by Elizabeth Enright, published 1941
“The room in which they were sitting might have been called a playroom, schoolroom or nursery to most people. But to the Melendys, it was known as the Office.”
The Saturdays, Melendy Quartet book, is a prime example of the fact one’s taste in a children’s book is both very personal and often, age-related. Reading this book as an adult, I wondered and worried about the fact that it is dated, and thought perhaps it wouldn’t interest present-day children. The main characters live in New York City, in the early 1950’s. There are ample references to the ending of WWII, as well as cultural events which mark the time period.
However, my dear friend Meera who is now a very articulate high school junior, recommended the book to me, saying it was a great children’s book that she had read when she was younger. Trusting her judgement as I do, I stayed with the book. In the end, I decided that yes, it is dated, and yet, it has such simplicity and interesting events, that it is worth reading. I would especially add that if the would-be readers have grown up in New York City, or lived there for any time, the book is even more personal, as we get the direct experience of growing up in New York, post WWII.
In The Saturdays, the first children’s book in the series known as The Melendy Quartet, we are introduced to the four Melendy children, ranging in ages from six to thirteen, with Oliver the youngest, and Mona the eldest. They each have very distinct personalities, hopes, and dreams, yet also have a very strong family bond. Part of the value of the book is highlighting that differences don’t eliminate intimacy.
This book also illuminates the longing that children have for independence, for being trusted. With sometimes amusing results, we see what happens when they exercise their free choices. How much do children need to be protected, and how much do we let them learn for themselves through taking risks? It’s a great contemplation for every caring parent, and this book does a great job in leading us through that very delicate balance.
Buy this at your local independent bookstore