It must be at least 35 years since I read the first two books in this series, and I hadn’t realised that there were two more until someone recommended this one for a reading challenge. It’s quite slow-moving, but it makes a refreshing change to read a book in which the children have to wait, frustratedly and oh-so-realistically, for the weekends before continuing with their adventures, rather than having seemingly endless school holidays like the Famous Five, the Swallows and Amazons et al do!
It’s a very mid-20th century British upper-middle-class set-up, in which the mum has died, the dad works away a lot, and the kids are left in a large house with a housekeeper-cum-nanny and handyman-cum-chauffeur until they’re old enough to go to boarding school … but we’re actually in upstate New York. The three older kids have gone to boarding school, and the two youngest, Randy (Miranda) and Oliver are missing them. They do go to day school and have friends of their own age, but the book, as the title suggests, is all about the two of them. In order to keep them entertained, the older members of the family have set up a treasure hunt for them.
Paula Danziger’s Remember Me To Harold Square involves a treasure hunt which shows us the sights of New York City, but this one, in a quiet small town, is mainly set in the family home and nearby. And it goes on for about nine months, because they can only do a bit at a time, which is unusual but realistic. I do sometimes wonder how the kids in adventure/mystery books by Enid Blyton, Arthur Ransome and Lorna Hill ever got an education: they were always either on holiday from school, off school due to recovering from illness, or off school due to being in quarantine!
Not very much actually happens. And the clues are really hard! And the book goes off at a complete tangent twice, once with a story about the housekeeper’s childhood and once with a story about the dad’s childhood. There are no robbers, kidnappers or smugglers, and no-one gets caught in a storm or stranded up a mountain. But the relative normality of it is appealing, as is the fact that it shows the impact on the rest of the family of older kids being sent off to boarding school. It’s just … nice!
My copy, which I got on eBay, is an old school library copy, from Potterville Middle School in Wisconsin. The library card, with the names of 10 borrowers between May 1972 and May 1975, is still in the back! I’d love to know what happened to the 10 borrowers, and I’d love to know what happened to the book between May 1975 and now. How did it end up in England? Probably via Amazon! Had it been in storage for years? Had it been sat on the school library shelves for decades without ever being borrowed again? Presumably the library had a sale/clearout, and it then sat in someone’s house for decades, but I’d love to know! Some books must have very exciting lives. Maybe someone should write a book about them!