Sunday, July 17, 2005

Reviews at time of publication

New York Times, October 23, 1955, review of A Lemon and a Star

On p. 1 of this book we learn that Jane, celebrating her tenth birthday, had left home "with the thought of living in a tree, because Theodore had said he was going to kill her." On this realistist note we are introduced to the four Cares children, probably the most uninhibited youngsters in fiction since Richard Hughes wrote "The Innocent Voyage." There are the terrible-tempered Theodore; Jane, tough, resilient and yet a little wistful; unpredictable Hubert; and Edie, the dainty, bratty, baby sister.

Living a rather isolated existence in the country, they court death constantly; Jane falls in the reservoir and Hubert is nearly killed by a swarm of hornets; a secret steeplechase nearly wipes them all out. They are constantly at war among themselves, yet when adults seem to threaten their rights and privileges, they close ranks in the secret fraternity of childhood. Their attitude toward their widowed father is one of watchful neutrality and that aloof figure deserves nothing more. In short, this is not a story for those who want cozy cliches about family life. It is, however, an almost starkly honest portrayal of relationships among passionate, individualistic, unrestrained children and as such is frequently moving, often very funny. Even though certain of the episodes are too drawn out and over-written, the essential vitality of these youngsters remains.

--Ellen Lewis Buell

New York Times May 19, 1957 review of The Wild Angel

In A Lemon and A Star E.C. Spykman introduced us to the redoubtable Cares children—Theodore, Jane, Hubert and Edie—as unruly a crew as ever shattered the peace of the early Nineteen Hundreds. In this sequel they are still courting disaster each according to his or her highly individual temperament but their escapades are more along straight comedy lines. Their fraternal warfare and their intermittent rebellion against adult authority are not quite so violent—after all, they are nearly a year older now and Madam the admired stepmother, has brought a measure of order into their lives.

Still, each retains his fierce independence and each has his moments of desperation. For instance, Theodore stages a selfless revolt against the Government on behalf of unappreciated nighbors. Jane is exiled to a girls' school in turn and endures agonies from the attentions of an unwanted, persistent, silent admirer. It is in such episodes that Mrs. Spykman cuts down into the living tissues of children's sensibilites. As for lighter moments, they are done with a fine wit, a keen sense of comic actions and dialogue. The Cares are a formidable family truly, and perhaps not for everybody but they live with an intensity that makes them very real.

--Ellen Lewis Buell, May 19

New York Times Book Review May 22, 1960 review of Terrible, Horrible Edie

Edie, as readers of E. C. Spykman's A Lemon and a Star and The Wild Angel are unlikely to forget, is the fourth of the Cares children, those uninhibited, nonconformist youngsters of the early Nineteen Hundreds. We first knew her as a spoiled, very feminine and convincingly bratty child of 5. Now Edie is 10, tomboyish, still bratty (but in a likeable fashion) and very intense. Running true to the Cares pattern, she is continually in rebellion—against grown-ups (naturally), against the old siblings, and sometimes just against boredom.

When Edie breaks out, there is always plenty of excitement. There is the time she takes her very small half-sisters sailing—a gesture of defiance which nervous parents had better skip—and there is her unauthorized solitary sailing expedition to an island. These episodes ring true as does the final one, which is funny, poignant and tender. Certain others, such as the family hegira to the shore and a burglary, seem somehow extravagant, closer to farce than reality, so that as a whole the book lacks the emotional substance and some of the bite of the earlier ones. Even so, the Cares children have as much vigor and elan that a less-than-perfect story about them is better than no story.

--Ellen Lewis Buell

New York Times Book Review June 5, 1966, review of Edie on the Warpath

Edie was a rebel. The more her brothers tried to put her in her place the more she asserted herself. There is not much a girl of 11 can do against the dominant male sex, but Edie was bold and resourceful and had a lot of confusion spread by her pranks.

Her adventures are set in 1913, and those more spacious and leisurely days are recalled with inulgent charm and piquant detail. The scene ranges from a hilltop in Massachusetts to Florida (a journey that took three days by train then), both described with warm feeling for natural beauty. Adults are seen from Edie's point of view and the fact that she was often wrong in her hasty judgments adds to the comicality of the tale. The family background is realistic for the period and up to date as regards sibling rivalry.

A perfect magnet for trouble, even when she is trying to be good, Edie is not the sort of child teachers exactly welcome to a class, but children will rejoice in her high spirits and she will wring from older readers reluctant admiration. A previous volume about her was titled Terrible, Horrible Edie. That is not fair. She is merely a bright child impatient to grow up quickly and be taken seriously. One feels sure she will turn out well.

--Arleen Pippett

From The Times Literary Supplement, May 25, 1967:

If girls enjoy a period piece (the time is 1913) they will adopt eleven-year-old Edie, the tomboy middle child of a wealthy family whose high spirits make her the despair of all adults and her brothers. A rumbustiousness in the practical jokes, the all-or-nothing love and hate, a humorous appreciation of the folly of grown-ups in dealing with the young give this book a certain distinction. It may remain, however, a collector's piece.

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