The Four-Story Mistake: Old Country House! Secret Room! Exploring!

The Four-Story Mistake is written by Elizabeth Enright. It was first published in 1942 by Henry Holt; I read the 1997 Puffin version. It is the second book in the Melendy family quartet. Learn more about Enright and her books here.

Summary/Blurb:

“It’s a house full of secrets—and it’s all theirs!

Mona, Rush, Randy, and Oliver Melendy have lived in the city their whole lives. How can they move to a house in the country that they’ve never seen? But what their father says goes, and soon they’re on a train to the Four-Story Mistake—an old almost-mansion full of places to hide, old stories to uncover, and more adventures than the Melendys could have imagined!”

What I Liked:

You can probably tell from my review of Return to Gone-Away how much I love old country houses, and although the Four-Story Mistake isn’t quite as old, it’s still a house with secrets, and I loved discovering them with the Melendys. I especially loved all the kids’ exclamations of disgust at how dumb they are as they discover the secret room because what I love most about Enright is her realistic capturing of children and their dialogue. I feel as if the Melendys could have actually existed, as if they were actually real children who grew up during the 40s.

I loved the fact that the children played outdoors all the time (no television!), that they explored and biked and swam all day, every day. As I’ve mentioned in previous reviews, Enright’s books are deliciously free of PC, angst and dark material that so many children’s and YA books tend to have nowadays. Reading these books is like a refreshing spring breeze blowing across your face, something to delight and revel in. I wish more books were written about children making their own fun, hearing stories, discovering secret treasures, making plays and shows, working to help with the war effort and with the family finances, being active participants in the world, rather than being passive participants.

I’ve always thought this was my least favorite book in the quartet, but it’s really not. I love this book a lot; it’s a nice departure from the formula of The Saturdays while still keeping that old Enright charm and humor.

What I Didn’t Like:

Nothing, but that shouldn’t surprise you.

Rating: 5/5

Recommended Age Range: 10+ (or younger!)

Warnings: None.

Genre: Realistic, Children’s

Passages/Quotes:

“Why, look at the walls!” cried Oliver. “There’s pictures and writing all over them!”

It was true. From the ceiling to the floor the sloping walls were covered with pages of pictures and stories cut out of old papers and magazines. They were yellowish brown with age, and here and there were dark stains where the rain had leaked in, but on the whole they were remarkably well preserved, for at the tops of some of the pages there were dates. April 17, 1881, said one of them. September 19, 1879, said another.

~Enright 28

“You want to catch your death? Pile into bed now, it’s almost nine.”

Randy threw her arms around Cuffy’s neck. “Oh, I love Christmas Eve!” she cried. “Even better than Christmas I love it. Because everything’s just about to happen!”

“Influenza’s about to happen if you don’t get into bed with them windows open,” growled Cuffy, giving her a kiss and a shove both at once.

~Enright 113

Overall Review:

I’m really only repeating myself at this point, since I’ve reviewed four Enright books already. She’s amazing and her books are amazing. The Four-Story Mistake is about children having fun in their new house in the country, before things like television and technology kept children inside. Not only do they have fun, but they also each do their own part to help out around the house, through chores and jobs, etc. I love the Melendy family, what else can I say?

You can buy this book here: The Four-Story Mistake (Melendy Quartet)

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