FROM THE LIBRARY
These are book reviews I've done at various times, done for books I own as well as library books and public domain e-books downloaded from the web. Some of these reviews have appeared in my blog.
I'm not really updating this page any longer; you can find my book reviews on my book blog, A Cozy Nook to Read In.
The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio, Terry Ryan
About the efforts of Terry's mom to raise 10 kids with an alcoholic husband: to feed and clothe the family and furnish the house, Evelyn Ryan entered jingle and slogan contests, keeping the family's head above water with her winnings. Wonderful portrait of a woman who kept the proverbial wolf from the door despite the odds with humor and cleverness.
With a Merry Heart, Janet Gillespie
Memoirs of Gillespie's New England girlhood with her minister father, mother, younger siblings, and aristocratic grandmother, pre World War I to the early 20's, with the emphasis on her Cape Cod summers. Charming, nostalgic light reading, with a memorable cast of characters. Unfortunately the library didn't have her first book, A Joyful Noise.
Alistair Cooke, Nick Clarke
This incredibly detailed book may be almost too much information about the British student who came to America on a scholarship and fell in love with the country, later becoming a correspondent for the Manchester Guardian, doing a weekly radio show called Letter from America for the BBC and hosting the series Omnibus and Masterpiece Theatre as well as his own "personal history of the United States," the Peabody Award winning America. While Cooke unfortunately doesn't come off as a cuddly family man, it's the fascinating story of a Lancastrian boy made good.
The British Century
This is a coffee table book picked up when Wordsworth in Chamblee went out of business. It looked long on pictures and short on brains when I first glanced at it, but the text is remarkably good; the chapter on World War I and the resultant horrors was excellent. It beats all hollow a similar book I picked up called The New Century, another British-oriented retrospective. This one I know why it was remaindered; the photos are great, but the text is reminiscent of those horrible social studies books from school, replete with graphs and figures and turgid, dismissive writing. Urgh.
The Yanks Are Coming, Albert Marrin
I found this book in the history section of the library. Just the photos intrigued me, so I brought it home. I have to say I really enjoyed it as an overview of the U.S. participation in World War I. I’ve been looking for a good overview for awhile now, have been recommended several, but have resisted even reading them. As good as the reviewers claim the text is, it always seems to consist of a recitation of political motivations, dates, names, locations, etc. which is, in the end, expected in trying to boil down four years of bloody conflict to a manageable length. But even when the texts try to delve into emotional issues, such as shell shock, the wounded, the filthy conditions of the trenches, they all seem particularly distant and bloodless.
Perhaps this was why this book was shelved with the history books and not in the juvenile section, as it was written as a young adult overview of "the Great War" (the author has apparently done six young adult books about the subject). For something written for a lower age level, I find it a remarkable record of the realities of war. In one chapter, Marrin follows the typical day of a flying squadron and uses diary excerpts from WWI aviators; he addresses the real danger of the planes catching fire and the pilots being "roasted alive" in their aircraft. In another chapter, he describes the construction of the trenches, complete with an understandable diagram, and the daily discomforts of living in them. The paragraphs citing the depredations of the rats is particularly vivid. Battles and wounds, the mud of the roads and the devastation of the landscape are all described unflinchingly.
Along the way Marrin touches on some of the famous "names" of the war: Eddie Rickenbacker (who was prone to airsickness!); John J. Pershing, who had lost his wife and three daughters in a house fire before going overseas and who still mourned their loss during the war; air ace Raoul Lufbery, who met one of the firey deaths described above; Alvin York, whose whole story I'd never known until reading this book (never seen the movie Sergeant York and the history books that I've read that have mentioned him just said simply that he was decorated for heroism saving his fellow soldiers from the enemy without saying specifically what his actions were). Other men who become famous in World War II are seen here earlier in their careers: MacArthur, Patton, Eisenhower, even Hitler.
In short, if you want a detailed history of American participation in WWI, this isn't the book—but if you want a vivid portrait of "how it was" for the average Joe fighting overseas, I recommend this volume highly.
The Speckled Monster, Jennifer Carrell
This is an absorbing story, told in novel form, of the fight of two people, Lady Mary Wortly Montagu in Great Britain and Zabdiel Boylston of Massachusetts, to have inoculation against smallpox accepted as a legitimate medical treatment. Both are vilified for trying to inject "poisons" into peoples' bodies and suffer setbacks and threats in their crusades. This book paints word pictures of life in the 18th century and the horror of smallpox itself—descriptions of the different aspects of the disease are very detailed and frightening.
