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       Family Sabbatical (Nancy Pearl's Book Crush Rediscoveries), p.1

           Carol Ryrie Brink
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Family Sabbatical (Nancy Pearl's Book Crush Rediscoveries)

  This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, organizations, places, events, and incidents are either products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.

  Text copyright © 1956 Carol Ryrie Brink

  Introduction copyright © 2015 Nancy Pearl

  All rights reserved.

  No part of this book may be reproduced, or stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without express written permission of the publisher.

  Published by Two Lions, New York

  Amazon, the Amazon logo, and Two Lions are trademarks of, Inc., or its affiliates.

  ISBN-13: 9781477830413 (hardcover)

  ISBN-10: 1477830413 (hardcover)

  ISBN-13: 9781477829981 (paperback)

  ISBN-10: 1477829989 (paperback)

  Book design by Abby Dening

  This book is affectionately dedicated to

  Mary Claire Brink


  Katie Lynn Hunter,

  and also to Mary Q. Phillips,

  who likes to collect stones


  Introduction by Nancy Pearl

  1 The Grand Hotel and So Forth and So Forth

  2 The Governess

  3 Rocks and a Princess

  4 A Secret from George

  5 It Happens Every Year, but Not Always the Same Way

  6 Dumpling Has an Important Conversation

  7 Susan Begins to Solve a Mystery

  8 Different Thanksgiving

  9 The Sorrows of Departure

  10 First Stop on the Journey

  11 Numéro 54

  12 The Last Castle

  13 The School of the Earnest Camel

  14 Adventure at the Zoo

  15 Mickey and Minnie

  16 Many Cats

  17 The Little Things

  18 Godmother’s Magic

  19 Dumpling Speaks Her Mind

  20 Last Page of a Diary

  FAMILY STORIES: Further Reading by Nancy Pearl



  by Nancy Pearl

  CAROL RYRIE BRINK was born in the small university town of Moscow, Idaho, in 1895, and died in La Jolla, California, at age eighty-five. Over a writing career that spanned forty-plus years, she authored, by my count, thirty books. Most of her published works were aimed at children, but she also wrote several adult novels.

  And yet, despite having had such a long and productive career as a writer—her first book, Anything Can Happen on the River, was published in 1934, and her last, Four Girls on a Homestead, in 1977—she’s remembered these days almost solely for her historical novel, Caddie Woodlawn, which won the Newbery Award, the highest honor given to books for children, in 1936.

  Caddie Woodlawn takes place on a farm in Wisconsin in the 1860s. It features a high-spirited, impossible-not-to-like young heroine, Caroline Augusta Woodlawn, nicknamed Caddie. The stories in the novel were based on the life of Carol Ryrie Brink’s grandmother, Caroline Woodhouse Watkins, who raised Carol after she was left an orphan at age eight.

  Caddie Woodlawn is a wonderful evocation of ordinary life in the Upper Midwest during the years of the Civil War (although in recent years it’s come under some serious criticism for its depiction of Native Americans), but many of her other books make for delightfully good reading as well. I’ve included three in the Book Crush Rediscoveries series: The Highly Trained Dogs of Professor Petit, Family Grandstand, and Family Sabbatical.

  When I was working with children during the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s (first as a children’s librarian, and then as a bookseller in a small independent bookstore), there was a popular genre of children’s fiction known as “family stories,” and Brink’s novels Family Grandstand and Family Sabbatical are quintessential examples of such. In the last twenty years or so I haven’t often heard that term used by my librarian or bookseller friends. These days, the books that are most requested by children and teens in libraries, and those that end up on the best-seller lists, tend to be both fast paced and super exciting, often incorporating elements of the supernatural (think the Harry Potter and Twilight series, to name an obvious two), or set in future dystopian worlds (think the The Hunger Games and Divergent series). By no stretch of the imagination can the family story, which probably reached its height of popularity during the 1950s, be described as fast paced, or even particularly exciting, and the genre certainly never incorporated elements of the supernatural (except, perhaps, for a mother’s “eyes in the back of her head,” or the uncanny ability to know when her children were telling her less than the complete truth). Yet these novels possess a charm of their own, and books within this genre will still, in my experience, appeal to many a middle-grade reader. The closest analogy to the family story genre on the small screen was probably the series Leave It To Beaver, which ran from 1957 to 1963, although the humor in most of the genre’s books, especially Brink’s two novels, is much more subtle, and gentler.

