The Four-Story Mistake (Melendy Quartet) Reviews

UPDATE TIME: 2017-08-24 
Review Score: 4 out of 5 star From 39 user ratings

" I'm giving it five stars because that's how I felt when I first read it as a child and the many times after that I read it. Some of my favourite books as a child involved children acting and I read all of them time after time. This was up there with "In The Fifth at Malory Towers", but not quite up to "The Swish of the Curtain"!I re-read it recently before passing it on to my goddaughter and it's not as good as I remembered. Darn nostalgia. " said.

"The Melendy family moves from NYC to the country to resume their adventures . . . love!

Favorites quotes I can return to when I need a little sunshine in my life:
p.126 When she was ready for bed Randy leaned out the window. Farout, so that she could feel the little cold sharp flakes against her cheek. She could hear the brook murmuring under the ice, and the spruce branches sighing and sighing under the snow. "Si-lent night, Ho-oly night," Randy sang in an exalted voice: and Cuffy pulled her in by the back of her pajamas.
"You want to catch your death? Pile into bed now, it's almost nine."
Randy threw her arms around Cuffy's neck. "Oh, I love Christmas Eve!" she cried. "Even better than Christmas I love it. Because everything's just about to happen!"

p. 127 It had just go over being dark when she woke up: the morning was still new and unspoiled, like a pool into which no one has thrown a pebble. The first thing she saw was a big white cuff of snow on the windowsill. She got up and looked out. The floor was ice under her bare soles but she preferred the discomfort to the boredom of putting on bedroom slippers; she gathered a handful of snow from the sill and stood there licking it thoughtfully and looking out the window at Christmas Day.

p. 147 High in the pale-green sky the evening star was hanging, solitary and pure. Mona called again, and her voice had the faraway, remembered sound of voices heard at dusk.

p. 165 "Smell how wonderful it is!" cried Randy. "Air never really gets into a house."
It was true. The broad, wild wind had the most wonderful smell; an odor of earth and space and wetness, and the beginnings of spring.

p. 175 Randy swooped expertly around the driveway circle, brought her bike to a slow and graceful stop and dismounted. As she gathered up her presents from the wire carrier, the bond crackled against her chest. Yes, finding the diamond had been a miracle. But Randy couldn't help feeling that there were many miracles in her life. Wasn't it a miracle to live in the country in spring? And to have a wonderful family that she was crazy about, and a house with a secret room and a cupola, and to be eleven and a half years old, and very good at riding a bike?
" said.

"The Melendy siblings Mona, Rush, Randy, and Oliver are sad to leave their old house in New York City, but they soon fall in love with their new home, an eccentric-looking three-story house in the country with mansard roofs and a cupola on top. Whimsically known as the Four-Story Mistake, the house and its grounds are loaded with secrets for each of the children to discover, from the trove of forgotten treasures in the basement to the hidden room in the attic. Then there's the stream flowing nearby, available for swimming in the summer, skating in the winter, and other brotherly and sisterly activities.

Meantime, the kids are up to their usual blend of just-imperfect-enough-to-be-believed achievements, such as Mona getting a starring role on a radio program, and too-nice-to-be-blamed mistakes, such as Randy crashing her bicycle into the back of a bus, and Rush getting stranded in his tree-house during a winter storm. They put on a theatrical performance, Mona finds a lost jewel, Rush punches his piano student on the nose, and the kids survive a few potentially serious mishaps, and mostly triumph over their troubles by dint of good sense and hearts of gold.

Their personalities are just quirky enough, their interplay is just entertaining enough, and the author's style is just graceful enough to excuse the story for its rather thin plot, raising it a step or two above the usual nostalgic tale about what slightly-more-privileged-than-average children did for fun, or sometimes for a better cause, outside of school in a time now past. It's a story that gently touches the heart and leaves an afterglow of pleasure.

This is the second book in the "Melendy Family" quartet, which began with The Saturdays and continues with Then There Were Five and Spiderweb for Two. Enright (1909-1968) was the Newbery Medal-winning author of Thimble Summer and Gone-Away Lake.
" said.

