The Saturdays (And Other Free-Range Books From the Past)

Hi Readers — A note from a reader who’s a reader, Linda Wightman, who blogs at Lift Up Your Hearts:

Dear Free-Range Kids: I seem to be seeing everything through Free-Range eyes these days. I don’t know how old you are, but did you or your kids ever read Elizabeth Enright’s The Saturdays, The Four-Story Mistake, and other Melendy tales? I was recently re-reading them, on the grounds that any book good enough for children is good enough for an adult seeking distraction from the pain caused by imprudently descending from high altitude with a head cold.

To quote from my own review of the books (can’t I do anything without writing about it?):

What struck me most … was how very much [these books] are a Free-Range Kids manifesto. The kids are far less worldly-wise than today’s average children, but far more competent. They are entertained and even awed by things that would cause most modern American kids to yawn with boredom and make rude remarks. But they wander New York City on their own at 10 years old (with permission) and even six (without); they love Beethoven, and Shakespeare; they wander over hill and dale (in the country), sometimes gone all day and returning home after dark; they sew, and cook, and build things; they put on plays and arrange benefit concerts for the war effort (the books were written in the 1940’s); they get into scrapes and get out of them by a combination of their own ingenuity and knowing when to ask for help from the adults around them. They know the “don’t talk to strangers” rule, and more importantly they know its many exceptions.

Yes, I know this is fiction! But it’s a lot more true to what I knew when I was growing up than most of today’s “realistic” children’s fiction. The people over at Free-Range Kids are an eclectic lot, and I doubt they’d all enjoy Enright’s books, but to me the Melendys are a shining example of the “normal childhood” that many Free-Rangers are working hard to promote. Books like these can encourage both children and their parents in that endeavor, simultaneously promoting family love and loyalty, parental authority, and children’s competence and independence.

And now I’m reading another book on statistics with a (false) life of their own, and you know exactly what I though of….

Keep up the campaign! — Linda Wightman

Lenore here again: I remember  reading and re-reading The Saturdays and the rest of the series. And as for my age: I’m old enough to not remember much of anything about those books except that I LOVED them. (For the record, I was NOT reading them in the 40s!) — L.