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Posts Tagged ‘Elizabeth Enright’

IMG_7523With words to devour, pages to turn, people and places and ideas in literature to fill the chasm of time between the onset of the COVID19 and the end of August,  I confess that I have not read much during these many months of pandemic. Unsustained concentration and lack of focus found me in  literary limbo.

It was “out of the mouth of babes” that I was rescued from my malaise.

I mentioned a movie I had recently viewed, Wonder, in a Skype visit with our granddaughter. Kezzie exclaimed “Yia Yia, I told you to read the book!”. I pulled out my list of her recommendations and there it was, with the author and my notes of Kezzie’s synopsis of the book. A delightful conversation ensued and I promptly ordered a copy of the book online after we ended our virtual visit. I read it, post-haste, when it arrived and would like to recommend it to you.  Being different, bullied, feeling different when you look “normal” and your sibling doesn’t, how children (and adults) react to differences and the burdens of life that they may carry. Read it! The author of Wonder is P.J. Palacio. It is part of a series I hope to continue.



 

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Reading Wonder reminded me that children’s literature has always been a place of refuge for me. In these troubling times it just might be what I needed to read. I perused the piles of accumulated books that threaten our floorboards and two such books from a long past trip to a thrift shop arose and begged to be read.

Thimble Summer, with its beautiful cover and Newberry Medal emblem, was a delightful read. I did judge this book by its cover – and judged it well. I remembered another book by the author that I read as a child, The Saturdays, which I loved and read over and over again. Thimble Summer is about a young girl, Garnet, who finds a silver thimble that she believes is magic as wonderful things begin to happen in a time of drought and uncertainly in her Wisconsin farm that summer. Elizabeth Enright is the author.

Hero Over Here  is a mere 54 pages, plucked from the shelves at the same thrift store as Thimble Summer. On that same pre2020 outing, it was another cover that appealed to me, a book about the home front during World War I, and copyrighted in 1990.  The book is dedicated by the author, Kathleen V. Kudlinski – “To my grandmothers, Lillian Veenis and Helen Bowen, Both of whom remembered the flu for me.”  Suddenly, this summer, this little book called out to me. I read it in one sitting. Theodore’s father and older brother are “over there”, fighting WWI. His mother, then his sister are suddenly stricken with the flu epidemic of 1918. Theodore must care for them, he becomes a hero, and he learns life lessons in that horrific time.

What would you do if you learned the date and code name of a massive invasion during World War II?  Emma, is the daughter of a Dutch diplomat, Oscar.  Emma and her husband Carl are at a chance meeting for lunch with Oscar in Geneva. When Carl, a German who works at the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs, steps away from the table for a few minutes, Emma whispers the coded information in her father’s ear. Carl has confided to Emma that there will be an invasion of Russia by German forces. It is called Operation Barbarossa and will commence on June 22.  Oscar knows there are gestapo in the restaurant. He knows he is being watched. He knows that if he reveals this information, Emma and Carl will be arrested. Oscar’s wife, Kate, works as a nurse in London, aiding injured military. Oscar and Kate are married, live in separate apartments and rarely see each other. Oscar unexpectedly arrives in Kate’s apartment and reveals Emma’s secret. They have differing views of whether or not Oscar should share the information, knowing Emma’s complicity, but knowing they may save thousands of lives. They question if anyone will even believe Oscar.  News from Berlin is by Otto De Kat, translated from the Dutch by Ina Rilke.

HatsSome Girls, Some Hats, and Hitler is the captivating memoir of Trudi Kanter, a well respected milliner in pre-WWII Vienna. As the Nazis march into Austria, Trudi realized that she must find a way to get her husband Walter and her parents out of Austria. Walter stubbornly sees no reason for leaving. After all, they are respectable, prosperous and he is not worried about what might happen. Trudi, however, sees the warning signs and knows that they will soon be in dire danger as Jews. Her guile, ingenuity, and determination, as well as her well earned reputation as a talented creator of woman’s hats, are implemented as she sets a plan in motion to save her family and others from the pending horror. A buying trip to Paris, business connections, her line of credit, and her charm are brought into play in this sometimes charming, often harrowing book  that is hard to put down.   This memoir was a self-published in the 1980’s, rediscovered by a graduate student in Cambridge, England. It was eventually reprinted in 2012. It was recommended to me by Centuries and Sleuths bookstore in Forest Park. I was inspired by Trudi’s story, her tenacity and courage and I am appreciative of this recommendation from the unique and amazing independent bookstore  Centuries and Sleuths is.

What have you read lately? Have you had trouble concentrating on books during this time, or read more than you regularly do?

 

 

 

 

 

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The Saturdays

Every Saturday, the Melendy children pool their weekly allowance. Each child, in turn, takes the weekly amount and does something special, just for themselves, on their given Saturday. The idea is formed on yet another boring Saturday as they gather in the top floor “office” of the family’s well-worn Brownstone in New York City with nothing to do. They convince their father to allow them to do this and he agrees, warning them to not get hit by a car, never talk to strangers, and ask a policeman if they have any problems.

The story, of course, is set in a different era. 1941. A time when a child could leave home  and walk the streets of Manhattan, know where to go and how to get there. A time when a parent could allow such adventures.

Each of the Melendy children are unique and inquisitive and delightful and their choices are interesting and sometimes scary and sometimes so funny I laughed aloud.

I read The Saturdays as a child and it made me want to travel to New York City. The idea of four siblings coming up with the idea (and naming themselves I.S.A.A.C. – the Independent Saturday Afternoon Adventure Club) seemed so remarkable to me as a child, and, in fact, still do. I’m not sure that at an elevenish age I would have chosen the opera, let alone walk all the way there, buy a ticket, and climb so far up to my seat I could almost touch the ceiling. I do know I would have loved it, though, and remember so clearly the time my father took us to the Civic Opera House and how its grandeur mesmerized me. Each solo Saturday adventure brings about a subplot with interesting stories about being kidnapped by gypsies, meeting the actual child in the painting at an art gallery, or how to get red fingernail polish off of one’s nails before nail polish remover was widely available. (That one reminded me of the time my sister decided to dye her hair Lucille Ball red and is a story for another time.)

As an impressionable youngster growing up in the suburbs of Chicago who longed for the day to be able to got into the city by herself, The Saturdays gave me a way to explore within the restrictions of my own family. It was one of those books of childhood, we all have them, that stayed with me throughout my life and I was delighted to find it in the library and surprised to learn it was part of a series about the Melendy family.

I was not surprised to find the author, Elizabeth Enright,  had written many books, including Thimble Summer, but, I was surprised to learn that she lived in Oak Park and was a niece of the renowned architect, Frank Lloyd Wright. Enright illustrated the book as well as writing it and the illustrations are whimsical and capture the mood of the book. It is her words that paint the best pictures for me of the Melendy children, their widowed father, Cuffy the housekeeper, and Willy the handyman/plumber and general fixer-of-things, and of the worn but loved Brownstone, five stories tall with a huge coal furnace in the basement.

It is Saturday here on the Cutoff and I’m off to my own Saturday adventure. I won’t be going “into the city”, but, instead, heading out west a way to a church bazaar and then it is home to the leaves and the leaves and the leaves, which have had a glorious time blanketing the area.

How about you? Any adventures, big or small, for your Saturday?

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