The Circus Fire, Stewart O'Nan
On July 6, 1944, in Hartford, Connecticut, the big top of the Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey circus, waterproofed in paraffin and gasoline, caught fire during a matinee performance. Water wagons were absent from the area and firefighters could not get to the scene quickly enough. The tent became an inferno in which 167 people, mostly women and small children died, many from being trampled or squashed trying to get out an exit blocked by an animal cage. Many more survived with horrendous burns over their bodies. This is the dramatic hour-by-hour recreation of this disaster, filled with recollections from the survivors told in a compelling narrative, a story of cowardice and bravery, survival and death. Warning: the descriptions of burned bodies and injuries are intense. You may, like me, have to stop reading for a few hours before you can go back to the book.
Sudden Sea, R. A. Scotti
Anyone who grew up in New England, as I did, especially in Connecticut and Rhode Island, has heard stories from parents and grandparents about the Hurricane of 1938, which slammed into Long Island and the coastal areas east with the force of a battering ram. The Weather Bureau saw signs of the approaching behomoth but did nothing to warn the citizens of the area because "hurricanes never strike New England." Hours later, on September 21, 1938, hundreds of people drowned, killed in beach houses, flooded roads and vehicles pulled underwater. Millions of dollars of destruction occurred and some landmarks and communities were gone forever. Providence Journal writer Scotti pulls all these stories together from newspaper accounts and survivor stories in a readable narrative.
Note: Some of Scotti's information about events in Providence come from Everett Allen's 1976 A Wind to Shake the World. Allen, a reporter from Hartford, actually started his first day of newspaper work on the day of the hurricane. His account of the hurricane and its destruction and personalities is also excellent and extremely evocative: I read it on a warm, stormy day and had to put it down; his descriptions were too close to the weather I was experiencing! Out of print but worth finding.
The Dogfather: A Dog Lover's Mystery, Susan Conant
Sigh. Does every mystery writer have to do a Mob-related story? I really love Conant's Holly Winter books: I like the unconventional heroine, I love her malemutes, I like Steve Delaney, I like Kevin and Rita.
I'm Italian, both sides. My dad's family comes from near Rome. Mom's family was from Ischia, off the coast of Naples. I have so much Italian blood that bread is my Friend, the scent of fresh spaghetti sends me into transports of joy, I drool at the thought of proscuitto. But I hate Mafia stories. I don't understand the interest in these peculiar criminals.
I hope now that Ms. Conant has this mania out of her system we'll get an interesting book next time instead of this flirt with gangsters.
P.S. Holly: Find a good home for your cat. If you have to keep him locked up in the study all day while you fuss over the dogs, you're doing him as much disservice as those dog owners you criticize who neglect their dogs.
P.P.S. Conant completely redeems my faith in the next book of the series—although I'm still bothered about the cat, she tries to explain why Holly doesn't give him away—which involves the preparations for Holly and Steve's wedding with a series of murders of unrelated women. Or perhaps they're related after all, as you'll find out in this page turner, entitled appropriately Bride and Groom.
Our Man in Washington, Roy Hoopes
Murder mystery set in the Harding administration involving real-life characters in a fictional investigation: writer and language maven H.L. Mencken and budding author/now newspaperman James M. Cain (The Postman Always Rings Twice, Double Indemnity) try to solve the murder of a member of the President's staff. Included in the action: a sexy redhead, the President's mistress, Teapot Dome, the Hope Diamond, and lots of illicit Prohibition drinking. Much chat and period references; the Mencken quotes are delightful.
Raffles: Further Adventures of the Amateur Cracksman, Ernest William Hornung
Went on to read this after reading The Amateur Cracksman, the original collection of A.J. Raffles short stories. One feels sympathetic yet exasperated for our narrator, Raffles' old school chum "Bunny," who's thrilled by Raffles' exploits, but who follows him blindly most of the time, unable to be his own man. Raffles inspired some movies in the past, but it must be the idea of the character, a charming gentleman thief, more than the execution, because after a while A.J. becomes a bit much. In the movies he appeared to be more of a "Robin Hood" type character and was much easier to sympathize with.
