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The Saturdays (The Melendy Family, #1)
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Fiction Club Archive > Feb 2015 Pick - The Saturdays by Elizabeth Enright

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Jasmine | 160 comments Based on reader poll, the majority choose The Saturdays by Elizabeth Enright. Please join us with your experience in reading about the Melendy family and their Saturday adventures.


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Manybooks | 7680 comments Mod
I've been wanting to read this forever (I'm only afraid that if I like it, I will end up doing what I usually do with series, get the others, and I have no shelf room for books left, lol).


message 3: by Cheryl has hopes her life will calm down soonish, Newbery Club host (last edited Jan 31, 2015 02:06PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Cheryl has hopes her life will calm down soonish (cherylllr) | 6442 comments Mod
What's especially fascinating is that the author of this, Elizabeth Enright, won the Newbery medal for Thimble Summer just a couple of years before this was published.... and, we're discussing that book in the Newbery Club here this same month!

Though I've read this fairly recently, I did give it 4 stars, so it could stand a reread - especially so I can compare the two books with you-all in both Clubs. :)


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I actually had to purchase a copy because our library does not have it (strangely enough, it has others of the series, but not the first one, something I find a bit perplexing).


message 6: by Emily (last edited Feb 08, 2015 12:09PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Emily I read The Saturdays, and the three sequels, multiple times when I was a kid, so it's one of those books that's just ingrained in my being, and I love it so much it's hard to be objective about it. I can see though, that Enright is better at characterization and descriptive writing than she is at plotting. The "ISAAC" club in The Saturdays does give the book a structure of a sort, but it's in reality, quite episodic, especially with the "story within a story" chapters (Mrs. Oliphant and the gypsies, Pearl the hairdresser). This is device Enright uses a lot, in all her fiction for kids.

Many present day readers of the book are amazed at the freedom the kids have to roam the streets of NYC -- 10 year old Randy certainly wouldn't be allowed to go to an art exhibition on her own nowadays! Otherwise though, despite it a portrait being the NYC of 70 years ago, is still seems fresh to me, and not as much of an old fashioned period piece compared to many other books of a similar vintage. The references to WII (especially Cuffy scolding Mona by reminding her the suffering of people in Europe) added a certain poignance when I first reread the book as an adult.


Lisa Vegan (lisavegan) | 1077 comments I loved this series when I was young. My favorite book in it was The Four-Story Mistake but I loved all of them. I might try to reread this with the group. I probably haven't read it since I left elementary school.


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Manybooks | 7680 comments Mod
Lisa wrote: "I loved this series when I was young. My favorite book in it was The Four-Story Mistake but I loved all of them. I might try to reread this with the group. I probably haven't read it ..."

It would be my first time, and I do expect to enjoy it.


Lisa Vegan (lisavegan) | 1077 comments Gundula wrote: "It would be my first time, and I do expect to enjoy it."

Gundula, I think you will! They're really charming and engaging books.


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Anne Nydam | 124 comments I didn't discover this book until a few years ago, when I read it aloud to my kids who would then have been maybe about 8. We all loved the whole series. My kids will claim they don't particularly like historical fiction or realistic fiction, but Enright gave her characters enough imagination and sense of wonder that we all could really relate to them and get curious about what they would do next. I highly recommend them as read-alouds because I think they'll be appealing to a fairly wide age range, as well as allowing for occasional discussion of history.
Gundula, probably your library used to have a copy but it was lost, and because it's not in particularly high demand, they don't replace it. Our library has had that with some books, too.


Jenny | 722 comments I really enjoyed this! It was my first time reading it and I loved the characters. Here is my review:


I loved this sweet story of four children who decide to pool their allowance each week so that each Saturday one of them can go have a wonderful outing. I enjoyed seeing their unique personalities shine through and really enjoyed that overall the siblings were such good friends. Problems arose but overall, this was a warm and loving family. At times, things probably did work out a little too perfectly, but I found this such a refreshing book.

(Not to be misunderstood....there definitely is a place for books about sibling rivalries, broken homes, and families of all types.... But it is nice to have a happy family featured in a book...they had their struggles...mom had died so they had Cuffy. Nearly died from gas poisoning...etc....)

So glad I was able to read this gem along with the rest of you.

As for the children wandering around New York alone...I agree that it isn't believable today and yet other more recent books have children not much older going on similar escapades...although I guess that is more common in fantasy stories (Percy Jackson comes to mind). But we discussed a similar disbelief when we read The Ring of Rocamadour. Although they were 12-13.


