A new favorite children’s book

Gone-Away Lake by Elizabeth Enright
3 words: charming, old-fashioned, feel-good
UNIVERSE!!!!! Why didn’t you give me this book when I was a child?
I seriously would’ve loved it.
I mean, I’m seriously loving it as an adult, though: some of the magic that would’ve been there as a kid… let’s face it: it diminishes with age.
Still, this is one of those lovely books about childhood, that does all the usual things. Only it does it better than most books.

The language alone got me. Like this: 

“He had a cowboy hat on the back of his head, and four pistols stuck into his belt, and a plastic ray gun in his hand. ‘I heard there’s a guy here who likes to play Space,’ he announced.
Foster rose from his chair. ‘I’m who he is,’ he told the boy.”  (p. 20)

See? Charming.

Here’s what goes on, plot-wise:
First, the parents are dispelled with, because parents are a buzzkill in children’s books. So Portia, who’s spending the summer with her aunt and uncle, and her cousin Julian are allowed to wander off for All Day Long, with very little explanation of their whereabouts.
(Granted, the book was published in the 1950s, and It Was a Different Time Back Then. But still.)
And there’s the typical boy-and-girl close childhood friendship that often happens in books, but not so often in real life. (Am I wrong about that?) Though here it’s a friendship between cousins, so I found it more plausible.
And Portia and Julian, while roving in the woods, encounter a tumbledown series of houses that have been almost abandoned. Except that an older lady and her brother inhabit two of the houses.
At first, I wasn’t sure if they were real people or ghosts. (I’m not gonna tell, either.)
Anyway, they’re delightful, and they invite the children to take over one of the other houses as a clubhouse.
And dang, that was totally my childhood dream! They have a secret hideaway, people! And they decorate it!
Oh, it’s a lovely book.
And I’m still mystified over how it eluded me for so many years.
Here’s how it finally presented itself to me:
First, I was listening to the What Should I Read Next? podcast, episode 21, in which Anne suggests books to her 8-year-old daughter. And Gone-Away Lake was one of the books. (I put it on my TBR right that minute.)
Then I was looking for a children’s book for our book club, since often we read children’s books in the summer. And I looked at one of Gretchen Rubin’s posts about the children’s literature groups she belongs to. And guess what book was on her list of favorites?
And now it’s one of my favorites, too.
So, my fellow adults… What children’s book did you discover only in your dotage?

4 thoughts on “A new favorite children’s book

  1. I've just put this at top of my To Read list. 🙂 It sounds wonderful. And I'm wondering why I never discovered it as a child, either. Have you ever read Golden and Grey by Louise Arnold? It's one of my new favorite kid books.

  2. Bybee — I so wanna read The Saturdays. I just checked out Return to Gone-Away (because I'm completely captivated by that story), and I'm about to add The Saturdays to my official TBR so forgetting doesn't happen.

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