"The Four-Story Mistake, the sequel to The Saturdays, picks up some months after that book left off: it's October, and the Melendy family is moving out of their Manhattan brownstone to a house in the country. As in The Saturdays, the characters and the story are charming, and Enright is emotionally astute: I loved this, from moving day: Randy is looking around at the empty room she used to share with Mona, talking to herself "crossly because she was sad and she preferred sounding cross to sounding sorrowful, even though there was no one in the room except herself" (3). None of the kids, other than Oliver, who's the youngest and the most forward-looking, are thrilled to be moving, but once they arrive in the country they start to see their new home's appeal. The family moves into The Four-Story Mistake: a house built in 1871 that was meant to have four stories, but only has three plus a cupola. Each kid has his or her own bedroom, and they have the attic to themselves for a playroom, just like they did in their old house, and the new house has the bonus of the surrounding land: a lawn to play on and woods for exploring and a brook to splash in.

As in the last book, there's humor as well as charm: I loved the episode in which Rush sneaks out early one morning to explore, has breakfast with Willy Sloper (who does odd jobs for the family and lives in a room off the stable) and then has to have a second breakfast cooked by Cuffy, the housekeeper: he feels (and looks) ill afterward, and offers this by way of explanation to Mona:

Rush paused wearily, like an actor playing Hamlet. "Mona," he said, "it might interest you to know that I'm carrying a heavy burden. For breakfast today I was forced by circumstance to consume four eggs: two fried, two boiled. Also nine pieces of bacon. Nine. Also one bowl of oatmeal, man-size. Also one piece of toast as big as a barn door, with marmalade on it. Also one glass of milk, and two large cups of black coffee. Now do you understand?" (29)

And there's lots of satisfying description, too, like this passage, when Randy and Rush go wading in the brook in the springtime:
The water embraced their rubber boots and inside the boots their toes felt cold but protected. Rush and Randy bent down looking for caddis houses. They invaded a wet, mysterious world. The water was dark and clear, like root beer, and on the bottom they saw shifting sand and pebbles, water-sodden twigs, and glittering flakes of mica. (167)

I also like how in this book, as in the last one, childhood independence is such a key part of the stories: the kids are cared for by their father and Cuffy, and they have school and homework and chores, but the focus is on the things they discover for themselves or choose for themselves: they decide to put on a Christmas music/dance/theatre extravaganza, or to build a tree house, or to explore indoors, or to go skating on the frozen brook, and those stories are the ones Enright tells us.
" said.

" Love the Melendy family. Sweet story, beautiful descriptions, perfection. I wish I had read this when I was a child. but I glad I discovered it now. " said.

" Cute sequel to "The Saturdays". " said.

" Cute audio book! Review to come " said.

"The Four-Story Mistake by Elizabeth Enright was published in 1941 by Farrar & Rinehart. This is the second book of the Melendy family adventures. In this book, they move from New York City to the county to live in a house called the Four-Story Mistake. The house was built for a rich man with a large family. He was less rich by the time the architect finished the house – with only three stories. The fourth story is a little cupola on the top in an effort to give the house more height.
The children are a little apprehensive about moving to the country. But, they adjust quickly to the large, open spaces and the eccentric house. Throughout the book, there is the flavor of World War II. Oliver discovered the cellar and kept it a secret for a very long time considering that he is only seven years old. The children build a tree house high up in a tree. Rush gets stranded there during a storm, but the kindly Willy, the handyman finds him before things get truly awful.
The cupola has its own secret. A room with a large picture of a beautiful girl that has been boarded up for decades. The children discover that the picture is of Clarinda, one of the daughters of the rich man. She ran off to be a ballet dancer. Her father was so upset with her that he boarded up her room with the picture.
Throughout the book, there is the flavor of World War II. The children put on a show and collect enough money to buy a whole war bond and a half. Randy finds a diamond in the stream and sells it for $80 to buy a war bond and some presents for her family.
After the show, Mona is offered a job on a radio show a couple of afternoons a week and she jumps at the chance to earn some money to help the family and buy more war bonds. Rush starts teaching piano lessons after school for the same reason. The kids get along with people in the country and start to feel like they belong.
" said.

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