…when I was eleven years old, I first discovered Elizabeth Enright‘s wonderful books. Beginning with The Saturdays through Spiderweb for Two, the Melendy family’s adventures riveted my attention. Each of Enright’s fictional children, Mona, Rush, Randy and Oliver stepped right off the pages–as real and three-dimensional as any of my school friends. And they seemed to be having even more fun. The author’s beautiful line drawings add to the charm of her writings.
Enright wrote other good books including her Newbery Award-winning Thimble Summer, but the Melendy books are my favorites.
For the best–and most popular of all–horse stories, Walter Farley‘s excellent Black Stallion series is unbeatable. After publication of his first book, The Black Stallion, in 1941, Farley’s career path was assured; children clamored for more and more stories of Alec Ramsay and his big black horse. The Island Stallion series followed, along with a semi-fictional biography of Big Red, Man o’ War, and other great books.
Among vintage series books of the World War II era, I’ve always liked Le Grand‘s Augustus books. A bright and adventurous 11-year-old Southern boy with the spirit of Huckleberry Finn, Augustus and his sister Glorianna and little brother Jupiter assisted the war effort in Augustus Helps the Navy, ditto the Army and the Marines, not to mention Augustus Flies and Augustus Drives a Jeep. All are out of print and hard to find nowadays. Le Grand (Le Grand Henderson) also illustrated his own books.
Lois Lenski’s books are largely stand-alones, and she too illustrated her own work: such books as Strawberry Girl; Blue Ridge Billy and Bayou Suzette are stories of children living in various regions of the United States. All are very collectable today. Lenski also illustrated the books of other authors, such as the very popular Betsy-Tacy girls’ series titles written by Maud Hart Lovelace.