  Family Grandstand, which was first published in 1952, and its sequel, Family Sabbatical, originally published in 1956, together tell the story of the Ridgeways, a typical 1950s family (at least according to the popular stereotypes of the day). They live in a large inviting house on a tree-lined street in a college town in the Midwest. The house, unlike any others that they know about, has a tower with five windows, through which the family can watch the world around them. Mr. Ridgeway is a respected professor and Mrs. Ridgeway is a homemaker (or, as we’d say today, she doesn’t work outside the home); she’s attempting to write a mystery novel and makes, as the book jacket of the 1967 edition says, “the world’s best doughnuts.” The three children who are at the center of the book are twelve-year-old Susan, ten-year-old George, and six-year-old Irene, who’s known as Dumpling (“because of her roundness in the middle”).

  In Family Grandstand, each chapter is devoted to an event in the life of the family, including the days leading up to and the celebration of George’s birthday; Susan’s experiences babysitting for the little boys known as the Terrible Torrences, whose birthday present to George is a very large and extremely friendly stray dog, which was “almost as big as a pony,” and “something between a Great Dane, a mastiff, and a Saint Bernard”; and the interesting question of whether or not Dumpling is a prodigy. Other chapters are devoted to exploring what happens to Tommy Tucker, the college’s football star who mows their lawn but is in danger of flunking his chemistry class and becoming ineligible to play for the team.

  Family Sabbatical takes the family to France for several months, where Professor Ridgeway is doing research. Again, the humor is embedded in everyday activities and the behavior of the children: George’s habit of picking up rocks wherever the family goes and insisting on packing them in his suitcase to take home, Dumpling’s devotion to her doll, their good-natured teasing of Mademoiselle Beauregard, the woman who’s hired to teach them French, and their experience of celebrating both Thanksgiving and Christmas in a foreign country.

  These two novels not only describe events that children today—more than sixty years after the original publication of Family Grandstand and Family Sabbatical—can easily identify with (what animal lover, for example, hasn’t dreamed of rescuing a stray dog with a loving personality; I know that as a child I did) but offer a compelling picture of a loving family. (No dystopias here.)

  I hope your children enjoy these two books as much as thousands of readers in the 1950s, 60s, and 70s did.

  —Nancy Pearl

The Grand Hotel and So Forth and So Forth

  Susan had a beautiful new notebook open before her. On the cover she had printed in red ink:

  PRIVATE DIARY —Susan Ridgeway

  Everyone else keep out!!!

  Below this was drawn a skull and crossbones, and the words this means YOU were added, so that no persons could possibly feel that Susan was inviting them to read what she had written.

  So far the book was completely blank, but now Susan began to write. In spite of the warnings on the cover of the book, her younger brother and sister, George and Dumpling, were hanging over her shoulders to see how she would start her diary. She wrote:

  October first,

  Cannes, France

  “Why do they spell it with two ‘n’s and an ‘e’ when they call it ‘Can,’ as in tin can?” asked George.

  “Please don’t bother me,” Susan said. “It’s just a funny way the French have of spelling, I suppose.”

  “Be sure to write ‘Grand Hotel and So Forth and So Forth,’ ” said Dumpling.

  “Please don’t rush me,” Susan said, and she began to write “Grand Hotel Majestic et de l’Univers,” which took quite a long time.