Ciao, America, Beppe Severgnini
Correspondent Severgnini and his every-patient wife spend a year in America, specifically in Georgetown, just outside of Washington, DC. Amusing look by an Italian at the many absurdities of American life, plus his fondness for many of our luxuries.
Emergency Animal Rescue Stories, Terri Crisp
If you read Terri Crisp's Out of Harm's Way, about volunteers who help animals during disasters, this is a sequel. Crisp writes this one herself, rather than having a collaborator, and the prose isn't as good, but the stories are fascinating and in some cases will break your heart (the fate of the birds in the apartment building is particularly sad). Noticed some complaints over at Amazon.com about Crisp talking so much about the hardships of the volunteers: I think this might have been on purpose, as I'm sure Crisp's first book inspired many people to volunteer without first thinking of the types of conditions they'd have to endure. This time around she's making certain people know what a difficult and many times thankless job it is.
White Christmas, Jody Rosen
For heaven's sake, don't pay the irritatingly inflated "special" price for this small press book, but it's still a great read for a bargain price. Rosen chronicles the rise of the famous Christmas song along with the rise of the careers of Irving Berlin and Bing Crosby, and also chronices the role of the Jewish musicians in the rise of ragtime and other popular music.
Addie Pray, Joe David Brown
I read this book about once a year and, every time, am disappointed when it comes to an end. I could spend the rest of my days reading the continuing serial story of consummate cons Moses "Long Boy" Pray and young Addie, who may or may not be Long Boy's daughter, Addie's mother "being fast and all." Long Boy and Addie travel the Depression-era South fleecing everyone but the sheep, although not without one or two bobbles, one saved by the charming "Colonel Culpepper." The Peter Bogdonovich movie Paper Moon astonishingly managed to capture much of the charm of Brown's captivating tale and I always hoped they'd tackle a sequel, but the book is 24-carat entertainment, especially the book's final "caper."
Dr. Syn: a Smuggler's Tale, Russell Thorndyke
As a kid, one of my favorite stories was Disney's The Scarecrow of Romney Marsh, based on the Russell Thorndyke Dr. Syn character. Look, I knew "Uncle Walt" would have "cleaned" this one up, but this book is truly bizarre. The adolescent lead is fascinated by hangings and builds his own gibbet, there's a crazy madman who had his tongue cut out by a pirate, the Scarecrow's second-in-command is a coffin maker who likes to sleep in his coffins... Very flavorful of smuggling days in the south of England is about all I can say.
In Search of the Castaways, Jules Verne (a.k.a. Captain Grant's Children)
Have loved the implausible Disney version of this novel for years and was delighted to find it as an e-book. At times it was more a travelogue than an adventure novel; the entire passage through Australia is very long. I did get irritated with Verne’s women: they were basically good, noble, honest, feminine figures stuck on a pedestal and described only in the most fulsome of tones. To tell the truth, everyone was pretty two-dimensional except Paganel the geographer, who was the only character whose personality was allowed to bloom. In the novel he is a younger man than in the movie. I was very amused by the ending which, of course, would have never made it into the Disney version. I also recall reading a movie critic's scathing comment when the Disney movie came out that "they spend the first half of the movie having improbably adventures in South America and then suddenly realize that they are on the wrong continent altogether," blaming this defect on bad moviemaking by Disney. I assure that long ago critic, if he is still alive, that this wasn't Disney, but pure Verne! The travelers do indeed spend the first part of the book wandering South America having misinterpreted Captain Grant's message, and while they do not have a "toboggan ride on a rock" down the mountain after the earthquake (another thing the critic made fun of), the company does survive an even more "improbable" vicious landslide (and Robert does indeed get carried off by a condor!). Blame Disney if you must for toning down the violence of the landslide, but render unto Verne what is Verne's!
How I Survived My Summer Vacation, anthology
Look, I know this is "only" a young adult book, and a TV novelization to boot, but I've come to expect more from these Buffy the Vampire Slayer books, and this one simply ain't it. It's a series of short stories taking place between first and second season, while Buffy visits her father L.A.: a couple of stories revolve around the young slayer, others are about "the Scooby Gang" back in Sunnydale. I had to quit after three stories. The characterizations were so dreadful I couldn't pay attention to the plots any longer.
