Terrible, Horrible Edie

terrible horrible edieThis book is the third in E.C. Spykman’s astonishingly good series of books about the Cares family. The first two (A Lemon and a Star and The Wild Angel) were so good I was absolutely indignant that I’d never heard of them, and considered writing a petition of some kind. They are the sorts of stories everyone likes to read: stories that get real children exactly right. Spykman is extremely funny, dryly and slyly funny, but she also understands childhood emotions. There’s the way sibling relationships work — how you can be completely and fiercely loyal, and still not be able to stand them another minute. Or the way a middle child can be uniquely lonely: the older children all have more freedom, and new concerns, and the younger children may be charming but they’re just too little to be any good yet.

This is Edie’s problem in Terrible, Horrible Edie. The entire Cares family of two parents, a governess, and six children ranging in age from eighteen to three, has come to spend the summer at their Aunt Louise’s house in Mount Harbor, Massachusetts, along with their livestock (a bird, a goat, a beagle, a second dog, and a spider monkey.) If you can think of one thing that could happen to such a family at the beach that doesn’t happen in this book, I will give you a dollar.

Ten-year-old Edie is strong and resilient and brave. She knows how to sail, and she knows how to observe, and she loves the world: the scent of the water and the roses, the slap of the waves, the sound of the player piano, her lazy brother Hubert. But no one will listen to her, or take her anywhere, or give her a chance. So Edie simply takes herself places, and doesn’t apologize afterward. This results in a death-defying sail with two small children on board, a summer sheep drive on an island, a hurricane (well, that might not have been all her fault), a burglar apprehended, and… I’ll let you find out the rest.

After Edie’s rebellious sail with the two youngest, during which she loses the rudders and nearly loses the children, she returns, and for a moment thinks that her punishment has something to do with her dog, Widgy:

“Have you seen my dog?” Edie asked.

“Sure, miss, I have him in the stove,” Cook said.

Edie went on down cellar to Aunt Louise’s old-fashioned laundry and the bath houses, which were under the piazza. There was nobody anywhere. For a few minutes she had to stop because her heart was beating so fast. If that G-nan had done anything to Widgy–!

But lucky for her she hadn’t. While Edie was listening to her heart she heard him scratching and whining, and she found him in the laundry tub that had a wooden cover over it. They were so glad to see each other that it took quite a while for them to quiet down. Edie went out with him and lay under the big honeysuckle vine outside the laundry. She let Widgy sit almost on her head and held him with her two hands. She had to scramble when G-nan and the children came around the corner, and Widgy was behind her back.

Miss Black stopped. “You shall have your dog when you can behave,” she said. “He is perfectly safe.”

“Thanks,” said Edie, getting up.

Miss Black stared at Widgy who was panting in the sun. “You are a very naughty girl,” she said.

“And you are an old hunk of blubber,” said Edie outrageously.

And if that doesn’t make you want to read this book, then I don’t know what to say to you. There’s one more book left in this series — Edie on the Warpath — and I’m saving it deliciously for last. But read them, read them. They are marvelous.

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