  George had plenty of time to exclaim, “Grand Hotel Majestic and of the Universe”; and Dumpling to say, “It’s easier to say ‘Grand Hotel and So Forth and So Forth,’ the way Mother says.”

  “But I want my diary to be very correct and accurate,” Susan said, “because I’m the only one in the family who is keeping a proper record. Mother and Daddy are too busy, and the rest of you are too young.”

  “I’m not too young,” said George. “I’m almost eleven—and, by the way, my birthday—”

  “We are too lazy,” said Dumpling, “and we have to spend more time playing, don’t we, George?”

  “Well, it would be an awful bore to have to write down everything we do in a book,” George said. “Susan can do it.”

  “Oh, I shan’t write everything,” Susan said. “Only important things. I really should have started as soon as we left Midwest City, but I got the idea of a diary after we reached France. Now I’ll have to tell very quickly about how Mother sold her mystery book and Daddy got sabbatical leave from the university, and about all the boats and trains and things.”

  “I still don’t know what is this about Daddy and Sabbath Eve,” Dumpling said. She stood clutching her rag doll, Irene, close in her arms, and looking through her glasses with troubled eyes. Perhaps because of her glasses Dumpling looked wiser than she really was, and of course, after all, she was only seven. So George and Susan began to explain it all to her for the sixth or eleventh or some such number of times.

  “It’s because Daddy wants to write a book on history,” George said.

  “I know about the book,” said Dumpling. “It’s the Sabbath thing I don’t know.”

  “Well,” said Susan, “every seven days is the Sabbath, isn’t it? And that’s a day of rest.”

  “So,” said George, “when a professor has been teaching at the university for seven years, they let him take a year of rest if he wants to, or six months, the way we’re doing.”

  “But Daddy isn’t resting,” said Dumpling. “He’s working very hard.”

  “They don’t really rest,” Susan explained, “but they don’t have to teach classes, and they can study and work in some pleasant place like Europe, and the university pays them half their salary.”

  “When Daddy has his outline made for the book, we’ll all go up to Paris, where he can work and study things in the libraries.”

  “So his book will be correct and accurate, like my diary,” said Susan.

  “I see,” said Dumpling, but Susan and George were very much afraid that they would have to explain it all over to her again in a few days, because the sabbatical part of it really was rather hard to understand.

  “Now, please, please don’t bother me,” Susan begged, and she began to write. Yesterday we arrived here in a taxi with all our bags and a small trunk and everything on top of the taxi and us inside. Each one of us has a special bag of his own.

  She stopped writing, because she had already started to get writer’s cramp in her right hand. But in her mind’s eye she saw herself and the members of her family standing in a row on the pavement before the Grand Hotel, each one holding the things he valued most. Father had the precious briefcase with the passports, the travelers’ checks, and the manuscript of the book he was writing. Mother was clutching her handbag and a small portable typewriter and a paper parcel of cookies in case anyone got hungry. Each child’s own bag held nightclothes and toothbrushes and special possessions. Susan had a Kodak, a paintbox, the new diary, some beautiful pale-pink writing paper, a deck of Authors cards, and one of Mother’s discarded lipsticks. Dumpling’s bag was stuffed with small toys, half-cut-out sheets of paper dolls, and all the bits and pieces of Irene’s wardrobe. Irene, of course, she carried in her arms.

  But George’s suitcase weighed the most because, besides carrying a stuffed bird and an imitation turtle that waggled its head and legs, he was making a collection of rocks. Whenever they stopped for the night on their journey, George picked up a rock for a souvenir. They had been traveling for about three weeks now, and Mother was glad for this reason that they were about to settle down for a while. “If George has to carry any more rocks,” she said, “the poor child’s back will break in two.”

  The Grand Hotel Majestic et de l’Univers rose up from the pavement to a considerable height, and it looked quite old and dreary. While the rest of the family were waiting for him in the railway station, Father had gone ahead and selected it as the place in which to spend several months. Now that he had brought them to it, he suddenly looked rather apologetic.