Lammas Night, Katherine Kurtz
What can you say about a novel involving the otherworldly assistance of esoteric practioners in England with actual World War II events that is so realistically written that it makes you pull out a family tree for the House of Windsor to make sure the prince in the story actually didn't exist? Kurtz weaves a tale of ancient magic and its modern-day followers skilfully around the Battle of Britain, wartime England, and Nazi espionage; certain of the characters are so compelling you're disappointed to realize they never existed. Sir John Graham is one of Kurtz's most interesting characters. He's supposed to appear again in a future Kurtz Adept novel, but she seems to be placing her attention on her Deryni series only these days. :-(
Timeline, Michael Crichton
Historical researchers are tricked into going back in time to Medieval France using a quantum particle device invented by a Bill Gates-clone CEO. Lots of Crichton neat-sounding-but-confusing pseudo-science and some of his usual stock characters, but interesting material on the Middle Ages. I guess the critics would sneer. Mind candy, but fast paced. What they call a good "beach book." Also good when you're laid up with torn ligaments. :-) I liked it.
The Doomsday Book, Connie Willis
At an Oxford University of the future, graduate students of history can enjoy a unique priviledge: travelling back in time for a live experience in their field of study. Kivrin is all set to return to Europe before the outbreak of the Black Plague--she has a translating device, immunizations, and other protections--when something goes wrong with her time transport. She arrives in the right location, but just weeks before the first outbreak of the Plague. And, unbeknownst to her, plague germs have entered her own time, threatening the city of Oxford and beyond. Willis' slightly futuristic Oxford is less well drawn than her breathtaking, palpable portrayal of the medieval society that Kivrin joins. The people of the past become genuine and alive under her pen until we care about them as much as Kivrin does and mourn their fates.
The Green Poodles, Charlotte Baker
This 1956 book is out of print, but if you're a dog lover and can find a copy, indulge! It's the story of the Green family, Aunt Lena and her orphan charges, teenagers Ann and Charlie and eleven-year-old Alan, who welcome the last member of the Green family's English branch into their home after she is also orphaned. Cousin Fern brings with her a prize show poodle, Juliet, who is responsible for the Green family's change of fortune when a poodle breeder asks them to foster one of her dogs. (I found out just recently that the foster dog in the story, Ravel, was based on Charlotte Baker's own poodle.) This is a fascinating book about raising and showing dogs, and training them for obedience trials.
The Air Service Boys Over Enemy Lines; or The German Spy's Secret, Charles Amory BeachSecond of a series of six books about two young Americans fighting with the Lafayette Escadrille. You can tell just what kind of a book it will be when in the first ten paragraphs the two protagonists, Tom and Jack, sum up action in dialog that sounds like a bad radio series narration. Lots of period reference to the "gallant French" and those nasty Boches, and the boys get to rescue a plucky 12-year-old American girl and her mother, kidnapped by a German relative. If you'd like to see what type of propaganda Americans were fed to keep them interested in joining the fight in World War I, this a prime example.
The Belgian Twins, Lucy Fitch Perkins
This was one of a series of "Twin" books written by Perkins between the 19"teens” and 1930 and, as the description indicates, featured a set of twins (always a boy and a girl except in one book). The twins either lived in another country or in a certain historical time. A used bookstore had these when I was a teenager and I glanced at them covetously, but could not afford the $20 price tag. Blackmask Online had seven of these adapted as e-books, and my first was this novel. Jan and Marie, age 8, are separated from their parents as the Germans march through neutral Belgium in World War I. A web site I found about the books commented that the author was fairly free of the sexual prejudices of the times and when a culture did demean women, she usually had something to say about it within the text. Indeed, while Marie was quite the little housekeeper, she was not the usual sort of fussily feminine character that showed up in those days. She neither screamed nor fainted nor shrank behind her brother and while she could cook, she could also work in the fields to help with the harvest. Quite refreshing.
Betty Leicester, Sara Orne Jewett, and Grace Harlowe's Senior Year of High School, Jessie Graham Flower—what a difference 20 years make!
In 1890, Betty Leicester, daughter of a widowed naturalist who travels extensively in Europe, is left in a small New England town for the summer while dad endures the hardships of a journey to Alaska. Betty reaquaints herself with her aunts and a beloved friend whose mother is a born pessimist, defends two young people of her own age (fifteen) who are looked down upon because they are the children of a convict (he conveniently dies during the course of the book, releasing them from their shame), learns not to criticize people, takes a wagon ride upriver, has a tea party, learns about local history and how to keep her underthings mended neatly, and, when her father returns, goes camping [gasp!] overnight.