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Anne wrote: "I didn't discover this book until a few years ago, when I read it aloud to my kids who would then have been maybe about 8. We all loved the whole series. My kids will claim they don't particularl..."

Our library has a few such books. So far, I've only ordered the first book, but if I even remotely like the first book, I will not be able to resist the entire series (although I am drowning in books, and series of books, lol).


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Manybooks | 7680 comments Mod
Jenny wrote: "I really enjoyed this! It was my first time reading it and I loved the characters. Here is my review:


I loved this sweet story of four children who decide to pool their allowance each week so ..."


One thing I have noticed with so many more recent historical fiction books (and general fiction books) is the fact that doom and gloom, struggles, bullying issues seem to have overtaken the themes. I think a bit more of a balance would be nice.


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Melody Doyle | 1 comments I somehow missed this author and series of books as a child, but I ended up reading it and the others in the series this past summer. It was delightful. I didn't find the story dated, even though it obviously is from a more innocent time. The writing is wonderful, and I think kids today would enjoy the idea of having a Saturday of their own to go on a solo adventure. Sadly, the world we live in doesn't lend itself to children wandering around on their own in most places, but I think that would make the story all the more entertaining to them. I intend to read this book to my daughter. Hopefully, she'll enjoy it as much as I did.


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Anne Nydam | 124 comments Oh, I so agree about the doom and gloom! There seems to be a belief in publishing now that good and happy things somehow are less "realistic" than deep, heavy, painful Issues. But of course life consists of both, and personally I prefer to think about how to find the joy even in ordinary situations. That's what's so nice about this series: the characters generally choose a positive outlook on things and make hardships into opportunities.

As for all the discussion about the kids' independence, I do believe that most of us could safely let our children do a lot more. If you talk on your cell phone while driving your children, you're probably putting them in much more danger than they'd been in with a little more independence! But my real point is that I think it's healthy for kids to see examples of independence. Maybe this book could spark a conversation about differences in time and place, and let children express their fears and their beliefs about what they could handle. Maybe kids and parents together could brainstorm some independent things the kids might do. Even if it isn't going into NYC all by themselves for a day, maybe they could be left at a museum to explore by themselves and meet parents again afterwards. Or perhaps there's a craft project they could take on without any help (or interference) from adults. It could be really interesting to ask children what sort of a Saturday they might like.


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Anne wrote: "Oh, I so agree about the doom and gloom! There seems to be a belief in publishing now that good and happy things somehow are less "realistic" than deep, heavy, painful Issues. But of course life ..."

There is way too much hysteria about children's safety nowadays, especially considering that most danger to children is actually not from strangers but form family members or people known to them (they just arrested three Missouri women who had actually kidnapped their son/grandson/nephew in oder to teach him a lesson because he was supposedly "too nice"). But I also think that what used to be considered as normal childhood injuries like sprained knees and the like is considered unacceptable for many parents. And as you have mentioned, since most children have cell phones, a bit more independence can likely be granted, as long as some ground rules are established.

One of the things I have noticed with recent historical novels written about the Depression, for example, is that the recent books tend to almost exclusively focus on the poverty, on family dysfunction, on sexism, basically on negativity and struggle, while many books written during the Depression, while acknowledging poverty, also often focus on families that love one another, that work with one another and that are basically happy (a good example of the doom and gloom aspect of more recent Depression era novels is the "Family Tree" series by Ann M. Martin which while interesting, almost exclusively features problematic characters, disease, dysfunction and the like, while a good example of a contemporary Depression era novel that acknowledges poverty issues, family issues but in general portrays a happy and very resourceful family and its neighbours is Newbery Honour book, Winterbound). I think there needs to be a better balance across the board, and happy and positive books do not have to be saccharine and unrealistic either (if one uses balance). And frankly, too much doom and gloom is as depressing as too much saccharine sweetness; moderation is the key, I think.


Cheryl has hopes her life will calm down soonish (cherylllr) | 6442 comments Mod
I agree that children need to have more freedom to make mistakes. If they're too sheltered, they'll not learn how to survive mistakes; they won't become resilient. Note that the kids did get lots of advice (don't talk to strangers etc.)... And that the near-drowning happened when they were all together, and the house fire was at home....

I also agree that this doesn't read like modern bleak historical fiction. Indeed, it does (except for the money) hold up well as a simple realistic story.

Re' Enright - I felt the ubiety of NYC keenly here, and the same of the rural midwest in Thimble Summer. I'm impressed.

