Family Grandstand (Nancy Pearl's Book Crush Rediscoveries), p.1Carol Ryrie Brink
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 © 1952 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 Amazon.com, Inc., or its affiliates.
ISBN-13: 9781477830406 (hardcover)
ISBN-10: 1477830405 (hardcover)
ISBN-13: 9781477830291 (paperback)
ISBN-10: 1477830294 (paperback)
Book design by Abby Dening
This book is for Susan Carol Hunter and Carol Phillips and all the Carols and Susans who enjoy their names
INTRODUCTION by Nancy Pearl
1 They Had a Hero and a Tower
2 The Strange Behavior of Tommy Tucker
3 ’Twas Friday Night
4 Busy Saturday
5 How to Cross a Street
6 Tower Seats
7 The Thousand and One Nights
8 Happy Birthday, Dear Georgie!
9 An Ad in the Paper
10 Tutor for Tommy
11 Leaping Lizard
12 A Turtle Picnic
13 A Ghostly Idea
14 Free as the Air
15 Mice and Flowers
16 Whose Dog?
17 More about the Lizard
18 North River Street
19 Concerning Dean Ambrose
20 A Number of Things
FAMILY STORIES: FURTHER READING By Nancy Pearl
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
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 the book has 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 Harry Potter and Twilight, to name an obvious two), or set in future dystopian worlds (think The Hunger Games and Divergent). 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 it was 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 also 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.
They Had a Hero and a Tower
A wonderful thing had happened to the Ridgeway children during the summer, and now that it was fall some of the glory and importance of the summer still clung to them. The wonderful thing that ha
Mother had a funny way of saying things, and she used to say, when anyone asked her where they lived, “We live on College Avenue and we have the football stadium in our laps.” Of course, then either Susan or George had to explain, “The stadium isn’t really in our laps. It’s a block and a half down the street.”
But with the stadium so near, the Ridgeway children could not help being interested in football. And now that Tommy Tucker was considered the greatest quarterback that the Midwest team had ever had, the Ridgeway children could say proudly, “He mowed our lawn last summer.”
Even in the summer Tommy Tucker had been the children’s hero. Boys and girls from all up and down the street had come to see him mowing the Ridgeway lawn.
“We could charge admission,” George had said, “and make a lot of money.”
But Susan had said, “No. This is a free treat we can give the other children. It would be wrong to charge.”
Professor Ridgeway’s front yard had a low stone wall all around it, and the children could sit on this wall and watch Tommy mow, just as the grown-ups sat around the big stadium down the street on a Saturday afternoon in the fall watching him play football.
“I could print tickets with my rubber stamp set,” George had continued. George was going on ten and had quite a talent for business. “It would be real easy to collect the tickets at the front gate.”
But twelve-year-old Susan had been firm. “No,” she had said, “this is our treat.”
Dumpling, who was six, had said nothing. Dumpling was really named Irene, but because of her roundness in the middle she had never been called anything but Dumpling. She was very quiet, but the glasses that she wore gave her a reputation for wisdom and learning. She did not have to speak; she only had to look thoughtful to impress people.
Like Dumpling, who was never called Irene, Tommy Tucker had another name which was very seldom used. His real name was Thomas Tokarynski, but few people could either pronounce or spell it. It was very difficult when he made a splendid run with the football and scored a touchdown for Midwest University to shout:
Rah! Rah! Rah!”
It was more like sneezing or coughing than cheering and could not easily be done. But one day someone had shouted, “Yay, Tom Tokar!” and someone else had shouted, “Yay, Tommy Tucker!”
The whole crowd of football fans had taken it up, and ever since he had been called by that name. There were all sorts of good yells that went with Tommy Tucker.
“Rah! Rah! Rah! Tucker! Tucker! Tucker!”
“Tommy Tuck! Tommy Tuck!
“Tuck into ’em, Tommy!”
And so forth.
Tommy Tucker was the shortest and lightest man on the football team, but his muscles were as hard as iron, and he was a wonderful runner. One had only to see how the lawn mower whizzed and the grass flew to understand that.
“Tommy,” George would say, “let the kids feel your muscle, will you?” And sometimes, if he had time, Tommy would flex up his arm and let all the children feel it. The muscle was so hard that no one could make a dent in it.
George thought that he might at least have been allowed to print tickets for the privilege of feeling Tommy’s muscle, but Susan always said no.
Susan was older than George and she was quite firm, but it was not so much her age or her firmness that made George and Dumpling accept her decisions. It was her good sense. Experience had taught them that Susan usually knew best. So George did not print up any tickets, and all summer long the sight of Tommy Tucker mowing the lawn was free to every child who cared to walk five to ten blocks to sit on the Ridgeway wall and watch.
Now that fall had come, and school and college had begun, the Ridgeway children did not see so much of Tommy Tucker. Sometimes they would hear his cheerful whistle in the distance, and they would see him going by to classes or football practice. Then he would greet them good-naturedly, tousle Dumpling’s hair or make sparring motions at George, and pass on. For now he had no time to mow lawns.