Fast forward 21 years. Here's another girl heroine, Grace Harlowe. Grace makes active Betty (she is considered "lively" by her friends and hypochondriac aunt) look like the Victorian equivalent of a couch potato. Grace's adventures start in high school, covered by four books for each year. If the fourth book is representative of Grace's life, the young lady will never have a dull moment ever: in this outing Grace—and her set—thwarted in their favorite sport, basketball, when the school gym burns down (our heroine Grace is the one that turns in the alarm, of course), rallies the senior class into raising the most money to have the gym rebuilt, reunites a girl chum with her long-lost mother, tries to help another friend see that the sinister older man flattering her is just making her look stupid, stands up against a revengeful classmate who is later reformed by Grace and then revealed to be the daughter of a famous Italian violinist, and recovers the stolen money from the school bazaar. Whew. Grace then goes on to four presumably equally exciting years in college, stars in three more books where she becomes a college housemother and falls in love with her childhood chum Tom Gray, then for several other books goes on to nurse soldiers in "the Great War," and then, not having seen enough action in Europe, goes out West for at least a half dozen more books, exploring the Yellowstone and other rugged areas by horseback.
Needless to say, I was charmed by Betty, but certainly had a lot more fun with Grace!
Brother and Sister, Josephine Lawrence
Children's book from 1916 that makes the ambling, original Bobbsey Twin novels (the ones before 1960s rewriting, before they solved mysteries), look downright hyperactive. At least in the first Bobbsey Twin book, Freddie's locked in a department store overnight, Bert is called down by the school principal for fighting and fears he might be accused of breaking a window, there's always the specter of bully Danny Rugg, and there's supposedly a ghost in the house. Nothing even this exciting happens to Roddy and Betty!
The Campfire Girls Go Motoring, Hildegarde Frey
In these old children's books I've been reading, the mystery angle is often very thin: The Outdoor Girls, in particular, have such transparent plots one can almost see through the pages. However, I'm in the midst of a real corker right now: The Campfire Girls Go Motoring: or, "Along The Road That Leads The Way" (a secondary title was almost de rigeur in those days). The girls of the title are not pre-pubescent, but in their very late teens, of driving age, and accompanied by a "den mother" (or whatever the elder member of a Campfire Girl troop is called) who doesn't seem much older than they are. Not only does the book lack the obligatory introductory scene so common in these books where each of the girls is introduced and described according to looks and interests (i.e. the plump blond one, the bookish redhead, etc.), but, save for Gladys, none of the girls is known by her real name, only by her "Indian" moniker (although we find out later "Nyoda" is their leader, Miss Elizabeth Kent). Not only that, but the mystery itself, involving the two motoring groups (four girls in each car) getting separated right from the beginning, car breakdowns, fires, mysterious pursuers, not one but two runaway young women, torrential rainstorms, lodging problems and heaven knows what else, is actually complicated and keeping me guessing even halfway into the narrative. Plus, having been written circa 1920, it's a great portrait of car travel in those days: bad roads, unusual lodging, tentative communication, weather difficulties. Altogether a good read.
There are other Frey "Campfire Girls" novels online and they're all an excellent example of the genre, unlike books like "The Pony Rider Boys" that drown in racial stereotypes. Other books to be found: The Campfire Girls at School" in which Hinpoha's household is taken over by her straitlaced aunt, The Campfire Girls Do Their Bit, a World War II story with a possible upcoming romantic interlude for Sahwah, and The Campfire Girls at Camp Keewaydin, in which "Agony" gets involved in a lie that nearly costs her her sanity.
Cute is Not a Compliment, Peter Filichia
Yes, Peter Filichia the theatre critic and columnist for Theatre.com. This is the story of Jim Carpenter, a high-school student interested in the theatre (rather than useful stuff like computers, to the chagrin of his blue-collar father), who finally gets his dream girlfriend and also a job teaching acting to a fellow student the same year his high school is up for the top awards in a local student drama competition. I bought the book initially because I was astonished that it was written by a guy writing about a guy who actually had an intelligent ambition in life rather than being your usual male Neanderthal with interests only in sports, cars and getting laid. Jim is also short, which I immediately sympathized with, having spent a lifetime complaining about not being able to reach things on closet shelves and not looking good in clothing even when I was at an ideal weight.