Anyway, I did say, and still believe, from my review from my first read, about four years ago, this:

It's a little implausible (how convenient that the children have no mother and a largely absent father and just exactly enough money, pluck, and affection for one another!), but still charming.


Tricia Douglas (teachgiftedkids) | 312 comments I've had this book on my shelf for a while and am glad to finally read it. Since we just finished Thimble Summer for another of my GR groups, I knew I would probably like this Enright book too. And I did! As Cheryl said above and I agree - that it's a little implausible how these children have no mother (do we know the reason?) and a rather negligent father (do we know his job?) and can run all over NYC without supervision. I thought their choices for "fun" were very cultural (a good thing, I guess) and their adventures were never discussed beforehand with the father and housekeeper. Their independence was something that back then might have been okay, but in a big city even then I thought it still strange for children to roam around by themselves. These children were very knowledgeable and knew about Hitler and the Nazis, composers, art, and what they wanted to be when they grew up. Enright did a good job of writing and developing the characters during this time period. It sure is different from today's kids! But I did enjoy the book and I have the other three from this series and hope to find time to read them too.


Emily The mother died -- we're never exactly told when or how. Father, we learn as the series progresses, is an economist who by the third book is working as a consultant to the Pentagon, but at this point it's not at all clear where his income, if any, comes from. No wonder there was no money for a vacation!


Jenny | 722 comments Interesting, because I didn't feel like the father was negligent. He seemed to be away at work often (but that seems realistic to me..both as a single parent but also given the time period in which this was written) but the relationship between the children and father seemed to be warm and positive. It didn't seem to be a huge emphasis of the book..the emphasis was more on the relationships between the children and on their adventures but it didn't seem like he was negligent. When asked about the Saturdays, he gave them advice/rules. Perhaps not as much guidance as we might think appropriate but rules nonetheless. When the fire happened and money was tight, he explained the situation and the children eagerly wanted to do what they could to help. Particularly as this was written in an earlier era when fathers were often not as involved in the raising of the children, I didn't get the impression that he was a poor father. In addition, it often seems that middle grade fiction has one or both parents missing to one degree or another so that children can take center stage.


Cheryl has hopes her life will calm down soonish (cherylllr) | 6442 comments Mod
I didn't feel he was negligent. He was just conveniently less involved than I felt fully plausible.


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Manybooks | 7680 comments Mod
Cheryl wrote: "I didn't feel he was negligent. He was just conveniently less involved than I felt fully plausible."

Well, that seems to be a bit of a pattern, I think. In Winterbound the father was also conveniently absent, even before Penny had to go to New Mexico (but at least she appears as a character, you only every hear about the father, and not all that much either).


Cheryl has hopes her life will calm down soonish (cherylllr) | 6442 comments Mod
In the group Great Middle Grade reads we have a rich discussion thread called "Dead Parents Society." I agree with Jenny that "middle grade fiction has one or both parents missing to one degree or another so that children can take center stage."


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Jane | 69 comments I enjoyed The Saturdays a little bit more than I thought I would. My favorite Saturday was
Oliver 's. Oliver was smart enough to find his way to the circus. Oliver was not going to be denied his Saturday adventure. As the youngest of my siblings, I can so relate. Anything my brothers did, I had to do better. Oliver's sense of adventure resonated with me.
I would love to recommend. this book to my students. However, I have the feeling the students would find the vocabulary dated. Words like swell, gee, and keen just are not used any more. Also, the illustrations in my copy look dated as well.


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Manybooks | 7680 comments Mod
Jane wrote: "I enjoyed The Saturdays a little bit more than I thought I would. My favorite Saturday was
Oliver 's. Oliver was smart enough to find his way to the circus. Oliver was not going to be denied his S..."


I've noticed the rather dated vocabulary as well. However, that type of vocabulary was dated even when I was a kid, and while I had not not read read The Saturdays as a youngster, I did read other classical children's literature from the same era, and while I noticed the different types of common speech, It not only did not bother me, I found it historically interesting (so while some children might find the vocabulary too dated, others would likely be like me and enjoy a trip down history lane, so to speak).


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Lisa Vegan (lisavegan) | 1077 comments I find I can introduce books from earlier eras to today's children and they usually enjoy them, as long as I introduce them as period pieces, as historical fiction or history. I loved many books when I was a kid that were dated back then. Like Gundula, I found them interesting, and liked reading about kids/people from earlier times and various places.