  “I’m afraid this is the best I could do, dear,” he said to Mother.

  “But, darling,” Mother said brightly, “how could you possibly have done any better? The very name of it—Grand Hotel Majestic and of the Universe! What could be better?”

  “Well,” Father said, “the bathrooms are odd, and there’s no central heating, and it’s very, very old; but, on the other hand, it’s quite cheap and it has a wonderful garden where the children can play.”

  “But where is the garden?” the children asked. It certainly was not visible from where they were standing.

  “French gardens are at the back,” Father said.

  So then they had gone in, through the vast lobby with the torn carpet and the potted palms and the cherubs painted on the ceiling. They had gone through the small hall with the two great mirrors opposite each other, arranged so that if you stood between them you could see yourself reflected back and forth hundreds of times until you receded away into the distance on either side and vanished into two pinpoints. Then they had gone on through the writing room, which would be just the place for Mother’s and Father’s work. And then they had come to the garden! It was very large and old and overgrown.

  “Just like the Sleeping Beauty’s garden,” Susan had said at once. “Oh, what wonderful stories we can make up here and act them out all over the place!”

  Then they knew that Father’s choice had been good and that this was just the place for them.

  Now Susan began to write again. She wrote, The garden has pine trees and a mossy fountain. It has paths and benches and a rock grotto.

  “Don’t forget the lizards on the wall at the back,” said George.

  “Or the little play place under the trees for Irene’s house,” said Dumpling.

  “Or the trains that go by beyond the lizard wall,” said George, “or the palm trees.”

  “I was just getting to the palm trees,” Susan said, “but I can’t remember how to spell it. Does the ‘l’ come before the ‘a’ or after?”

  “P-o-m,” spelled George. “Don’t worry about the ‘l.’ ”

  “And, Susie,” Dumpling said, “tell about the little statue of a baby with an umbrella that stands in the middle of the fountain.”

bsp; Suddenly Susan and George looked at Dumpling and said together, “Dumpling, isn’t this a nice place?”

  “Yes,” Dumpling said, “this is nice, but home is better.” No matter how they tried to catch her off guard, Dumpling always answered them this way.

  Of course it had been hard for all of them to leave home. For instance, George had been obliged to leave every one of his animals. But good homes had finally been found for them. The Terrible Torrences, who were Very Good little neighbor boys, had taken George’s dog. The Gimmick boys had taken his guinea pigs, rabbits, and white mice. Grandma Ridgeway had taken his canary bird. All these pets would be returned to George at the end of the trip.

  Susan had had to leave her piano, and Mother had had to leave her kitchen, but neither one of them really seemed to mind very much.

  “No more practicing!” Susan had said, and Mother said, “Imagine a whole six months without frying doughnuts or baking cookies! Three cheers and a rah!”

  The children had looked very doubtful at that, and Dumpling had said, “Mother, what shall we eat?”

  And Mother, in her funny way, had replied, “Nectar and ambrosia and manna from heaven!” but Father said sensibly, “She means we’ll eat in hotels as long as our money holds out, and after that we’ll come home.”

  Dumpling was the only one who carried her most beloved possession with her everywhere she went. Her old rag doll, Irene, was the one thing from which she could never be parted. Yet, oddly enough, Dumpling was the one who seemed to miss home most.

  Whenever they saw some strange and wonderful new thing, such as an ocean liner or a castle or a Punch and Judy show or a donkey cart or white oxen plowing in a field, George and Susan would say, “Look there, Dumpling! Isn’t this nice?” But Dumpling would always answer, “Yes, this is nice, but home is better.”

  Mother said that it was because Dumpling was still little, and that six months away from home seemed to her forever, while to the others it was only six months. But Susan and George were still puzzled and bothered about Dumpling. They were always showing her something new and asking her what she thought of it. They hoped sometime to find that she liked one of the wonderful sights of Europe as well as she liked home. But so far Dumpling’s reply had always been the same.

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