In fact the Ridgeways’ lawn was very seldom mowed, for Professor Ridgeway was busy, too, and the grass grew long and green. The yellow leaves fell on it from the big elm trees along College Avenue. The little maple tree at the side of the house turned a perfect scarlet, and the elm behind the carriage house turned gold. It was the loveliest time of year in Midwest City.
Now instead of Tommy the Ridgeway children had Dorothy Sturm, and they did not like Dorothy so well. Dorothy was eighteen and she was a very good student, but she did not have enough money to go to college unless she worked for her room and board. So that fall she had come with her cardboard suitcase and her box of books to live at the Ridgeways’ house and to help Mother with the housework while Mother finished writing her mystery novel.
Dorothy might easily have replaced Tommy in the children’s affections, but somehow she didn’t. The trouble with Dorothy was that she was always in a hurry getting things done. When the children came around to ask her questions or to tell her what they had been doing, Dorothy just said, “Scram!” or sometimes, “Am-scray!” She did not say it unkindly, but as if she had too many more important things on her mind to be bothered.
Dorothy knew how to peel potatoes with the fewest possible motions of the hands and the least waste of potato. She made a bed quite well in one minute by going only twice on each side of it, while Mother drifted like a cloud around and around it, thinking her own thoughts, and taking a long time.
“Dorothy is a jewel,” Mother said. But the children thought Dorothy might have been more fun.
The Ridgeways had a nice big yard, and their house was the oldest one in the block. Mother said it had been built in the year one, but that was just her funny way of saying 1895. It was a wonderful house. It had both front and back stairways, so the children could chase each other up the front stairway, through the upper hall and down the back stairway, through the kitchen, the pantry, the front hall, and up the front stairs again. There was never any place where they had to stop and turn around and retrace their steps.
There were all sorts of places for hiding in the old house, if one wanted to play hiding games, and on the first landing of the front stairway was a remarkable window. It was all made of oddly shaped pieces of colored glass. There was a window seat below it, and Susan and George and Dumpling could kneel on the window seat and look out through the different-colored pieces of glass.
“My world is red,” cried George. “I see a red man and a red dog.”
“I’m green,” said Susan. “The man and the dog are green.”
And Dumpling would say, “Blue, like the sky, mine is a fairy tale.”
“Why a fairy tale?” asked the others.
“I don’t know,” said Dumpling.
The basement of the house was dark and mysterious with a number of rooms and a great fat furnace, which seemed to cling to the ceiling with many legs like a spider. In the spring the water came into the basement in a flood, and boxes bobbed merrily around on the tide. Then the children put on their boots and sailed boats. But in the fall it was dry and pleasant, and Father had a work bench in one room, and George had another room for wintering his guinea pigs, his rabbits, and his white rats.
But the most interesting thing about the Ridgeways’ house was that it had a Tower. No one that they knew had a house with a Tower. There were stairs and stairs that got narrower and narrower. They went past the attic, where the old National Geographics were piled, and where you could hear the music of the rain on a dark autumn day. On up, on up, went the stairs into the little Tower. There were five windows all around the Tower with a kind of bird’s-eye view of the whole neighborhood. Mother had a desk up there with a pile of yellow paper, her typewriter, a wastebasket, a pencil sharpener, and a lot of pencils.
“This is my Ivory Tower,” Mother s
“But the Tower is made of wood, Mother,” George said, and Susan said, “Mother, I always thought the word was maddening.”
However, this was one point on which they could not reason with Mother. She always called it her Ivory Tower, and if she did not say “far from the madding crowd,” she said “far from the thundering herd.”
“She means us by the thundering herd,” said Susan, “but I don’t know why the Tower should be ivory.”
“I think,” said Dumpling, “it must have something to do with soap.” Whenever Dumpling made a remark the others stopped to think it over.
“Ivory soap?” asked Susan.
“Ninety-nine and forty-four hundredths percent pure,” said George.
“But why?” asked Susan.
“I don’t know,” Dumpling said.
All during the week the Tower belonged to Mother, but on Saturday afternoons she turned it over to the children.
The best part about the Tower was the view. You could look down into the backyard of Professor Jones of the Chemistry Department and see him tying up his prize chrysanthemums in the fall or digging for cutworms in the spring. You could see Dean Ambrose driving by in his shiny Studebaker.
Down the street you could see the Terrible Torrences, who were five and six years old, mixing up mud and water in one of their mother’s mixing bowls to paint a large cartoon on the side of their white stucco house.
On the other side you could see the Gimmick kids, whose house was almost as old as the Ridgeways’ but did not have a Tower, taking apart an old bicycle in their backyard.
But from the east window there was the most wonderful view of all. A block away, down the street, you could see right over the wall of the football stadium and onto the playing field. With Father’s old field glasses you could follow every play and even read the numbers on the backs of the players. Tommy Tucker’s number was 25.
Family Grandstand (Nancy Pearl's Book Crush Rediscoveries) by Carol Ryrie Brink / History & Fiction have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes