I loved this book when I was a kid. Reading it with my four kids these past few weeks, I see again how enchanting it is. Really, it is a pretty basic story. A young girl from the city goes to live with family friends while her mother is in some sort of hospital for a year. (It doesn't sound particularly life threatening, so we can safely set the mother and her illness on a shelf and not worry about her.) The family friends Nancy goes to stay with are Swedish and live in a little town, surrounded by country.
Name Days are a Swedish custom. Every day in the Swedish Almanac has a name next to it. On the day your name appears, you make a cake for your friends and invite them in. Nancy, not possessing a Swedish name, cannot have a name day. Sadness and sorrow abound at this discovery. Of course, by the end of the book, A name day has been found for Nancy, but while they are searching out a way to make a name day for Nancy that would suit her, a lovely time is had by all.
Grandpa lets Nancy drive on the way back from the station to distract her from having said goodbye to her parents.
Nancy is staying with Grandma and Grandpa. Nancy's mother lived quite close and was with their children while she was growing up, so she is considered part of the family. Nancy and her parents visit every year, so these people are not strangers to Nancy.
Despite knowing them well, Nancy is still a little lonesome for her parents.
To make her feel better, Grandma tells Nancy she can redecorate her room. Nancy decides on wallpaper with tiny yellow roses. Yellow roses, not red or purple roses. Nancy is quite set on things when she takes a mind to something.
Fortunately, after Nancy refuses all the other wallpaper in the store, the salesman discovers just enough rolls of yellow paper to cover Nancy's room.
Nancy and her "cousins" visit Aunt Martha out at the farm. Here they discover a teeny kitten in the wood.
One day, when someone was visiting with Aunt Martha downstairs, Nancy sat down on the stair landing to read a book. The sunlight fell through the window with stained glass edging in such a way that it fell on the book like gemstones. The book suddenly seemed enchanted. After that, Nancy could never read that particular book anywhere else. It belonged to that spot, when the sunshine fell just so.
This is one of the reasons I love this book.
Helping Aunt Martha make cookies.
One day, while she was staying on the farm with Aunt Martha for a week, Aunt Martha told her to go put on her best dress. Nancy, quite naturally, wanted to know why. Aunt Martha told her things just seem more exciting and grown up when you are wearing your best dress. So they got dressed up and did normal, everyday things feeling slightly more glamorous and interesting.
That evening, Aunt Martha told Nancy to go out into the blooming apple orchard. She said her uncle had sent her out into the orchard one night when there was a beautiful moon and she had never forgotten how apple blossoms look in the moonshine. She wanted Nancy to see it and never forget it too.
See? This is an enchanting book.
(I want to see an apple orchard by moonlight.)
Heading out to pick birch branches to make whisks. Grandma still makes all her whisks from springtime birch. "Swedish ladies felt that these little whisk brooms were far superior to modern egg beaters." Picking birch for whisks was a somewhat festive occasion for the women in Sweden, and Grandma continues the tradition.
The girls make a crown for Grandma, of the stripped off birch leaves, to wear for her birthday picnic.
Things are lovely most of the time. But Grandma was quite put out with Nancy when she was rude to the Carlson girls who were trying their hardest to find a Name Day for Nancy.
After being banished to her room, Nancy was instructed to go out and do something nice for someone worse off than herself. Grandma is tired of self pity.
In so doing, Nancy met Alex, a boy her age who is confined to a wheelchair. Soon Alex and Nancy are great friends. They explore their street every morning and decide to start an exploring club. Grandpa and Karl the twelfth (the horse) and Oscar (the dog) are included as well.
In the attic, back at the farm, Nancy discovers a book of poems.
The fields breathe sweet and daisies kiss our feet.
Nancy takes the poems out to read in the daisy filled fields. I like how Nancy has to find the proper place for reading certain books. None of this where ever, whenever stuff for Nancy.
While she is reading her poems, she sees a girl walking across the field. Daisies are kissing her feet. And in this girl, Nancy finds a solution to her Name Day problem. So much excitement!
The school closest to the farm celebrates its 50th anniversary, so the Carlson girls and Nancy help to decorate it into a floral bower.
Nancy's Swedish costume for her Name Day party.
Since Nancy was nine, but had never had a Name Day party, it was decided that her Name Day party would have to be nine times nicer to make up for the ones she missed.
And it was a splendid Name Day. As I read about all the things that happened, my girls squealed and clapped their hands.
Seriously, this is such a quietly delightful and enchanting book. It is so precious! I always think the most enchanting books are the ones that take normal, everyday things and make them things of wonder. Apple orchards in moonlight, the way sunlight falls across a page, the way daisies move in the breeze, the delight of being with people you love.
Everyday magic is the very best kind.
And in case you were interested in buying this book, it is outrageously priced. My copy is a library discard that Mom and Dad own, but if you want your very own, you are looking at over $75. I don't understand why they don't reprint books in this day and age. The technology is there. Just reprint them already! There are three books in this series and they are all astronomically expensive. I just found the middle book in a lot of 19 vintage books for $3 on eBay. Even after paying $8 in shipping, I still felt like I won the lottery!