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Manybooks | 7680 comments Mod
Lisa wrote: "I find I can introduce books from earlier eras to today's children and they usually enjoy them, as long as I introduce them as period pieces, as historical fiction or history. I loved many books wh..."

I think that we often give children far too little credit and that while there might be some who will not ever be interested in dated books, dated vocabulary and the like, most will enjoy these books as historical pieces (as long as it is not overdone). Of course, the general writing style must also be appealing (if the books are not only dated with regard to themes and vocabulary used, but also demonstrate an uneven and choppy narrative flow, that is another story).


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June (june_krell) | 121 comments Gundula wrote: "I actually had to purchase a copy because our library does not have it (strangely enough, it has others of the series, but not the first one, something I find a bit perplexing)."

Gundula, I would let your system know. Probably, their copies were lost and I would think they would want to have the first in the series. They might even have an online request form.


Cheryl has hopes her life will calm down soonish (cherylllr) | 6442 comments Mod
I had no trouble with reading 'old-fashioned' books, either, unless the slang was overwhelming, like in some works by Nesbit. I felt proud when I could figure out new-to-me words and concepts. And I *love* Enright's art - so wonderful she drew her own illustrations, to capture the children as she saw them.

It's all about how the book is presented to the children. I think the modern cover, The Saturdays (The Melendy Family, #1) by Elizabeth Enright might have the unintended consequence of making the young reader feel betrayed when s/he opens the book and finds out that the expectation doesn't match the reward.

I *think* a better cover would be: The Saturdays by Elizabeth Enright .


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Manybooks | 7680 comments Mod
June wrote: "Gundula wrote: "I actually had to purchase a copy because our library does not have it (strangely enough, it has others of the series, but not the first one, something I find a bit perplexing)."

G..."


I've made requests in the past, but they've never been considered.


message 31: by Manybooks (last edited Feb 14, 2015 09:15AM) (new) - added it

Manybooks | 7680 comments Mod
Cheryl wrote: "I had no trouble with reading 'old-fashioned' books, either, unless the slang was overwhelming, like in some works by Nesbit. I felt proud when I could figure out new-to-me words and concepts. An..."

I think one of the problems with Nesbit it the fact that it is not just dated slang, but dated and specifically British slang (I don't mind so much having to look things up in the dictionary as an adult, but as a child this would have annoyed and distracted me). And I would agree that the more recent book cover is a bit misleading (as it makes it appear as though the father is more present than he actually is, and that there appears to be a mother as well).


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June (june_krell) | 121 comments Gundula wrote: "June wrote: "Gundula wrote: "I actually had to purchase a copy because our library does not have it (strangely enough, it has others of the series, but not the first one, something I find a bit per..."

Sorry, to hear that. My system is required to respond and will say, if it is available inter-library loan, if they won't purchase it and give a reason.


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Manybooks | 7680 comments Mod
June wrote: "Gundula wrote: "June wrote: "Gundula wrote: "I actually had to purchase a copy because our library does not have it (strangely enough, it has others of the series, but not the first one, something ..."

I wish my library were liked that, sigh.


Cheryl has hopes her life will calm down soonish (cherylllr) | 6442 comments Mod
I agree that the taller figures on the new cover look more like parents than kids, which is another reason I don't care for it. I'm sure they are meant to be Mona and Rush, though.


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Lisa Vegan (lisavegan) | 1077 comments I almost always prefer original cover images.

I agree that if they look too modern for the story it can be a shock for readers once they start reading.


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Cheryl wrote: "I agree that the taller figures on the new cover look more like parents than kids, which is another reason I don't care for it. I'm sure they are meant to be Mona and Rush, though."

Ah, I see, I thought they were the father and the housekeeper.


message 37: by Powder River Rose (last edited Feb 15, 2015 12:11PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Powder River Rose (powderriverrose) I find it funny that some can't seem to take the story on its merits of goodness and moral decency but tend to find everything wrong i.e, "what kids would ever do this?" or "where's the father?" or, or, or. Actually, even though I'm too young to know for sure I speak with older folks all the time and many did do similar types of escapades or adventures and then of course many were so poor they had to make their own kind of play and that usually didn't include being sheltered....

I read this series earlier last year and enjoyed every book. The characters were heartwarming, good people who loved family, kindness, good deeds and above all...adventure. For even greater clarity and enjoyment why not get it in audio format and listen with your entire family--young and old. Truly I hope each of you who do read the book find it as entertaining and lovely as I did. It may be unbelievable but wouldn't the world be delightful if everyone could have a "Saturday" as did the Melendys.


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