Sydney Taylor’s All-of-a-Kind Family Uptown (1958).
Illus. Mary Stevens
NY: Dell Publishing, 1968. 

Even though it’s the fourth, rather than the first, this is the volume of Sydney Taylor’s series that I re-read most often.

(Actually, I never read either the third or the fifth/final volumes until now; I didn’t have my own copies of them and I guess they weren’t available in the library. I never questioned that kind of thing much as a child, just re-read the books that I did have at hand.)

My absolutely favourite-est scene is the opening one, in which the children go — on their own (Ella, 16; Henny, 14; Sarah, 12; Charlotte, 10; Gertie, 8; and Charlie is 4, but he is with his parents) — to visit family for dinner.

But I also loved the scene in which Henny (being the mischief-maker) breaks the rules and borrows Ella’s dress without permission to wear it to a party.

And, of course, the reason that I loved both scenes is that nothing happens as it’s meant to. (I can’t say what does happen, without spoiling things, but I’m snickering even as I write this, which is rather silly, because it’s not really all-that funny, but you know how sometimes a book just catches hold of you, and this book caught me at the perfect age it would seem.)

Neither of these scenes could have transpired without the children having grown up.

Not only Ella (who got a note in a library book from a boy in More All-of-a-Kind Family), but Henny, too, is interested in boys now. Although the boy Henny was interested in turns out to be — tragically — six months younger than she is, which takes care of that. Heh.

And their mother is knitting for the Red Cross because there is a war  now, the Great War. At least, she’s knitting and carrying on as normal until she has to have an operation.

She must have her appendix out, which isn’t commonplace in those days, so the entire family has to learn to do without her for quite some time, though much of the burden falls to Ella as the oldest girl.

“But what about me? Who will I lean on? I guess this is what growing up really means, Grace. Standing on your own two feet and being your own mountain.”

What I really appreciated about this volume was not only the comic elements, but also the fact that sometimes the family members just “made do”. Things never go terribly wrong, but sometimes they aren’t comfortable either. Sometimes mischief that’s been made can’t be mended.

Just the way it is, all-of-a-kind family or no.

Did you love to read stories when you were young about families that were nothing like yours?