This is one of those books which I thoroughly appreciate as an adult that I wouldn't appreciate as a child, and yet I heartily recommend it to children.
It's a sort of Benjamin Button phenomena. As a child, I liked to read Charles Dickens because Matilda loved Dickens. And so I devoured classic after classic, and generally stayed away from typical "children's books" because
I was a child. Go figure. In fairness, I did like the Bobbsey Twins and Goosebumps, but that's just about it. I especially shied away from Newberry Honor books and the like, and wasn't that a mistake. Now, if there is such an awarded book, I would carefully consider reading it.Gone-Away Lake
is a Newbery Honor Book and that's nothing to wonder at. It's just so sweet, nothing dramatic, just a bunch of children spending a summer...in an awesome abandoned long-ago lakeside resort.
This was also published in the 50s-60s so you just know that it's going to be squeaky clean, and what's the harm in that? In this book, there's no harm in meeting two reclusive adults who made a home in this abandoned once-rich neighborhood, among Victorian houses and wondrous flora. I must admit I feared for these children...what if these are two sociopaths that eat children a la Hansel and Gretel? But, no, this is a sweet children's book, and people can be trusted. Don't you miss those days when you don't have to think about social predators?
Aunt Minnehaha (what kind of name is that, anyway?) and Uncle Payton are two good-natured adults who came back to they're childhood neighborhood to get away from it all. They live a quiet life raising chickens and goats and tending bog gardens. They also live among wondrous antiques surely worthy for Pawn Stars
. It was like returning to a Victorian era. Aunt Minnehaha and Uncle Payton even dress like Victorian people. And I want to be in that ghost town.
Trunks full of old clothes in perfect condition? Antique paintings? A secret club house in a falling-down mansion? Foraging through an abandoned Victorian house? I'm there.
Nowadays, who can say that there's still an abandoned neighborhood hiding antique treasures? I'm sure the government would have seized it all. It must have only been conceivable in the time where Portia and Julian, the two protagonists, lived in.
But it's not only the small adventures these children have that make this book a gem. The writing style could be a children's delight (it surely was to my childish adult self), and there are words of wisdom scattered here and there that I think only work in a children's book. I guess that's what struck me the most: the intelligence of the writing ,just right for children.*4.5 stars
A lovely gem of a book which at times can be profound, appropriate for children, that I really liked and takes me back to those innocent days.