I also love the way that Jim is so naturally flawed even as he criticizes other people for doing things like interrupting him or having bad "lapse time": he hates being judged by his shortness, yet idealizes the tall gorgeous blonde who becomes his girlfriend and initially dismisses the student he's tutoring as not being girlfriend quality, because, although she's got nice green eyes, halfway decent manners, and good "lapse time," she's overweight and has to diet. Needless to say, Jim's little prejudices get a workout during the book.
I also loved the theatre competition story itself as well as the joy the protagonists take in acting and participating. Each time I've been to a stage production it's been, to use that overworked term, a "magical experience." I'd love to indulge in that type of magic a lot more.
Fever 1793, Laurie Halse Anderson
Young adult book about the yellow fever epidemic in Philadelphia in the summer of 1793. Extremely realistic, without being unnaturally graphic, look at the sufferings of the victims and the fate of the city. Many of these "plucky young historical heroine" books read like a modern girl thrust in long skirts into the past; Fever's Mattie seems more realistic than most.
Miss Nina Barrow
This was actually a serial story in St. Nicholas, a Victorian tale about a orphan child who has been spoiled rotten by her indulgent grandmother and how a gentle cousin tries to break her of her selfishness. Part of Nina's reformation comes from a visit to English cousins who are rich but unspoiled. Nina fits into the latter of two categories of Victorian children's books. The first is that of the desperately poor child, who by perserverance mixed liberally with a great deal of luck, becomes rich and comfortable at last, or at least comfortably well off. The second category is like that of the family in Alcott's An Old-Fashioned Girl, obscenely rich and discontented people who become happy and content by losing all their money and learning to work. Nina's salvation comes in the last chapter of the book, though, after we've been entertained by her bratty ways for an entire book.
The Outdoor Girls series, Laura Lee Hope
This is a series the mythical "Laura Lee Hope" (The Bobbsey Twins and subsequent sequels) wrote for girls (the books were actually written by many different writers of the Stratmeyer syndicate, one of them being Harriet Adams, who ghostwrote the Nancy Drew novels as "Carolyn Keene." The protagonists are Betty Nelson, the practical one, Grace Ford, the one who loves candy, Mollie Billette, the girl with the quick temper (she's French, you see), and Amy Stonington, the shy one. In one book they have adventures on a motor boat given to them by Betty's uncle, in another they spend part of their vacation at a mountain lodge. Pleasant stuff, although the mysteries they solve are so transparent you can see the solution from the next county. Pleasant relics from the day when girls got out and did something, not simply worried about their body and sexuality all day.
Peppermints in the Parlor, Barbara Brooks Wallace
Never adverse to reading a good children's mystery, I picked this one up after having heard it mentioned on rec.arts.books.childrens and ended up galloping through it in one night. The story is a page-turner about eleven-year-old Emily, who expects to arrive at her aunt's and uncle's loving home after her parents die and finds it's become a horrifying place, with her aunt relegated to housekeeper and a forbidding woman running a terrifying home for unwanted elderly people in the house. Dickensian without the wordiness. Great stuff; may have to look up Wallace's other novels.
Pollyanna, Eleanor H. Porter
Poor maligned Pollyanna has had a bad reputation for years, with her “Glad Game,” yet the reason for the existence of the Glad Game is rather sad: Pollyanna has always wanted a doll, but her missionary father cannot afford one. He asks his congregation back in the States if they might send a small doll for his daughter; instead crutches are sent. Instead of allowing Pollyanna to whine about this development, her father develops the Game: to find something good in an event, no matter how bad it is. Think of it: here’s a child who has little of what we think of as comforts in her life. She is not deluged with toys, her clothing comes from donations to the missions, she has few playmates. Yet she savors the things she finds in nature and in the people around her. She should be seen as gallant rather than simpering, but the foolish “Pollyanna” of legend has replaced the sturdy little girl who faces the world with her chin up. (Yes, like Anne Shirley, Pollyanna talks entirely too much, but that shouldn't be held against her.)
The Saturdays, The Four-Story Mistake, And Then There Were Five, and Spiderweb for Two, Elizabeth Enright
These are the Melendy family books, more children's books that I never read "way back when" because I preferred animal stories. The first three were written during World War II and it was fun to read about the wartime adventures of the children, with no preaching about issues, just plain old-fashioned kid stuff. Kids in these books seem to do so many fun things: exploring the countryside, putting on plays, searching for scrap metal, doing creative projects.