Saturday, November 26, 2016

Family Sabbatical (1956)

Family Sabbatical
Carol Ryrie Brink, il. Susan Foster
1956, Viking
2015, Two Lions/Amazon as A Book Crush Rediscovery (cover Joanne Lew Vriethoff)

So then they had gone in, through the vast lobby with the torn carpet and the potted palms and the cherubs painted on the ceiling. They had gone through the small hall with the two great mirrors opposite each other, arranged so that if you stood between them you could see yourself reflected back and forth hundreds of times until you receded away into the distance on either side and vanished into two points. Then they had gone on through the writing room, which would be just the place for Mother's and Father's work. And then they had come to the  garden! It was very large and old and overgrown. 

The Ridgeway family of Midwest City have come to France for their professor father's sabbatical. For six months, he will work on a history book while their mother works on a sequel to her recently published mystery. Their first stop is Canne, where they stay at The Grand Hotel Majestic et de l'Univers, where the elevator is frequently not 'walking.' There, the children acquire a governess and befriend a mysterious old woman who is key to meeting a real princess.

Susan (13), George (10) and Dumping (7) were first featured in Brink's Family Grandstand.  In that book, the professor's children were cozily established in their Minnesota hometown.  Here, they explore another country and culture. The two older children frequently ask Dumpling, the sturdy youngest, to ask her if this experience or that place is nice.  Yes, she always responds, but home is better.  At times, the others agree.  They get homesick for American food, staring longingly into a store which sells expensive imported Campbell's Soup, and hate their school in Paris, where all three end up in the same class for much younger children because none of them speaks a word of French.

As a child, I found this book memorable for the brief glimpses of an unknown world. The Marseille market selling Christmas Nativity scenes, the cats of Paris,  the oubliette where Irene is lost, the Chateau d'If, the rock garden in their Cannes hotel garden.  I loved it for the family scenes, like the improvised Halloween the children stage, complete with haunted house, and the Christmas decorations they make on a cold, rainy day in Paris.

I am clearly not the only one who recalled this book.  It was republished in 2015, as part of Nancy Pearl's Book Crush Rediscoveries. The first book, Family Grandstand, was also included in this series by Two Lions.  I'd suggest adding The Pink Motel to round out the list.