We Recommend: Sweet Family Edition

Another edition of We Recommend, in which we do our very best to
solve book-related questions, needs, and other miscellany, and then
turn them over to you, the readers, who really solve them. Need help
finding the right book? E-mail
us with some information about your reader, likes and dislikes, and
anything else, and we'll do our best. Now, on to our current challenge!

This one is interesting to us, because it brings up a series of books we have never read:

"My
daughter is 6, and doesn’t read on her own, but I read to her and she
listens to books on CD. She is in love with the Melendy books  by
Elizabeth Enright. She’s listened to them all multiple times and often
says she wishes there were more Melendy stories. Do you know of any
other whimsical, funny, loving family books that she might be
interested in? We’ve already read the Penderwick books by Jeanne
Birdsall, but beyond them, I’m at a loss."

Which of course led to the question: what the heck are the Melendy books? So we looked around. From what I can see (we couldn't make it to the library today due to high winds, which seems crazy but is true), they are a series from the 1940s that focuses on one family who lives in a brownstone on the upper east side, where they get into scrapes and form clubs and are generally well-drawn and human and endearing.
They seem (the books) incredibly sweet in just the way you want a child's book to be sweet. But can we come up with anything to help?

The whole upper-east-side brownstone thing calls to mind E.B. White to me, especially Stuart Little, which is an amazingly great treat (please try to erase from your mind the movie version). But what sounds wonderful as well is the Melendy's sense of place, not just the specific place but the way it calls it to life. So maybe the Betsy-Tacy books, which really bring the whole tiny town to life. Then there's All of a Kind Family, which really brings the lower east side of 1900s New York City to life. But for some reason, I'm going to go with this one:


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I read A Tree Grows in Brooklyn at the totally wrong age, and never fell in love with it, but I still get flashes of weird memories it planted in me: Mama's bank nailed to the floor, the picnic that Tammany Hall took them on, the library. I'm not totally convinced—it might be too grown up, though it is very sweet at its heart—but then again, I'm not a complete trustworthy source, having not yet read the Melendy books (though I will!).

But enough with the dithering: what do you guys think?

And, if you're of a mind to, go ahead and e-mail us with your own requests! We probably won't have read enough to know about them either!

20 thoughts on “We Recommend: Sweet Family Edition

  1. I loved the Melendys and I didn’t even know anybody else had ever heard of them! I could be completely wrong about this, but I thought they were in London, not New York. There was one book about their city life, and then they moved to “The Four-Story Mistake” and lived in the country for a few books. I’m pretty sure.
    Stuart Little is a great choice, and of course there’s always Charlotte’s Web. The Trumpet of the Swan is pretty sad and there are a couple of really wrenching scenes, as I remember it, so that might be better in a year or two.
    One that my 6 year old daughter loves is Noisy Village (might be called Tales from Noisy Village? The Children of Noisy Village?), by Astrid Lindgren, of Pippi Longstocking fame. Sweet stories with a 7 year old first-person narrator, about rural life in Sweden. Very appealing. I loved them as a child too.
    I think 6 is WAY too young for A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, that’s really more of a coming-of-age story. I love it, and have re-read it more than once as an adult, but it’s not 6-year old material, if you ask me.

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  2. What about The Box Car Children? My kids love it, and then you have a whole new series to go through. My kids also like The Kids of the Polk Street School series by Patricia Reilly Giff (The first one is called The Beast in Ms. Rooney’s Room). I also love the E.B. White suggestions.

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  3. I wouldn’t read A Tree Grows in Brooklyn to a six-year-old. There are a number of parts that are much more mature than most six-year-olds could understand.
    But, what about Five Little Peppers and How They Grew? I loved that book when I was still at the age to be read to, and continued to love it when I could read it to myself. It’s about a family of kids growing up together.

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  4. Oh, the Melendys…such wonderful books.
    This girl might enjoy Eleanor Estes’ series about the Moffats. Set in the 30’s, I think, so earlier. And a poorer family. But a good family and lots of gentle adventures.
    She might also, for an English twist, like The Family From One End Street and its sequels. They are by Eve Garnett.
    The All-of-A-Kind books are about a large Jewish family of mostly girls in NYC in the early part of the last century.
    Finally, if she doesn’t mind a little magic, she might like Edward Eager’s books. The kids are all inter-related and I remember feeling so proud when I figured out (though looking back, I think it’s actually spelled out in one of the books) that one set of kids were the parents of the other set of kids.
    Finally, set in the 1800’s in England, E. Nesbit’s Would-Be-Good books might hit the spot. An adult might have to help with some of the language but that adult might find him-or-herself enjoying the books too. The Would Be Goods, The Treasure Seekers…and there’s another whose title escapes me at the moment.
    And if it’s the family dynamic she likes, and she doesn’t mind a non-human family, try the Moomintroll books. (I know…I think I mention them in every comment I make!)

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  5. E Nesbit…5 children and it?
    6 is WAY too young for A Tree Grows…there’s sexual content. It’s an AWESOME book, but 6 is just not the right age to introduce it.

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  6. Sorry sorry, probably the A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is too old, if you all think it is. I seem to have blocked out the sexual content (really there was some? How did I miss that?) But I’m all for Edward Eager, though as far as I remember (which looks to be not that far), they specifically come down on Five Little Peppers (in Half Magic).

