Vintage Summer Reading, Part 6: The Magic Summer, by Noel Streatfeild (UK title: The Growing Summer)
Welcome to Part 6 of A Vintage Kidlit Summer, the summer challenge hosted by me and Anna Rose Johnson. We've been having so much fun re-discovering childhood favorites, exploring new-to-us vintage stories, and connecting with other vintage-loving friends! For more about the challenge, and to see the schedule and our recommendations (you're welcome to join in anytime, even for just a week!), see this previous post.
This past week's theme was "Well-known Author, Little-known Book," and once again I took Anna Rose's recommendation—for the win. ;) I'd read several Streatfeild books as a child and as an adult, and I'd even had this one on my shelf for several years after finding it at a library book sale.
My first surprise upon opening this book was this lovely dedication. Elizabeth Enright is one of my very favorite authors, so even if I didn't already love Noel Streatfeild, I think this would have tipped me in her favor. It's like discovering a mutual best friend, isn't it?
Just a few pages in, I remembered what a masterful storyteller Streatfield is. Her characters jump off the page, and her depiction of the relationships between the four siblings is spot on. How did such a prolific author manage to create new, unique, believable characters in every story?
If you know Streatfield from Ballet Shoes and its "companion" books, the description of The Magic Summer might surprise you a little. When their doctor/researcher father is taken ill on an overseas research trip, four siblings are sent to live with their eccentric great-Aunt Dymphna on the coast of Ireland (hooray for another children-by-the-sea story!). Aunt Dymphna quotes poetry at every turn and is a master at rummage sales, herb-lore, and lobster-catching. She is not quite as skilled at things like keeping house, driving a car, or raising children. The children are nearly left to fend for themselves, with hilarious consequences. They also come upon a mysterious boy hiding in their aunt's old mansion, providing a mysterious side story—and another excellently-crafted character.
I'm not sure why the U.S. title is The Magic Summer--there are no fantasy elements in this story, unless you count Aunt Dymphna's unaccountable talent for conversing with seagulls. The U.K. title, The Growing Summer, seems much more apt. Throughout the course of the summer, the challenges and mysteries and fun the children experience lead them to grow in ways they never would have expected. Children today, who can hardly fathom a world where a helpful adult is not a mere text message away, will likely be enthralled by the children's freedom and mastery.
What's your favorite little-known book by a well-known author? Did you join in this week's challenge? Next week we're jumping into vintage "Big Family Stories," and I have an All-of-a-Kind Family sequel I can't wait to crack open!
Hi! I'm Faith. I blog about books and creativity, family and faith. Welcome!