Judged by Grace • Find her on Goodreads
First round, first matchup. No pressure. Thanks for that, Beth.
For this round, I read Gone-Away Lake by Elizabeth Enright and Fair Weather by Richard Peck. Both are middle grade fiction about a young girl learning more about the world – and herself – when she takes a trip with family. I comment on this because last year, I judged two very different books and at least for this round, I am judging two books that have a lot more in common.
In Gone-Away Lake, Portia and her younger brother Foster take the train to visit their cousin Julian for the summer. The first day of their trip, Portia and Julian go exploring and discover a rock while in the woods, get lost, and stumble across an old swamp and a ghost town. While in the ghost town, they meet Mrs. Cheever and her brother, Mr. Payton, the last remaining residents of what had once been a wonderful summer resort community. Portia and Julian spend the summer exploring nature and learning about the community that had once been there. Eventually, the rest of their family gets in on their secret as well.
It’s a lovely story, and as I read it, I kept thinking of how much I would have enjoyed it when I was in elementary school. Not that I didn’t enjoy it now, but I did somehow feel like I might have enjoyed it even more then. What appealed to me most was Portia and Julian out exploring, learning more about nature and animals, because it reminded me a lot of how much I liked to do the same thing when I was younger. All in all, it was a great read and I liked it a lot!
But then, I liked Fair Weather as well! In Fair Weather, Rosie lives with her mother, father, older sister, younger brother, and maternal grandfather on a farm, when they get a letter from her mother’s sister inviting them to visit for the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago. So Rosie, her sister Lottie, her brother Buster, and their grandfather journey to Chicago on the train to visit with Aunt Euterpe and attend the Exposition.
While they’re there, they see Susan B. Anthony speak at the Women’s Pavillion and famous actress Lillian Russell (after whom their grandfather named their horse), and they meet Buffalo Bill, who just so happens to know their grandfather. They also learn more about their Aunt Euterpe, who left the farm and married an old widower (it’s implied that he was older than their grandfather), who has since died and left her completely alone, as all of their friends in Chicago had been friends with his first wife and did not care to associate with Euterpe. And there’s a fun surprise at the end involving one of Rosie’s family members.
Rosie as a character really jumped off the page for me. One of the lines that stuck out the most to me was Rosie’s early remark that she had finished just about all the school that she’d ever need. I enjoyed her voice and watching her learn more about the world – and discovering there was more out there for her to learn, after all. Fair Weather is a very short novel – the edition I read was only 134 pages long – so it was a quick read, but a really enjoyable one.
I could easily pick either one of these to advance to the next round. I enjoyed both of them quite a bit, and I’m not sure I can give a solid reason for why I picked one over the other. In the end, I think I enjoyed Fair Weather just a little bit more and that’s the one I am going to pick, but do not doubt that it was very close!