Ah, May. Time to start thinking about summer vacation–counting down the days, planning how to spend all those lazy hours, anticipating the best summer ever.
Packing the books to bring with you.
Today’s Old Favorite is a classic summer adventure by Anne Lindbergh–The Worry Week. Originally published in 1985, it’s really not THAT old as children’s books go. But it is THAT good.
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Every summer, eleven year old Allegra, her older sister Alice and her younger sister Edith (known to everyone as Minnow) look forward to a month on an island in Maine. As Allegra states at the beginning of the book:
“There are twelve long months in every year, but we spend only one of them in Maine. As far as I’m concerned, that means that eleven-twelfths of my life are wasted.”
Allegra is that serious about appreciating her vacation time, and her sisters agree, for the most part. (They like the rest of the year too.)
So when their parents have to go back to Boston to deal with the death of an elderly relative, all three girls are upset. They don’t want to miss the last 17 days of their Maine vacation! Even though their parents assure them that they’ll only miss a week on the island, they’re especially unhappy to hear that they will have to spend that week with stuffy Great-Aunt Edna in Belfast. All three girls are outraged. Great-Aunt Edna makes them wear dresses and go to bed at 6:30! Their parents tell them they’ll see them in a week, and make the arrangements for the girls to take the ferry to meet Great-Aunt Ruth on the mainland, and leave for Boston.
But when Great-Aunt Ruth has a last-minute emergency of her own, and calls to cancel the girls’ visit, Allegra takes the call. While she’s on the phone, she has a truly brilliant, wonderful idea. Why do the girls need a babysitter? Why do they need to leave the island at all? They have a house, Allegra’s practical, Minnow’s easy, and Alice…well, Alice is a dreamer, but she can take care of herself. Allegra tells Great-Aunt Ruth not to worry, and doesn’t tell her parents that Great-Aunt Ruth will not be available.
The girls have all read survival stories! They can survive a week on their own, can’t they? Allegra tells her sisters, and they decide that a week is nothing. They don’t want to go home to sweltering hot, boring Boston…they want to stay in Maine!
Only Allegra didn’t take into account that her mother had cleaned out all the food, so there’s nothing to eat. And because everyone knows that their parents are gone, the girls have to stay in hiding. That means no trips to town for food, even in emergencies. Can they still make it for a week? Allegra thinks so. But Alice is more interested in reading and reciting poetry, and Minnow seems to have developed a taste for paste and an aversion to clothing. Can Allegra get her sisters to work together? Maybe if, in addition to gathering berries and collecting mussels to survive off the land, she sets another goal: for all three sisters work to find the treasure reputed to be hidden in their island cottage.
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This is the perfect story to bring along and read aloud on a summer vacation…especially if you’re in Maine. All three sisters are very different, but manage to work together. Do they manage to survive the week alone? Do they find the treasure? You’ll have to read to find out!
The story alternates between worrying that the girls will make it (sprained ankles, sunburns and food poisoning all make appearances) and laugh out loud funny moments. I read this aloud to a group of fifth grade girls, and at times they were rolling on the floor with laughter. Allegra is a very likable character, and her trials at parenting her sisters will make any older or younger sibling with difficult sisters groan in sympathy.
Anne Lindbergh was the daughter of aviators Charles and Anne Morrow Lindbergh. Both her parents were writers, as is her sister Reeve Lindbergh. She wrote thirteen books for kids before her death. Although The Worry Week is my absolute favorite, all of her books are very enjoyable. Travel Far, Pay No Fare holds a special place in my heart, as it takes place in Vermont, and involves a library summer reading program. And The Shadow on the Dial has a scene that takes place in Weston!
Try The Worry Week on your summer vacation, whether you go to Maine or Vermont or Timbuktu. My guess is that you will enjoy this tale of fun in the sun, living off the land, and summer mischief.