Title: Gone-Away Lake
Author: Elizabeth Enright
Major Themes: 20th century, United States, Children’s Fiction
Synopsis: Two adventure-loving cousins discover an old deserted village and a gone-away lake — except that it isn’t quite as deserted as it seems.
Gone-Away Lake (and its sequel, Return to Gone-Away) has always been near to my heart. Back when I was six or seven and just learning how to read, this was one of the books that kept me awake reading. I remember balancing the cold metal handle of Dad’s black flashlight with one arm (and it was long—it had to have been about as long as my forearm!), pulling the covers up over my head, and reveling in the bliss of being able to read. That was back in the days when I read so slow that I’d forget what happened last, so each little installment was a whole new story to me. Several years later, when I read the book again, I remembered how amazed I was at what a good story it is.
In Gone-Away Lake, we meet Portia (age 11) and Julian (age 12), cousins who love exploring (and just as a note by the way—the cover here does not do justice to the story). We also meet Julian’s parents, and Portia’s 6 ½-year-old brother Foster who…is a prankster and a bit of a nuisance. One day when Portia and Julian take a longer-than-normal walk, they happen across a rock that has the words “Lapis Philosophorum. Tarquin Et Pindar. 15 July 1891” carved into it. The more they look, the more they find—beside a deserted swamp one day, they discover a village of old deserted houses. And, just as unexpectedly, they hear a voice—someone is living in one of the houses.
This book is the kind of adventure we all dream of having, but none of us ever get to experience. Thankfully, there are some writers who have made those dreams believable, and Elizabeth Enright did a wonderful job here. While it has no historical or faith-related values, it is a beautiful story that all children will enjoy. It might not be the most heart-rate raising book there is out there, but it is full of wonderful adventures and unusual, lively characters. I believe all families will enjoy this, and children over the age of 6 or 7 will love reading the story.
WARNING: Chapter 1: Holy cat, for Pete’s sake, Yikes. Chapter 2: Yikes, Holy cat twice, Gosh, what the heck. Chapter 4: Gee, golly, by Jupiter, by Jove. Chapter 5: Gosh, doggonit twice, heck. Chapter 6: “the extinction of the dinosaurs, heck twice, by Jupiter, Great Scott, what the deuce. Chapter 7: By Jove. Chapter 8: Holy cat, heck, by Jupiter, gosh, yikes. Chapter 10: heck twice, by George, yikes. Chapter 11: by Jupiter, discussion of the signs of the zodiac, I swear, heck, gee. Chapter 12: the confounded thing. Chapter 13: what the deuce, the house looks witchful, by Jupiter, Mrs. Cheever sounded like a witch, yikes, by Jupiter. Chapter 14: darn it, gee, heck, darnation, the house is haunted, heck, gee, gosh. Chapter 15: I swear, Great Scott
Listening Level—Ages 5 – 8, 8 – 12
Reading Independently—Ages 7 – 9, 8 – 12