Help identifying a book from my childhood?


This is a rare de-lurk to ask for help from the vast collective knowledge of the Straight Dope. I get slightly cross when people post asking for help in tracking down books they could have found themselves by expending some time with Google, and I promise I have spent a long time seeking for myself before turning to you. The problem is that my memories of this book are very vivid, but the details I remember aren’t the sort that help you track down a book using a search engine. I can only hope that someone out there remembers it, based on my fragmentary details. Here goes:

The book (or it may have been a series) was about a large family, perhaps eight or ten children. My memory is that the family was conveniently alternating girls and boys, and that their names all started with ‘M’. I think the oldest two children were called Mona and Mark. I seem to remember a grandparent also living with them. The family moves (from a flat in a city, I think) to a house in a clearing in a forest, and the stories are about the children’s adventures in the forest. I remember a ‘foreigness’ to the setting which makes me think the book may have been translated, perhaps from a scandinavian language. The winter is certainly very cold, I remember that. I think I was quite young when I read the book, but I was a precocious reader, so it may have been aimed at older children. It must be quite an old book by now, as I was born in 1972 so was probably reading it in the late 1970’s.

I would love to find this book and re-read it. I’ve been on a nostalgia kick recently, tracking down and reading such favourites as Bogwoppit, Finn Family Moomintroll, and My Naughty Little Sister.

Thank you,


My Naughty Little Sister? I wish I had books like that when I was a kid!

That’s a tough one. If you don’t get an answer, I suggest you try Loganberry Books
Stump the Bookseller! here:

This is one of my favorite sites for just browsing through the stumpers.

I think it costs $2, so it’s only if the Dope comes up Nope. :smiley:

This query spurred me to make the subscription plunge.

It sounds like the Melendy books by Elizabeth Enright.

The Saturdays is the first one, I think, and it’s set while they live in New York City. The kids (Mona, Rush, Miranda (Randy) and Oliver) are frustrated that their individiual allowances aren’t big enough to allow them to do anything exciting, so they decide to pool them and take turns using the total to do something they’d love to do.

The Four-Story Mistake is about their move to the country.

And Then There Were Five describes how they acquire an adopted brother named Mark.

Spiderweb for Two is about Randy and Oliver’s adventures after the older kids go away to school.

Here’s an Amazon link with more information. Hope it’s what you’re looking for!

Could this possibly be it? I know it doesn’t match all the details:

<b>kivrin</b> thank you for subscribing just to help me out! I’m sure you won’t regret it. I’ve read the Melendy Family stories, and it does sound as though I am maybe mixing some elements of them in with my memories of The Mystery Book, but I’m afraid that’s not the answer. Thank you again, though.


Hi jsgoddess and thank you for taking the time. I thought this might be it, but after hunting around the’net and finding an excerpt, it doesn’t ring any bells. I’m pretty sure the children in The Mystery Book all had names starting with ‘M’- I remember getting them muddled up and having to write out a list of who was who…


Drat. I stumbled across that book (looking through that site I linked to above) and thought it was just a teeny tiny chance.

Are you sure it was the whole family (now that you’re sorting your memories)? I ask because of My Side of the Mountain.

Hello Shoshana and thank you for joining in. I’m quite sure it was a large family; having only a younger sister who is five years younger than me, that was one of the things I loved about it. I’m also almost certain it wasn’t set in America: I was an avid reader of the Laura Ingalls Wilder series of books, and I think even at a young age I would have picked up on vocabulary that pointed to a US setting. The book you linked to looks wonderful though, I’m going to see if I can read it one afternoon at the library. I love the author’s name (if it isn’t an error on Amazon’s part): Jean Craighead Craighead George!


Well, looks like I’ve stumped the Dope with my vague memories. As per jsgoddess’s suggestion, I have forked out the £1 to post a ‘Stump the Bookseller’ query at Loganberry Books. My fingers are crossed…


Keep us posted! It sounds like a good book.

Two guesses, although neither of them seems exactly like what you described …

  1. The Merriweathers, a book about a family who moves from an apartment in the city to a house in the country. The kids don’t all have M names, though. One of the girls is Nora. Nora befriends an elderly, grandmother-type woman who lives nearby in a cottage in the woods. It does make a big deal about how cold the winters are. It is American, but it’s got an unusual tone to it that made me (as an American kid) not quite clear on where it was supposed to be taking place.

  2. Could it be something by Edith Unnerstad? These would have been translated from Swedish. She has several books about large families.

Please post if you do figure out which book you remember – it sounds very interesting!

I think I rented My Naughty Little Sister from the adult room at Family Video. I don’t really think it’s the one Louise is looking for. :rolleyes:

Registering just to post this, since it sounds like you might have a hard time finding it.

The book you remember is the second book in the book series “Mormor og de åtte ungene” (“Grandma and the eight children” in English) by the Norwegian childrens book author Anne-Cath Vestly. Your description of the book was absolutely spot on, by the way. Good memory.

Fun trivia: She played the part of the grandmother herself in the movies based on the books.

Just realised that since Wikipedia is a bit scant on details, you might not be convinced that this really is the book you’re looking for. The book series I’m talking about is about a family with eight children who all have names beginning with the letter ‘M’, and who are alternatingly girls and boys. Their grandmother lives with them, and in the second book they move from an apartment in the city to a house in the middle of a forest.