Gone Away Lake
by Elizabeth Enright
Here we have another Newbery Book. I went in search of Thimble Summer, by the same author, because I loved her book The Saturdays so much and it was her Newbery Medal Winner. It was not on the shelf at my branch library, so I pick up her Newbery Honor Book, Gone Away Lake instead.
I have a slight memory of my son reading this book when he was in 1st or 2nd grade. After reading it, I can see why his wonderful Early Elementary teacher recommended it for him. My son loves nature and natural history, still. This book makes note of every bird and plant that the long list of characters encounters as they play and work in the woods and fields. In my readers notebook, yes I keep notes as I read books, I have a sample list of some of the birds: scarlet taninger, mourning dove, owl, finch, crow and woodpecker. As my son, currently in 6th grade, has ornithological veterinarian on his short list of occupation, it is no wonder this book was a success with him. When he saw that I was reading it he said, "Isn't that the one where the kids find the old village near a swamp?"
Indeed it is! 11 year old Portia Blake and her six year old brother, Foster, take the train, alone, to spend the summer with their Aunt, Uncle and cousin, Julian for the summer. Portia and Julian are constant companions and soon find there way to the "village" my son mentioned. Julian is a collector of natural specimens and the long walks they take for discovery, often lead them to some unknown location. As the children approach the run down houses, they hear a noise. Though a bit frighten, they cautiously approach the house from which the sound rang. Within moments a women, dressed as if she came from a long forgotten time, stepped out through the door. With startled introductions, they learn that the mistress of the antique home is Minniehaha and that she and her brother, Pin each live in one of the abandon homes.
This is a tale of young discovery. The children live in a time where adult supervision is not constant, like it is today, so their explorations are deep and rewarding. They do find themselves in a bind from time to time, but with the help of the adults they enlist to help, they always find their way. Enright lived from 1909-1968 and her books reflect the time of her own childhood. I have a romantic notion that we might one day get back to a time when our children can roam free and discover the world and themselves independently. Until that day, I suggest we share novels like Enright's with them, so they will know what supplies they will need to take along on the journey when it come along.