because they capture so exactly the feelings of childhood, and some because they’re simply beautiful.
For the first kind, I love this passage from The Saturdays:
“But being by yourself, all by yourself, in a big city for the first time is like the first time you find you can ride a bicycle or do the dog paddle. The sense of independence is intoxicating.”
And this one, from The Four-Story Mistake:
“There was always a long streak of purple or green at the corner of her mouth because she couldn’t remember not to chew her paintbrush while she was thinking.”
For the second kind, there are all sorts of images, just slipped in here and there – “half a dozen chairs clustered together like people after church,” snowflakes that “glittered like tinsel,” or this whole sentence: “Each day the sun shone, the birds lingered, though the trees were turning, purely out of habit, and their rose and yellow and rust looked strange and beautiful above the brilliant green grass.” Or this one: “The woods were beautiful and mysterious; but suddenly he was cold; he longed for noise and warmth and light.” Such simple words, put simply together, but in lovely, unexpected ways.
I’ll never stop loving children’s books, nor will I ever apologize for it. (To that end, two of my favorite series – The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants and The Mother-Daughter Book Club – have new books coming out this year. So excited!)