So how did everyone enjoy the surprise snow? Did you lose your power, or did it stay on? If you did lose your power, I bet it was cold by Sunday night!
If you lived in the house featured in this week’s Old Favorite: The Finches’ Fabulous Furnace, by Roger Drury, you wouldn’t have to worry about getting cold, whether you’re enduring a freak October nor’easter or a January blizzard. Why? Because the Finches have a very different kind of furnace…
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Peter Finch, his parents, and his sister Patsy have to move back to Ashfield, New York because it seems to be the only place where Mrs. Finches’ severe hay fever is under control. Unfortunately, there are no houses available to rent. When Peter goes with his father to plead their case with Mr. Marveldale, a local realtor, he tentatively tells them about the house at Number Seven, Pride Street. Mr Marveldale doesn’t even want to tell them about it, but it is the only house he has available. The last tenants left in a hurry, and no one seems to stay very long. Mr. Marveldale gets very nervous when he tells Mr. Finch and Peter about the very peculiar cellar in the house, which seems to has caused some cracks in the foundation and is the source of some strange smells. The rent would be very reasonable though, almost nothing. When Mr. Finch asks Mr. Marveldale if he actually knows what is causing the problems, Mr. Marveldale tells them.
It’s just a small volcano, and it hardly spurts any ash. No lava, no rocks, just some tiny, vaguely unpleasant odors. And it’s not even frequent, just…occasionally. Mr. Finch knows his family is tired, and they have no place to stay, so they take the house. Overnight. Just so they have a place to sleep.
But once they see the house–all three stories, with a round tower at each corner, a huge lawn, fancy trim and windows and a porch all around–Mrs. Finch falls in love. It’s warm and cozy inside, and the next morning, they find out that the rent is a very reasonable $1.00 a month. For three years.
Mrs. Finch faints. Then they take it.
Soon, the Finches have moved into the most wonderful house they’ve ever lived in. It’s warm, they have robins on the lawn even on the coldest winter days, and it’s in a great neighborhood. There’s only one condition they have to live by in order to keep the house: not to reveal to anyone the secret in their cellar.
But it’s obvious that there’s something strange about the Finches’ home, and neighbors start talking. Soon people are speculating about the Finches’ secret. Peter and Patsy both love their new house and their new town, and they don’t want anything to ruin it. But when the volcano starts growing, they both worry. Is a volcano–even a small one– something that’s too dangerous to keep secret?
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The Finches’ Fabulous Furnace was published in 1971. I got it as a Weekly Reader Book Club selection, and I must have read it ten times. It’s funny, the kids are likeable, and (best of all) they end up saving the day.
And who wouldn’t want a volcano in their basement? I would have liked one this weekend. It would certainly have helped when the power went out!
So if you’re looking for an easy read (150 pages) that will make you laugh, try The Finches’ Fabulous Furnace. It’s probably best for third through fifth grade readers, but it’s also a great read-aloud, so share it with your family. And think about how much easier life might be if you had a volcano in your basement!