I had a secret plan to spend most of Memorial Day re-reading a beloved old book. Noel Streatfeild is best known for her "Shoe" books--"Ballet Shoes," "Theater Shoes," "Movie Shoes," novels set during World War II in England, mostly involving orphaned children growing up and figuring out their place in the world.
But her book that I love the most is "The Magic Summer,"about the four Gareth children, who are dispatched to Ireland to live with their strange old Aunt Dymphna in her big old falling-down house in the wilds of County Cork, while their mother goes off to India to tend their father, who has fallen ill.
Aunt Dymphna is a great character, a true eccentric, brilliant and strange. She's always swooping into rooms in her rusty old cape and gardening boots, and then staring at the children as though they're bizarre creatures. Which they are, to her.
Or words to that effect. I cannot quote accurately, because I ordered the book from Amazon and it has not yet arrived.
So, a few minutes ago, I went down the basement to where I keep the books of my childhood, just to make sure that I don't somehow already own "The Magic Summer," and, sadly, I do not. I remember the book very well, though; I checked it out of the library again and again. It was fat, with a pale blue cover, slightly warped, and with wonderful pen-and-ink line drawings by Edward Ardizzone, who seems to have illustrated fully half of the most-loved books of my early years.