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  7. I was just going to recommend Edward Eager. My 8-year-old and I are reading them now and enjoying them very much, but I think they would be great for a 6-year-old. We have listened to a couple of the Melendy books on CD as well, and they do seem quite similar to me. Also, how about the Noel Streatfield Shoes series?

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  8. Emerging from the shadows after lurking around this blog for months! How about Meet the Austins by L’Engle? Haven’t reread it in a while, but I don’t remember anything that would be too far over a six-year-old’s head, and it’s definitely a lovely family story with a strong sense of place.
    Or Lois Lowry’s Sam books–the first one is “All About Sam,” I think there are a few more. Another fictional family I wish would adopt me.

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  9. Gone Away Lake (and sequel) by Elizabeth Enright
    The Children of Greene Knowe (not the Stranger title in this series as it is too scary).
    Understood Betsy
    What Katy Did (and sequels)
    Matilda
    Litte House in the Big Woods
    Island of the Aunts
    Winnie the Pooh
    The Borrowers
    Caddie Woodlawn

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  10. Excellent, excellent suggestions!
    The Melendy series does start in New York and then moves to the countryside, where the children are free to roam all over the place (and continue getting into mild but enthralling adventures), if that helps at all in offering recommendations.
    Hmm, what can I suggest that hasn’t already been said?
    Thimble Summer (also Enright)
    Pippi Longstocking
    Swallows and Amazons (maybe better in a few years)
    Cheaper By the Dozen

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  11. I love the Melendy books and still re-read them regularly. For recommendations: definitely Swallows & Amazons! Also definitely, The Boxcar Children. I would also recommend Louisa May Alcott’s Jack & Jill, Eight Cousins, and Rose in Bloom.
    Also Edward Eager, anything by Nesbit (The Railway Children, especially), or Enid Blyton.
    How about Julie Andrew’s book Mandy? or even Anne of Green Gables?

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  12. Hi, I’m the person that originally asked the question. Thanks to everyone for the suggestions! It’s funny, after I wrote the email, I went to my shelves and just looked around for something and I found my All Of A Kind Family series, so we started that over the weekend and she’s really enjoying it. I just got Anne of Green Gables for her on CD, we’ll see how that goes over. I considered the 5 Little Peppers, but I re-read the first on a few years ago, and even though I loved them as a child, I was annoyed by the amount of crying those kids do. I’m not sure I could take reading it to her, I may have to find it on CD.
    Even though this is off the subject, I have to ask this question, hopefully someone here will be able to reassure me my child isn’t bizarre. In EVERY book we read, she has to be someone. For instance, in All Of A Kind Family, she is Ella, and when Ella does something, she says, “That’s me!” Then I have to choose a character. If I don’t choose, she chooses for me (I’m Henny. I don’t know why, but she particularly assigned me that character). In every picture book she chooses the person or animal she thinks is cutest, and says that she is it. At first it was OK, but after 4 months of this, it’s driving me nuts. Please tell me that other children do this!?!

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  13. I can’t say that my children do this, but I can say that 1) normal is so way way overrated, and all the most fun and interesting people do something odd and endearing like this, I think, and 2) I think it’s really cool that you get to be Henny, who is very naughty.

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  14. I didn’t do it in quite the way your daughter does, but I certainly played a lot of make-believe games (sometimes just in my head) in which I was Randy Melendy, or Anne Shirley, or Jo March, or Laura Ingalls, or Nancy Blackett from Swallows and Amazons. Maybe it’s just a way of identifying with the books?

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  15. My daughter just actually thought the books we read (not all just a few) were actually written about her at the same age.

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  16. My six year-old daughter is in *love* with the Boxcar Children books right now. And there are ninety-seven bajillion of them, so that’s convenient. 🙂

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  17. Wonderer – I was always pretending that Laura Ingalls Wilder was with me. I tried to explain electricity, television, cars, etc. to her. It was great fun!

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  18. I REALLY loved the Melendy’s and like many of the readers also enjoyed The Borrowers, The Children of Noisy Village, I LOVED Edward Eager, E. Nesbit, all Noel Streatfield’s shoe books, Gone Away Lake, and Julie Andrew’s book Mandy.
    Here are some weirder ones that I loved:
    Ready-made Family by Frances Salomon Murphy
    http://www.amazon.com/Ready-made-Family-Frances-Salomon-Murphy/dp/B000GS0HXG
    The trolley car family by Eleanor Lowenton Clymer
    http://www.amazon.com/Trolley-Family-Eleanor-Lowenton-Clymer/dp/0590407325/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1275086514&sr=1-1
    Primrose Day by Caroline Haywood
    http://www.amazon.com/Primrose-Odyssey-Harcourt-Young-Classic/dp/0152052291/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1275086627&sr=8-2
    I am sure I can think of more! But gosh… she is at the most magical age!

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  19. I don’t know if these are too old for a 6-year-old, but I just loved the Trixie Belden books. They have a loving family which still tends to bicker some, two girls who are a team of young detectives (someone for her to “be” in the story), and great adventures full of mysteries to solve, but though there are bad guys, their plans are not scary. I collected the entire series as a kid and still sometimes like to go back and read them!

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