How would you like to spend a picturesque summer exploring old houses, enjoying the marvels of nature, and making new friends? Take the whole family on a vicarious summer adventure in the Gone-Away Lake series by Elizabeth Enright—it’s a complete and utter delight, perfect for read-aloud.
During a chance afternoon of exploration in a swamp, Portia Blake and her cousin, Julian, stumble upon something unexpected: a long-abandoned lakeside community. The decrepit buildings are in extreme disrepair, overgrown with vines, and completely uninhabited—or are they?
A memorable summer of adventure begins at Gone-Away Lake, with unexpected friendships, shared stories, and the opportunity to create something beautiful out of something almost lost.
Take our free Gone-Away Lake checklist to your local library!
Elizabeth Enright wrote twelve books for children before her death in 1968, and the lasting impact of her work continues today. Enright won the Newbery Medal in 1939 with Thimble Summer and a Newbery Honor in 1958 for Gone-Away Lake. She also wrote the beloved Melendy Quartet series.
Enright spent much of her life in New York, but she was born in Illinois and had deep ties to the Midwest, thanks in part to childhood visits with her uncle—renowned architect Frank Lloyd Wright—at his estate in Wisconsin. The Midwestern influence is easily noted in the settings of some of her books.
One of the many endearing aspects of Enright’s work is her intense appreciation of nature and the seamless way that she intertwines this love with her stories.
In Gone-Away Lake, we meet Portia, who is “beginning to be eleven,” and Julian, who is an “ardent amateur naturalist.” Before long, we also make the acquaintance of an elderly woman named Minnehaha Cheever and her eccentric and distinguished brother, Pindar Payton, who are the only inhabitants at Gone-Away Lake. A sweet friendship forms as “Aunt Min” and “Uncle Pin” introduce the children to the history of Gone-Away Lake, and a summer of flurried activity follows as the children choose one of the abandoned homes to transform into a clubhouse.
At its core, Gone-Away Lake is a quiet, peaceful book with kind, gentle characters and minimal conflict. In fact, the Syracuse, New York, Post-Standard newspaper may have said it best in 1966, calling the book “a wonderful story about likable people.” And we agree!
The sequel, aptly titled Return to Gone-Away, picks up where the first book ends and reintroduces us to the beloved cast of characters from book one. Portia’s family is now in the midst of renovating one of the forgotten houses on the lake, and the children are not without hope that they’ll discover hidden treasure as they clean and repair the mansion. It’s a summer of stories, searches, and surprises during this memorable Return to Gone-Away.
Best of all: contemporary editions of the Gone-Away Lake series still feature the original black-and-white illustrations by famed children’s book illustrators Beth and Joe Krush. The illustrations perfectly suit the style and flavor of the series and are as charming as the text.
Author: Elizabeth Enright
Genre: classic children’s fiction
Interests: friendship, childhood, mystery, exploration, home
Suggested age range: 7 to 12
Gender preference: boys and girls
In the series: 2 books, 224 to 272 pages
Do your kids need extra encouragement to read?
Take our Gone-Away Lake Series checklist to your local library and have your child check off the books as he reads them.
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